SCRUM The gateway drug to true Agility

imageI wanted to comment of a recent post by Jeremy Miller and Scott Bellware really hit home. Recently I have been tasked to propose an Agile adoption strategy from my company. I have gone through several draft and have come up with a road map if you will based on the probability factors that I have come up with. Scrum makes the most sense in enterprise organizations that are adopting Agile for the first time.

Jeremy mentions:

“It’s not hard to understand why Scrum is more successful now than Extreme Programming…”

I recently attended the San Antonio Agile Project Leadership Network (APLN) group meeting. I am avid attendee of user groups in the area I was awestruck by the different category of professional that attended these meetings but more on that later. APLN’s primary focus can be best summarized by their vision statement:

We are a community of project leaders that are highly successful at delivering results. To achieve these results:

  • We increase return on investment by making continuous flow of value our focus.
    • We deliver reliable results by engaging customers in frequent interactions and shared ownership.
      • We expect uncertainty and manage for it through iterations, anticipation, and adaptation.
        • We unleash creativity and innovation by recognizing that individuals are the ultimate source of value, and creating an environment where they can make a difference.
          • We boost performance through group accountability for results and shared responsibility for team effectiveness.
            • We improve effectiveness and reliability through situationally specific strategies, processes and practices. </ul> So as you guessed the focus is on Agile Leadership, which is a great thing.

            Typical user groups in this arena draw a very techy crowd namely developer types. After all XP and Agile in general have their roots in development community. APLN meetings draw in Project Managers, Product Managers, Program Managers and CIO’s. I sat back and wondered why this is at first but than being who I am, I had to ask. I walked around the room and started to mingle with people there. I was direct in my questioning and asked them why they attended a group such as this? The responses varied but the main response was,

            “Our projects are not delivering what our customers want … and neither one of us are happy… Agile appears to solve this problem.”

            So why the interest in this community vs the development community? Then I met one of the founding members and He was a project manager. It clicked! I hate to say this but developers and any other variation thereof are not in a position of to change culture. We are in a position to influence change but we can’t set direction nor take it upon ourselves to change cultural direction. Not to mention that we come across as arrogant individuals who seem to always want to have thing done their way. This is changing of course but Project Managers and Program Managers, basically management in general are ultimately responsible for change.

            Back to Jeremy’s question of why Scrum and not XP. Actually he answers the question himself I am just validating what he said.

            “Scrum has always been more conscious (or conciliatory) of its image in corporate settings and benefits from the strong focus on project management and now portfolio management.”

            This is a very important contrast to other Agile disciplines. Scrum’s primary focus is process centric and does not prescribe software engineering practices. It is not that it doesn’t recommend them but it doesn’t focus on the engineering aspects of Agile.

            Not to mention it carries with it a certification of Scrum Master. This gives you the credentials to say you have attended a 2 day seminar by a certified Scrum Trainer and now have the power to enact Scrum in your organization. I am a certified Scrum Master and I have to say that I had been practicing Agile for 2 years before I attended the certification class. I was stunned! That is a post on its own.

            The main point that came out of me challenging Scrum at that meeting is that, Scrum focus on process eventually brings forth the impediments of poor software standards and poor testing. Because it is still taking an iterative approach to building software, the culture has to adapt on how they are going to deliver software in 2 weeks in a working state. It doesn’t tell you how it just says make it happen. Let’s think about this…Leadership is (coughing) challenging the development group to develop working software in 2 week cycles. How on earth are we going to do that? Leadership is challenging the testing group on how they are going to constantly keep up with these 2 week development cycles? How are they going to do that? Hopefully you read between the lines and see why Scrum is successful it empowers leadership to cultivate a team to deliver software. Sounds like I heard this somewhere before.

            I don’t want anyone to think that I am upset about this. Bitter yes because it is what we have been saying for countless years but upset no. And this is why. Scrum influences this type of leadership; this leadership is in the positions to make change. It’s finally coming from the top down. How many of us have tried to bring in Agile only to fail because your management wasn’t on board.

            Coincidentally Kane Mar that certified Scrum Trainer I argued with. LOL  Has come up with a [email protected] in collaboration with Ken Schwaber.  Kane is a great guy by the way,I just like to give him a hard time.

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