Saturday, February 19, 2011

Scrum : Having fun is a serious business

Imagine if our days at work were filled with laughter and imbibed with a feeling of camaraderie and an edge of excitement. Imagine a workspace that harked back to playgrounds of childhood where invention and innovation were a natural part of every interaction. Imagine being responsible for your own environment, your own pace and your own workload. And imagine delivering high quality work frequently to delighted, relaxed customers.

You can turn that imagination into reality. There is a simple and well-understood mechanism for getting from wherever you are now to where you would like to be, and no, the mechanism is not Scrum.

It is You.

More specifically, it is the interaction of your moving parts: body, mind, heart, spirit, and your personal relationship to those you work with.  Successful product development comes from happy, impassioned individuals, and highly motivated, energized teams.

So how does Scrum help?

Scrum will offer you structure and boundary conditions to contain and guide your innovation. Contrary to common usage, Scrum is not a methodology or a process. Scrum is a framework for building new products, or guiding a complex project, it is not a formula for success, and it most certainly isn’t the next ‘silver bullet’.

Scrum represents a movement away from hierarchical command-and-control systems towards trust and self-organization.  Scrum is rooted in the principles of Complex Adaptive Systems and Object Technology.It consists of a few core rules and practices, which although very simple are utterly essential.  Each rule and practice is part of a synergistic whole, and to drop one part is to destroy that synergy. Half measures avail nothing.  When the rules of Scrum are rigorously followed a process will emerge that is suited to your own context.

Scrum makes one promise only: it will help you fail in thirty days or less. That’s it.  And it will begin to surface organizational dysfunction in the process.  Healing from that dysfunction is up to you.  What Scrum can give you is a space to be human, to try, to fail, to reflect and to try again. Putting the simple Scrum framework in place at your organization will be the first step towards creating an environment of safety and trust, an environment of empowerment and ultimately of innovation and success.

Scrum is not those things, it is simply a structure which will allow those things to emerge, rather like a bamboo frame allows a tomato plant to bear fruit. It is the people — you and your team mates and your managers — who will make the changes that lead to new behaviors and ways of thinking. An organization seriously investing in Scrum will find within that simple framework its own methodology. It will discover a set of practices best suited to optimize return on investment. It is the people, not the process that will create a happier work environment.

Remember, Scrum is not a rigid methodology; it continues to evolve, to adapt. Similar to the game of chess, there are some clear and simple guidelines to follow, but once those guidelines are understood –and practiced– a multitude of Scrum implementations are possible. Most importantly, Scrum is context-dependent and the needs of the orgaization should drive the implementation. There is no formula, no set of steps to follow. The wonderful paradox here is that Scrum does not tell you how to do Scrum.

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