Thursday, February 07, 2008

Management buy in is one of the keys to adopting Scrum

All last year I worked at a shop where we struggled to adopt the Scrum process. It was haphazardly implemented and most of management never really had any training or direction and did not buy into the process. They remained very entrenched in their old ways. This resulted in some major frustration and poor results which just made matters worse since everyone thought this was due to the process being flawed.

While I am not an agile purist by any means, I do find value in Scrum in certain situations. It is hard to say if my last shop was ready for it.

This year I am on a project with a new client who has also adopted Scrum. At first I was worried because they were almost polar opposite in that they had development iterations (Sprints), but did not do much else as prescribed by the Scrum process. Since they were basically outsourcing the development to my team of all contractors, I asked to implement a bit more structure to ensure that the client's expectations were met.

We created our initial Product Backlog, started our Sprints with our Sprint Backlog and moved forward. By the second Sprint Planning Session the Product Backlog had been fairly refactored and with the current velocity it did not seem that all the backlog items they wished to have done by the 3rd Sprint were going to happen. I met with the CTO to talk about options and if capacity could be increased somehow. After all our options were discussed he was very understanding and did not press to throw bodies at the problem or modify the process to get more backlog items done.

And during a meeting where we reviewed the Sprint Backlog items, someone observed that the total of the Sprint Backlog Items for the current Sprint did not add up to our theoretical capacity based on the Scrum Team. Before I could open my mouth, the CTO was explaining how the Sprint Backlog was constantly changing during the Sprint and that we gauged ourselves by the weight (story points) of Product Backlog items. I have to say I was floored. Here was a shop where the management truly got the ideals of the Scrum process and was totally on board.

The experience has been very positive so far and I have been able to try more of the Scrum process nuances that we could never get off the ground at my previous company. It has given me some more insight into the potential qualities in a company that may (or may not) make it more conducive to adopting an Agile methodology like Scrum.

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