How to start using scrum?

When to use scrum?

There are many projects that are good projects for using scrum. The only real rule is that you need to have a clear goal for using scrum. You can use scrum when

  • it is not yet obvious how to get the work done
  • when requirements are not clearly defined
  • when the product owner is available full time
  • when the scrum team is able to manage their own work
  • when the organization has a strong change story for using scrum
  • you expect a lot of surprises and changes along the way
  • you have to deal with a lot of different stakeholders
  • your current projects are falling short in result, budget and/or timing
  • you want to move from planning and organizing to doing in a faster fashion
  • you want to give people a new sense of purpose and empowerment.


Infographic Agile lean and scrum

How do you recognize a great scrum team?

The scrum team is cross functional. The team members have to be able to get 80% of their work done with the knowledge and capabilities available inside the team. There are no subteams.

Each team member knows what is expected of them. Each team member feels capable of pushing back against stakeholders and product owners if necessary. Team members feel capable of leading the product development. There is a great feeling of mutual responsibility to deliver the work they agreed on during the Sprint planning.

At the start of each Sprint the team estimates how much work they can get done. They put this work on the Sprint backlog. They feel free to say no or adjust planning when circumstances require this. A scrum team is about three to nine people in size. The product owner and the scrum master are not part of the scrum team.

How to put together a great scrum team?

  • Make sure you can do about 80% of the work with the knowledge and capabilities available in the team.
  • To get the best interactions make sure to develop a diverse team. This is not just about race or gender, it is also about personality types. For instance from belbin or kolb.
  • Team members should have good skills in stakeholder management in order to keep everyone informed, but also to be able to get easy access to necessary information.
  • Team members should have good communication skills. This does not mean that all team members should be extraverted. It does mean that team members should be able to inform people when something bothers them.
  • People should have a certain open mindedness about agile and scrum.

When you have your team you should make sure they receive training in agile and scrum. Please also try to make time for team building so people get to know each other’s strenghts and weaknesses.

The all important product owner

The main responsibility of the product owner is to maximize the value in the product and the scrum team. The product owner is one person, not a team or a board. The product owner makes the decisions about product delivery based on good stakeholder management. The organization should trust the product owner to weigh their priorities well and not overrule the decisions of the product owner.

The main tasks of the product owner include:

  • Managing the product backlog by describing the items on the backlog in such a way that everyone knows what they mean
  • Managing stakeholders and weighing their priorities on the product backlog
  • Responsible for delivery of the right type of value to the customer and the stakeholders
  • Ordering the items in the Product Backlog to best achieve goals and missions
  • Optimizing the value of the work the Development Team performs
  • Ensuring that the Product Backlog is visible, transparent, and clear to all, and shows what the Scrum Team will work on next
  • Ensuring the Development Team understands items in the Product Backlog to the level needed to deliver the product.

The team and process coach: the scrum master

The scrum master is a servant role. The scrum master coaches the team on scrum and agile methodology. He or she also coaches the team on team dynamics. They can facilitate training to the team and the larger organization about team dynamics or scrum and agile.

  • If anything is unclear about the scrum processes or artifacts the scrum master will coach the team to solve these misunderstandings.
  • If the organization does not respect the decisions made by the product owner the scrum master will coach senior management, middle management and the larger organization on how to do better.
  • If there are problems during delivery the scrum master can help the team and the product owner to solve them.
  • They facilitate the team and the product owner to get a clear definition of done

The scrum master should be someone with good communication and coaching skills. They are facilitating not leading.

I will look at artefacts and the Sprint in later blogs.

How to start using scrum? 1

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