Traditional management wants two things on any project: control and predictability. This leads to vast number of documents, graphs, charts. Months of details go into planning every detail so there will be no mistakes, no overruns and things will be delivered on schedule. The problem is the rosy scenario never unfolds. All that effort poured into trying to know the unknowable is wasted.
Planning is useful. Blindly following plans is stupid.
It’s just so tempting to draw up endless charts. All the work needed to do on a massive project laid out for everyone to see – but when detailed plans meet reality, they fall part. Build into your working method the assumption of change, discovery and new ideas. Plan. Do. Check. Act.
The map is not the terrain.
Don’t fall in love with your plan, it’s almost certainly wrong.
Only plan what you need to.
Don’t try to project everything out years in advance. Just plan enough to keep your teams busy.
What kind of dog is it?
Humans are terrible at estimating in absolute terms like hours. Size things relatively, by what breed of dog the problem is or T-shirt size.
Say for example if the scope of the work is considered ‘small’, you may name the ‘yorkie’. If it’s somewhat in the ‘middle’, it can be named ‘Pom’. If you’re not too familiar with dog breeds, consider using T-Shirt sizes (XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL).
Plan with the poker.
Use Planning Poker to quickly estimate work that needs to be done.
Use a Delphi method to avoid biases.
The method entails a group of experts who anonymously reply to questionnaires and subsequently receive feedback in the form of a statistical representation of the “group response,” after which the process repeats itself. The goal is to reduce the range of responses and arrive at something closer to expert consensus. The Delphi Method has been widely adopted and is still in use today.
Fail fast, so you can fix early.
Corporate cultures put more weight on forms, procedures and meetings than visible value creations that can be expected in short intervals by users. Working product in short cycles allow early user feedback and you can eliminate immediately what is obviously wasteful effort.
Each cycle produces a finished incremental product.
In Scrum, we call these cycles ‘sprint’. At the beginning of each cycle, there is a meeting to plan the sprint. The team decides how much work they think they can accomplish within the next X weeks. They’ll take the work items off the prioritized list of things that need to be done and often just write them out on sticky notes and put them on the wall.
The first sprint gives teams an estimate on their velocity.
At the end of the sprint, the team comes together and shows what they’ve accomplished during the time they collaborated. They look at how many of the sticky notes they got done. Did they bring too many into the sprint and not finished them all? Did they not bring enough?
What’s important here is that they begin to have a baseline sense of how fast they can go – their velocity.
Velocity x Time = Delivery
Once you know how fast you’re going, you’ll know how soon you’ll get there.
At the end of the sprints, teams discuss not what they did but how they did.
They ask how they can work together better in the next sprint. They discuss what was getting in their way during the last sprint, so they can address the issues before they begin the next cycle.
Demo or Die.
At the end of each sprint, have something that’s done – something that can be used. Half done is not done. Because anything work in progress (WIP) costs money and energy without delivering anything.
Inspect and Adapt.
Every little while stop doing what you’re doing. Review what you’ve done. See if it’s still what you should be doing and if you can do better.
Hesitation Is Death.
Observe, orient, decide, act. Know where you are, assess your options, decide and act! Whatever you do, pay attention to the paralysis by analysis trap.
Look Outward for Answers.
Complex adaptive systems follow a few simple rules, which they learn from their environment. Occasionally zoom out and see things in a wider perspective.
Shu Ha Ri.
Shuhari is a Japanese martial art concept which describes the stages of learning to master.
The first stage includes learning the rules and the forms. Once you understand the rules, you can learn to break some in order to innovate. And finally, in a heightened state of mastery, discard forms and just be with all the learning internalized and decisions made almost unconsciously.
Throw away your business cards and titles.
Titles are specialized status markers. Be known for what you do, not how you’re referred to.
One meeting a day.
Get together for 15 minutes at the daily stand-up. See what can be done to increase speed. Do it.
When you make a mistake, fix it right away.
Fixing it later can take twenty times longer than if you fix it now.
Working too hard only makes more work.
Working long hours doesn’t get more done; it gets less done. Working too much results in fatigue which leads to errors which leads to having to fix the thing you just finished.
Make work visible.
Have a board that shows all the work that needs to be done, what’s being worked on, and what’s done. Everyone should see it and update it every day.
The application of scrum is not limited to software.
Imagine you decide to make the contractors work as a Scrum team. You have weekly projects you have to move to Done and, in the contractor’s, trailer parked in your front lawn you have a Scrum board full of sticky notes listing out tasks. Every morning you’d gather the carpenters, electricians, plumbers or whoever else was needed for that week’s sprint and go over what was done the day before, what they were going to get done today, and what was getting in their way.
Plumbers and carpenters talked about how they could help one another work faster. Shortages of materials were discovered before their absence stopped all progress. But the main thing stand-ups did was remove dependencies. On any construction project a lot of time is spent waiting for one part of the job to be done before the next can begin, and often these phases involve different skill sets – electrical installation and drywall hanging, for instance.
What the daily stand-up does is get all these people into a room where they quickly figured out how they could work together as a team. They were no longer simply individuals with separate skills but rather a team trying to move a house to Done.
Congratulations… so far you’ve learnt the benefits of scrum and actionable insights to make full use of your next scrum project. Now, it’s time to begin your scrum project.