With more than a decade of project management experience under my belt, I felt it was finally time to dive deeper into a particular methodology that many companies use… and many only think they’re using. It’s called Scrum. And no, it’s not an acronym, as I learned while prepping for my training; it’s simply short for the rugby term “scrummage.”
Scrum is one of many Agile project methodologies. But what the heck does this mean? Well, at its core, it’s a non-linear way of managing projects. With Scrum, you wouldn’t plan a project timeline in the traditional “waterfall” method of starting with strategy, moving to design, then into development, and everything has a neat and tidy timeline and budget. Instead, this method of Agile management is much more malleable. Projects ebb and flow, and your team adapts to whatever change comes your way. In a sense, it’s a lot more like life.
And although this might seem wishy-washy, there is an abundance of structure to this methodology. Here’s what I know after getting my ScrumMaster (which I’ve modified to “Scrum Coach”, because this) Certification:
Scrum Is All About Human Beings
Face-to-face (or, in 2021, video-to-video) interaction, people over process, openness and respect...these are all goals and values of the Scrum project management framework. Of all the methodology’s pillars, the people-based ones are most fundamental. When people are unhappy or unwilling to do the work, the work suffers.
Collaboration Is Key, But Sometimes Specialization Is Necessary
Speaking of people, in Scrum, everyone on the team must be willing to work together toward a common goal — something the Scrum team determines at the start of the project. In fact, during Scrum training I learned that everyone on the Scrum team must be willing to do whatever needs to be done in order to produce work toward the highest priority items in the sprint backlog (the list of tasks allocated over a certain period of time — usually 1-4 weeks). This is problematic when you’re working on a highly specialized team. For instance, someone who’s trained as a graphic designer won’t be able to build a website without years of learning and experience. The sentiment is admirable, but a bit tricky to follow depending on the type of company you’re running.
All Will Be Murky… Until It’s Not
Everything is expected to be a bit unclear and undefined, at least for a while, with Scrum. We’re used to estimating hours for a project and coming up with a concrete budget before we begin working. But with Scrum, it’s known that there will be unknowns, and no one expects a concrete anything until we start working on the project. IMO, this is actually a much more realistic approach, as we can never know everything before we do some discovery work in order to solidify what we’re actually going to build. But I can also see the client side of this equation — that it can be difficult to approve a project when you don’t actually know what the ultimate budget looks like.
Meetings, Meetings, and More Meetings
One thing I’ve resisted when it comes to Scrum is the number of meetings that are “supposed to be” held: before the sprint begins, in the middle of the sprint, and once it’s completed. Not one of these meetings should be skipped, as they are all considered equally important to the sprint goal. And I do see the value in regular, consistent meetings. Sometimes the ritual of a thing helps keep you engaged and focused. But sometimes, we just don’t need any. more. meetings.
Scrum Isn’t for Everyone, But Parts of It Are Super Valuable for Most Teams
While I’m not convinced that we’ll fully and completely adopt the Scrum methodology at TEN7, we are already practicing a lot of the values and rituals. For instance, we’re all willing to help each other in order to achieve project goals, and we value each other as human beings above all else.
It’s ok that we’re not adhering to every single suggested practice of Scrum. Because ultimately, it’s about doing what works for you. It’s not advantageous to adopt Scrum for the sake of saying you’ve adopted Scrum. In fact, Scrum would say that it’s better to keep doing what you’re doing, so long as people, teams and organizations generate value through adaptive solutions for complex problems.
How do you feel about adopting Scrum for your organization?