I wanted to summarise why teams benefit from the basic principles that are behind Scrum, specifically for people who lead those teams...
What is Scrum?
Scrum is a simple framework for unlocking the potential of your existing teams. Most people think of it as specifically for software development but Scrum originated from innovation in American and Japanese manufacturing. And there's nothing in the Scrum Guide that specific to software or even technology. It's really about how teams should best be organised when they are producing a complex product or service.
Why should I care?
Because your existing employees are your most valuable resource. If you can unlock the creativity, passion and dedication of the people that you already have working for you, then you can fully benefit from all their skills and experience. And teamwork, real teamwork, is so powerful this will give you a massive competitive advantage.
What do I need to know?
Scrum is based on six simple principles, that are deceptively difficult to implement in the real-world. But the benefits for your organisation can be immense. In this article I've abstracted the standard underlying principles of Collaboration, Value-Based Prioritisation, Iterative Delivery, Self-Organisation, Time-Boxing and Empirical Process Control to remove as much jargon as possible!
Establish a Vision
Whatever product or service you offer, you should first establish a powerful vision for what you're trying to achieve and what you stand for. If your team buys into this bigger picture and understands the impact of the work they are doing they will be more committed, more creative and more likely to deliver what you actually want.
So many organisations feel they need to be starting projects rather than focusing on finishing projects. You physically cannot do everything and the same applies to your teams. So work out what needs to be done to accomplish your vision, prioritise it and then focus on the high priority items. The more you can eliminate multi-tasking, the more productive your teams will be. This requires you to make a decision. It requires you to make tough choices. But the productivity gains will be worth it.
Break it down
We need to be able to react to changes in the market, changes in regulation and discoveries that we ourselves make. Working on long running projects and deliverables denies us the opportunity to get valuable feedback from our customer, so break down your projects and tasks into smaller tasks. Things you can get accomplished within a week or two if possible and then put it out there to get valuable customer feedback.
Empower your teams
Scrum is based on a simple belief that the best people to decide how to get complex work done are the people who are actually doing that work. Leaders should establish the vision, the culture and then maintain good organisational hygiene. Establish boundaries. Ensure that your teams understand what is expected from that. Demand that they produce high quality work. Make them responsible for delivering what need to be done. But get out of the way and let them do the work. Self-organising teams are more committed, more creative and have more accountability.
Time-box your deliverables. See what you can get done in a month or a week. Give yourself a small amount of time to encourage focus and reduce the temptation to waste. And inspect your progress. It doesn't matter whether you're selling double glazing or building a fighter jet, your organisation needs to forecast how much it can deliver and the most reliable forecasting is based on what you have already been able to accomplish.
And whilst you're at it, time-box all your meetings too.
Be open, be honest and then inspect and adapt
Most organisations have a culture where the truth is often punished and people are disincentivised from admitting failures and set-backs. This means than leaders and decision makes are all too often the people with the least accurate view of what's actually happening. If you can establish a culture of openness and honesty then you'll create the transparency that you need on your progress and the challenges that you face and you'll be in a much better position to inspect and adapt and improve your plans, processes and practices.