In the realm of agility, Scrum is often considered the most popular framework. If you are interested in project management or are constantly looking for solutions to improve the organisation and the productivity of your teams, Scrum should ring a bell. According to the latestState of Agile report, 58% of companies that embark on the path of agility choose Scrum. How to explain such popularity? What does this methodology really consist of? We offer you the opportunity to discover the essentials of the Scrum methodology and give you the keys to implement it in your company, through the advices of Michael Gicquel and Quentin Caputi, Scrum Masters at Wemanity.
Scrum is a method that has been developed in the 1990s by Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber, two of the software development specialists behind the Agile Manifesto. Since then, there have been several versions. However, the principles, mindset, team composition and rituals remain the same.
The Scrum principles
There are three principles, all of which are interrelated and applicable for all projects.
Transparency: Scrum relies on the circulation and understanding of project information, especially regarding the state of progress, but also the sticking points.
Inspection: The Scrum methodology is based on an iterative process, in which the team regularly checks if the production stands within an acceptable range regarding the expectations.
Adaptation: the team corrects any discrepancies as they arise and is constantly invited to reflect on its way of working (organisation, tools, etc.) in order to meet the project objectives.
The Scrum mindset
In addition to being a project management method, Scrum is also a theory, or even a philosophy, in which all the elements of the agile posture can be found. As the Scrum Guide 2020reminds us, the Scrum method is indeed based on empiricism and Lean thinking. This means that the team moves forward in a very pragmatic way, based on the observations it makes, especially regarding the discrepancies to solve.
Lean thinking, on the other hand, implies focusing on the essential. The team must follow an incremental development logic: each part of the project to be carried out is required to be usable and should result in a deliverable. Overall, the Scrum methodology therefore sets out a working framework aimed at delivering the maximum value to the end-user, while reducing wastes (of time, money, etc.) as much as possible.
The roles distribution within a Scrum team
A Scrum team always consists of a Scrum Master, a Product Owner and Developers – in the broadest sense of the word, the latter meaning the members in charge of execution.
The Product Owner represents the end customer. He or she is responsible for expressing and prioritising customer’s needs, in the form of user stories, which, once collected, constitute a product backlog.
The Scrum Master plays a supporting and facilitating role. He ensures the understanding and adhesion to the Scrum model. At the service of the Product Owner’s team and the development team, he or she facilitates the implementation and smooth running of rituals, encourages interaction and helps maintain motivation.
Finally, the developers take care of the operational side, delivering features on a regular basis. With their multiple skills, they form a multidisciplinary and autonomous group.
In general, a Scrum team does not exceed 11 people in total. Beyond that,” says Michael Gicquel, interactions become more complicated”.
Rituals in the Scrum methodology
In the Scrum framework, the project is divided into iteration phases called “sprints”.
The sprints are framed by the following rules:
The number of sprints to reach the final goal is variable: it depends on the project size and the team capabilities.
A sprint has a limited duration, from one to four weeks.
When a sprint ends, a new one begins afterward.
Each sprint begins with a Sprint Planning, an initial meeting designed to set the sprint objectives, but also to select the Backlog items to work on. The team also defines its working methods and decides on the criteria that will allow a user story to be considered as having been dealt with (these criteria constitute what is known as the “Definition of Done”).
Scrum also implies a daily meeting of no more than 15 minutes: the Daily Scrum, which is usually held standing up (for this reason, it is sometimes referred to as a Daily standup).
Shortly before the end of the sprint, all the stakeholders (the team, but also the end customer) meet during a Sprint Review to inspect the results obtained so far and to make any necessary adjustments.
Lastly, a retrospective closes the sprint, where the objective is to take stock of all aspects of the sprint (tools, relationships between members, what works and what doesn’t…) and to build an action plan to include improvements in the next sprint.
2. The benefits of the Scrum framework
AtWemanity, we have an agnostic view of agility, selecting frameworks according to their relevance to each project (or even mixing approaches, for example Scrum and Kanban). If we support the Scrum methodology, it is above all for its results in terms of productivity, but also for its virtues at the team level. Finally, the framework has the advantage of being customisable.
An effective project management method
The Waterfall method, based on a waterfall operation (step by step) was historically used in IT project management. The Scrum framework differs from this rigid and not very adaptable method by the dynamic, flexible and rhythmic framework that it allows to establish.
As mentioned earlier, Scrum leads to a division of the project into sprints. Each sprint is conducted with a view to not wasting time and generating visible results. Difficulties are solved as they arise, deviations are corrected as soon as possible, and features are delivered regularly.
The company thus gains in productivity, but also in customer satisfaction, since it is a question of working in logic of continuous improvement.
Committed Scrum teams
In the Scrum framework, each team member knows what he or she has to do and why, while remaining relatively free in the way he or she achieves the objectives. The principle of transparency leads to better communication within the team.
For Michael, the Scrum methodology is a real asset for the team:
“The cohesion that is created within a team that has been using Scrum for a few months is impressive. There is an increasingly high level of commitment to the company, to the project or to the product on which they are working. Scrum comes from the sport and on the field, the metaphor is well understood: the team members are really moving forward together towards the same goal. Trust is also developed with the client, to whom the team presents its work. This creates pride. »
A framework usable by all and adaptable
Contrary to popular belief, Scrum is not just for IT teams. Quentin Caputi, who has implemented it in a design team and a marketing team by adapting the deliverables, particularly appreciates its customisable nature:
“Scrum is a basis to be adapted and enriched. You can choose the length of the sprints or the time of the Daily Meeting. You can play with the constraints and integrate the external ecosystem, by planning coordination with a supplier or another team. »
The icing on the cake is that Scrum is an easy-to-implement project management method. “There are set meetings and clearly defined roles that make the methodology easy to understand,” says Michael. The simplicity of implementation is also an advantage. »
3. How to implement Scrum in your organisation?
While some companies practically scale up Scrum by usingScrum@Scale, i.e. by having several agile teams working together, it is quite possible to start with a single project team. Here are our tips for a successful first experience.
How to compose your Scrum Team
A particular attention should be paid to the choice of Product Owner and Scrum Master.
The role of Product Owner is usually assigned to someone who knows how to interact with the customer and has a good vision of what the added value is.
“The role of Product Owner can be given to former project managers, who very often have the necessary qualities. It can also be a business profile or an analyst. A Product Owner must be rigorous, know how to draw up the requirements and have a well-structured mind”, advises Michael.
As for the Scrum Master, it is generally recommended that the role is given to someone with human qualities (empathy, curiosity, etc.), as the function involves encouraging exchanges and sometimes coaching team members. However, Quentin considers that the profile of the Scrum Master should depend on the maturity of the team:
“For a team that is just starting out, it is preferable to choose a Scrum Master who has business knowledge. This brings credibility and encourages adherence to the framework. When the team becomes autonomous, the function is less time-consuming and I have found that the best results are obtained by appointing a Scrum Master within the execution team. I also sometimes rotate the role within the team, offering the role to a new team member each sprint. In any case, the Scrum Master is never a saviour. Scrum remains a group effort, with a framework that the team must make its own.
Bringing transparency into practice
For our Scrum Masters, transparency in Scrum takes many forms.
For Michael, this starts with the team telling each other what is going on and daring to show what is being done. In practice, this can be facilitated by each member reviewing the following elements during the Daily Meeting:
tasks performed the day before
tasks to be completed on the day
request for assistance
The team can also be invited to express their mood, via the agile exercise of team weather, also called Niko Niko.
Visual management is a must for making information visible to all, according to Quentin:
“The team needs to identify a source of truth in terms of progress, aligned with the fact that it is the source that needs to be consulted and fed into so that everyone has a real-time view and awareness of each other’s progress.
The framework and tools
To facilitate interaction, it is ideal to allow the team to be gathered in one place, bearing in mind that in the case of teleworking, many tools, such as Slack or Teams, offer the possibility of creating dedicated discussion spaces or channels.
As far as tools are concerned, their choice must be a team decision. It is not a question of the Scrum Master imposing them, but rather of guiding the team in the definition of the most suitable tools, by showing pedagogy:
“The team needs to think about the added value,” Quentin says. “Everyone needs to understand the added value of using a particular tool, for the company, for the team and for themselves. The trap would be for a member to use a visual board to do reporting, when the added value of such a tool for him is to be less interrupted in his work and to understand where the team is at. »
In practice, agile teams most often use whiteboards or project management tools like Trello or Jira. Whatever you choose, the most important thing is once again that the information is shared by all, up to date, accessible and visible at all times.
Managing a Scrum team
By definition, a Scrum team operates autonomously. However, Michael believes that the functional manager has a role to play in relation to the team: “It’s not really mentioned in the Scrum Guide, but it’s essential in practice. In my opinion, the manager must participate in creating the team’s vision. He should also follow the productivity without being in the constraint, for example by attending the sprint review. Of course, the team must be autonomous and the manager must let go, but this is done over time, through a game likedelegation poker.
Quentin warns about the manager’s posture: “You have to be careful with old reflexes. A daily standup is not an opportunity to control. In Scrum, you must not limit yourself to events, which are only the tip of the iceberg. There must be a real alignment between intentions and the added value of the actions implemented.
The Scrum methodology, even if it is an easy framework to put in place, implies, before being implemented, an in-depth reflection on the corporate culture and the capacity of the organisation to transform its practices, particularly HR. Moreover, it is only one method among others, hence the interest for each organisation to take its first steps in the transformation by developing an agile culture.