5 steps to get your team Agile

by Sampath Prahalad

At 5pm on a Tuesday evening, Greg and Anand meet up  at Cafe Pascucci in the city. Anand had  called up Greg earlier in the day and said that he needs to urgently meet him for some expert advice. Anand seems quite worried and Greg tries to put him at ease.

A little background here before we continue. Anand, a project manager has recently attended a Scrum Master training where he got introduced to Agile and Scrum. He works for Espresso Corp where he heads a product development team. Greg  is a seasoned project manager with rich experience working with teams and organizations of all types and in short has truly “been there and done all of that”.

After ordering for 2 cappuccinos and the initial pleasantries, Anand starts talking about his problem at hand.

Anand: “Greg, Thanks a lot for making it here on such a short notice. We recently had a product release in my company which was developed in the sequential waterfall model. The product fell short of internal and external expectations and we have had a lukewarm response to the product. After a Release post mortem and some brain storming, we feel that our rigid approach of baselining the requirements up front did not allow  us to react to competitors. Also, the product was ready for sales and customer viewing only at the end of the Release and we could not get any real feedback.
Now, I have been asked to set things right and make a release within 3 months which would meet expectations of existing customers and hopefully get us new customers.  As a company, we have a fair idea of the features to add and the areas to improve. We also have the skill set needed to get cracking on these. Since this is a make or break for the company and the people involved, I am very keen to get things right.
I feel that moving the Product development to Agile in general and Scrum in particular would set the problem right. I would like to draw from your vast experience here to know how exactly I should go about doing this. Let me know what you think.”

Greg took a sip from the coffee, thought for almost a minute and said: “Anand, you have identified the problem well. However, I am not sure if Scrum would be the answer to all your problems. There could be other tweaks needed. Before I can help you out, I would like to know a couple of things more. Who provided the requirements for the previous release?”

Anand: “We had a set of people from the Marketing team who created a PRD, reviewed and baselined it”.

Greg: “Once that was done, were there no changes at all?”

Anand: “Very minimal. Only 3 changes over the 6 month project duration, I think. The change control board voted against the other changes”.

Greg: “I am not too surprised. And did the Product Manager not fight back in favour of the changes?”

Anand: “The product marketing team… “

Greg: “There seems to be your first problem. It looks like the product did not have a dedicated Product Manager. Am I right?”

Anand: “Yes. The stakeholders from Marketing owned the PRD document of this and other products as well.”

Greg: “You are facing the straws effect where a lot of people are providing inputs from different quarters and no one person is completely responsible. This also confuses the development team. Change it to the funnel effect by getting a dedicated product manager who gathers inputs from various quarters and funnels them to the team.”

Anand: “Now, that makes absolute sense. A single dedicated person who collates all requirements from different sources and also keeps a tab on the progress of the product development”.

Anand starts taking notes.     1. A dedicated product owner for the product

Greg: “Next, get the team and this dedicated product owner trained on Scrum”.

Anand: “I have already done that. As we speak, they are all attending a 1 day Scrum training.

Greg: “That is good. However, note that the training might not be enough. You will need a coach to walk with them through the first couple of Sprints”

Anand: “I did not think of that. Let me factor that in”

Anand notes down     2. Scrum Training and a coach to walk through.

Greg: “This is another thing that I have seen working well in Scrum teams. At the beginning, come up with a list of rules for each of the Scrum roles. These essentially list the responsibilities of each role. However, it really helps to define it explicitly so that each person knows his and the other person’s responsibilities. For example: The team shall demo a story as soon as it is completed. The product owner shall not alter the scope of the Sprint once it has started. The Scrum master shall ensure that the team is protected from external interferences and scope change.

Anand: “That makes sense too. This way, each person in the team knows what is expected of them. When should I start the first Sprint?”

Anand adds this one too.     3. Rules for each Scrum role

Greg: “That is a good question. We are in the middle of the week. Start it from next Monday. However, I would suggest that you start
the daily stand-ups from tomorrow. Let the team start meeting at a common place and talk about the initial investigations and ground work that they have done. The silos will break down and team camaraderie will set in. It will also give the Product owner a chance to get the backlog ready for the first Sprint”

Anand: “I am really glad that I met you today. Now, how do I manage this team?”

Greg: “You bring an interesting point. Managers in Scrum are facilitators. Ensure that you do not turn their stand-ups into a lengthy status meeting. You have to let go of your command and control mode and be ready to enable them by being the process champion, resolving impediments and helping them self organize.”

Anand is busy writing     4. Culture shift: Let go of Command and Control mode

Anand: “Hmm. I have made some notes. Anything else that I have to take care of?”

Greg: “One last thing, get the team and product owner to define the Definition of Done.

Anand: “Yes, I will. The definition of Done actually refers to constraints, environments and guidelines which are specific to the product and not the user story, right?”

Greg: “Absolutely. I think that you are all set. Try not to deviate much from the few processes that Scrum prescribes, fine tune  the process as you go and feel free to talk to me whenever you need.”

Anand finishes writing down and lifts his head up.     5. Define the Done criteria .

Anand: “Thanks Greg, I definitely will keep you posted.  Cheers.”

Greg: “Cheers. All the best. Have a great evening”

Anand: “You too. I feel quite relieved and upbeat. Thanks, mate.”

Related Links

How Agile generates value
New to Scrum? Here are the Scrum Rituals
What does the Scrum Master manage?
How can managers effectively contribute  in Scrum?
Key traits for a successful Agile Product Manager
Product Managers, measure thyself
My competitor, my friend
Product management: 3 unwise monkeys

Pictures courtesy: scrumbutt.wordpress.com, Bluepod coffee company


One Comment to “5 steps to get your team Agile”

  1. interesting stuff scrum guru, ‘define the Definition of Done’ is truly very important. I guess without this a sprint/ release would be like a chewing gum, keep stretching it as much as you can. All stake holders must agree to this definition and a true champion will call it a sprint success once this is achieved.

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