Scrum Diary: Entry 2 – Pushing through to get better

Sometimes things we do are harder than we expect. In fact almost every time we do something new, it ends up being more difficult than we expect, to get good at it.  There is often an initial period of ‘oh, this is easy’, ‘I can’t believe I thought this would be hard’, and then we are quickly off and running after minimal practice.  A great example that I can easily relate to is tennis, but for you it will most likely be something else.

At my first tennis clinic, I was spraying balls everywhere, and had no skill, but I enjoyed being out there, running around, and it felt great when I’d finally hit a ball cleanly. Eventually, within a couple weeks I improved dramatically. At this point I felt like tennis is really easy, and thought ‘Wow, I’m really good at this!‘  I soon joined my first USTA team, and that team made it to the NC state championships. We spent several days in Pinehurst, NC battling for the state championship eventually losing out.  I wasn’t depressed that we didn’t win the championship because I was so thrilled that we were ‘so good’ that we made it there, and our team had a great time.

The next year I got bumped up a level due to making it to the states. I was now playing against more skilled players. I played 3-6 times a week and got better, but one thing was very clear. Remembering back to those days when I first started and thought that I was ‘really good at this’, I was clearly wrong.  In fact, I don’t consider myself to be that good at tennis now even though I’m much better than I was back then.  I’ve been playing regularly for 8 years now, and have been through many cycles of feeling that I’ve improved, followed by periods of thinking that I’m awful at it. I still play on USTA teams, and I still take tennis clinics to try to get better.

What does all that have to do with Scrum?

We’ve been doing Scrum at work for the last few months (actually the team I’m on has been doing it longer than I’ve been here). Last month I became a CSM, and have been absorbing as much info as possible about Scrum in order to make the most of it.  After my scrum training I felt like I was on THE team in our office that knew Scrum, and excelled at it. Just like with my tennis, I thought ‘we are already really good at this‘, and this will be easy for us to keep up.  I’ve heard a lot of stories of teams, or companies trying Scrum, and after a few sprints deciding that it doesn’t work well for them, or it is difficult so they abandon it to return to their old methods (methods that weren’t working before they decided to adopt scrum. I emphasize this because I find it striking that people return to what they KNOW didn’t work well before because it seems more comfortable than pushing through a learning curve).

Perserverance.
Perserverance.

So this sprint has been a tough one. We very likely won’t hit our sprint commitment. Perhaps we over committed. Perhaps we didn’t get into a good flow. Probably a combination of those and some other factors. Also, our acting team ScrumMaster is leaving the company to pursue other opportunities, and at this point I’m not sure if we’ll be putting one of own into that role, or bringing in someone else to our team to fulfill that role.

In addition we are not truly following the Scrum framework, or I don’t feel like we are. In Scrum we should have:

  1. Daily Scrums (15 min team stand up meetings)
  2. Sprint Planning meeting at start of the sprint
  3. Sprint Review meeting at the end of the sprint, with demo of product.
  4. Sprint Retrospective meeting after the Sprint Review
  5. Backlog Planning meeting (optional/helpful meeting for Scrum)

We are having our Daily Scrums (1), and Backlog Planning (5), but our other meetings have been combined into a single meeting at the beginning of each sprint (Sprint Review/Retrospective/Planning meeting on the first day of sprint).  I suspect these meetings got combined because it is summer and we are having conflicts with vacation times. These meetings were scheduled for Fridays and Mondays due to our cycle times. These of course happen to be the days people are most likely out for scheduled time off.

I am hopeful that our team will take this opportunity to double down on Scrum and improve our processes. It would be easy to ‘pretend to do scrum’, by keeping daily stand ups and not improving on, or incorporating the rest of Scrum, or we could abandon it altogether like the companies mentioned above. However this is also a great opportunity for us to look at our situation and improve it (Inspect and Adapt). I feel like Scrum is a great framework for working together as coherent team, and we are doing a good job. Now it is time for us to reflect about where we are, where we want to be, and are we willing to do what it takes to be great.  I know that that the people I work with want to be great, and want to build a great product, so I’m hopeful we push through, and keep building our Scrum team skills.

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