Sep 03

Involuntary scrum

The project was running for a while. Sprint after sprint the team members got closer to the goal. It was not a project where it was possible to produce software that was to go live after each sprint so they build upon it until it was done. The team was tackling the challenges when they emerged and improve quality within every sprint. But the team was not working as a team. Part of the problem was that they also had to do other stuff for other projects and part because not all the necessary people where in the team. They where depending on others that where outside the sprint and who where not doing scrum.

The team was doing their best to get things done when one day the manager demanded that everything had to go live within a couple of days. “Cut a few corners and get done with it” he said “I need everything by the end of the month”. All of a sudden there was a deadline and pressure. The team had to deliver what they had and move towards a release. The pressure was also felt by the people who where not doing scrum because they had to deliver to. It was also their heads that where going to roll when the delivery day could not be met. So they started to work with the scrum team.

The running sprint was cancelled and all the work was prioritized again. Only the important stuff was put on the sprint board. The fist morning the scrum team and the non-scrum team joined in a daily standup. They decided who was going to do what and how they would approach the challenges. At the end of the first day a lot of work was done. The manager popped by to see how things where going and if he could apply more pressure. But this was not needed. The new formed team was working to it’s maximum potential and more important, they where working together.

Day’s past and software was delivered. The deadline was nearing but everybody was confident that it would work. The scrum team was cooperating with the non-scrum team. Corners where cut and smiles produced. Then one day one of the non-scrum people came to talk to me. He had some concerns about how things where going. Even though he felt that the deadline was going to be reached, he shared his concern for the days after the delivery. There would be loose ends. I told him not to worry. First do the things that are important and then clean up. There will be time for that. I asked him how he thought things where going. For a long time I was trying to get his team involved and into scrum or any kinds of agile model. Resistance was high with his team” His answer was to be expected. “It is going great. We are focused as a team” he said “And we are getting things done.” He smiled “Even management is involved!” He then shrugged a bit, “Of course we are not doing scrum. We have not done any estimation with poker and there is no burn down”. I just smiled and said nothing.

When the sprint is over and the work delivered I will tell him what just happened. That scrum is not about poker and burn down charts. I will tell all of them that it is all about working together and getting stuff delivered. And yes, in doing so you have to cut a few corners and a little pressure won’t do any harm as long as you keep one thing in mind. Teamwork does work and that’s what scrum is all about.

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  • Niels Talens

    Hello Erwin, 
    I think “First do the things that are important and then clean up.” can be very tricky and subjective.  I personally feel you should try to keep everything clean all the time and from the start. No matter how high the pressure is. It is about quality and that shouldn’t be put at risk by waiting until the end. 


    • Cutting corners can turn out to be problem. Bugs or low quality software may become a problem. But when you accept that risk and take immediate action to reduce this then I think you can. But there is a very big risk involved when doing this. Most people (read managers) think that when stuff goes life and corners have been cut, there is no need for cleaning up the mess. It works after all so why looking back. But this is dangerous. So yes I agree. Deliver High quality software and don’t do things half.

  • Esther

    So familiar, nice stukje!