I sneaked into the meeting. The conversation had already started and the pleasant introduction formalities where passed. The Scrum master and product owner glanced at each other and ignored me when I joined the others at the table. They knew what they had to do. The question posed by the division manager was very simple. “When will the product be finished”. I think one of the most dreaded question every project manager fears, but not these two eager guys. The laptop was turned around and the screen faced the group. Apart from the SM and the PO, and the questioning manager. There was also the business manager and two other regular project managers. The screen showed a simple release burndown graph based upon the passed sprints. It was basic and the velocity was a little bit calculated but it provided a very clear estimate. “February” said the Scrum master and he explained the graph and numbers. There was no doubt in any way that it would be different. If they would keep up this pace the delivery would be next year. Four months passed the original deadline.
The division manager shrugged and moved a bit in his chair. “So how can we get this to become an earlier date? The scrum master entered a number. “If we can work more efficient and no more disturbances are posed to the team. We can get it done by December” he smiled and moved the laptop so everybody could see. The project managers from the other non-scrum teams where silent. The product owner added, “That means no more other stuff, just the things needed for this product”. The division manager leaned forward, studying the graph a little more up-close. “So we can not push people to work harder. So what do you need to get this done” the Scrum master smiled. We need a proper test environment. I can’t guarantee anything but that will give us more grip on our software and we can move up testing speed.”
The funny thing was that there was not any arguing about the idea that people had to work harder or more hours. The problem was tackled by giving the team what they needed most to optimize themselves. Also the idea was proposed to bring in more people. A good idea but this would slowdown the team in the beginning and yet again would not guarantee that it would work. But the team had the final decision on this. A simple graph made it happen that people started to look at the team effort and delivered work. Not how many hours the team worked, as this was irrelevant. Therefore the solutions provided where not directed at the team working harder but providing them with the tools they needed to work smarter.
When it was time for the other project managers to show their planning it became a little embarrassing. The planning was presented as a time sheet and I thought I noticed some Ghant stuff in it. The project manager was just guessing and could not provide a straight answer. Sweat appeared on their foreheads as they just mumbled a few assumptions. The scrum master smiled at me in silence and I just leaned backwards and enjoyed the show. My work was done here as a coach. A feeling of pride and bliss came over me. This was the real power of scrum at it’s finest and it felt so good.