It is beyond a fact that the Scrum framework is the most popular and widely used framework adopted by agile teams. The 15th state of the agile report highlighted Scrum as the most popular agile approach with a 66% adoption rate. This is an improvement on the 58% adoption rate from the 14th agile report.
Why? You may ask. This is because of its simplicity and high performance. Scrum is a framework that represents teamwork for efficient delivery, high performance and much more. That is why its adoption is steadily on the rise.
In this article, we will go through some of Scrum’s best practices that Scrum teams ignore, together with how to go about them to deliver excellent results and deliver products effectively and efficiently.
Are you new to Scrum? Not to worry, we have you in mind. Let’s begin with a quick introduction to Scrum.
Whenever you hear or see the word “Scrum”, do you immediately relate it to software development? If yes, you are on the right track but this isn't always the case. While it is vastly known to be used amongst software development teams, iScrum goes widely beyond non-software development teams.
According to scrum.org, Scrum is a framework within which people can address complex adaptive problems while productively and creatively delivering products of the highest possible value. In addition, scrum is a framework that allows product development to be done in incremental iterations.
SCRUM is not an acronym rather, it is a project management framework that emphasizes iterative progress of teamwork and accountability towards a clearly defined goal. The Scrum framework begins with what is known rather than unknown after track progress and adjusts when necessary.
It outlines a series of gatherings, resources, and positions necessary for effective project completion. Scrum practices give teams the ability to self-manage, learn from mistakes, and adjust to change, much like a sports team rehearsing for a big game.
This iteration is usually carried out over a short period of 2 - 4 weeks, known as a SPRINT.
In Scrum, a "sprint" is a time-boxed iteration during which a cross-functional team, typically consisting of developers, a Scrum Master, and a Product Owner, works to deliver a potentially shippable product increment. Sprints are a fundamental component of Scrum and are designed to bring structure and rhythm to the development process.
Sprints typically have a fixed duration, which is agreed upon by the team, often ranging from 1 to 4 weeks. The team commits to achieving a set of goals or user stories during the sprint. These goals are defined in the form of a "sprint backlog," which is a prioritized list of items taken from the product backlog. The product backlog is a dynamic list of features, enhancements, and user stories that represent the work to be done on the project.
During the sprint, the team's focus is on delivering the items from the sprint backlog, and the sprint goal serves as a clear objective. The team self-organizes to plan how they will accomplish the work and collaborates on a daily basis to monitor progress. Daily meetings, known as "Daily Scrums" or "Daily Stand-ups," are held to synchronize efforts, address impediments, and make any necessary adjustments to the plan.
Let’s now look at some of Scrum's best practices to follow, which are often ignored by Scrum teams. Following these will help improve efficiency and deliver products efficiently, regardless of scrum roles.
Planning is everything. It sets the foundation for the project or tasks ahead. Sprint planning is the ceremony that takes care of this. While it is necessary for sprint planning to occur, it is also crucial that you plan at least N sprints ahead. N can be any number you give fit, but ideally, N should be greater than 1. This is because planning further ahead sets a more precise direction and pathway for the team to operate.
For this to work or be effective, it is necessary that the product backlog is regularly updated and kept healthy. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the product owner and the scrum master to review the product backlog constantly. This involves adding, removing, or updating tasks in the product backlog. This is done during backlog refinement.
Have you noticed that you sometimes do certain things faster when standing? That is the idea behind the daily stand-up ceremony. It is the quickest scrum ceremony which aims at “unblocking” team members and setting a clear path for the day.
For this, don’t get tempted to sit or get too comfortable as it already goes against the format for the ceremony. Better still, it is recommended that this ceremony be done in a room with no chairs. It may sound silly, but it works. For a remote team, this ceremony can be done via your preferred communication or meeting tool.
Let us talk about sprint retrospectives. This is that time, always at the end of a sprint, where the scrum team comes together to give feedback on the just-concluded sprint. But, again, the scrum master should clarify that the ceremony is centred around the process and not people.
Scrum teams may sometimes term this ceremony “skippable” to allocate that time to something else. Unfortunately, no scrum ceremony should be skipped. They are equally important. No matter how you may want to look at it, be reminded that the little things also matter.
While it is the responsibility of the scrum master to facilitate ways for effective communication and collaboration among members of the scrum team, let us take a deeper look at some specifics that matter and help.
This is a common problem that teams face. A lack of communication flow will only arise when processes haven’t been implemented to smoothen the communication channel. Right from the top to the bottom of the channel, a communication plan must be mapped out between the various parties involved in a project. Find what works for your team, implement it, and maintain that flow.
Your team by now already has its preferred communication tool, the most popular being Slack. It is advisable to make efficient use of those tools to communicate. You will want to ensure that each team has its own channel. Doing this makes information classification easier and prevents bulking up messages.
Communication can go beyond just the team members and stakeholders. Take advantage of integrations to your preferred tool to communicate with other applications that your team works with.
Are you even doing scrum the right way if you don’t report? As a scrum master, it is necessary to go beyond basic reporting. Thankfully, many agile tools on the market already provide report features spanning many report types. Take your time learning about these report types, as everyone is helpful to your team.
Implementing what works can sometimes take a lot of planning and brainstorming but going about it in the right way makes it less complicated. Feel free to experiment within the boundaries of the principles scrum is guided by till you find what works.
Scrum promotes a culture of regular inspection and adaptation through various ceremonies, including the sprint review and the sprint retrospective, as discussed above. The sprint review is held at the end of each sprint and involves demonstrating the completed work to stakeholders. Feedback is gathered to understand whether the product aligns with expectations.
The sprint retrospective, conducted after the sprint review, is an opportunity for the team to reflect on their processes and identify areas for improvement. They discuss what went well and what could be improved and make actionable commitments to enhance their processes in the upcoming sprints.
These practices promote a continuous improvement mindset, ensuring that the team continually learns from their experiences and refines their processes. Regular inspections and adaptations help teams become more effective, efficient, and responsive to changing requirements and market dynamics.
Scrum emphasizes the importance of cross-functional teams, where each team member possesses a diverse set of skills required to deliver a potentially shippable product increment. This practice ensures that the team can independently handle all aspects of the work, from design and development to testing and deployment. Cross-functional teams promote collaboration and reduce dependencies on external resources, leading to faster and more efficient product development.
For example, in a software development context, a cross-functional team might include developers, testers, designers, and other relevant roles. This diversity enables the team to take full ownership of the work and deliver a product increment that is ready for deployment at the end of each sprint.
A well-maintained product backlog is crucial for successful Scrum implementation. The product backlog is a dynamic list of all the features, enhancements, and user stories that represent the work to be done on the project. It's prioritized based on the value each item brings to the product, with the most important items at the top.
The best practice here involves continuously refining and prioritizing the product backlog. The Product Owner plays a critical role in achieving this. This is because the Product Owner is solely responsible for keeping the backlog up-to-date and ensuring that it reflects the evolving needs of the project. This practice helps provide a clear vision of what needs to be accomplished and allows the Scrum Team to select the most valuable items to work on during each sprint. It's essential for maintaining focus, managing stakeholder expectations, and ensuring that the team is consistently delivering the highest priority features.
Scrum is an agile project management framework that emphasizes iterative and incremental development. It centers on delivering high-quality products by promoting collaboration, transparency, and adaptability in cross-functional teams. Within the Scrum framework, several best practices are critical for success (which we have explained above). By adhering to these best practices, organizations can harness the full potential of Scrum to streamline their product development, encourage collaboration, and enhance project outcomes.
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