They say much about the benefits of Scrum. In IT, it has long become a trend and began to move into a regular business actively. But specific instructions for its implementation – sound, based on real practical experience – are still lacking. Especially, there are few articles or training, describing the technology of using and implementing Scrum in practice, specific examples. How to move from traditional management to a flexible business built on Scrum and Agile? How long will it take? And what will be the final result?
The personal experience and the experience of many of my colleagues show that the path of an ordinary company to a very successful one can be divided into 4 stages. Each of them is not easy and can take from several weeks to six months, but the phased implementation of all 4 steps will ultimately lead to the desired success. The main thing is that these stages are universal for all types of business, both for IT startups and industrial companies in the agricultural sector.
Step 1: Change your leadership before thinking about Scrum
Unfortunately, most small and large companies in the post-Soviet space, use the usual managerial model with a rigid hierarchy and directive management principle: the head sets the direction vector, cuts tasks, takes complete control of the process, while the specialist performs these tasks without thinking, and trusts control of actions to the leader.
This principle robs the employee of creativity, reducing his motivation, initiative, and sense of responsibility. And why should he think, if thinking is the leader’s prerogative? When subordinates don’t think about their company’s development but simply perform tasks as robots, it leads to a decrease in the quality of work, and management loses confidence in employees, which, in turn, leads to increased control and the emergence of a negative bureaucratic system.
Management becomes clumsy, and the load on leaders sooner or later goes beyond all reasonable limits.
This system can, and should be changed: first, you should change the directive management style in favor of the engaging one, and become an assistant leader. Stop managing people and start managing goals. The role of the leader, in this case, changes from the boss to the expert and coaching – you do not make decisions for employees, but provide them with advice and help them make informed decisions, and not decide for them.
The easiest way to solve this problem is facilitation. It is one of the styles of non-directive management, which is most clearly manifested in meetings. Instead of giving directions, the facilitator uses the facilitation process to organize the meeting so that the participants themselves come to a decision. Then the team becomes more motivated and begins to take responsibility for the decisions made because now, they are their decisions.
It is also worth looking in the direction of coaching, on the spiral dynamics model, management model 3.0 – all these are difficult but very effective tools. A leader who has invested in the study of these topics will be able to build a team much more powerful than the leader of the old school.
Step 2: Launch Scrum! Make a revolution in organizational structure and business processes
In traditional business models, everything is built on departments: teams of people, who are grouped by professional specialization. In IT there are programmers and system administrators, and in marketing – marketers, etc. If suddenly engineers of the design department need the marketer’s opinion, they go to another department. And the marketer is busy now. And to get it, you must go “through the head of the department.” A familiar story? It takes a lot of time! Besides, such boundaries create an additional “we and them” psychological barrier, which is also not good.
How to break it? Take a look at your business from the outside, and form teams that can 100% solve the task of developing a specific product. For example, you have a factory for the production of wheelbarrows and shovels. For each product, there will be a team that includes all the necessary competencies – engineer, accountant, marketer, etc. As a result, you should get some sort of mini-companies, from each of which you may “order” a separate product. One team makes wheelbarrows, the other shovels. There will be fewer communications, they will be locked within teams, and work will accelerate. The main thing is not to forget that specialists from different teams still need to communicate with each other. Make something like guilds or conferences so that people share experiences and adopt good decisions from each other.
The next step is to start assembling Scrum out of the box, as written in the manual. Keep in mind that people need to get used to the new format of work, and you must help them with this. The main things, you need to focus on:
- Small periods. Stop, at least for the first time, thinking of long-term plans. A year is too much for planning (not for goals!). Even a month is much. There should be a general idea of the strategy, but only a week or two may be planned in detail. A month is a maximum. At the end of each segment of the work, there should be a tangible result that can be evaluated. Bring employees to this rhythm, teach them to divide large projects into mini-steps. In Scrum, such segments are called sprints.
- A clear rhythm and everything according to the instructions. Meetings are held only those that were planned, and how they were planned. Do not change, do not transfer them. Planning on Monday morning, short synchronization every day, showing results and reflection on Friday evening. In Ukraine, and other countries of the former CIS, it is difficult to discipline, but you need to learn. It gives people confidence in the process, creates an “island of peace”. Live all week as you want, but be on time at meetings, and show the result on Friday. This is especially important when working on a remote site, where you don’t see, what people are doing. Scrum is the flexibility and freedom of processes, but they line up around a particular skeleton. Things won’t go without it.
Another important point: if we talk about big business, at the beginning create one or two pilot teams on which you will run new formats of work. Then, after 3-4 months, gradually include new groups in the process. There are ways to scale Scrum to the entire enterprise. To set them up, you will need the experience of the first teams. Scrum per 100 people is more complicated than per 10. Do not risk business, it’s better to introduce a new technique slowly but surely.
Operating units and production facilities may additionally consider the kanban method to enhance linear activity along with development.
Step 3: Teach team members to be “a bit of entrepreneur”
In the classic management paradigm, team members rarely communicate directly with the end-user. They have a vague idea of what customers need. A typical chain looks like this: production – a large wholesaler – a small wholesaler – a store – a client, who actually uses the product.
For the product feedback to reach the manufacturer, it must go through the entire chain in the opposite direction. It is long and difficult, so often consumer comments do not reach the plant at all. Your engineers would be happy to improve something, to correct some defects, but they simply do not know about them.
One of Scrum’s key tools is getting real feedback. You can start with your own employees: can they use your product? If so, provide it to them. You produce cosmetics? Hand out samples of new products to staff, collect feedback from them. Gadgets? The same story. In parallel, set up getting opinions from real consumers: directly, through social networks or promotions. You need to know what they think about your product. This knowledge becomes the basis for determining the future development of the company.
There are many methods for working with the product and a special role in Scrum is the Owner of the product that uses them.
The better your team understands the business, the better product it will make. Everything is simple.
Step 4: Just be a cool team and develop flexible skills
The easiest and most difficult stage: to help your people become a real team. Not a department with a boss and subordinates, but a team – a group, whose members are sincerely interested in the result, and do their utmost to achieve it.
In this matter, the main focus of attention is soft skills or flexible skills. Help your people learn how to build workflows and interact with each other:
- Arguing their position without going into conflict;
- Keep conflicts in the constructive zone and come to new solutions through them;
- Organize their time and work;
- Manage their energy and motivation;
- Think outside the box, look at the task from different angles;
- Cope with stress, do not burn out;
- Recognize emotions and manage them, both their own and those around them (emotional intelligence).
Teams that go all the way, in 1-3 years go into such an orbit that they’ve never dreamed of before the change. Those, who go all the way get acceleration of 20-40%, revenue growth of 20-40% during the first year or year and a half. Even if the expectations are too high, and you get only 10% on top of what is now, isn’t it great?
Switching to Scrum is a tricky journey. However, phased implementation of the above directives will fundamentally change the way you conduct business, improve the atmosphere within the company, and increase the external level of loyalty. Positive changes will be visible in a month! The main thing is not to be afraid of changes and tune in for a positive outcome, and it, by the way, is guaranteed!