Scrum: Structured, yet agile.
The scrum method, simply explained, is a flexible approach to how teams work when managing projects.
However, while it is an agile working methodology, it has a consistent underlying structure.
The team organizes itself and breaks up one overarching objective into one to two-week time frames called sprints.
At the end of each sprint, the sprint review looks back at the tasks that have been completed, and plans the next steps.
After the review, the sprint retrospective considers how efficient work has been done. What went well? What could have gone better? How can we improve for the next sprint?
This analysis allows the scrum team to continuously improve its development process. A key feature of the scrum method is transparency. This is achieved through daily stand-up meetings, also known as daily scrums. In these short meetings, all team members share their progress with the rest of the team.
This agile approach also differs from traditional project management in terms of hierarchy and processes.
Avoiding a detailed, rigid initial plan, scrum teams can quickly adapt when they see a strategy isn’t working. Feedback from daily meetings and sprints add speed, flexibility, and energy to the working process.
So now we’ve got a basic understanding of Scrum theory, let’s look into what makes it so popular and how you can implement it in your team.
Why is the scrum method so popular?
One of the key reasons behind scrum’s popularity is its flexibility.
The theory behind the framework is easy to understand, so it can be scaled and adapted to a vast range of case studies.
Although it really took off in software development teams, it can be used in any field, and even on projects such as bridge building or wedding planning.
The flexible, agile nature of scrum makes it ideal for issues that don’t have a clear solution.
Each sprint allows the team to reassess on a regular basis and adapt its strategy and goals where necessary.
Finally, scrum methodology does away with a final evaluation in favor of continuous feedback.
This helps the Product Owner to follow each aspect of the project, while keeping workers focused and motivated.
This is especially important in projects with no defined outcome. In these cases, two-week-long tasks can be far less paralyzing than a months-long project.
How can you apply the scrum method to your team?
The scrum process is ubiquitous in the tech industry and is now being chosen by all kinds of other fields.
However, it is not always simple for companies to adopt. As an agile methodology, scrum is often resisted by companies with strict vertical hierarchies.
The nature of change means it is difficult for businesses that use a waterfall structure to move to a more fluid working structure.
Conversely, it is much easier for startups to implement it from the very start. However, this doesn’t mean it is impossible for big companies.
The main issue behind scrum not working is a poor explanation and a lack of motivation.
The scrum method requires a change in mentality, and cannot be expected to work as a panacea for all your structural issues.
One easy way to move towards a more agile mentality is to begin with daily stand-up meetings. Just like a sports team huddling before the game, daily scrums are short, to-the-point, and only give the team a quick overview of the progress of the project. This helps to pull people out of their silos and take note of what their colleagues are working on.
In terms of extra resources, while there are scrum-specific software tools out there, it’s really a low-tech strategy.
Most companies are happy using a simple spreadsheet or a physical scrum board to keep tabs on their progress.
However, if you have the resources, it may be worth hiring an experienced scrum master on a temporary basis to get the ball rolling.
Top companies as diverse as Google, HSBC, Deloitte, and Amazon have all adopted the scrum process, so it’s well worth integrating into your workflow.
The benefits of this agile framework will quickly outweigh initial teething problems.
A scrum method example case study
Let’s take a look at a scrum method explanation through an example.
Let’s say you’re a hotel chain that is losing customers, and your team is tasked with finding out why and providing a solution.
In the first group meeting, your Product Owner will identify immediate priorities, such as getting feedback from customers, and priorities that cannot be tackled immediately, like a physical meeting between hotel managers. These tasks will be laid out on the scrum board, or in your company’s scrum software.
The first sprint could be a week long. During this time, your tech expert creates a form that is integrated into the hotel’s CRM.
Your customer services department must then send the form to your customer base.
At the same time, your HR department could be quizzing your staff on what they’ve heard and seen inside the hotels.
One week later, you’re ready to share results and plan the next steps.
Your sprint review tells you that you’re losing the majority of your customers to low-cost holiday rentals, so you analyze ways of battling back.
For the next sprint, you have two team members looking into special offers to revive your hotels, another mini-team looking at redesigning your hotels to aim for a lower budget, and a third task force at investing in holiday apartments.
During the sprint retrospective, you see that some areas of the team had poor communication, so the Scrum Master steps in to resolve these issues. This pattern is repeated until the initial goal of solving your customer retention problem is solved. Of course, this is a very simplistic overview, but it helps you understand how the scrum method pulls people out of their silos and shares ideas and responsibility for the same tasks.
Here, you’ve found out about the theory behind the scrum method, why so many companies are adopting it, and how you can move your own team to a more agile way of working.
If you’re hesitant about making the leap, give it a try! It is incredibly low-investment as a framework and could be just the shake up your team needs.
While it is true that some companies are not quite ready to make the change to a scrum framework, it is a method that works for almost all projects.