Teamwork Using the Scrum Framework
Matrix Technologies is working with a steel company to co-develop a software application to solve key business problems. This engagement has been a long-term, information system engineering project in which Matrix provides two developers and a scrum master to the client in a staff augmentation time-and-expense manner. The client is providing two developers for the project as well, one of which is working as a product owner and a developer.
The team decided early in the project to operate using the scrum framework, which has led to enhanced teamwork and benefits that were not understood when we began but are elements likely to continue for future engagements with this client and others. A “scrum” is a team maneuver to restart play in rugby. Borrowing the term from rugby, the scrum framework creates a successful software application development process and impacts how people engage within teams.
Here are a few of the keys to success for this project, which all are related to teamwork.
One of the principles in the Manifesto for Agile Software Development is: Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project. Daily scrums are the key to this principle. These 15-minute meetings focus on the conversations needed between businesspeople and the development team. They also facilitate key decisions within the development team around coordination, teamwork, timing and the need for assistance. Important decisions are often resolved during the meeting instead of calling a separate meeting later. This daily conversation enables acceleration when other teams may stall.
Structured Q&A Session
Executing the daily scrum is like a structured Q&A session where each person answers the same questions to create focus on goals. These might be questions like, “What work was completed?” “What work is coming up?” and “What hurdles are being faced or may potentially take place?” On our team, questions change near the end of our 10-day sprints and become more specific to what needs to be accomplished to meet our sprint goals. This allows us to focus on “swarming” to help each other complete the work that is key to the goal through collaboration and teamwork.
Another principle within the manifesto is: At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly. Our team meets at the end of every 10-day sprint to determine how we are working together and identify a few areas where we can work toward improvements starting with the next sprint. This mini “lessons learned” session takes the team pulse on an ongoing basis and checks to see how effectively we are working together. It’s also an opportunity to check on our current tools and processes to make sure they are helping us and not hindering the team’s progress.
Teams can speed up decision making by ensuring the three key team roles are present and active. The Product Owner is the main liaison to the business people and people who will be using the product being produced by the scrum team. As the proxy for business people, the Product Owner sets the priorities of work to be completed and keeps the scrum team informed on business wants and needs. The Developers represent all of the technical skill sets required on the team to complete the required work to meet the project goals. The Scrum Master introduces scrum and agile principles and values to the team and facilitates the various meetings to meet their desired outcomes during the sprints. Team empowerment to make decisions is critical to speed up decision making. Faster decision making is a key requirement for accelerating progress and improving productivity.
“I appreciate that the team has a process to follow and someone to manage the process so I can focus on what we do well and not the project management,” said the Product Owner.
Flexibility and Adaptability
There’s no one right answer. Teams should adapt their approach to the one that fits their team personality and needs at the moment. No two teams are the same. No two projects are the same. Therefore adopting someone else’s approach and expecting it to work for a team likely will only lead to disappointment. The best teams adopt an inspect-and-adapt mentality, where they test new ideas and keep the ones that work and adjust or eliminate the ones that don’t work.
Ongoing focus on the five scrum values will help teams work together better, earn each other’s trust and produce more than other teams faster. The scrum values consist of focus, courage, openness, respect and commitment.
Matrix Technologies is one of the largest independent process design, industrial automation engineering, and manufacturing operations management companies in North America. To learn more about our manufacturing operations management capabilities and executing projects using the Scrum framework solutions, contact Jeff Panning, PMP, ACP, Senior Project Manager, Project Management Professional, Agile Certified Practitioner.
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