So your team has been delivering working solutions by following Scrum practices for several months. You have experienced the struggles of a brand new team that had to learn how to manage and execute work in a completely new way, but all your hard work has paid off in your ability to bring value to your customers. Your management is pleased with what they are getting for their money. However, you are sensing that the team could do more. You feel that the team is reaching a plateau and might not be as motivated as they once were in identifying areas for improvement. Is it possible that Scrum is not the “end all” solution that you were expecting? Is there something else that you could do to help your team continue to grow and improve beyond the defined boundaries of the Scrum framework?
If these thoughts are creeping into your mind, there’s a possibility that you may want to take a step back and look at the bigger picture in order to re-orient yourself and your team. The Agile Mindset encourages continuous improvement, but that can be a very challenging and exhausting pursuit, especially if your team has already made significant strides and is meeting or exceeding customer expectations.
The Scrum framework has been around for over 20 years, and it’s difficult to dispute its popularity and effectiveness. However, to embrace the Agile mindset, we should consider the possibility that we need to apply other methods and approaches to help us grow beyond the boundaries of Scrum. Below are a few ideas that are worth exploring.
DevOps – The concept of DevOps is often a mysterious one because it is interpreted and utilized in a multitude of ways. The main reason for this is that there is no single, de facto definition of what “DevOps” really means; some believe it is a process, others feel it’s a culture and mindset, plus there are others who assume DevOps means a set of tools. However you would like to define this term, the main idea is that your team may grow to the next level by applying DevOps principles, practices and/or tools. Scrum can help you build something better and most likely faster, but it does not necessarily help you deliver value to your customers as frequently as they need or want it.
Release level planning – Scrum provides guidance on planning and executing short sprints, which is great for a brand new team to launch and make progress in a short period of time. However, Scrum does not offer ideas on how to plan a longer-term project; concepts such as Product Vision, Product Roadmap, Release Plan, etc. does not exist in Scrum. As a result, your team has a risk of building products that may evolve into something that is unforeseen; while this may not be a negative, the risk of technical debt or architectural compromises could elevate over time and create big problems down the road. This is where you may wish to consider scaling methods such as Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), Disciplined Agile (DA), etc. to assist with higher level planning.
Optimizing flow of work – Being successful at Scrum does not necessarily translate directly into optimal delivery of value. The team may find themselves building a lot of product features that don’t reach the customer as quickly as they are built and tested. The team may also realize that there are significant bottlenecks in their current workflow that delay creating of value. If this is a common scenario for your team, you may benefit from applying Kanban principles such as limiting work in process in order to identify inefficiencies in your team and help you iron out those kinks.
To wrap up this short article, many teams that I have worked with assume that once a team learns Scrum and is able to execute successfully, they are done and there is no need to improve. This could not be further from the truth. To continue to remain competitive and stay on top, even a high-performing team must challenge itself to always learn new techniques and be relentless in doing things more efficiently – if you don’t do it, your competition will!