Friday, August 31, 2012

One Manager at a Time


By: Laura Althoff, Scrum Master and Executive Director of Scrum Inc.

Last weekend while catching up with my mom on the phone the topic of Agile arose.  I'd off-handedly let her know that I had presented at the Agile Boston monthly meeting, but this story prompted further explanation about user groups and Agile.

My mom is a seasoned college administrator with over 25 years managing a department of people around lots of time-sensitive projects and in conjunction with many other departments.  She doesn’t have any experience with software but she’s a quick learner and great conceptual thinker.  I gave her the 20-second overview of development in Waterfall and Agile environments and the role Scrum plays, which of course helped her understand my current job in a new way.  Her response:  “Wow.  From you I understood that Scrum helps teams work better together, but I’ve never heard of Waterfall or Agile.  How come the general public doesn’t know about how software is made when we all use it all the time?  And couldn’t I could use an Agile approach in my department?”  


Here were some great questions.  Let’s start with why the general public may not know more about the development process.  One thought is the language barrier.  The field of development, like most professional fields, is full of acronyms, jargon, and highly specific terminology.  It can be overwhelming and intimidating to someone outside it.  Regression testing, CMMI, continuous integration, TDD loop, 10-minute build, refactoring – what are these things?  Another thought is that people outside of development don’t really consider all it takes to make software and hardware. We expect our computers to just work and we may not care about the process it takes to do so.  Clearly, not everyone needs to know the language in another industry, nor do we need to know the ins and outs of exactly how it works.   But what if that industry were doing something that increased their competitive edge in the marketplace?  And what if that something had easy application beyond that industry? 

We know Scrum is widely-recognized and widely-utilized in development.  It’s where Scrum was born.  And in addition to being an effective frame in which to get stuff done, Scrum opens things up.  It has the power to make contained, insular systems, into transparent processes.  Anyone from the organization can see the burndown chart to know what the team is working on and how it’s progressing.  Better yet, customers (customers!) are invited to sprint demos to weigh in on the product and to make it better.  Next, by tracking the work so publicly, anyone can see how it works, and how useful Scrum’s application in any department or team of people who need to get something done could be.  How many times have we heard stories of marketing teams or HR teams or any non-Scrum team who say “Scrum seems to be working really well for that software team…why can’t we use it here?”

The great news?  You can.  And one of the best ways to help make that happen in any organization is by having a management team who understands what Scrum is and how it can impact their bottom line.  What management team wouldn’t want to get things done faster for less?   What management team would say no to hyperproductive teams?

Next month, managers get a special opportunity to hear from Jeff about why they specifically need Scrum and how it will help them capture the competitive edge.  Join us for the live webinar on September 26.  I’ve already registered one manager, who just happens to be my mom.

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