Seven months ago

Jules van den Berg

The Hague, September 9, 2012

End of last year we decided 2012 to be the year in which we would incorporate Scrum in our company. We knew a bit about Scrum from reading and trying. What clearly stood out as a result of these attempts was:

  • Focus on the most important functionality of an application
  • Clear readable visual graphs (updated daily) showing progress.
  • Team members seemed to enjoy the approach more.

We realised we needed a better understanding of all aspects of Scrum. We scheduled a Product Owner training (Group The Netherlands) and a Scrum Master training (Group Romania). After the training days we got together, and asked ourselves if we still felt Scrum was the way to go. We did. Being in Iasi, in the beginning of February we wanted to create a roadmap for 2012. We planned to use the afternoon to discuss with the two of us in front of the whiteboard. However, after 5 minutes it hit me. It was a bad idea to create that roadmap ourselves; we should involve key people: team leaders or seniors.  Unfortunately, only one was available. The others were busy. We restarted. This time we had to explain a bit on Scrum – since that one senior did not have the privilege of having attended a training.  So the white board filled with Scrum terminology. It hit me again. Explaining Scrum set something in motion: We explained, he listened and questioned. We invited more people to the room. This time not seniors, but different roles: a junior who just had joined, the graphic designer, etc. Again there was that energy. Explaining Scrum, listening, discussing. To our surprise the senior that only just 30 minutes before joined our meeting, often helped explaining

The whiteboard filled with Scrum related terminologies and ideas. Things we (correction: they) considered needed in order to implement Scrum. The group was writing them down, we didn’t. It read actions like ‘3 dedicated teams’, ‘3 fully functional dedicated teams’, ‘have daily meetings’, etc. It didn’t really matter what it read. It was the group’s perception of what needed to be done to implement Scrum.

We continued. Next question: Which of these actions, would benefit us most” Everyone was asked to vote for five actions that added the most value. It resulted in our first initial product backlog. The strange thing is that even today I couldn’t tell if this product backlog would have been better or worse than the roadmap we planned to create originally. But that didn’t matter; the energy in the room was far more important than any result. It became after office hours; we would continue tomorrow. Next morning the group already started, when I came in.  The junior had spent her evening watching movies about Scrum. We had our initial backlog and now we requested (after explaining the concept of planning poker) to estimate the effort in story points.  How much would each of the stories take in their perception (yes, perception). Obviously, everyone participated: Seniors, tester, graphic designer, and management. By this time Dan and I basically only listened and occasionally helped out a bit. The product backlog was presented in another order: Return on Investment. The ratio between what would it bring us and what would it take to achieve it. By that time, I had to go to the airport.

Quickly we agreed on how to continue. We decided that one person of the previous group would guide the next group. In two weeks’ time everyone had participated in such a session. The Scrum idea (or at that time maybe more the Scrum enthusiasm) spread like a viral.

Currently we have 5 teams working according to Scrum, they each have plan boards, daily “daily meetings” in English (also if no customer listens in), interns that participate in estimating and learning the process, we even have a non IT team that uses Scrum. We use TFS with a Scrum plugin, we offer the customer access to write stories, modify the product backlog. We have all the Scrum artefacts and how we like to use them documented. Each team chose its own Scrum master. Sometimes this was a senior, sometimes the junior. We have customers that start to see the benefits; we have customers that don’t even know we worked differently before. We have achieved much, but the best thing is, we see so much more we still can and should improve on the subject of Scrum.

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