At Penguin Digital we create a lot of amazing websites and web apps. Over the last years we have launched over 100 projects. During all that time we did not follow a specific project management approach. After growing quite a bit it is finally time for us to adopt one. What else could we follow but Scrum?
5.5 hrs of learning and 2.5 hrs of working puts you ahead after 1 year if the gain daily is 1%.— Llewellyn Falco
WHY is Scrum the right approach for the Penguins?
You have maybe heard about The Way of the Penguin. These are the basic principles guiding us. Such are for example the constant self-improvement, openness and transparency. We believe in the potential of each individual and that we are in an age in which every individual is increasingly able to take over responsibility over their work and self-development. Managers are commanding and controlling less and are transitioning to a role of serving the organization, the idea behind it and its people. People are not working for a paycheck only, but are as focused on the purpose of their organization and on what they contribute towards.
We believe that all these of developments in lead to a springtime in human progress and are emanating from the same source. In this interview with the “two fathers of Scrum” you will encounter many of the above mentioned topics.Interview with Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland, the two fathers of SCRUM.
How I thought we use Scrum but we used Waterfall
This is actually a true story. After coming across Scrum and Agile Methods, I was very excited and directly jumped into some articles to learn more about it. Of course, we directly adopted the new methodology and started working with Sprints. We would first do a sprint for the User Research then Design, then Development and finally Testing.
A while ago, I encountered then this amazing visual on the Waterfall approach and got curious. Why does it look so much like what we did?
This was the moment when I realized that we follow an approach which is just the opposite of what I thought we do.
The very basics of Scrum
Scrum is not complicated. It is rather minimalistic and the most important thing is: It is not and it does not claim to be a blueprint which you copy as it is. Rather it is an idea and you have to make it work for you.
The basic principles are: Sprints, Artifacts and Roles.
This one is the most mind-blowing one to me. Do not forget. It is not an expert writing here. But someone who was thinking he did Sprints but was actually following Waterfall till a while ago.
The concept of sprints is easy. It is a defined time-frame between 1 and 4 weeks (mostly 2 weeks) in which the developers are protected from changes and requests from the outside world. After running a few sprints with the team you have a good point of reference to estimate how many features you will be able to realize within the next sprint. For this it is important that the sprints always have the same length.
What is fundamentally different and requires the most rethinking from my side is that design and development happen at the same time now. This means the developers don’t wait for the design to be completed; we move forward as a whole team. Just as a scrum in Rugby, hence the name…
There are three artifacts: the Product Backlog, the Sprint Backlog, and the product Increment.
The Product Backlog and Sprint Backlog describe work to be “Done” that will add value, and the product Increment is the “Done” portion of the product completed during a Sprint.
You can check out more about them here: https://www.scrumalliance.org/why-scrum/scrum-elearning-series/scrum-artifacts
There are three main roles within a Scrum Team: The Product Owner, the Development Team, and the Scrum Master.
The Product Owner represents the client. They define what brings the most value and set the priorities. They prepare what should be worked on in the next sprint.
The Development Team is not only referred to the developers but also to a Cross Functional and Self-Organizing Team. All members of a Scrum Team have all competencies needed to accomplish the work without depending on others who aren’t part of the team.
The Scrum Master is the facilitator. They ensure that the Product Owner, the Development Team, and the Organization as a whole understand how Scrum can be used to help them accomplish and align their goals.
Getting the right mindset
SCRUM comes as part of a bigger idea:. The agile idea. It is the answer to a problem most of the software projects have. It is complex to build software. You cannot fully foresee everything and create the whole plan before starting the project. When you build a house this is possible. So it’s fine to use waterfall. But in a faster and faster changing world we have to be increasingly agile. Thus, it is as important to understand the mindset Scrum lives in (this section) as it is to understand the way Scrum works (which we will do in the next section).
Here you have 4 amazing resources:
1. Agile Product Ownership in a Nutshell
This is the must-see video about creating a product in an agile way.
2. Making sense of MVP (Minimum Viable Product)
How do you create a product in increments? Understanding MVP the right way.
3. The art of doing twice as much in half the time
Jeff Sutherland (one of the Scrum fathers). “Bang that airplane right at the end of the runway”.
4. The Agile Manifesto
The agile manifesto is the foundation for the Agile movement and all Agile Frameworks (like XP, Kanban, Scrum). It states the four main principles and values of Agile Software Development. The document was signed in 2001 by 17 software practitioners.
5. IDEO — DeepDive methodology in practice
IDEO, Palo Alto, CA is the most influential Product Development firm in the world. They are extremely insightful. They are THE EXPERTS in the process. Enlightened trial and error succeeds over the planning of the lone genius.
Implement Scrum in your organization
Now it’s time to implement Scrum in our team. How do we do it?
After the inspiring videos above we know a bit about the background and the mindset of Scrum. We now need some more technical knowledge about Scrum.
Remember the three basic roles in Scrum? We have a team of developers, a product owner (PO) and a Scrum master (SM). While there are multiple developers, there will be one Scrum master and one Product Owner. In small teams there will not be a separate Product Owner and Scrum master, but some of the developers can take over this role. What is important is that Scrum Master and Product Owner are not the same person.
Having said that, in the adoption of Scrum in small teams it makes sense that everybody is learns about the developer role. Afterwards there should be at least one person who continues specializing in the role of a Product Owner and one in being a Scrum Master.
The scrum.org organization offers specialized courses and tests for the three Scrum roles (and some more). While it might be amazing for the whole company to attend a course, this can get quite expensive. We will certainly do that in the future; as a start, though, we will focus on the online materials.
Some of the following points are copied from Łukasz Krzyżek’s post on getting started with Scrum.
Make sure to cover the first three points. It might take a working day. The further points are mainly relevant for POs and SMs.
1. Study the Scrum Guide.
The original source of truth: The Scrum Guide — 18 pages. It is the official overview of the Scrum Framework comprising the Scrum Principles, Values, Definition of Artifacts, Scrum Roles and Events: http://www.scrumguides.org/index.html
2. Watch the Scrum Training Series Video.
This is the most amazing video series I have found. It’s a series of short videos explaining the Scrum Framework in real-life situations. You can observe what is expected by the team during Planning Meeting, Retrospective Session or Sprint Review. By watching the video you can understand better the structure of Scrum Events and what behaviors are not aligned with Scrum Framework. There are also many links to other great Scrum resources.
3. Dive into your role or into all roles.
Understand the differences between Scrum Roles: Know responsibilities of Scrum Master, Product Owner and Dev Team. You can find a great description of those roles in Barry Overeem’s publications: Characteristics of Great Scrum Team, Characteristics of Scrum Master and Characteristics of Produt Owner.
4. Further videos by lynda.
You will need to ask your company for a paid account. There are some good contents. The very basic video is: Scrum: The Basics — it will be boring after you have checked the information above.
The Product Owner is the face to the customer. In my understanding they are pretty close to the role of a product manager. The role requires skills in three areas: Business, Engineering and Design. There are quite some interesting videos about it: Transitioning from Waterfall to Agile Project Management, Scrum: Advanced, Agile Product Owner Role: Foundations, Agile Product Owner Role: Techniques.
For the Scrum Master the videos above are interesting as well. Especially: Transitioning from Waterfall to Agile Project Management, Scrum: Advanced. In addition the following ones are available: Agile Project Management Foundations and the Agile at Work series: Building Your Agile Team, Planning with Agile User Stories, Reporting with Agile Charts and Boards, Getting Better with Agile Retrospectives.
5. Further information.
You can find lots of valuable resources, tipps and discussions that can help you understand the Scrum framework better. Scrum Master Skeleton Board
Beware that Scrum and other Agile Frameworks are not only for small projects, teams or organizations. There are already available frameworks that can help you scale your adoption of Scrum like: SAF, Nexus, LESS, DAD. Watch video with the overview of Scaled Agile Model in Spotify.
6. Know what Scrum.org and Scrum Alliance are.
There are two main organizations that support and guide the development of the Scrum Framework. They have different approaches to some aspects of the framework, training and certification process (i.e. Scrum.org — getting certification doesn’t require attending training; Scrum Alliance — you need to attend the formal training to apply for the certification process).
It must be clear that truly following Scrum has to result in a fundamental change of the culture and processes we are following. If we do not feel the change, we do not really adopt Scrum.
It is now time to get into the real life and to get some real products shipped using Scrum. At Penguin we are a distributed team based in St. Gallen, Switzerland and Sofia, Bulgaria. So we have set up Realtimeboard in order to have a digital Scrumboard, and we will follow those 7 steps described here for our first sprint.
At Penguin Digital we now follow Scrum in every project we work on. We strive to be an agile and learning organization. We are an agency based in Switzerland and Bulgaria with clients all around the world. If you want to figure out more about some awesome technology, the penguins, or our work, do not hesitate to contact us or visit www.penguin.digital 🐧.