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Managing Business Change with Scrum at FloraHolland

by Ben Linders on Nov 28, 2013 |

FloraHolland is the largest flower auction in the world. They wanted to realize change goals for business units in parallel with their daily business, and decided to use Scrum to manage their business changes.

At the XP Days Benelux 2013 conference, Linda Dorlandt and Mirna den Blanken from FloraHolland presented how they got several business units to work with Scrum and agile elements to change their way of working. They used the Job Demands-Resources model from Arnold B. Bakker, professor of Work and Organizational Psychology from Erasmus University in Rotterdam. According to professor Bakker,  the causes of employee well-being can be classified in two general categories: job demands and job resources:

Extensive research has provided evidence for the existence of two simultaneous processes. High job demands exhaust employees’ mental and physical resources and therefore lead to the depletion of energy and to health problems. This is the health impairment process. In contrast, job resources foster employee engagement and extra-role performance. This is the motivational process.

Linda and Mirna extended the job demands-resources model with Scrum:

Scrum Job Demands-Resources mode

This combined model helped them to explore relationships between employee engagement and the needed organizational outcomes. The first step was to get insight into the job demand and job resources. Next they investigated which Scrum elements would be useful for people to do their job. Using this model the connection between Scrum and the organizational outcomes became visible, and it helped the business units to become better in coping with stress reactions.

InfoQ did and interview with Linda Dorlandt and Mirna den Blanken from FloraHolland about using Scrum to manage business change.

InfoQ: You session was about businesses who are using Scrum to change their way of working. Can you describe what these business departments do, and how important IT is for them?

FloraHolland: There have been 3 business departments at at FloraHolland where we have introduced "using scrum in daily business": Market & Information, Facilities, Infrastructure & Real Estate, and Retail Services.

What does the modern customer want? And perhaps even more important: what does the customer want tomorrow? If you want to capitalise on the market, then you have to know it well. Only then can you anticipate the wishes of the people who will buy your products. FloraHolland has this knowledge and is happy to share it with you The department Market & Information uses standard software and statistical software so they have a good market view, and make customized reports and forecast for our customers (intern and extern).

Facilities, Infrastructure & Real Estate provides services for companies that want to have their own premises at one of the FloraHolland marketplaces. Examples of services that facility provide: post- and repro activities, cleaning, security, fire fighting, services and repair for all of our internal logistic and infrastructural instruments. Facility management use all different kinds of IT systems (administration software, financial and project administration software, CAD and CAM software, security systems, planning systems for docking services, etc.

Retail Services responds to market needs by developing and implementing total concepts for large-scale retailers in collaboration with chain partners. The focus is primarily on shelf development and profit improvement and is based on category management at full service retailers in Europe. Retail Services supports partnerships in closed chains with the aim to broaden the market and to optimize the value chains for all chain partners: that's retailers, growers and buyers. Retail Services use different kind of IT systems, mostly for administrational use and design programs for making useful business concepts for their customers.

InfoQ: Scrum was originally intended to support software development teams. What made you decide to use Scrum for business teams and managing change? 

FloraHolland: The challenge is to make improvement small, visible, flexible and worthy to celebrate. The biggest challenge of FloraHolland (and many other organizations) is to be flexible in responding with their services to market changes. It often isn’t possible anymore to develop new product that take a long time to deliver. One focus point of FloraHolland is to deliver more customized services using a more concentrated organization.

InfoQ: Where does managing chance differ from software development, and did you adopt Scrum to cope with the differences?

FloraHolland: It didn’t differ very much from software development. The descriptions on the sticky notes on the scrum board differ, some examples are “job description”, “learning trip to Moscow with growers”, "training day for new department manager", "cost accounting", ""kick-off new department", etc. We use all the scrum elements, the biggest difference from software development is the time and place that the scrum activities are done. It’s important to separate daily business and improvement activities and make agreements with the team. What will be on the scrum board/ backlog and what stays in daily business. When do we make the time for improvement, make it visible and choose. For example, all the different implementation teams from facility management worked on improvements on the same day in the week. The other days in the week were used for business as usual to keep the store running.

InfoQ: With Scrum you managed to transition from three businesses on three locations to one business unit. How did Scrum help you to do this?

FloraHolland: It helps us in a similar way as it helps other scrum teams: With the focus on a sprint goal, ownership, responsibility low in the organization (the implementation teams), structuring the organizational change but also keep it flexible, quick decision making by the owner when it’s needed, involvement, improvements in sprint, prioritize, etc.

Working with all the involved team on the same day on the same location, makes it possible to make a real difference in a short time. Sometimes 3 short stand-up’s in a day make it possible for the implementation teams to come with quick and good results. They don’t need big project plan’s, they only need a good user story and sometimes a little bit more explanation from the owner.

InfoQ: You talked about celebrating results, big and small. Can you give some examples of these results, and how they have been celebrated?

FloraHolland: The first big result for Facility management was a vision made by 50 people. They deliver a newspaper and spread it around. On the first page there was a picture with everybody who had been involved in this process. Celebration can be big and small, for example by complimenting the team, giving exposure to a team and the work that they have done, or celebrating with cake. Most special in this process is the role of the owner (the manager Facility management) she always gives credits to her teams and lets them present the outcomes. Celebrating doesn’t always have to be big, giving your team the credits and making it visible to the organization that they did their job very good is also a celebration.

The end of the first sprint was a celebration for the Market and Information team, they were very happy when they presented their deliverables. And more important was that it became also visible for the stakeholders for that unit. That visibility and the credits and rewards to the team members are very important. When you reach specific goals you can even celebrate it a little bit more by enjoying a moment together with cake, or maybe having a lunch with your customers.

InfoQ is covering the XP Days Benelux conference in Mechelen. Earlier InfoQ did an interview with two of the conference hosts about new developments in agile, successful agile transformations and the needs of European organizations in agile adoption.

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