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Supporting Practices Beyond Scrum to Become Agile at Organizational Level

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Scrum is a simple and lightweight methodology. Jeff Sutherland, inventor and co-creator of scrum says "At its root, scrum is based on a simple idea”. Mark Levison, Certified Scrum Trainer, Founder and Consultant at Agile Pain Relief Consulting, mentions in his blog that scrum alone is not enough.

To be successful with scrum in the long term you need more than the basic framework. This is intentional. Scrum provides the structure as a starting point, but it’s designed to work well when applied with other effective patterns.

Christa Conner, Managing Director at Charles Schwab, also mentions in her blog that the failure of agile adoption is considering only scrum.

Scrum is so very popular right now. As I connect with my peers in other organizations, greater than 90% of them are practicing some variation of Scrum. They are even following the typical adoption process I see with most organizations; leading with classic classroom training and embedded coaching. Unfortunately, however, some of their adoption initiatives are ending tragically with feelings of disillusionment when they ca not figure out why they aren’t getting the benefits touted with Scrum. Why is this happening? My answer is simple: Scrum alone is not enough. Scrum alone is not Agile.

Christophe Keromen, Lean Agile Coach at Coactiv, also gave a session on “Organisation Agile? Scrum is not enough” in ScrumDay 2015 conference.

Mark suggests following practices to be considered beyond scrum:

  • Effective Agile Engineering Practices – such as unit testing, continuous integration, test driven development, acceptance test driven development (or BDD), pair programming. The health of codebase can degrade over time without these practices.

    Christa also suggests using engineering capabilities from XP along with Scrum.

    Capabilities like test automation, continuous integration, TDD and just-in-time design unlock the true value Agile has to offer. Scrum does acknowledge the need to create “potentially releasable software at the end of every Sprint”, but if falls short by not providing organizations with the know- how to execute on that goal.

  • Kanban – It is useful to understand the flow of work at both the team and organization level. Without a good understanding of the flow of work through the organization, we might make a change that is a local improvement but harms the whole.

  • Portfolio Management – the art of making big picture decisions about which major chunks of work the business would like to focus on next. Organizations need portfolio management to ensure that major priorities are understood by product owners and worked on in priority order.

  • Organizational Improvement – many issues that scrum helps to find can’t be solved by the team or their scrum master. Instead, organizations need to establish an ongoing improvement team dedicated to resolving these problems.

  • Intra team coordination – to coordinate the work among teams. Scrum of Scrums is the most well known pattern for the intra team coordination.

  • Team organization – how to organize the teams as component teams or feature teams. There are many more like Spotify model of Squads, Tribes and Guilds.

Mark mentions that scrum is not intended to fit your current organization and its existing structure. It is intended to force us to consider what is working and what needs improvement.

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