What is a good example of agile proving successful in an organisation you have worked with in the past?
Welcome to part 22 in our scrum master interview questions series where John McFadyen answers common questions asked of scrum masters in interviews and client engagements.
I’ve worked with many organizations, and my non-disclosure agreements prevent me from listing any specific outcomes, so let’s focus instead on what my process has been and how that has worked.
Working with agile teams
My first point of call has been to work with teams to understand agile values and principles, explore how the agile style of working differs from traditional project management, and where applicable, helping the team understand scrum.
In that process of helping teams adopt agile or scrum, we’ve identified that success looks very different for each organization because their reason for adopting agile and the context of their organization differs a great deal with each application.
In some cases, the primary objective has been to accelerate time to market.
An organization may find that they face disruption from competitors, or they may want to be the ones who disrupt their competitors.
In those cases, success looked like increased velocity in product development and releasing valuable features and products to customers faster than competitors.
Adopting agile has helped the team identify the most valuable work and focus exclusively on delivering features that matter to customers. The accelerated delivery also provides faster feedback loops and so the team can leverage that feedback to ensure they are delivering valuable work.
Increasing technical excellence
In other cases, the team have been focused on using a lightweight agile framework to identify how to improve their engineering practices and become more effective as a technical team.
In those circumstances, my focus has been in helping the team explore tools and practices that have proven successful in the software engineering industry and creating an environment where the team can excel through experimentation, refinement, and intense practise.
Some teams have eliminated technical debt and found that their product development velocity increased because they weren’t having to work within cumbersome environments or invest time in fixing bugs.
Increasing product quality
For organizations who want to achieve and sustain competitive advantage, increasing product quality is the primary focus.
In those circumstances, agile or scrum has empowered the team to focus on solving problems or creating products that truly delight customers. Working closely with customers, product owners and product stakeholders, the team can identify the most valuable work and focus on delivering the highest quality work imaginable.
Sprint reviews empower the team to understand what truly matters to customers and use the feedback and data from those reviews to inform what they work on next.
Rapid feedback loops that deliver high-quality insights, information, and guidance empower the team to work on solving the most compelling problems and helping customers achieve the most valuable outcomes in their world.
With each iteration, customer satisfaction increases, as does customer retention and customer acquisition because the continuous improvements in quality matter a great deal to customers.
There is no best practice for achieving great product quality, it is a result of great process and teamwork. As they inspect and adapt, the value of the product increases. As they reflect on what they have learned and identify new ways to improve, they cycle of continuous improvement builds a high-performance team.
Some organizations are interested in ‘’agile maturity index” or scoring high on metrics that measure the adoption of agile, and my perspective is always rooted in curiosity.
- Why does this matter?
- How does the adoption of agile or scrum improve the organization?
- What didn’t work that prompted the conversation around adopting agile?
- What are the organization trying to achieve through the adoption of agile?
And so forth.
Agile, in and of itself, has no intrinsic value.
If a team adopt agile, regardless of how well they do that, it still doesn’t solve a problem or deliver a valuable outcome to customers or the organization.
It’s just a new style of working.
As a scrum master or agile coach, you need to be curious about the business outcomes that matter to the organization, and you must be equally curious about the things that matter most to customers.
You also need to be curious about the obstacles, systems, and impediments that block progress. The things that prevent the team from achieving their goals and objectives.
That’s how you identify and articulate success for an agile adoption.
It could even be about increasing employee satisfaction and reducing staff turnover.
Start by benchmarking what matters and building measures and metrics that will empower you to understand if you are moving the needle on the most important elements.
- Are we increasing customer acquisition and retention?
- Are we increasing market share?
- Are we decreasing costs and increasing profits?
- Are we attracting higher calibre developers to the organization?
- Are we reducing staff turnover and improving employee-based brand equity?
That is how I would measure the success of an agile adoption for an organization, rather than how well they know the scrum guide or how well they execute scrum events.
About John McFadyen
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