I was first introduced to the concept of scrum by my fiancé who was working on a scrum team at the time. My first thoughts were along the lines of, do mean to say ‘scum’? Are you working with bad people? And, Is that some type of work-related sport? Since I was curious, he tried his best to explain it to me by begrudgingly walking me through the processes. A few months later when I got the opportunity to come to CA myself and join Enterprise Agility, a well-oiled scrum machine, I was at least comfortable discussing HOW you do scrum. What I mean by that is, I knew what a sprint was, I knew what a story was, and I had some understanding of the ceremonies.
What I didn’t understand was, WHY we do scrum? What’s the point in working this way?
In the first weeks and months of my new role with this new team, I spent a lot time learning about agility, the agile mindset, and the scrum framework. Much of what I read spoke to the business outcomes and how scrum allows teams to produce more valuable work, faster. With scrum, stakeholders are able to see the work you’re doing while you’re doing it. They can provide feedback early on so that changes can be made without needing to backpedal and undo hours and hours of work. In summary, I learned that scrum makes teams more efficient, more capable, and more valuable to their organizations and to their stakeholders.
Ok great, so there’s my answer, right? Not quite.
While those reasons mentioned above are certainly valid, the real benefits of working on a scrum team expand way beyond them. It wasn’t until I had been working with my team for about 6 months that it really hit me and I realized why it works so well. I was home on a Saturday, basically buried under contracts, emails, and a to do list the size of Montana, while trying to get some wedding planning done. While I sat there, hyperventilating about the massive amount things I needed to do, I found myself completely frozen and unable to do even the smallest task. I was angry at myself for my lack of progress but unable to move the needle.
This made me think about work. Why had I never experienced this resentfulness, this paralyzing sense of hopelessness, when it comes to my job and the work I need to deliver? The answer seems obvious. We immediately go to those business outcomes I spoke about earlier, those tangible reasons that scrum works. We think about the process and how working in small increments makes your to-do list less overwhelming and therefore less stressful. And that explains why I don’t want to pull my hair out when it comes to work.
But I think it’s more than that. Its more than process, productivity, and capacity. The true benefits of using scrum is how the framework affects your mindset and the emotions that you have towards your work, yourself, and your team. The framework allows you to get more done, faster, but it’s not the happy stakeholders and managers that motivate you to keep going. It’s the sense of accomplishment, power, and respect that you start to feel towards yourself and your team through working with scrum. Since with scrum you are delivering value on a frequent basis, you have more chances to feel proud of yourself, to feel appreciative of your team members, and to observe real progress in what you do. It makes you confident in your abilities and excited to take on more.
Scrum doesn’t work well because of its process and the positive business outcomes it produces. Scrum works well because it creates an environment where the team members are happy. And happy people work better.
Seven months to go until my wedding and I am just now starting to realize that the only way I am going to get through this planning process and more importantly ENJOY this process is to take a note out of the Scrum Guide, break down my tasks, give myself specific timelines, and not forget to congratulate myself along way for a job well done.