Sunday, March 06, 2016

We don't do sprints any more ...

... we do iterations instead.

A couple of month ago a client of mine started with an effort to work in an agile way – inspired by scrum, as far as possible.

One of the first things we agreed upon was to avoid scrum-speak whenever possible. For example we don't (yet) deliver (potentially) working software to the end-user at every iteration. So we do not call the iteration a sprint.

There are many other things –like not having a truly cross-functional team etc.– that would make it a plain lie to say that we are using scrum in this project, so we don't call it scrum. We don't call the process-coach a scrum master and so on.

The surprising by-product: better communication

The most fascinating thing here for me was the effect the wording had on upper management. "Cancelling a sprint because the sprint-goal is no longer attainable" is somewhat hard to discuss with people outside the agile world without some in-depth discussion of the terms. "It makes no sense to continue with this iteration because the thing we wanted to achieve with it is no longer achievable" is much easier to grasp.
[Language remark: And this was German by the way – for those who know the language "Wir müssen den Sprint cancelln, weil wir das Sprint-Goal nicht erreichen" is way harder to understand for outsiders than "Wir brechen die Iteration ab, weil das Iterations-Ziel unerreichbar geworden ist"]

There is an adage from Jerry Weinberg wich comes to my mind here:

«If you call the tail of a dog a leg – How many legs does the dog have? Still only four – just calling the tail a leg doesn't make it a leg!»

So, how about you? Do you do Sprints? Do you do Scrum? Do you have a Product Owner? Really?

Why not try an experiment? Instead of using vaguely fitting terms from a process framework, start using terms that describe what you’re doing in “layman's terms” and see what happens.

You might spark a whole new conversation.

till next time
  Michael Mahlberg

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