Be patient. Business Agility takes time.
*Covid is a fictional character based on my imagination that represents the strain of CoronaVirus that is causing the disease Covid-19. This article discusses Business Agility and why some organizations are not able to reap the benefits Scrum has to offer.
Covid: I’m back for Scrum chitchat.
Hiren: Hey Covid, tell me what’s our Scrum topic of discussion today?
Covid: Tell me honestly Hiren, does Scrum really work?
Hiren: Yeah! but what makes you ask such a blunt question?
Covid: According to my research many organizations start their Scrum journey with a great deal of excitement thinking Scrum is their one-stop silver bullet solution for Business Agility. Unfortunately, Scrum has failed them. Dejected and hurt these organizations soon revert back to their old ways of doing things. Have you seen this in your experience?
Hiren: Whoa! I see you have been busy researching about Scrum and its applications.
Yes, I have seen it happen. But it will be very wrong to call out that this applies to every organization. What is your understanding of Business Agility?
Covid: Oh, I see you are quizzing me? Ha-ha. Business Agility is an organization’s way to quickly respond to the marketplace changes and outrun their competition, reduce their risk of investment, and improve their return of investment (ROI). Is this correct?
Hiren: Awesome. I couldn’t have come with a better definition. BTW, what did you mean when you said Scrum has failed them?
Covid: Exactly what I said. Scrum failed them, Scrum did not work for them, they lost time and money and their business took a hit. Don’t you agree?
Hiren: No! Absolutely not! Scrum will never fail you. Scrum is a wonderful framework for opportunistic discovery. Scrum is like a mirror. It radically and transparently exposes all the hidden dysfunctions in the organization’s ecosystem.
Covid: Why were the dysfunctions not seen pre-Scrum?
Hiren: Well, the dysfunctions mostly existed but for whatever reasons eventually everyone learned to live with it and work around it.
Covid: So how does Scrum make these dysfunctions visible?
Hiren: Because Scrum has a very simple purpose. The purpose of each Scrum Sprint is to deliver useful and valuable Product Increment that adhere to the Scrum Team’s current definition of “Done”.
Covid: Are you suggesting that it is because of these dysfunctions the Scrum Team is unable to deliver a valuable Product Increment as an outcome of the Sprint?
Hiren: Yes! These dysfunctions can take various forms like the organizational culture at odds with agile values and principles, general organizational resistance to change, inadequate management support, lack of skills and experience in agile, poor understanding of the Scrum framework, missing hardware, poor alignment between business and the delivery team, no intrinsic motivation, and many more.
Covid: Oh, I see! The Scrum Framework radically exposes all the dysfunctions that are impeding the Scrum Team in the creation of a potentially releasable Product Increment. Then why don’t organizations fix these dysfunctions quickly and move on?
Hiren: Hmmm.. this is precisely the point where the organizations want to move back to their old habits and call out, “Scrum Failed ”. It takes patience and perseverance to work through these dysfunctions one at a time for embracing Agility. It can take weeks, months, and sometimes years.
Covid: Is patience a rare trait in your race?
Hiren: Hey, be careful! In general, we are an impatient race. We have created this beautiful world where most of our wishes are instantly gratified and we like it this way. We like to achieve everything yesterday. However when things are uncertain and don’t go exactly the way we want we become impatient. This impatience breeds anxiety, fear of failure, and hopelessness. We don’t embrace uncertainty too well.
Covid: Oh boy! So how do you develop patience?
Hiren: Well, your presence is teaching us patience in disguise.
Covid: How’s that?
Hiren: Well, we all are patiently sitting in our homes to maintain social distancing. We are patiently waiting for a vaccine to combat you. We are patiently and eagerly awaiting to get back to our normal life — the pre-Covid era. We are patiently waiting to meet and greet our loved ones in person. We are patiently waiting to go to the malls, the restaurants, the cinema halls, and the ball games. We are patiently waiting to hug our friends, share a beer, and laugh along with them. We are social animals and we love social uniting over social distancing.
Covid: Now I have even more renewed respect for the Scrum framework. I am able to clearly understand and relate what you mentioned earlier — “Scrum never fails you”. It’s all about being patient and following the rules of Scrum that bind together the roles, events, and artifacts. The Scrum framework provides opportunities for frequent inspection and adaptation in a transparent manner and guides you to be better than yesterday. Wow!
But then why is “Patience” not added as a sixth Scrum Value? Shouldn’t it rank as high as Focus, Openness, Courage, Commitment, and Respect the other five values of Scrum?
Be patient. Business Agility takes time.
Hiren: Isn’t it a given that you have to be open to practice patience, isn’t patience a real badge of courage, don’t you have to commit to showing patience, isn’t patience with others the sign of true respect. So I think listing patience as a sixth Scrum value might not add much value to the Scrum Guide.
Hiren: Go ahead. I am in no mood to argue with you. Good luck reaching out to them.
Covid: Sure. Thanks, Hiren as always. BTW, I will do whatever I can to help you all get back to the post-Covid era. Show patience!
Endnote: The organizations must truly practice patience while applying Scrum. Scrum does not solve the problems, but it reveals all the problems that deter you from achieving your goals by making it radically transparent. Patiently work on the problems one at a time and very soon you will achieve the Business Agility you desire.