Scrum and Agile, or agile management, have been popular terms for some time, used not only in the development community but also in HR operations. So what are they different, what exactly do they refer to, and what is all this SCRUM about? The topic will be brought to us by one of our #AilleronExperts Wojciech Baran, who feels very confident with this environment and is introducing this approach in our company.
1.Hi Wojtek, you are our Ailleron Scrum Master. We’re glad you agreed to introduce us to the agile methodology and explain agile management. Let’s start from the beginning. Please explain what Scrum is and how it differs from the Agile term. They are often used interchangeably, but is that correct?
These two terms should not be used interchangeably, although they are related. Let’s start with the Agile term to make it easier to understand the difference between the two.
Agile, in a nutshell, is a philosophy. It is a certain set of values and principles or a way of thinking, based on the four postulates and twelve principles described in the Agile Manifesto. When we decide to work based on Agile, we don’t implement any tools or a way of management. Agile doesn’t explicitly describe a work methodology but rather the values and principles we should follow.
So we can say that Agile is the foundation for agile methodologies. Often you can find the statement that Agile is the “umbrella” under which all agile methodologies and frameworks fall. One such methodology would be Scrum. And here, we move smoothly to the second concept we are interested in.
As I mentioned earlier, we can describe Scrum as a set of particular practices and rules based on the agile philosophy. In Scrum, we can find guidelines from the Agile Manifesto’s twelve principles, such as iteration, empiricism, an attitude of continuous improvement, self-organization, or flexibility. It is also worth mentioning that Scrum is not for project management but is about creating or developing a product (value).
In short, Agile will be a philosophy, and Scrum will be the implementation of that philosophy. I would also be tempted to say that Agile can function without Scrum, but Scrum without Agile does not exist.
So why does it still happen that these terms are used interchangeably? In my opinion, since Scrum is the most popular of the methodologies among the Agile “umbrella”, for many people, Scrum means the same thing as Agile. But as we already know, this is not true. 🙂
2. Where did your passion and interest in agile management actually come from?
I believe the Agile approach is based on specific values that can be applied to personal life. Therefore, I can confidently say that, to some extent, these principles coincide with my values in life.
It was these four values (postulates) and the twelve principles that attracted my attention, which turned into interests and then into work. An additional thing that convinced me of the agile approach is that we don’t have specific rules imposed on us that we should follow. However, we stick to specific frameworks that set the course of action. This gives us some flexibility and freedom in our work.
3. I’ve heard that you hold daily short meetings in the team called Daily Scrum. Would you explain to us what this Daily exactly looks like?
Daily Scrum is one of the five events in the agile Scrum methodology. According to the latest Scrum Guideline1 (2020), a Daily aims to verify the progress of the work on the road to the sprint goal and to adjust actions planned before, if the need arises. So, the result of a well-conducted Daily Scrum should be an executable roadmap for the upcoming workday.
Each Scrum meeting has a defined maximum duration (time-box). In the case of Daily Scrum, it is 15 minutes. For simplicity and to eliminate unnecessary complications, the meeting should always be held in the same place and at the same time.
Notably, the Daily is a meeting for the development team, and they have freedom in how they conduct it. The important thing is that the goal is achieved.
4. What is your role as a Scrum Master during the Daily?
When asked what a Scrum Master does on the Daily, one answer immediately comes to mind: “it depends”. First, the Daily is an event for the Developer’s team, so the Scrum Master (SM) may or may not participate.
As an SM, three things come to my mind that should be taken care of, not only in the context of the Daily but all Scrum events. First and foremost, the SM has to ensure that the Daily takes place on schedule, is effective, and within the timeframe provided.
Depending on the team’s experience in Scrum, the role of the Scrum Master may be to facilitate or, more specifically, to learn the various facilitation practices of the event. In addition, the Daily Scrum can be a good place for the team to communicate to the SM about obstacles to the sprint goal. And this is what my role looks like on our Daily.
5. Such daily meetings can seem monotonous. So how do you vary the Daily Scrum to engage the team and keep their maximum attention for those several minutes? Tell us your tricks 😉.
The critical thing about scrum events is to understand their purpose. Importantly, in the Scrum Guide, we will not find a specific method to achieve it. Therefore, if monotony appears, we can boldly modify the course of this meeting. Just keeping in mind to achieve its goal. 🙂 At Ailleron, we take special care to make these meetings more varied.
In the current reality of distributed teams and the prevalence of remote work, variety, communication and team engagement can be a bit more difficult.
That’s why I believe that working with the Board (task boards where there is a set of tasks to be completed) during the Daily is effective. It allows us to illustrate the work’s progress and attracts attention additionally.
Another thing that improves the flow of the meeting is using webcams. This makes meetings much more effective and engages meeting participants more effectively.
In turn, I recommend introducing loose talk to make the meetings more enjoyable, contributing to team integration. Of course, with attention to meeting goals. In our ailleron team, this is easy because we know each other very well and have a great rapport.
6. What values does the Daily bring to your team’s work?
I think the Daily Scrum is one of the most important events in Scrum. It is a planning meeting for the development team that is led by the team so that the team can review the progress of the work and make decisions that will move them closer to the sprint goal. This strengthens self-organization and builds a sense of responsibility for delivering increments.
7. Can the Daily Scrum be implemented in every team?
The Daily Scrum is one of the Scrum events, so if we want to use the Scrum methodology, it will be necessary to introduce this meeting into daily work. Even if we use another process or other project management tools, I think it would still be worth trying to implement this. However, it will be important to clearly define the purpose of the meeting and make sure that everyone knows what it is and what benefits it is supposed to bring us.
8. Many myths have grown up around this tool. For example, the Daily always has to be done standing up. True or false?
No, this is not true. 😊 We may encounter the situation that the Daily Scrum is called the Standup. The Daily Standup is derived from another agile methodology, Extreme Programming (XP), and as its name suggests, it takes place standing up. It can be said that the Daily Standup is the equivalent of the Daily Scrum, where in XP rules, the Daily Standup takes place standing up, while in Scrum, you will not find such a requirement anywhere. There may be a recommendation that the Daily be held standing up to run it more efficiently, but it is certainly not mandatory. In addition, in the age of remote working, this could be a bit problematic or even strange 😉 .
9. Are there any other myths you can dispel?
The one about that no one outside the team is allowed to attend the Daily Scrum. Yes, the Daily is a meeting for the development team, but that doesn’t mean that no one outside the group can join the meeting. Just remember that the presence of other people should be agreed in advance with the team and that such people do not interfere with the Daily. For example, sometimes the teams invite guests by themselves to ask about something or arrange some details. And this will not violate the rules because it should be remembered that everything that is not forbidden in Scrum is allowed.
10. Could you point out any concrete evidence that the scrum methodology works in your team?
The project we are currently implementing is extensive and advanced in terms of the technologies used. We have several scrum teams in which my role is as Scrum Master. I can see perfectly well that Daily Scrum is working. In addition to the primary purpose of the Daily, which is to plan the work for the next 24 hours, it allows us to share knowledge with the team. By meeting daily, the teams have the opportunity to share statuses on the functionalities being implemented and applied solutions.
Due to the complexity of the project and the fact that there are several teams, there are often so-called “drop-ins,” i.e., things to do that were not previously planned in a given Sprint. With the Daily, teams manage such tasks better.
11. And finally – is the agile methodology a cure for all “evil”/ cure for all or just a temporary fashion?
I believe that the agile approach is an alternative to traditional methodologies. It is a response to the challenges of the ever-changing business environment. However, it is essential to remember that an agile approach will not work everywhere and in every case. So, there is no need to force the implementation of this philosophy just to be “agile.” On the other hand, whether an agile approach is appropriate depends on many factors. For sure, we need to consider whether it will make sense to introduce this approach in our case.
And is it just a fad? In my opinion, no. Of course, at some point, the agile approach became fashionable, and everyone wanted to be “agile,” but this is rather because Agile has also become a significant commercial industry. As a result, the amount of training and certification available is enormous.
At Ailleron, we focus on our work’s development and continuous improvement. On a daily basis, we use Scrum methods in many teams, which helps us achieve our business goals and pursue mastery. Wojtek’s team is a perfect example that Scrum really works and improves teamwork.