Scrum is probably the most known and oldest agile method and it was introduced by IT companies in the 1980s. By now not only IT companies are working with this method but many others as well. We talked to Susanne Spath, who is a Scrum certified OKR Master, about the benefits of Scrum and the difference to other agile methods.
What exactly is Scrum?
Susanne Spath: Henrik Kniberg, Agile & Lean Coach at Crisp in Stockholm describes Scrum in only a few words:
“Divide the project in small, concrete functions and prioritize them according to the business values. Now try to put each function in relation to another one and valuate them.”
Scrum is about dividing the time in repeating loops, which last no longer than 30 days. At the end of every loop, all previously defined functions must be finished and implemented. The development and functionality of the product increases with the growing number of loops (“sprints”). Despite “command and control”, Scrum’s guiding principle is “inspect and adapt”.
What are the similarities of Scrum and agile leadership?
Scrum is the mother of all agile leadership methods in many people’s opinion and was introduced by IT companies more than 20 years ago. Nowadays, many companies are working with Scrum tools and structures – also besides the IT sector. Scrum can be used in a variety of ways and is especially useful wherever knowledge work and development is happening and where complex tasks have to be done. It can be for instance used for the product development, in marketing, or for the definition of strategies, the mission and vision of a company.
Are there some best practice examples, companies that work with Scrum successfully?
Yes, many big companies, such as A1 Telekom, T-Mobile, Siemens or Audi AG.
Why do you think there is a need for agile methods nowadays?
We are living in a VUCA world (VUCA = Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) and therefore living in a constant change. An objective we define today could be obsolete in two months from now because the market, the customer’s need or the target group could have changed. Using agile methods, stakeholders and (internal) clients are involved in the whole process in the end of every loop at the review meeting. They get informed about the current status, which can then be adapted, if necessary, to a final, valid and best possible result or product. You can find this in every agile method.
Can you give us an example for a practical and a possibly quickly implemented method from the scrum setting?
Very important are agile meetings. They have a flying agenda and fixed time frames in which the following points are clarified:
- After the check-in of all attendees of the meeting, following questions must be answered: which problems do I have at the moment? What do I need to be able to finish my tasks in time?
- The team has to decide who will contribute in which way to realize the next objective until the following review meeting. This is not about right or wrong.
- The next point is the “integrated decision making”: team members make decisions about their distribution of work and the prioritization of the tasks themselves.
- One task of the leader at this meeting, the so-called daily stand up meeting, is to provide missing information and resources.
The daily stand-up meeting: one essential aspect of Scrum
What are the role/functions/tasks of a leader when it comes to Scrum methods?
You have different roles in the scrum framework. There is the scrum master who acts like a coach and who is responsible to look after the employees and their interaction with each other, to motivate and communicate with them and to manage conflicts. Another task of the scrum master is to ensure that the scrum framework and the process are being followed.
A further role is the one of the product owner. The product owner is responsible for the business success and acts as the interface between the stakeholders and the team. Therefore the product manager has to constantly communicate with the stakeholders.
In theory the product owner and the scrum master are two different people, in reality you often find one person playing both roles.
One key question of Scrum is „How little results do I have to deliver to make the customer happy?“ What is the thought behind this unusual question?
Agility! If the team has already thought through the end, the stakeholders have no possibility to touch up or co-create something. Now they have the possibility to find resources that were used unnecessarily or other weak spots in time.
What fascinates you about Scrum and why do you improve yourself in this field?
Like I have mentioned before, Scrum is often seen as the mother of all agile methods. Scrum has been around for more than 20 years and it is an internationally valid method. Knowing a lot about scrum gives me a better feeling of understanding other agile methods such as OKR or design thinking.
We interviewed Susanne Spath, who is an international trainer for managers and leaders and is working together with MDI for many years already. She is a certified SCRUM and OKR-Master and offers webinars and workshops in the field of agile leadership, SCRUM and OKR.
What serves you next?
In many people’s opinion, Scrum is seen as the mother of all agile methods. By now there many different agile methods exist – one of them is OKR. Susanne Spath, OKR-master, explains the method in a practical way and tells us what’s behind those objectives and key results.
The list of tools and concepts around agile leadership is long and somehow it seems that everybody is talking about it. Thinking that “We should also deal with that right now” seems self-evident. But what does agile leadership actually mean? And is the implementation of agile methods in the own organization really reasonable?