Scrum masters and product owners know how hard it is to get their team to become high-performing. They can rest assured that they’re on the right track. Scrum helps teams become high-performing faster than other work methods. The reason is simple. Becoming high-performing is baked into the scrum recipe. In my experience coaching agile teams, I have observed over and over that teams that use scrum go from forming, storming, norming and ultimately to high-performing more quickly and reliably than teams that don’t. Here are five reasons why:
1. Scrum roles – Each role plays a part in helping teams perform better.
The scrum master is an embedded agile coach. The scrum master plays a direct role in easing teams through the forming and storming stage. They take a coaching stance and share behaviors that they observe are challenging the team’s ability to work together.
The product owner maximizes the value of the product and the development team. They point the direction for the team, which eases the team’s shift into norming.
The development team members organize and manage themselves. They have the freedom to shape their own environment. This empowerment facilitates the move toward high-performance. And the supporting roles of scrum master and product owner are there to serve the development team to make the shift successful and sustainable.
2. Scrum events (Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review, Retrospective)
Each scrum event is meant for a specific purpose. They provide a minimal level of structure upon which the team can build. This is why scrum is often referred to as a process framework. Here are some examples of how the scrum meetings help teams accelerate to high-performance:
Sprint Planning: Team members avoid analysis paralysis. They don’t spend months analyzing requirements and designing solutions before producing something. They quickly put together something useful upon which they can iterate.
Daily Scrum: This is a short meeting meant to make it easier for a team to actively manage itself and coordinate its work. Each team member demonstrates their progress, which helps others learn to trust that everyone is pulling their own weight. It’s more difficult to ride on other people’s coattails when you have to stand before your colleagues each day and talk about what you’re doing.
Sprint Review: The team members share equally in the success or failure of the team. No one on the team wins unless they all cross the finish line. This reinforces the individual member’s commitment to the team, which facilitates the norming process. And once they become cognizant of this new reality, they unlock the door to high-performance.
Retrospectives: From the beginning, the team carves out time to inspect and adapt. This means they take a practical and thoughtful look at what went well and what didn’t. They search for ways to improve in the very next sprint. Talking about challenges, both task-wise and interpersonal, pushes the team to storm quickly, and with the aid of the scrum master, to ease into norming.
3. Scrum artifacts (Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog, an Increment of Something that is “Done”) Each artifact serves as a focal point around which the team can organize itself.
Product Backlog: The product owner is empowered by the customers to order the product backlog by value, risk, priority, necessity, or other factors. This eases the pressure on the team to figure out what they have to do next. At the same time, the product owner and team collaborate on the details of the items in the backlog.
Sprint Backlog: The team collaborates to make a short-term work plan to deliver items from the product backlog. By planning and acting together, the team learns what it takes to produce valuable results and makes delivering those results the measure of progress.
Increment of Something that is “Done,” usually an increment of potentially shippable software: They trust their colleagues’ motivations because everyone has agreed to pitch in and deliver the next increment of potentially shippable software together.
4. Scrum teams put the Agile Manifesto into practice:
“Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.” The team members work more closely together. Cubicle farms are rare in a truly agile space. It’s also preferred to have the team members co-located instead of spread across the world. The team members speak with each other more often. Not only are conversations held face-to-face, but the act of conversing is preferred over comprehensive documentation.
“Responding to change over following a plan.” When you make a big plan up front, you have less tolerance for mistakes because you can’t go back and change things without substantial disruption or cost. On the other hand, a scrum team is encouraged to make decisions as it goes along and limits its risk to the length of the sprint. If something doesn’t work, the team just fixes it in the next sprint.
5. Building high-performance through trust.
The team spends very little time in the forming stage because the team members rapidly build trust through applying scrum. From their very first sprint, they make commitments to each other and diligently practice keeping them. The team members learn each other’s talents and skills by observing them being practiced. They quickly see what others are capable of, and they gain a new level of assurance because they’ve seen their colleagues demonstrate their abilities.