Implementing Agile SCRUM Across Departments

Part 2: A look into our successful implementation of accountability

Our development group is small, and as such doesn’t need a ton of “process” to keep projects moving forward. However, since having no process is never a good idea either, we have adopted various Agile methodologies and added our own spins. At the heart of Agile are daily meetings call SCRUMs.

Before we adopted SCRUM meetings, we had the more traditional weekly status meeting where everyone in the company sat around the conference room table and provided some kind of an update on what they had done the previous week. This meant that the sales department provided their update, the development department provided their update, our Data Acquisition Engineers provided their update, and management provided their update. Most of the time the updates were only relevant to the other members of the reporting team, which meant we were always wasting at least half the staff’s time with every update.

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Another problem that a weekly status meeting has is that staff are reluctant to talk about negative things in front of the entire team. Therefore updates were filtered and issues were buried instead of discussed.

Taking a cue from Agile methodologies, we got rid of our weekly status meeting and replaced it with department-specific SCRUM meetings. Instead of meeting weekly, each department now meets daily – yes daily. Our developers and Data Acquisition Engineers meet Monday through Thursday for 15 minutes each day while our sales team meets twice a week for 30 minutes.

Everyone is expected to come prepared for the meeting — complete with notes — and we stay on topic with a designated facilitator. Our facilitator keeps notes and holds everyone accountable to their progress and goals. Our agenda is always the same:

Question 1: What do I get accomplished today?

Question 2: What am I going to accomplish tomorrow?

Question 3: What roadblocks or issues am I running into?

We also have an open policy such that anyone can join any other department’s SCRUM meeting if they have an issue or simply want to listen into the progress being made. For example, any developer is welcome to jump into our sales SCRUM and provide a technical update to the sales team.

Our cumulative weekly meeting times have not gone down at all; in fact, for some of us the time has increased because they are sitting in on multiple team SCRUM meetings. But our overall communication has improved significantly. A few observations which we have made:

  • Departments are more likely to share issues among their team members, which increases our ability to collaborate solutions as a team. This was a huge problem before.
  • Setting daily goals and jointly holding each other accountable has increased our progress on tasks.
  • Have a designated facilitator helps keep on group on topic and improves the overall meeting pace.
  • When issues come up, we can collaborate on them that same day, which eliminates time wasted while people spin their wheels and not ask for help.
  • Using a shared project management system along with daily SCRUM meetings, tasks can be easily planned, reviewed, adjusted and completed daily — not weekly.
  • The process naturally creates knowledge overlap of tasks so if someone needs to jump onto a task, they already have the background necessary to pick it up.
  • We also made up the term “SCRUM-worthy” which can be used to keep discussions on topic. Subjects which are not SCRUM-worthy are taken offline to keep the meeting running smoothly.

Our daily “check in” allows us to accomplish more by keeping high priority tasks at the top of everyone’s list. Seeing daily progress helps increase morale and lets us inch toward our big plans without getting derailed.

If you struggle with keeping your team focused on priorities, try putting SCRUM meetings on your agenda. There is no reason this process cannot be used by any department, I will be talking specifically about our sales team SCRUM in an upcoming Blog post.

Agile Process Series

The key principle of Agile development is “agile”. If you’re not agile, you are not an Agile team. This blog post series, and a later eBook, will cover these topics:

I have been fascinated by optimizing our SCRUM processes and would love to hear about your success or strategy. Please send me a Tweet at @wbushee, or drop me an email. After all, shouldn’t we all leverage agile processes?

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