There is a huge discussion if classic project management is dead and Agile is the only way one can manage projects these days. I just got certified ScrumMaster. Does this mean that I now add my voice to the swan song on classic project management? Nothing could be further from the truth. Read on and discover why I prefer a hybrid approach and how you too can benefit from the best of both worlds.
My motivation behind getting a certification as ScrumMaster
This day and age project management has become a much broader profession. The days where you could plan a project from beginning to end are long gone and change management in such a project has become never ending hassle.
Customers changing their mind, innovative technologies rising at an ever-increasing speed and the environment around your project becoming less and less stable. On the other hand, CEO’s, bankers, employees, and other stakeholders are desperately looking for certainty in an ever-changing world.
Scrum on the other hand offers a maximum of flexibility concerning the project itself, while providing a good amount of guidance through a strict framework which comes with this method. Also, you get a clear view on what will be done in the next 2 to 6 weeks, this frozen timebox called sprint.
Looking at the method from outside and having been impacted by it while directing a project with 3 scrum teams interwoven with classic project management I decided that it’s worth putting my nose to the ground and checking out what this is all about.
What I like about Scrum
Having now done my training and passed my ScrumMaster certification there are some aspects that I found that I really like about Scrum:
- It makes project management a real team approach.
As project teams in Scrum are self-organised without a project manager, project management becomes a team approach. All together the team tries to reach the goal of the project and chooses its own approach.
The product owner is the only master of the requirements. He puts those in an order and keeps an eye that the team choses the topics that bring most value to the stakeholders and work on those first.
And the ScrumMaster (myself) helps the team with organizing themselves, getting roadblocks out of the way and protect them from unproductive distractions, like managers needing this one thing done quickly within the sprint.
- It limits the amount of time wasted for planning in too much detail too far ahead.
Scrum is a very focused approach and thus does not plan in detail more than 2 or 3 sprints ahead (if you do not know what a sprint is check out my previous articles about Scrum).
Requirements or things to do in the far future are just estimated roughly and the closer they come they are dissected and the estimations get more and more precise.
- It is focused on customer feedback and delivering value.
As the customer gets something to give his feedback on at the end of each sprint (all 2 to 6 weeks) there is a very direct and quick feedback loop, which avoids running too far in the wrong direction before recognizing that this is not what the customer wanted.
- It promotes a steady pace.
I strongly believe that trying to work 60-hour weeks or more is just stupid and only shows that you cannot manage your time appropriately or have an issue with delegating. Research has proven, that working long hours reduces creativity and largely increases failure rate.
Many companies seriously mess up their attempt to go Scrum by:
- Thinking Scrum = Agile.
Scrum is a framework within the Agile philosophy. You can very well introduce agility into your project management without going Scrum. For example, by reducing your planning horizon and building in feedback loops in your project plan.
- Starting Scrum, but not follow the guidelines to the letter.
I have seen companies claiming to do Scrum, but not making time for a retrospective at the end of each sprint. You lose lots of the benefits of Scrum this way and will be much more efficient with a classic project management, perhaps combined with a Kanban approach to get more agility.
- Not trusting the team.
If you try to manage a Scrum team you put the approach upside down and will end up with tons of unproductive meetings and a huge waste of time.
- Not accepting customer or stakeholder feedback.
If you are not ready to go after customer feedback after each sprint do not go for Scrum. Scrum does not work without feedback, because the short adjustment cycles are one key why it is performing so well.
- Not having the right team.
In order to take responsibility for the output a team must be cross-functional and have in its core all the functions required to get the job done. Scrum teams which must rely too much on outside support often loose commitment and motivation if they are hold responsible for delays caused by outsiders.
So, if you seriously want to install Scrum in your company, don’t do one of the 5 above.
Now that said, there are some major benefits to reap if you go for Scrum and do it right.
The benefits you can earn when going Scrum
Because Scrum teams are continuously focusing only the highest priority parts of the project, the business is assured maximum return on investment.
Therefore, if done right, Scrum can help businesses:
- Innovate faster because it’s easier to start quickly and adapt on the go
- Move from idea to delivery more quickly due to the shorter feedback loops less effort is wasted
- Drive higher customer satisfaction because the customer is part of the process and not only presented with a “like it or not” end result
- Increase employee morale because these days people want to rather be in control than under control
Is Scrum for everyone?
Recently I sat together with an economics professor and had a talk about project management. Now this guy from inside his ivory tower coined the sentence “Classic project management is dead. Today everybody should use Agile.” Now, is this true or just scientific nonsense?
Now first things first, as said Scrum is not equal to Agile. It is one possible framework to implement more agility. And then the answer is No, Scrum and Agile are not the best answer for all kind of projects. Sometimes good old classic project management is just the most efficient method to get things done.
Depending on the project, you got to choose the most appropriate approach under the given circumstances, as there are:
- Are the right people available? Can you build a cross-functional team? Do you have somebody to be the ScrumMaster and somebody else to fill the role of Product owner?
- Are you ready to give the power to your people? You cannot do Scrum and then try to manage those people as soon as you feel the urge.
- Does your project allow for feedback cycles, are there intermediate steps at which stakeholders can give feedback to influence the following steps?
- Have you access to the customer and is he ready to put in the work and give regular feedback?
- What about the certainty of the requirements? The more uncertain they are the more you would tend to go Agile.
- Are your stakeholders ready to cope with the amount of uncertainty that Scrum will show openly?
There are many more criteria that come into play when it comes to define the right approach to your project management somewhere between “classic” and “agile”.
Scrum is one framework under the umbrella of Agile project management.
Scrum is focused on self-managed teams delivering value fast by taking advantage of short customer feedback loops and focus on the tasks providing the most business value.
If done right Scrum helps businesses:
● Innovate faster
● Move from idea to delivery more quickly
● Drive higher customer satisfaction
● Increase employee morale
Nonetheless, each project needs its own approach. The best approach is often a hybrid one having Agile on one side and classic project management on the other.
If you need help choosing the right approach for your project, please send me a message and I will be happy to help you out.
Being not only a Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM) but a Project Management Professional® (PMP) too, I know both worlds and can choose the right mix for your project!
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Now, go below to the comments, ask your questions or let’s start a discussion! As you already know, I answer all questions and comments.