Scrum is a reasonably human-friendly process for developing products. It seems a lot nicer and more effective than waterfall and other traditional project management. But what is actually going on in Scrum? Apart from attending a bunch of ritualised meetings, what is going on for individuals in the process?
Here are the five deeper themes I like to work with. I find that keeping these in mind and using them as a lens to view team behaviour and progress really helps identifying blockages and improvements:
Scrum brings the rhythm of the Sprint (typically 2-4 weeks) and the Daily Scrum or standup. These rituals repeat, marking beginnings and endings for the team. There are lots of beginnings and endings, so very different to a single 'delivery date' that the team might get in a traditional project. Regular beginnings and endings make it easier to make process changes and see changes happening.
The Daily Scrum requires a team member to speak about their work since the last one; to form a narrative; a story for themselves. The narrative is witnessed by others in the team. This helps the individual make sense of what they are doing -- to make and adjust and reflect on the story. Similarly, a review and retrospective gives the team as a whole a way of making and processing the narrative of the last Sprint. They have a story for how it was.
3. Reflective Practice
Making a narrative and a regular rhythm opens up the possibility of Reflective Practice. Reflective practice is the process of reflecting on events and actions to allow continuous learning and growing. The team can do this regularly within Sprint Retrospectives. Identifying changes; trying them out; witnessing and reflecting on the results. This is where the team and individuals can grow out of their normal roles.
The team estimates the work and decided on how much they will take on as a part of Sprint Planning. This gives the team ownership of their own work, setting up responsibility, bonding the team on a shared purpose shared control over what they do. This greatly helps to generate ownership and responsibility for the product they are delivering.
This is not automatic. As a Scrum Master, I have to be aware of this during Sprint Planning, make the space and allow the team to take ownership.
5. Direction and Purpose
A well-defined Product Backlog and a stable current Sprint gives the team a direction and purpose. This is context setting for current work and builds a stable base. We want team members to be both diligent and innovative; they needs a stable world to work within.
Careful planning and an accessible and decisive Product Owner allows the team to plan for current reality and quickly resolve any hanging uncertainties that undermine purpose and direction.