If you read about my – Marijke – introduction to scrum, you know there’s probably a voodoo doll somewhere with my face on it. I wish I could tell you that there’s only one of those and I’ve bettered my agile life since then. But like many wishes, one can only cross fingers… Let me tell you about the second time I drove a scrum team (actually in this story: multiple. I am ambitious 🙂 ) crazy and what we all learned from it. And please keep in mind. I really meant well.
Back in my product manager days, I was once responsible of the introduction of a new product. According to Dutch law, we should inform our customers a few months before go live. Not really agile I hear you think! Might be, but that doesn’t mean you don’t get in trouble when you don’t comply. So. We did it! We called a date and printed millions of letters a few months before the actual go live date. While 6 scrum teams were still developing, testing and de-bugging the functionality in a chain of minimum viable products. And of course, two weeks before the announced introduction date, it seemed impossible to be done in time! What to do? You probably guessed. Those poor guys (and girls!) worked overtime. Not an hour here and there, they worked nights and even weekends to still meet the communicated date. Here goes your sustainable pace – one of the scrum pillars – down the drain. And although these guys probably absolutely truly love their jobs, they were no happy campers. Who to blame? Of course, pushy business people . Represented by? Yep, me! 🙂
I felt this couldn’t be the way forward. I went to their stand-up, openly apologized for the situation and explained why our legal department wasn’t “scrumming” yet. And what the f%*)&^ck we were thinking naming an exact date in those letters! For me, this story tells how hard it can be to combine a scrum/agile way of working with some basic principles you have to follow being a large organization. Sometimes you can’t avoid having to deal with deadlines. What could I have done differently? To be honest, only one thing. I can’t change Dutch law and squads can’t change running into bugs in the end stages of delivery. That’s part of the process. But we can improve communication. Communicate with each other, starting from the earliest stages of development and continue during the process will make everybody’s life easier. That doesn’t mean you will always agree and it doesn’t prevent you from working overtime. But at least you all know why it needs to be done.
Those guys who made sure we met the deadline still work at my department. I see them almost every day. I still feel like I should say sorry every time.. 😉 So, once and for all, speaking for all people having to push deadlines in an agile organization: We are sorry. We really mean well!
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