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Agile Retail: Using Scrum to out Amazon, Amazon

by Joe Justice

Integrating data in retail using Scrum

The dominance of online retailers like Amazon, Jet and, Zappos, has disrupted traditional brick and mortar retail companies far and wide. Payless, Gymboree and Victoria's Secret are just some of the well-known companies closing stores in 2019. This trend is accelerating. 

So how do retail companies survive? How can they possibly out Amazon, Amazon?  

Scrum Inc.’s Joe Justice believes they have to turn to Agile Retail, and Scrum, to digitize their offerings, turnaround their fortunes or work to widen a competitive advantage. Recently Joe noticed a number of retail executives, or their consultants, attending Scrum classes. One of them reached out to Joe for some additional advice:

I recently received an email from a graduate of Scrum Inc.'s Certified Scrum Master Class. In fact, this person took the course twice in one month. Their client, a top retail giant that continues to grow in physical stores and online sales, is improving flow across a flagship physical store.

This person wrote of their client:

They have 300 employees in the store. They need a turnaround. Have a very motivated store manager… Each Area Manager has 5 Assistant Managers, with 50-60 people reporting to them.

I am going to ask the Area Managers to apply the 3-5-3 with each of their Assistant Managers, to zero in on Kaizen Blitz Teams (of 4 to 5 people) to do the Backlog Refinement, Sprint Review, Sprint Planning, Retrospective, and Daily Scrum.

Good, this means they're moving towards Agile retail with Scrum as the strategy - all 3-5-3 of it, from the store manager to the 300 store employees. They execute a coordinated backlog of kaizen (continuous improvement).

Then the graduate added:

Is there anything in a fast moving retail environment that I should pay attention to in rolling out Scrum in their daily operations?

Some of you may find value in my reply.

1) Congratulations!

2) I am looking forward to these folks enjoying success- higher customer flow, employee and customer satisfaction, and profit.

3) From what I think I’ve learned; to win, out-Amazon Amazon. Focus on your teams getting the flow of information to make decisions with all available evidence in less than an hour. So the teams can make meaningful pivots in flow- product placement, freight docking strategy, forklift operator and janitorial operator training, marketing (end cap, banner, circular, website) decisions in less than an hour. Which means flow data and efficacy data of those operations current state is already “on the wall” (or app) where everyone in the chain of decision sees it in at least once an hour.

Amazon does that once a second. But start with once an hour- that will expose the bottlenecks on information gathering, posting, decision making, and execution. And that will expose the organization’s willingness to kaizen, actually continuously improve across the entire relevant value stream.”

-Joe Justice

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