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Doubling Productivity by Scrumming Leadership

A scrum team prepares a mealIf you love to cook like I do, or if you have ever watched one of the many cooking shows on TV these days, you'll understand when I say that leading a Scrum transformation of any size requires some prior experience in the kitchen. It is not enough to whip together ingredients according to some recipe that assumes you know how to cook, or that recommends an ingredient that is just not available. In the kitchen, a great outcome requires knowledge, technique, and experience. Knowing how to begin with what is actually on hand, anticipating the possible variations, and making adjustments along the way is critical to reaching the desired result. The ability to adapt on the fly to real-world situations is what makes the difference between a cook and a chef. And it is that same ability that makes a Scrum transformation possible. 

Recently, I was helping a leadership team to embrace the challenge of kicking off a Scrum transformation. They needed a great result for many reasons, and they wanted that great result to work for the entire organization. This meant not just helping leadership to put together one “Scrum dish” suitable for a few teams, but instead, helping leadership understand how to actually put together a full “Scrum menu” for a "multi-course meal" that would work across the enterprise. In other words, they needed to become chefs, not just cooks through understanding Scrum@Scale.

Much as you might imagine, we began with the big picture: an overview of the entire menu, a brief explanation of how to create a few key dishes and how to extend those techniques, and what the final result should look like. Fortunately, this leadership team had already had a few lessons in the kitchen. They had attended Scrum Master and Product Owner training with Scrum Inc, so they and their organization had been “in the kitchen” for a few sprints. It was now time to pull it all together by scaling scrum across the organization by adding two "new dishes" and showing how they complement one another, the Équipe d'action exécutive, and the Executive Meta Scrum. 

Scrum@Scale Guide

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I gathered the leadership team together for an evening meeting of the first Executive Action Team (EAT) and Executive Meta Scrum (EMS). Leadership took their seats around a large conference table. Those not part of the leadership team were seated around the perimeter of the room. After a brief conversation between the head of R&D and the General Manager, they both looked at me and said: “you’re on!”

Game time!

The next ninety minutes in that room witnessed debate about ingredients, cooking equipment, how so-and-so heard from peers in another company that Scrum didn't taste so good followed by spirited debate about whether that dish was actually Scrum!

Those present shared how miserable they have been because of being fractionally assigned to more than one team, and we shared celebrations of things gone well in the kitchen so far. In the end, we took our first few steps prepping for the successful scaling of Scrum across the entire business. They began to understand how a chef designs a menu and thus the transformation of a $1 billion organization began.

At the time of this meeting, just a few sprints into the transformation, we had already measured a 200% improvement in velocity across the division and seen 3 new product opportunities emerge. Already, several portfolio goals had been redefined based on the feedback coming from the Scrum teams at the end of every sprint. Leadership knew this was only the beginning and that they would have to somehow keep pace by removing impediments and aligning backlog on a continuous basis, or progress would stall.

Read Part 2 of Doubling Velocity by Scrumming Leadership where Steve shares his success and details the deployment steps of the transformation.