By Christine Hegarty
In working for the creator of Scrum, I have gained an appreciation for the influence of Lean thinking on the development of Scrum principles. The concepts of continuous improvement, eliminating waste, limiting work in progress, etc. are intrinsic to culture at Scrum Inc., but at times I forget that the influence of Lean, specifically on the Sprint Retrospective, is not entirely intuitive.
The purpose of the Retrospective is to a) inspect how the Sprint went, b) identify and order what went well and what didn’t and c) create a plan for implementing improvements. The vision of this meeting was clearly influenced by a core Lean principle: continuous improvement. However, like most aspects of Scrum, the process for implementing these improvements is not defined, and thus, sometimes is difficult for teams to conceptionalize. And, once teams are up to speed on the Scrum process, fighting the urge to become comfortable becomes a challenge. Asking questions and looking at things differently is hard and uncomfortable, especially when an organization or team feels that everything is going well.
One particular example comes to mind from a Capability Assessment we recently led at First Line Software in St. Petersburg, Russia. From top to bottom, First Line has proven robust Scrum competency. They have maintained a culture that embraces Scrum best practices, supports high quality development and fosters collaboration with clients to relevant increments each Sprint, a practice that earned them a Scrum Capability Rating this September. They have proven themselves to be mature, disciplined Scrum teams. In our experience, teams at this level fall into a rhythm of addressing the more topical impediments since they aren’t dealing with a major pain point. The First Line teams were no different.
Through the Assessment, the Scrum Master recognized an opportunity to incorporate continuous improvement. I worked with her to reinvigorate the Retrospective by using the Happiness Metric and the Lean concept of kaizen (Japanese for “improvement”). Introducing this somewhat different angle helped her realize the power of putting a process around their Retrospective.
Regular readers of the blog will recall previous posts on the Happiness Metric. From a 1-5 rating by each team member of “happiness” about the previous sprint and discussion about likes and dislikes, the team agrees on a single kaizen to be added to the Sprint backlog as a task, with a clear goal and criteria for “done.” During the week, the team keeps focused on the agreed improvement while burning down backlog.
As a result, we saw that by applying this process and Lean principal, the team was able to facilitate a more rigorous retrospective, while connecting the impediment backlog with the Sprint Backlog. The combination brings process improvement to the forefront, sharpening the focus on increased productivity and velocity. Here’s to finding another Scrum team, ready to incorporate the Lean edge.