Effort vs Impact, where do you want to put your focus?

By | June 1, 2018

Being Scrum Master is not easy, even if we see obvious problems we can not just enforce changes, we are not supposed to do so, is the team who should see the value of doing something different and move towards to it, easy as that.

Let’s think in a normal situation, where you have been working for a while with a team, the team is doing well, they are happy with the Scrum ceremonies, they see value on them, we find improvement opportunities in retros, and we act upon them, but always within a context.

What do I mean by “within a context”? every organization is different, so the perfect team does not exist, there is always stuff that makes complicated to adopt certain behaviors, for example: even if we want to do daily releases we might be bound to a bigger code base that block us in achieving daily releases, so not being able to do daily releases is something we accept and we still work with Scrum trying our best, improving step by step.

Now what? Really? are you really accepting that behavior and nor trying to do anything? being able to deliver value daily should be a top priority for a team in order to delight our customers, and to be able to react to market changes, why do we have to depend on someone else for that? why we have to live with that frustration?

Some weeks ago I was talking with Marcus Tannerfalk, he is my work mate, and even though the situation was something different, the thoughts behind were the same.

Why do we have to focus on what is not too hard to do, but is not really having an impact? let’s focus and do something that will have a bigger impact! so we started to draw stuff and we came up with something that I hope will help you to understand what do we mean.

You can see here a comparison Impact / Effort, I have added below all the Scrum Ceremonies that a team relatively experienced with the framework runs every sprint, as you can see they might require some effort but the impact in most cases might not be to hight (assuming you live and accept some constraints you can not change)

 

If you tell to a team, we are going to change this and that and from now on we will do this that way, this will cause stress to the team and won’t work (not even your job as Scrum Master to do that), is 10 times better to ask to run an experiment for a couple of sprints and see what happens.

The first thing you have to do is to think collectively in the experiment you want to try, as a team, no matter how complicated it seems to be, the whole team should focus on the outcome the customers are expecting from them, therefore think on what is a good experiment we can try that will delight our customers.

In this example we could say that the experiment could be “During the next 3 sprints change whatever is needed to change to be able to release every day”, this is a quite ambitious experiment, but would delight our customers, can you imagine being able to satisfy our customer needs daily?

Now you have an experiment to try, as you can see that experiment requires a lot of effort, but as well the impact is going to be super high! we could think in an Intangible Cost Of Delay Experiment, something that will cause us(the organization) lot of troubles if we don’t solve it during the next 7 or 8 months.

Do we need to plan the experiment? I would say yes… we need a plan, we need the steps we need to follow to achieve the experiment, the direction, basically we want to find the small things we can do that the effort will decrease significantly, but the impact will still be high.

Sprint planning can be a good time to introduce this yet intangible work, the PO has to understand that is imporant, so as a team, let’s think in the steps we need to follow to achieve the experiment.

And celebrate success! let’s identify sprint by sprint what we can achieve that will lead us to the final step to achieve the experiment, let’s inspect and adapt during the journey, as long as we as a team know what we want and how, the final goal is what is important, the final goal in this example is to be able to release daily.

 

Final thoughts

We can not forget about our current systems and customers while looking for positive mid/long-term solutions, but you should constantly challenge what will have a huge impact on the team, organization and customers, don’t accept situations you know are hurting them, and if the organization don’t see value on that, it is your job as well to make them see it.

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