Pragmatism crushes Dogma in the wild

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In my journey of delivering an immersive Product Development Mentor Program over the last eight weeks, a compelling narrative unfolded that beautifully illustrates the essence and true strength of Scrum. This story, rooted in the practical application of Scrum through Minecraft, unveils the depth of adaptability and resilience that Scrum can foster within a team.

The program structured around a series of sprints in Minecraft, aimed to mirror the real-world complexities and dynamism present in product development projects. Starting from the initial chaos of Sprint 1, where participants grappled with the inherent complexity of a new project, the program progressively unfolded to reveal the power of Scrum. By Sprint 2, the fruits of understanding empiricism and embracing a philosophy of flexibility were evident. The teams learned to navigate and adapt to complexities with much less stress and frustration.

However, it was Sprint 3 that truly tested the resilience of the system we had built. With the introduction of unforeseen challenges, such as mobbing in Minecraft and the accidental loss of the project world, the teams were thrust into a scenario of significant complexity. Yet, the response was remarkable. The team’s ability to quickly organise, adapt, and maintain direction despite these surprises highlighted the real power of Scrum. It wasn’t about rigidly adhering to rules but about maintaining enough structure to guide while allowing for adaptability to unforeseen challenges.

This experience was not isolated to the Minecraft world. In a real-world scenario, one of the participating teams faced the need to cancel a Sprint due to a shift in business direction. Their response, a seamless adaptation to extend the next Sprint while maintaining the cadence for stakeholders, exemplified the philosophy of Scrum. It’s about choosing how to handle exceptions, focusing on adaptability over strict adherence to rules.

The Scrum Guide outlines ten elements that must be followed, all of which support the principle of empiricism. These elements serve as guardrails, ensuring visibility, inspection, and adaptation. However, everything beyond these is guidance, allowing teams the flexibility to navigate their unique challenges and opportunities.

Here are the MUST elements from the Scrum Guide:

  • The emergent process and work must be visible to those performing the work as well as those receiving the work.
  • The Scrum artifacts and the progress toward agreed goals must be inspected frequently and diligently to detect potentially undesirable variances or problems.
  • If any aspects of a process deviate outside acceptable limits or if the resulting product is unacceptable, the process being applied or the materials being produced must be adjusted. The adjustment must be made as soon as possible to minimize further deviation.
  • For Product Owners to succeed, the entire organization must respect their decisions.
  • The Sprint Goal must be finalized prior to the end of Sprint Planning.
  • [The Scrum Team] must fulfill (or abandon) one [Product Goal] before taking on the next.
  • In order to provide value, the Increment must be usable.
  • If the Definition of Done for an increment is part of the standards of the organization, all Scrum Teams must follow it as a minimum.
  • If it is not an organizational standard, the Scrum Team must create a Definition of Done appropriate for the product.
  • If there are multiple Scrum Teams working together on a product, they must mutually define and comply with the same Definition of Done.

As I reflect on the past sessions and the growth observed in the participants, it’s clear that Scrum is not a methodology but a philosophy. A philosophy that empowers teams to embrace complexity, adapt to changes, and continuously seek improvements. It’s about understanding that the path to success in an ever-changing environment is not through rigid rules but through adaptability and resilience.

How has pragmatically embracing the philosophy of Scrum enabled you to navigate complexity and adapt to change in your projects?

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