When not to join the scrum
A company I know has recently begun implementing Scrum management, ostensibly to streamline decision-making processes and to foster more efficient teamwork. I hope they have done their homework.
While it’s true that Scrum is well known and widely used, there is no such thing in management as one size fits all. Before jumping on the Scrum bandwagon, you need to give careful consideration to your staff, work environment and actual needs.
There are other agile methodologies out there that may be more suitable to your specific situation.
For example, XP places even greater emphasis on involving customers in the development process, while the flexibility of Crystal makes it suitable for working on different kinds of project. The right choice will depend on factors such as corporate culture, organizational structure and customer needs, as well as on the knowledge and experience of your managers.
I first became familiar with agile management some years ago, as a business student, in the context of Kaizen and Just In Time (JIT) manufacturing. Kanban is a lean development process originally developed to support JIT.
Microsoft was a pioneer of applying the principles of Kanban to software development. Nowadays it is widely used for managing knowledge work and improving internal processes through greater awareness.
Experience tells me that Kanban is more appropriate for newsrooms and other media production teams because it is much less dogmatic. To media professionals, Scrum can seem as dehumanizing as the production line in Chaplin’s ‘Modern Times’.
While methodologies like Scrum and XP prescribe very strict sets of steps, Kanban is much more about working in the existing context to achieve continuous improvement.
Journalists are used to working alone, and again speaking from experience, they are more resistant than most to change. Many dismiss the ceremonial aspects of Scrum as “management bullshit.”
Kanban is less about the activities of individual team members and more about understanding marketing and other business analysis to meet the needs of customers.
Journalists and producers learn how to visualize the wider workflow to gain deeper insight into processes and teamwork. The number of projects is kept to a minimum, not only to maximize resources and ensure teams do not become overstretched, but also to facilitate a flow-based approach.
Scrum works fantastically for software companies and other start-ups because it is organized around teams of technical problem solvers. In contrast, Kanban places as much importance on organizational management as on self-organization.
As always, though, there is a third way. Scrumban is a methodology that combines the formalized steps of Scrum with the emphasis of Kanban on achieving continuous improvement through a greater understanding of strategic decisions.
There are many ways to dance, but you wouldn’t do the foxtrot in a disco. Whatever you choose must be relevant and appropriate to your environment.