Speed Boats: Beware of Speeding!
Imagine a project with hundreds of people, a lead time in months, few releases a year. You could compare these as large cruise boats or tankers navigating for few weeks in the immensity and emptiness of the oceans and seas and then stopping to ports very far away from each other. While at sea, or during the build phase, contact is difficult, and you are far away from customers and rescue.
For years now, companies have been trying to reduce their time to market by using Agile frameworks, methodologies or processes. Lead time is shorter and suddenly the vast ocean does not feel so vast and empty. We often compare this new way of working as having multiple speed boats or Scrum Teams instead of one huge team in a large boat difficult to maneuver. Decision-making is faster and thanks to the smaller size of the boats it is also easier to change direction. That is perfectly logical.
We could stop there for the analogy but there is a trap. Speed boats can, for sure, change direction faster than larger boats until they go too fast. Have you ever seen this image of a speed boat rolling over because it went too fast?
Now that you have seen that smaller boats can become very unstable at high speed, let’s talk about Scrum. Organizations who adopt Scrum for their teams most often don’t have the associated culture in place and continue to incentive managers and people on increasing their velocity. As a coach, I have seen companies contracting projects and setting Key Performance Indicators as the main way to evaluate the outcome of the team they hired. The benefits of Scrum start to disappear once your Dev Team is not focused on delivering quality. They don’t improve anymore in finding better ways to build increments and the speed is the only metric that matter.
You probably have experienced speed wobble on a bike going too fast. The only way to regain control and avoid crashing was to brake. This is the same for your Scrum Teams. To avoid hitting the wall, you need to focus on what matters the most: delivering increments of value and quality. In summary : Do More by Doing Less. Scrum.org created a guide and a certification path on Professional Scrum with Kanban. I invite you to read the guide and learn on how you can improve the flow of work with your teams. Secondly, take a look on Evidence Based Management to find new ways of measuring your teams’ outcome. As always inspecting and adapting are key to better ways of working. Finally, take time to reflect on the famous Little’s Law by reading the following whitepaper. And next time you feel that you cannot make a turn easily maybe it is the moment to regain control of your speed.
Good Luck & Scrum On!