When I started my journey as a Scrum Master about 12 years ago, I read many books about Scrum. Interestingly, one of the first books I also studied was “Extreme Programming Explained” by Kent Beck. Although I’m not a highly technical guy, I have always worked closely with software development teams and the book contains so many great ideas that benefit development teams. I used the past weeks to re-read it and marked (way too) many pages. One part that stood out for me, in particular, was how to get started with XP:
“Starting with XP is like getting into a pool. There are many ways to get into a pool: you can dip in a toe; you can sit on the edge and dangle your feet; you can walk down the steps; you can perform a smooth, powerful racing dive; or you can do a cannonball, making a lot of noise and getting everyone around you wet. There’s no right way to get in the water.”
— Kent Beck, Extreme Programming Explained (second edition)
This part made me think about my own experience with Scrum teams and how they got started. I noticed that I recognized all of the examples and even experienced some others as well. In this blog post, I’ll share my own view on the similarities between getting into a swimming pool and how to get started with Scrum. I wrote this article with a big smile on my face. The swimming pool analogy proves to be a fun way to reflect on real-life experiences. I’m always curious to learn what examples match your experience in starting with Scrum, so feel to share them in the comments!
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Option 1: Toe Dipping
The careful, cautious, and lightweight approach to start with Scrum. You learned about Scrum and suggested trying it as an experiment with one team. No strings attached. You just want to give it a try and see what happens. You didn’t inform many people outside of the team, because you don’t want to raise too much awareness of this experiment. Let’s first see how the team members respond. If it proves to be a successful approach, you will involve other teams and people around the teams as well.
“The careful, cautious, and lightweight approach to start with Scrum.”
Option 2: Dangle Your Feet
You’re sitting on the side of the pool, dangling your feet. You’re playing with the idea to get started with Scrum, and you even started a couple of experiments with a bunch of teams, but you haven’t really made up your mind yet. By dangling your feet you do create ripples in the water. Within the organization, people start to notice your Scrum experiment, and they wonder what’s going on and what’s going to happen next. Those are also the questions you have in mind. Will you jump into the water and actually start swimming, or do you prefer to stay on the side of the pool for a bit longer?
“You’re playing with the idea to get started with Scrum, and you even started a couple of experiments with a bunch of teams, but you haven’t really made up your mind yet.”
Option 3: Walk Down The Steps
You prefer a structured, plan-driven approach to getting started. Plan-driven doesn’t necessarily mean a waterfall approach. But you do like to create some sort of step-by-step guide on how to implement Scrum. Checking all the ‘Scrum boxes’ gives you a comforting feeling of not missing anything important. Your gut feeling tells you this is also preferred within your organization. Whenever there’s a new change initiative, it’s introduced via a change plan. Scrum is also a new way of working, so it makes sense to write a change plan, right? Step 1) Create awareness. Step 2) Select one team. Step 3) Train the team. Step 4) Start the team. Step 5) Inspect. Step 6 )Adapt. That’s how you roll.
“Checking all the ‘Scrum boxes’ gives you a comforting feeling of not missing anything important.”
Option 4: Perform A Smooth, And Beautiful Dive
You’ve learned about Scrum and you’re confident that this is going to be awesome! You’ve made one team enthusiastic and they are excited to get started. Everyone in the organization knows that your team is going to try Scrum. It’s going to be a success story, and you want as many people as possible to know about it. In order to make the start as smooth as possible, you spend lots of time with the team to practice the Scrum kickstart. Everyone knows what’s expected from them. You even organized a couple of dry runs and already scheduled the first Sprint Review with many stakeholders. Next week, you’ve got your Scrum kickoff and start the first Sprint. Your team is going to rock it!
“In order to make the start as smooth as possible, you spend lots of time with the team to practice the Scrum kickstart.”
Option 5: Do A Cannonball
You’ve decided to start with a blast! No talking. No planning. No doubts. Let’s just get started and see what happens. Living on the edge! It’s risky, and there might be some collateral damage, but that happens with every change initiative, regardless of the approach you use. Right? So, let’s just rip the bandaid off, and let’s get started with Scrum! Your only hope is that you’re not the only one from your team doing a cannonball. So, just to be sure, you’ve asked some of your team members to join you. You’re in this together. 3, 2, 1… and jump!!!
“You’ve decided to start with a blast! No talking. No planning. No doubts. Let’s just get started and see what happens. Living on the edge!”
Option 6: Make A Lot Of Noise And Get Everyone Around You Wet
You’re in the water, you’ve started with Scrum, and everyone should know about it. Although only a couple of teams use Scrum, the entire organization is aware of your experiment. You’ve clearly announced it upfront and made sure to put all the spotlights on your teams. You not only expect everyone to observe the Scrum teams, but you also expect them to support them. Everyone in the organization should help remove impediments. Even if this means making changes in their own roles, processes, or departments. We all want to succeed with Scrum, right?
“Although only a couple of teams use Scrum, the entire organization is aware of your experiment.”
Option 7: Only Talk About Getting Into The Water
Almost everyone in your organization knows about Scrum. It’s the #1 topic at the coffee machines. Even better, many people have followed a professional Scrum class, joined in-company knowledge-sharing sessions, and signed up for the big launch party. There’s only one problem, you’re already talking about Scrum for almost a year, and the launch party has frequently been rescheduled. Despite everyone being aware of Scrum, no team has started yet. The initial excitement has turned into disappointment. Nobody really understands what’s going on. Why don’t we stop talking and start acting?
“Despite everyone being aware of Scrum, no team has started yet.”
Option 8: Ask Everyone To Get Into The Water, Except Yourself
Scrum is your ultimate passion. You strongly believe that every team and organization should use it to navigate (product) complexity. You’ve made it your personal mission to convince everyone to start using it. So, you coach teams, management, and the supporting organization in using Scrum. There’s only one question you frequently get: “Why don’t you use Scrum, yourself? Why aren’t you part of a Scrum team?”. Somehow, after one year of coaching, everyone is in the pool, but you’re still on the side, watching everyone swimming. People wonder why you don’t get in the pool as well, if Scrum is so great, why don’t you use it yourselves as well?
One question you frequently get: “Why don’t you use Scrum, yourself? Why aren’t you part of a Scrum team?”
Option 9: Everyone Does A Cannonball Simultaneously
Management is convinced that Scrum is the right approach for their organization. So, they’ve decided not to waste any time and go all in. A big kick-off is scheduled for next month, and from that moment on all product development teams have been turned into Scrum teams. Even better, the entire organization will be reorganized and restructured in such a way the teams are fully supported. In the previous period, everyone followed Scrum training, and the implementation plan has been shared early on. So, everyone knows what to expect and is excited to jump in the pool, simultaneously. All teams line up at the side of the pool, ready to make a big splash! What can possibly go wrong?
“Management is convinced that Scrum is the right approach for their organization. So, they’ve decided not to waste any time and go all in.”
Option 10: Everyone Gets Into The Pool, Differently
Somehow, you didn’t see this one coming when you suggested starting with Scrum. January 1st was the big launch party. Multiple teams were supposed to start with Scrum. But what happened? One team was still “toe-dipping”, and not really sure to actually start. Another team was already in the pool and got started in December. And yet another team suggest postponing the launch party because they wanted to refine the implementation plan in more detail. Argh, although you consider yourself truly agile, this is almost beyond what you can handle. Or, is it something you should encourage and embrace, is this what agility is actually about?
“Somehow, you didn’t see this one coming when you suggested starting with Scrum…”
In this blog post, I’ve shared my view on the similarities between getting into a swimming pool and how to start with Scrum. Although it’s intended as a not-too-serious article, it is based on real-life experiences. Some are personal experiences, others are examples of teams I closely collaborated with. There’s no ideal option. The best approach is always contextual and different for each team. I do have good experiences with starting small and involving the team(s) in defining the next steps. So option one— Toe Dipping — might be the approach I’ve used most often myself.
What approaches do you recognize? What happened because of that? What other options do you see to get into the pool? I’m always curious to learn what examples match your experience in starting with Scrum, so feel to share them in the comments!
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