Digital Transformation and Scrum
I am a big fan of Brene Brown's podcast series Dare To Lead. I find the people she talks to unique, and her questions spot on. Recently I listened to a discussion with Dr. Linda Hill on Digital Transformation, which I found interesting.
There is much discussion on Digital Transformation. Everyone is trying to be more digital, and if you have listened to any of my talks, you will know that I describe our time as the start of the deployment phase of the Digital Age. The discussion that Brene Brown and Dr. Hill had was a bit different. Not only was it supported by evidence (Harvard has talked to 1,700 leaders about Digital Transformation), but it was not a technology discussion but a discussion on friction between the opportunity of digital and human beings working in organizations. Dr. Hill described six qualities of a Digital Organization.:
- An intimate and dynamic understanding of the customer
- A data-informed culture, not data-driven
- A challenger mindset and willingness to disrupt
- Distributed decision-making and co-creation
- Continuous experimentation and learning
- Ethical decision-making and proactive governance
What struck me was the overlap with Professional Scrum. The apparent connections are:
- An intimate and dynamic understanding of the customer The changes to the Scrum Guide, our work on Professional Scrum with UX, and Evidence-Based Management illustrate the need for Scrum Teams to pursue goals driven by delivering value to customers and Stakeholders.
- Distributed decision-making and co-creation Self-managed, empowered teams are the mantras of Scrum because we have found that the best people to manage the work are the people doing it. Aligning the team to a purpose is not only more productive but also more value-generating and innovative.
- Continuous experimentation and learning The idea of incremental, Sprint-based development accepts that we don’t know stuff and must experiment and learn incrementally.
- A challenger mindset and willingness to disrupt The Scrum Values introduce the idea that an empirical approach to value requires some amount of challenging the status quo. Scrum’s existence and relationship with the Agile Manifesto highlight the disruptor characteristic.
So, four out of the six characteristics seem aligned to Scrum, but what about the other two?
- A data-informed culture, not data-driven The importance of data for Scrum to be successful should not surprise anyone. A Sprint Review that includes data insights is much more valuable than looking at an increment without those insights. But judging and being critical of the data is also essential. Scrum empowers teams to make decisions, but that requires skill and experience. Good Scrum Teams look to stakeholders to support them in making good decisions. A good Scrum Team is not an island where data is used as a proxy for knowledge.
- Ethical decision-making and proactive governance This characteristic describes the importance of teams thinking about the big picture. To appreciate the consequences of their decisions and actions. Digital technology can amplify the impact of decisions. Scrum is agnostic to its use. But Scrum would encourage transparency to ensure that decisions are not made accidentally. Those decisions and the impact of those decisions are made public, for example, in a Sprint Review.
The article reinforces the truism of agile transformations that digital is ultimately about people and how they approach their work and work with others. Digital and the underlying technologies that make it work are enablers and amplify, but success is not in which technology you pick but instead how people use it.
Finally, perhaps the most stand-out quote from the paper is
"DIGITALLY MATURE ORGANIZATIONS LEVERAGE DESIGN THINKING, LEAN START-UP, AND AGILE METHODOLOGIES TO POWER INNOVATION."
Digital transformation and Scrum are essential partners in the movement to the new age of working, and we must build the bridges to make that happen.