Improving Your Scrum with the Agile Kata (Part I)
The Agile Kata is a universal pattern for agile change management. This is a broad term but fits as a description because of its wide array of use and opportunities for the agile community. In this blog series, I will take a very focused approach on how the Agile Kata can help increase the radius and quality of Scrum in your organization or team alike. When I refer to the Agile Kata, I mean the definition described in the whitepaper and share-alike license. The definition of Scrum is defined in the Scrum Guide.
So let's kick things off with part I, by introducing the first use case of the Agile Kata for Scrum Teams. This first use case is one every Scrum Team, and I mean EVERY Scrum Team, should feel comfortable incorporating into their work habits. Because it is so common and frequent, it makes it a wonderful starting point for Scrum Teams new to Agile Kata thinking:
Use Case 1: Agile Kata for Sprint Retrospective Results
Maybe you remember one of the earlier versions of the Scrum Guide, which included an approach on how to deal with the improvement ideas that were identified by the Scrum team during a Sprint Retrospective. The suggestion was to include the improvement items in the Sprint Backlog for a the next Sprint and manage progress that way. Although I like the idea to give Scrum Teams a concrete example on how to manage their improvement ideas, this language might have been perceived by teams as prescriptive. The section in the Scrum Guide was removed one version later again.
Removing the language from the Scrum Guide again made Scrum less prescriptive and concise, but examples to close this gap with practical ideas continued to exist. As a pattern for agile change management, this is where the Agile Kata can help. The Agile Kata might not be needed for some basic, trivial changes a team might agree on in their Sprint Retrospective. For example changing the time and place of the Daily Scrum or a straight-forward new Working Agreement. But there are some improvement ideas that are more complex, require more time or would benefit from more exploration.
Just like Scrum, the Agile Kata works very well in the space of dealing with uncertainty. Any improvement ideas where the goal is defined, but the path to it is not, are ideal for the Agile Kata. Think about improvement ideas that would suggest organizational change, something the team can't solve without external help, for example leadership, procurement or HR. Or, think about a desire to automate a process (goal), but there are many different possible paths. You can probably think of many concrete example in your company you could streamline toward more agility, the Agile Kata its he vehicle for that.
The Agile Kata applies scientific thinking and practices it deliberately until it becomes a habit. In our first use case, the Agile Kata can help Scrum teams fill the void of how to manage items that stem from a Sprint Retrospective. Using a combination of creating a hypothesis and collecting evidence along the way, makes a strong case for the Agile Kata in this first use case.
When I coach or train Scrum Teams, I always point out that the improvement ideas identified in a Sprint Retrospective are "just" ideas. They are not tested yet! The Agile Kata makes these ideas concrete and encourages experimentation to explore different avenues to reach a goal. The physical Agile Kata board makes the change visible and transparent and can help identify other organizational short-comings.
Because the Agile Kata is not time-bound (e.g. Sprint), it works naturally well for any large improvement ideas that require more time than a typical Sprint.
This blog series is all about the synergies of the Agile Kata and Scrum. If you are looking for learning aids or would like to share the ideas, you can grab the "Agile Kata + Scrum Poster Kit", a bundle to make it easier to get started with the Agile Kata for your Scrum Team. Please use "1stOrder" during checkout to get even free shipping on your first order.