February 15, 2020

Scrum Infinity Stones

For those of you who are big fans of Marvel Cinematic Universe comics or who have watched the latest Avengers: End Game movie might know that Thanos (supervillain) wanted to possess all 6 infinity stones so that he would be unstoppable and could gain control over the entire universe. The six gems are - the Space Stone (blue), the Reality Stone (red), the Power Stone (purple), the Mind Stone (yellow), the Time Stone (green) and the Soul Stone (orange). Each stone is immensely powerful and possesses unique capabilities & represents different aspects of the universe.

We all know that Scrum is a framework, but for instance, imagine Scrum to be a gauntlet that holds all the six infinity gems. If so - what could be its infinity stones that could fit the Scrum gauntlet which makes Scrum so powerful and inevitable? Let’s explore together powers of the Scrum Infinity Stones!

The Space Stone (The Complex Space)

The world is changing at a faster rate and today in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex & Ambiguous) environment, we need to be more adaptive and flexible than ever before. In the case of product development, there are a number of variables like people, process, technology, cultures, geographies, tools, skills, relationships, etc. to name a few. Depending on the number of variables and variability within those variables, it is essential for teams or leaders to adapt their environment and style of decision making. If we look at the Stacey Matrix adapted for software development, a complex domain is where there are more unknown variables that cannot be predicted and there is no definite path to reach the goal. In complex situations, it is very difficult to identify or come to a conclusion to a correct solution or even to identify the cause and effect relationships. Scrum comes to rescue in such a complex domain through its underlying principle of empiricism helping in taking incremental steps and continuously inspecting and adapting to solve a problem. Here the best approach could be to Probe-Sense-Respond allowing a solution to emerge. Scrum gives the user power over Complex Space.

Gauntlet

The Mind Stone (Empiricism - Transparency, Inspection, and Adaptation)

In the movie Avengers (2012), The Mind Stone allows the user to control the minds of others and can control what they do. Similarly Scrum in product development, through the process of empiricism can control what can be "Done" or delivered within a time frame to the end-users; to satisfy their needs.

If Scrum could be imagined as a human body, then definitely Empiricism is its Mind that controls the complete actions and behaviors of the body. Imagine you are planning to travel to a place countryside and as soon as you sit in your car, you switch on the GPS and set the destination. Imagine after a few miles of drive, the GPS starts giving you incorrect directions and starts feeding you wrong information. What would happen to your plan of reaching the destination on time? Every time you inspect the route at a given interval, you would accordingly adapt your route based on the inspection and eventually end up reaching a wrong destination. Therefore transparency is the key pillar of Empiricism based on which inspection and adaptation occur. If the data is not transparent and incorrect, the inspection and adaptation would also be flawed. As per the Scrum Guide-

“Empiricism asserts that knowledge comes from experience and making decisions based on what is known. Scrum employs an iterative, incremental approach to optimize predictability and control risk. Three pillars uphold every implementation of empirical process control: transparency, inspection, and adaptation"

Transparency - the entire process must be visible to those responsible for the outcome

Inspection - at regular intervals inspect to detect undesirable variances

Adaptation - act accordingly to minimize deviations and get back on track

In complex space, Scrum Teams accept the fact that the problem cannot be fully understood or defined. Teams, therefore, focus on delivering value quickly in shorter sprints, and they adapt based on the knowledge they gain from inspection. Decision making is based on what the team knows at a certain time. Through observation, knowledge, experience, and experimentation the solution evolves and emerges over a period of time.

The Reality Stone (Artifacts - Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog, Increment, and Definition of Done)

Transparency is the quality of easily seen through, which can also mean showing or seeing the reality as is without any biases. The Scrum artifacts promote transparency by showing the real state of the product at any point in time. Product Backlog is the single source of reality for what is planned in the product. It is owned and maintained by the product owner and is continually refined to increase the understanding and transparency of what is to be built. Similarly, Sprint Backlog which is owned by the development team gives the reality of ongoing work every day. There is every possibility that sprint backlog is subject to change as the development team learns more throughout the sprint and it is adapted based on every daily scrum.  Finally, the only measure of progress on the product is a potentially releasable increment that is created based on the definition of done. Definition of Done ensures Transparency and quality over an increment that is built. The Increment is the sum of all the Product Backlog items completed during a Sprint and the value of the increments of all previous Sprints. The working product increment shows the reality to the scrum team on how they are progressing towards achieving the business outcomes.

The Power Stone (Lightweight framework, Scrum Team-PO, DT, SM, and Sprint Goal)

Scrum is not a prescriptive framework, and the lightweight nature of Scrum is what makes it is so compelling. Scrum is an iterative and incremental way of delivering things.  Also, Scrum bestows upon its teams a lot of energy through Scrum Roles, so that a potentially releasable increment is created every Sprint.

The 3 roles of Scrum are Product Owner, Development Team and the Scrum Master. Each role is different and only if these roles closely work and collaborate with each other they can successfully solve business problems. Although each role has a buffet of responsibilities within the team and outside the team, I will just mention each of them in short -

Product Owner - The Product Owner is one person who is responsible for maximizing the value of the product and remains accountable for the Product Backlog

Development Team – is a cross-functional, self-organizing team responsible for delivering potentially releasable Done Increment.

Scrum Master - a servant leader who serves the Product Owner, Development Team and the organization in several ways and helps everyone to understand and master scrum theory, practices, rules, and values.

The Sprint Goal which is crafted by the Scrum Team during Sprint Planning is another powerful way that helps Scrum Teams define the purpose of running the Sprint. Many Scrum Teams undermine its essence, but without doubt, Sprint Goals provide Scrum Teams with focus, flexibility, objective & guidance throughout the Sprint.

The Time Stone (Time-box, Events- Sprint, Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review & Sprint Retrospective)

Although in the movie Avengers Infinity War, the time stone grants its owner the power to rewind or fast forward the time, in all reality and for all practical purposes, we cannot fast forward the time using Scrum. However, understanding the underlying spirit of the time itself, Scrum focuses on the timebox. Time stone is the timebox.  All events in Scrum are timeboxed which means all events have a maximum duration. A Sprint is a timeboxed event of 1 month or less that acts as a container event for all other Scrum events and activities. Once a Sprint begins its duration is fixed, however other events may end whenever the purpose of the event is achieved. Timeboxes create focus to fulfill the goal and challenges the team to do their best within the timeframe.

Example timebox for 1-month Sprint 

  • Sprint Planning - 8 hours
  • Daily Scrum - 15 min
  • Sprint Review - 4 hours
  • Sprint Retrospective - 3 hours

The Soul Stone (Scrum Values - Focus, Openness, Respect, Courage, and Commitment)

In Infinity War, Soul stone is kept on the planet Vormir where Thanos travels with Gamora to get it. The Soul stone of Scrum is the Scrum Values of Focus, Openness, Respect, Courage, and Commitment. The soul or spirit is an essential element that gives life to the body. As per the Scrum Guide

"When the values of commitment, courage, focus, openness, and respect are embodied and lived by the Scrum Team, the Scrum pillars of transparency, inspection, and adaptation come to life and build trust for everyone."

That is, when teams live the Scrum values in truth and spirit, the Mind stone (empiricism-transparency, inspection, & adaptation) comes to life. Scrum Values are important because they connect each individual within a team to one another. The more each individual in a team lives these values the more successful the team would be in creating a Done Increment. Scrum Values are essential because they guide the knowledge, attitudes, actions, behaviors, & decisions of the team.

Do you think Scrum Infinity Gauntlet with all its gems together makes Scrum the most powerful framework? What if some gems are missing or you remove 1 or 2 stones from the gauntlet and just focus on the rest? What impact it might have on teams and product development or our customers? If not, what would you do to preserve them and benefit from them all? Let me know!

Keep Calm & Scrum On!

Thanks!