Scrum is for Teams. Kata for Organizations.
Many readers of this blog are either very familiar with Scrum and want to deepen their knowledge. Others are warming up to this topic for a variety of reasons. During my Scrum trainings, I often get questions about the maximum team size and the motivation behind that. Although Scrum is purely recommending (not prescribing) a maximum Scrum team size, the number 10 is anchored in the scrum guide. The benefits of a rather small team are that the communication channels increase significantly when more team members are being added. Small is good and desirable.
But how about the minimum size? Is Scrum a good idea for a single member team? Well, Scrum might still help you organize your work even on that smallest possible scale, but you won’t experience all the benefits. In all fairness, a single member Scrum is also not a team. The fun starts with 3 or more members. What we learn about the team size is that Scrum is not only a wonderful framework for building amazing products, but also to help team members self-manage and communicate in an organized way. Scrum is therefore a power tool for product teams, but what about the rest of the organization?
As much Scrum can be your driving force for creating an agile mindset on a team, it is unlikely and not desirable to have everyone in an organization apply Scrum. Think of the executive leadership team or branches of operations for example. Even though they might not organize their work with Scrum, we would love to have them share an agile mindset, right? How can agile teams flourish in an organization that does not share the same values and beliefs?
Many years ago, when I began working with clients on full-scale agile transformations (beyond the team-level or product perspective), I realized that organizations would benefit from a practice that help them experiment toward more agility. As a result, I crossed paths with the world of Kata. The Improvement Kata for example, popularized by Mike Rother and Toyota, made it just recently into the latest version of the EbM guide. I am super thrilled to see the worlds come closer together. But it was exactly this Improvement Kata that helped me look at agile transformations differently several years ago.
The Improvement Kata is a scientific approach to practice change and improvements through a series of experiments. You could learn for example an instrument or a new language with the Improvement Kata, but you can also use it to improve agility within an organization. Bu there is something special about agile transformation though, because not only do we want to become more agile, we also want to create an agile culture while transforming. In other words, we don’t want to use a command-and-control style and hope to create an agile culture. As a result, we created the Agile Transformation Kata to remind everyone of the agile tools and techniques to foster an agile mindset and culture. If you like to learn more about the Kata thinking and how it connects with Scrum, agile transformations and the culture as a result of it, feel free to join me here.