A Scrum team is made up of a cross-functional group of people from different departments, such as the development team, quality assurance team, and product owner. These people meet on a regular basis to plan, build, and deploy software together.
In the process of working on a project, it’s natural for productivity to drop. There are many reasons why this can happen: lack of sleep, stress, or changes in roles. Fortunately, there are ways you can fix these problems and improve productivity for your Scrum team.
Here are seven practical tips that will help you do just that!
What Is Scrum?
Traditional digital product development models often focus on efficiency rather than development cost. And sometimes this approach simply does not justify itself.
A project can run out of time, fall short of budget, and, worst of all, the released product can take so long to develop that it is no longer relevant by the time it's released.
Such a set of problems is handled by an approach to product development called Scrum, the most popular flexible methodology.
Everything starts with the product owner. They identify the main stakeholders (customers, clients) and work with the team. Their tasks also include setting priorities and creating the product backlog (a list of tasks that need to be implemented).
There is also a Scrum Master in the software development team. They help the team to work on the project, guide it, make sure the work structure is implemented correctly, and in general, his work is similar to that of a supervisor.
Scrum relies on a self-organized, multidisciplinary workgroup with no direct leader (other than the product owner, who does not direct the team's actions, but only gives tasks and checks intermediate results).
By giving software engineers more freedom of action instead of a detailed workflow, team members are free to choose their own ways of solving tasks and allocate their responsibilities according to their capabilities.
And the multidisciplinary nature of the team means that each member needs to conduct the selected function from the generation of ideas to the final implementation in the product. Thus, the main subject of the Scrum methodology is the backlog and the product itself. Scrum is fairly easy to implement and that makes it applicable to many teams that have already moved to Agile.
The following activities are conducted in Scrum in order to reach better Scrum productivity:
From day one, the iteration planning meeting is held. It has two parts:
- Selection of requirements (4 hours maximum)
- The client provides the team with a prioritized list of product or project prerequisites.
- The group asks the customer if they have any concerns and chooses the top concerns for the iterative process so that they can be supplied on the user's order.
- Planning for iteration
- In order to develop the requirements, the team will draw up a list of tasks needed. The effort is estimated together and the team members assign the tasks themselves.
A synchronization meeting is held every day (15 minutes maximum). Each team member analyzes the work of other members to make the appropriate adjustments. Every team member answers three questions during the meeting:
- What did you do since the last meeting?
- What will you do next?
- Are there any obstacles in your way?
At each meeting, the Scrum Master is responsible to ensure the team fulfills its commitment and does not undermine its productivity. They also help solve the barriers the team cannot solve alone.
Inspection and Adaptation
On the last day of the iteration, the iteration review meeting is held. It has two parts:
- Demonstration (4 hours maximum)
- The team presents the satisfied requirements to the customer. The customer makes the necessary modifications in an objective manner, re-planning the project, based on results shown and changes in the project context.
- Retrospective (4 hours maximum)
- The team will analyze how it has worked and what problems can prevent it from progressing properly and improving its agile productivity continuously.
- The facilitator is responsible for removing the identified obstacles. It is very important that after each of the sprints, the team gets together and evaluates the progress of the previous week.
- Giving feedback and regular monitoring of progress is very important in Scrum. This is what gives the methodology such flexibility. It's principal to spot possible problems that need to be fixed in time to make the next sprint run smoothly.
Transparency in All Teams
The first Scrum segment is transparency. When it comes to processes, everybody in your company will share the same language. This guarantees that everybody comprehends their respective responsibilities for work progress. What's more, everyone will agree on what constitutes "done."
Continuous Quality Control
The second pillar is inspection, which means that each team member regularly examines their work and completes the increase. This commitment to ongoing reviews simplifies the detection of changes or errors which might affect product quality.
The third pillar, adaptation, encourages the team to change course if things go wrong. When problems arise, those examining the augmentation can bring the team's attention to them, and everyone can agree on how to maximize quality while avoiding undesirable results.
These three pillars work in tandem with the Scrum value systems that all team members must demonstrate.
7 Hands-On Ways to Improve Scrum Team Productivity
Give Frequent and Consistent Feedback
Set up a system where members of the team give feedback to each other on a regular basis. This will help people learn how to improve their work style and make sure they are getting what they need to do their job well.
When delivering feedback to engineers, it's recommended to avoid using misleading means of communication.
The better option is one-on-one communication. If you're a remote team, you can have a one-on-one meeting using a video conference tool such as Google Hangouts, Zoom, or another preferred software.
Create a Healthy Environment
It’s important to keep your team happy and healthy. In order to do this, you need to create a positive, productive working environment.
How can you do this?
First, try to reduce the amount of stress in your team. This can be done by setting clear expectations for the team and project and providing a pathway for resolving conflicts.
Second, encourage your team to take time off when needed. When people are overworked they may stop caring about the end result of their work. One way to combat this is to allow your team members to take time off to refresh themselves or be creative outside of work.
Transparency in Scrum teams is necessary for team members to be aware of what's going on with the project. Transparency promotes accountability from all parties involved. This facilitates clear communication and makes it easier for team members to get on the same page with each other.
These are examples of questions to follow:
- How do we make decisions about what to develop in the product? How transparent are these decisions?
- How well do we understand the team's progress in each Sprint?
- For each increment we make, what is the valuable outcome of that action? What could make it even more valuable?
- How do we improve quality in the product? What is the current level of quality in the product? What is the trend?
- What factors have led to successful outcomes? What factors have led to less successful outcomes?
- What assumptions are we making? How are we validating those assumptions?
Learn From Change and Strive For Continuous Improvement
The specific product, the device's technology platform, the surroundings in which it is used, who uses it, and how they use it, regulatory and legal conditions, market dynamics, shifting business requirements, and so on will all have an impact on the concepts and techniques that a team employs.
This is a lot of stuff, and over time many of these things change. But for agile productivity, it's crucial that teams remain attentive to what they do, why they do it, how they do it, and the advantages that they derive.
Focus on Delivering Functional Increments
Scrum says that an increment is "done" when it meets the definition of done, and it is the only measure of progress in product development.
If you are not delivering a "Done" product at the end of each Sprint, you should immediately focus on this issue. Work on the following items with your team:
- A solid "definition of done".
- Effective use of Sprint Goals.
- Have product backlog items ready to go before the Sprint starts.
- Quality of product build.
- Address technical debt.
- Identify and remove impediments.
- Analyze team skills, knowledge, capabilities, etc.
Hold Daily Scrum Meetings
Daily Scrum meetings are a great way to keep track of how much work is getting done and what needs to be done in the future. They’re also a great opportunity for team members to share their thoughts and concerns, and offer feedback on projects and goals.
Scrum meetings should be short, and if they become too long, you should probably rethink how your project is structured. You can even think about breaking up your team into mini-teams that only meet every couple days, instead of one large team that meets daily.
Small, fast wins are nice every time. You can take advantage of simple improvement processes. However, a time will come when you must go beyond the fundamental elements. This means you need to go beyond optimizing your Scrum Team processes.
You must try new techniques, test Sprints, and you will probably fail, but any failures that you make will be covered by these improvements.
In addition, it is worth keeping in mind that Scrum was created for product development with a high level of uncertainty. It works well in cases where we need frequent releases to get feedback from the market. In a situation where we have detailed requirements that leave little room for creativity, or where we don't need feedback from customers/users, Scrum just wastes team time in meetings that are of little value to product development.
For those who are reading this, I encourage you to give these best practices a try and see how they improve your team. If at first you don't succeed, try several times. Just don't forget to use them together as their effectiveness increases exponentially when you do so.