Losing focus

Scrum is for the team, so if one person says: ‘I do not care how, but we have to implement it’, it means nothing. And if you think, I am wrong, just ask the team.

I think, everyone experienced situation like this: ‘I don’t care how we’re gonna implement it, but it has to be done.’ If you are Agile, this is the moment of a heart attack. It does not matter who is the author of this sentence. The meaning of this sentence is: “we need to improve, but we do not know how”.

We find an ad-hoc solutions to “improve”, i.e. the code quality, so we start creating backlog items just for refactoring of existing features, without any connection to current work, or understanding, that development process should be improved constantly in everyday work. One could say that there is always an option to start ‘Code improvement sprint’, but it means, that we do not see the value of organized process. In this case, we are focused on ‘right here, right now’ effect only.

I realised that very often people do not care about the process. It seems, that they cannot see the bigger picture and often decide just to DO, instead of discussing, planning and then DOing, with the understanding of the impact of decisions they have made.

Let’s see what would happen if we focus only on small pieces of whole work. If we decide to implement changes without thinking about the bigger picture, we will lose focus on what is important (continuous improvement). We will add just a change, without understanding its impact on the existing system. The change will be helpful for just a moment, it will patch holes. And if we start with patching holes, we start with an anti-pattern: ‘How not to work in Scrum teams’ or ‘How not to work at all’. Patching holes is always connected with short term results, just for now. Patching holes in a longer time period make people used to this way of working, and it will be the first step to a huge, unstoppable mess. All the actions that are made just for a moment are not standardized, and if we repeat this kind of actions, we will create a habit, and a bad one at that. So, creating changes like patches is not the solution, but the first step to the bad habit. We all know that the hardest thing ever is to change bad habits into good ones. Are we really ready to create the bad ones?

Bad habits make our lives much harder in the long term and it is always rough to eliminate them from our everyday behaviour, especially if we decide to use them as remedies for real problems. In our case, those bad habits were not ‘problem solvers’, although they made us realize that we have put our focus on wrong solutions. We were focused on how we can create a fast workaround, without thinking of its future impact. After we had workarounds, we did not need real solutions anymore – we did not see the problem anymore. In this case, it will be even harder to reverse and start from the beginning.

So, what should we do, instead of shortcutting? If we are aware that we have a problem and we should solve it, we need to plan how to do this in the most efficient way. What does it mean, that we are going to work efficiently? We do not need to invent the wheel once again, we can use already existing solutions, especially if there is a framework we could use. If we work in Scrum (I always hope everybody does), we must understand that our work is based on continuous improvement and we can use Scrum as a basis to improve; not in YOLO mode. Every change (which always should be an improvement) can be implemented after team planning, so there is no need for ‘I don’t care how’ quote. We – as a team – can make a decision, that we are going to implement and how we are going to do it, to make an improvement, not a mess.

And it does not mean that when working in Scrum, you need to make some special preparations or waste time for additional plannings or meetings. Not at all. You need to understand that the process already exists and if you want to work accordingly to the rules of the process, you need to use its elements. Use plannings, refining sessions and retrospectives to be sure, everybody is on the same side and everybody is ready to commit to improvements. Scrum is for the team, so if one person says: ‘I do not care how, but we have to implement it’, it means nothing. And if you think, I am wrong, just ask the team.

Agata Sobek
Scrum Master