Scrum as a Diagnostic Tool

Use the Scrum lens for inspection
What is Scrum? If you ask this question, you might hear a rich variety of answers. Reaching from „a method to process tasks“ over „a project management framework“ to „an instrument for organizational change“.

But this is not Scrum. These are different applications of the Scrum framework. Scrum is essentially just a collection of useful and proven to be succesful rules and practices. It is a theoretically close to ideal state for product development.

If you assume the Scrum framework to be a close to ideal state, then you can use it to find problems in different contexts – even without applying  it immediately. Let me give an example: Some years ago I was in trouble with a classically led project. At the same time I learned about the Scrum framework and thought: „How would it be, if we wanted to practice Scrum tomorrow?“. After asking myself this question, several issues why this would not work came to my mind, immediately. E.g. we would find no Product Owner, the customer would never work with us on a daily basis and we could never deliver software every two weeks. Thinking for a while I realized, that these issues where just the problems the project suffered from. Thus, trying to imagine using Scrum in my current situation helped me to consciously realize what the real problems were.

This idea is scalable: If you want to know what the real top five problems of an organization are, just go to a diverse set of people in this organization, explain shortly what Scrum is and ask them if this would work for them. Then carefully listen and note the reasons mentioned for the impossibility of using Scrum. After several interviews try to cluster and prioritize the issues you found and I bet you will have a very close picture of what the central and demanding problems of the respective organization are.

Just try it. This is much cheaper than hiring a consultancy and will – probably – deliver very similar results ;-)


Leadership Dojos

I see – and hear of – many organizations having trouble with leadership. Starting with the question „what is leadership?“ reaching to problems in concrete application of leadership skills in daily business. One urgent question is: „How can we make clear to leaders in our organization, what leadership is and what our organizations expectations to leaders are?“. Seminars and trainings are a frequently chosen approach in trying to sharpen the understanding of leadership in a company. But I have my reasons to doubt this tools are working.

A very pragmatic and effective way to deal with problems of alignment and lack of practice in software development and coaching are coding dojos and coaching dojos. I tried both tools and found them to be very useful in making clear what the expectation of the trainer is and recieving valuable practical lessons. Transfering this concept to the topic of leadership could look as follows:

  1. Choose a standard – but not so easy – situation from the field of leadership (e.g. a worker is not motivated, there is a conflict between two co-workers, etc.)
  2. Try to model the situation as good as possible and prepare a role play. There are three roles: the „leader“, the „challenger“ and the „observer“. Distribute these roles to at least three people („challenger“ and „observer“ might be taken by more than one person)
  3. Take a time frame of approximately 30 minutes and a room where the prepared situation would be likely to happen in reality.
  4. The „challenger“ will now try to play his prepared role as good as possible and the „leader“ has to try to „solve“ the given problem. The „observer“ is not allowed to speak and just observers the situation and makes notes for a later discussion.
  5. After playing the role play for 30 minutes the game is stopped and the observer tells the leader about his observations. At this point expectations of an organization to their leaders can be made clear in a very practical, effective and sustained way (if the observer knows about these expectations).
  6. Restart at step 1 based on the feedback oft the observer.
Did you try something like this before? What are your experiences? Do you have further ideas for concrete situations to role play? Feel free to use the comments section for your feedback!