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Scrum for non IT teams

On October 31th 2014 I attended the Agile Tour Brussel 2014 (#ATBRU) conference for the first time. One of the sessions was on Scrum in Industry (Scrum beyond Software series). Xavier Quesada Allue and his college shared their experience in implementing scrum at a supplier of Volvo. This supplier produces parts for the Volvo plant in Gent. I really loved this session. Xavier wore the normal outfit at the manufacturing plant: special jacket and safety glasses. Next he showed a nice video for setting the scene.

The supplier was experienced with lean and improvements but was not able to create and overview of all improvement actions and priority. They wanted to see if Scrum could help. Scrum was used first to create teams. A team was responsible for implementing improvements in a certain area. Next a physical scrum board was used to create overview and create a flow. The sprints where used to focus on the most important improvements. The sprint demo and review was used to show the results and improve the scrum process.

In two different contexts I introduced Scrum for non-IT. Recently I implemented scrum in a governmental agency. This team needed to deliver a legger. Een legger is a formal document explaining the waterways and who is responsible for maintaining the waterway. The Legger team was highly dependent of other departments within this agency. The Legal department was needed for legal governance and the Policy department was needed to formulate new Policies. All guidelines for the delivery of the legger documents. Next projects changing the waterways needed to deliver Geo data on bridges, pumping station etcetera on order to deliver a map.

There were some interesting parallels in mine and Xavier’s experiences:

  1. Both teams had difficulty maintaining their workload because external dependencies continuously changed priority.
  2. Teams and team members had difficulty to focus. They handled a lot of activities in parallel.
  3. Introducing scrum with a physical scrum board (Visualization) or task board helped teams to get more control on the workload. It’s interesting to see teams tend to change the way the board is setup (number of columns, swimming lanes, coloring) .
  4. Introducing the sprint planning session helped the teams to focus on the highest priority work.
  5. The daily scrum helped the team to keep focused.
  6. The scrum retrospective helped the team to learn and improve.

The Legger team had great trouble delivering the committed work (user stories) in the first 2 sprints. After sprint 2 retrospective and intervention on time management the team was able to finish the planned work in halfway sprint 3. This result was a great result for the team and team development.

In my opinion scrum for non-IT can be of added value for many non-IT teams. The Scrum process and roles can help teams to improve. During the adoption phase a scrum coach can help what processes and roles can add value.

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