learned about scrum

What I’ve learned about Scrum from being a Product Manager

The agile/scrum methodology is now widely gaining momentum not only in tech industries but also in other fields. Over the past 6 months of using it every day in my full-time job as a product manager, I have learned a thing or two about Scrum. Like most endeavors, our inputs will define how successful this method can be. It still depends on the team culture, the leadership, and the individuals in the organization to make sure that this tool is being used in the right way.

There is such a thing as a short sprint

At my current job, the sprints last for 2 weeks. I was told that a two-week sprint is an industry standard. However, I find it too short for smaller teams with lower velocity. A velocity refers to how much work or units of work a team can do in a sprint. With the needed bunch of scrum-related ceremonies before the actual sprint, sometimes the time is too short to do the actual sprint work. 

In my experience, it’s better to have three weeks for sprint rather than two because the first week is preoccupied with activities such as sprint planning, sprint review, and technical planning that derail the actual work. 

Meetings are still a great place to hide

Some people love meetings. They ask for more meetings at every single opportunity. Why? Because meetings are a great place to hide. It’s a perfect excuse for not shipping your work. “I spent all day yesterday in meetings, so I couldn’t get much work done.”

Some meetings are truly necessary. No doubt about it. But some meetings are just a stalling tactic. Make sure you know which one it is when you are asked to schedule the next meeting.

Scrum will not make your team flexible overnight

Agile/Scrum is often being advertised as the solution for companies’ flexibility. Although there is truth to this, we must acknowledge that Scrum is not entirely the answer. 

Scrum is a tool that is based on the philosophy of quick pivots. But again, it all depends on individuals within a team. If you have very outspoken team members, but at the same time, resistant to change, your attempts to use this method are simply futile. 

Most of the time, the negative attitudes of a person or persons within the team affect the entire team’s culture. One bad apple spoils the bunch, right? Their rants, complaints and negative outlooks can definitely ruin agile for everyone else. Thus, pivoting becomes very difficult despite using all the right scrum ceremonies. 

Perfectionism can still be an enemy

The definition of done is the Scrum concept that once you have described, another person can look at the result of your work and recognize that you are indeed done based on that definition you set at the beginning. 

For example, you have a sprint goal of making your office room pleasant. You set that the definition of done is painting it or rearranging your bed and other furniture. If you can achieve what you have set in that given time, then that’s “done” — nothing more, nothing less! So, it’s very objective. There is not much subjectivity going on! 

As a leader, you need to manage those team members who are still obsessed with perfection in their work. Spend time mentoring them and teaching them that it’s okay to ship the work, even if it’s not perfect, as long as we can move to the next sprint items.

Sprint Review requires actionable items

During sprint review, we look at what went well, what didn’t go so well, and what can be improved going forward. 

If what comes out in the review is an actionable item, create the ticket right away. Put it on the schedule for the next or the sprint after. Make it actionable as soon as possible! 

In my experience, sprint reviews are only helpful when you create actionable items and schedule them for the next few sprints. If you don’t create any actionable points, it becomes a toxic place where people just come to complain. Again, you need to teach individuals when they complain about something to offer how this problem can be solved. 

Agile starts with the mindset

Scrum will not work if you have individuals who don’t have the enthusiasm to do their work and would rather hide in meetings and complain. It works great for people who are willing to embrace change, ready to fail, willing to pivot, and willing to learn quickly. 

If you’re a leader who wants to implement Agile and Scrum into your organization, you need to think about how you can help individual contributors shift their personalities and mindsets. It may need more time working and mentoring individuals to embrace agile philosophy and core agile principles. Still, it will all be worth it in the end.  


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Read next:
    1. Your goals are simply experiments
    2. Winter: The Time to Build Productive Habits
    3. The one-way to-do list

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