After five years of Scrum, we decided to break free of its shackles. Abandoning fixed length sprints, work-life became one long un-estimated party. Diverse collaborations throughout the organization enabled us to take on new challenges. The backlog was full of surprises: I had little idea where half the stories came from. For a while I thought we were seeing, the beginnings of the hallowed Agile Organization, but it seems the euphoria got the better of me. Drunk on the freedom, I ignored the signs that all was not well (a team member’s screams raised little concern) and today after a couple of years of experimentation we decided it’s time to end the party.
Last year was a challenging one for our company, our development team was being pulled in all directions by an influx of opportunities. Our cross-functional team became cross-functional pairs. We shared less, supported each other less and started to understand less about what each other were doing. We grew weary. The common goal was gone, replaced by pair goals, consisting of long difficult stories. Stories that deserved a whole team approach.
So today we decided to go back to a fixed length sprint with an unchanging backlog and a goal. A goal that the whole team is focused on delivering. I remember how powerful that felt when we first did it and we’re excited about doing it again.
That fixed sprint not only gives us focus, it wraps us in a bubble protecting us from changing priorities and challenging personalities. From inside the bubble we’re insulated from the dysfunction outside. I used to resent this bubble, I thought we needed more exposure to the reality of the business world around us, but know I’ve seen the effect it can have on creativity and quality, I’m happy to let the team keep their distance. I’m going to be a Rottweiler at the door of our team room.
I thought we’d grown out of Scrum, I admit to describing it as agile training wheels, but I’ve found a new love for it and its constraints. I’m glad I got a taste of what happens when you remove them, and perhaps there are organisations that will flourish when you do. But I wonder if there really is? Our anxiety too easily gets in the way of intelligent thought. A Scrum team can be protected from that, and be left to draw strength from each other. For now I’m happy to see the buzz return to the team and excited to see what we can build in the next couple of weeks.