Happy New Year and Continuous Disruption

Happy 2019! I wish for you a year full of things that never were.
Now quickly to my first blog post of the year about continuous disruption..
Cheers, Sabine

In Scrum, as in life, (or was it the other way around?) we need roadmap to move forward. To determine this roadmap we weigh loaded choices and make heaps of tiny decisions. We also need a routine or framework to help us execute all these decisions. And then on we go.

But what happens to the plan when change is inserted? And what happens when our routine gets disrupted? Are we Agile enough to see change and disruption as a positive opportunity for learning and growth?

Following the recipe

Of course we had a plan. For those who still aren’t convinced planning can be achieved by any Agile framework let me assure you; we had a plan. It often baffles me that people still believe the myth that Agile means no planning. We could probably discuss at length the success rate of long term planning in Agile frameworks versus waterfall methodologies but not today.

The point I’m trying to make is that it really felt like we had it all; customer input, company vision, product roadmap, PI Planning, backlog management, sprints and successful releases. On top of that we were set in a good routine and were surrounded by a bunch of nice folks. Happily complaining about the little things while moving along in prosperity. Rainbows and unicorns really.

Then the unexpected happened..

Add 2 teacups of external stressor

Just before the holiday break my teams got some unexpected news; a stressor was introduced. And after the initial expected blowback of an array of emotional responses the dust settled. We know now that this much is true; we have been forcefully broken loose from out steady state. Disruption awoke us from our eat-sleep-repeat routine. And nothing will be quite the same.

Who doesn’t know that feeling of when something happens that you did not plan for to something you did plan for. That sense of lost control. There is pain in disruption.

And it is at that point that we are faced with perhaps the most important decision of all; will we allow the pain of the disruption to lead to ‘death’ or can we learn from the pain introduced and translate that into improvement? In other words; are you going to allow yourself to be honest and learn from the experience or are you going to continue on as you ever did?

Because for those who fear death by change let me assure you; ‘riding it out’ and descending into a circle of complacency is a faith far worse than death kind sir.

Just a dash of water and sunlight

Honestly; if you want to find it there can be growth after bad news, there can be learning after disruption and there can be positive opportunity after change. And there it will reveal why we believe in Agile so much; to continuously learn and improve even sometimes through radical change. Haven’t you yourself learned from whatever hardships you came across in life?

So don’t look for a sad face on your Scrum Master when company priorities shift, when team members get reassigned or when responsibilities alter. A good Scrum Master will help guide the team to learnings that lead to improvements. A great Scrum Master will not only act on external stressors but he or she will also know when to introduce disruption in order for there to be growth.

Break routine this year

Therefor my advice would be that even if your team wasn’t surprised with (bad) news in the days leading up to Christmas and everything is ‘just fine’, you might consider inserting some disruption of your own to the mix. Don’t get stuck trying to hold on to the original plan or loose precious time weighing tough decisions but be bold and aim for ‘awesome’ instead of ‘just fine’.

If, like me, you are working in Scrum there are a bunch of things you could consider. How about introducing a pair-coding day, or changing the length of your Sprint? Did you ever consider letting stakeholder rate your work during Review, or combining Retro’s with competing teams? Find whatever big or small disruption or change could potentially push your team forward!

Create your own recipe

‘A new year brings new opportunity’ they say. ‘The time is now’ they say. So what’s in the cards for 2019? Should I adopt a dog? Get married? Move to a new house? Buy a car? Travel the world? Go for that interesting job? Or have another baby? Whatever happens I’m sure plans will change and unexpected things will happen and I will be a be a better person and have a better life for it.

And my teams? They are already adjusting their plan and moving forward in a new day. And as their Scrum Master I will continue to facilitate these nice folks in our good routine and who knows what learning we will find from this disruption.

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