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Scrum Project Management – The Beginner’s Guide

Scrum is Agile, but Agile isn’t Scrum.

The Scrum Master and Product Owner aren’t the same individuals.

Sprint planning, Daily Scrum, and Sprint retrospective are all a part of Scrum.

You may think you need a degree from Harvard to understand what Scrum means, especially with all its nuances. But that’s far from true. 

Despite the complex technical name. Scrum is simple to understand and the most efficient and streamlined project management method you’ll find today.

If your team suffers from low productivity. And you want them to be better while cutting costs. You found your product management strategy.

What are the benefits?

Work quality takes off like a bottle rocket. Higher productivity levels, and teams that sustain better project adaptability.

Why Scrum Project Management Is So Important

Before talking about Scrum benefits, you should know what Scrum means.

Scrum project management is a way to break down a complex task into smaller parts that can be better managed.

This project management system takes your team’s productivity to the next level, transforming your development team into the A-team.

Eric Naiburg, the vice president of marketing at Scrum.org, describes Scrum as a unique approach to problem-solving that avoids strict specifics and rigid, step-by-step instructions. In his words, “Having a single way to do something just doesn’t enable growth.“ 

We couldn’t agree more!

You get a strong framework to schedule workflows and organize product teams—one that can be molded to accommodate your team’s dynamic needs. Instead of dictating how your group must proceed, you make it flexible, letting group members make changes as needed.

Here’s a list of reasons why Scrum is the favorite of project managers:

Scrum Is Super Flexible

The traditional “waterfall” project management approach has a sequential process. Developers must complete the current stage before moving onto the next one. 

The problem here is the complete lack of flexibility. Due to this, developers can’t afford to make any mistakes as they cannot go back to the previous step once they have proceeded further.

Contrarily, Scrum’s flexibility makes teams more adaptable to evolving business goals and altering requirements. In turn, this boosts the team productivity as they don’t have to waste time trying to get things perfect at every stage. They can always go back and rectify flaws despite proceeding forward.

Scrum Is Super Simple

Scrum may sound complicated but is actually simple. The only thing you need is a changed mindset.

Everybody has a specific role here and has to work accordingly. For instance:

The product owner represents the best interests of the final user and has most of the team’s decision-making authority. This person has to be incredibly capable and have the foresight to decide what goes into the final product. 

They also develop the backlog, a task list that leads the team towards the final goal.

  • The sprint is a set of tasks from the backlog, having a specified timeframe.
  • Daily Scrums refers to the day-to-day progress updates.
  • The Retrospective is a review session conducted at the end of every sprint cycle.

That’s it! This includes everything about the scrum framework. So not only is scrum super simple, but it’s also very transparent.

Still skeptical? Just look at Spotify’s journey.

The music streaming service successfully implemented scrum principles and values that allowed it to achieve great results. 

Spotify organizes its employees into several squads, with each being responsible for building and maintaining a specific function of the Spotify app. Every squad is assigned a respective task, and all they have to ensure is it’s done properly. It also removed any fear about bad commitments, which could potentially break the whole platform. 

This is something that has worked incredibly for the platform. Today, Spotify is one of the leading music streaming services that gives bigshots like Apple and Google a run for their money.

Another company worth talking about is Philips.

Adopting scrum project management helped them go beyond bureaucracy. Philips has many agile coaches who use Scrum boards, where every team is divided into smaller units and given full responsibility for developing a product.

Many Fortune 500 companies are using Agile Scrum methodology to improve their processes and become more efficient in combating the side effects of scaling. It helps them look at things from an entrepreneurial perspective and adapt better to changing market trends.

How to Improve Scrum Project Management Today

As a project manager, the one thing you want to avoid is a lack of structure. It only leads to unfinished tasks and unsatisfied customers.

Using project management software makes corporate life easier, as it keeps every single member on the same page when it comes to project specifics and progress. Trello, for one, is a fantastic scrum board where you can assign tasks to different members, monitor progress, and know the current status of every task at a given point in time.

There are a few other ways you can improve teamwork and boost productivity with Scrum.

Promote Self-Sufficiency

Self-management is the very foundation on which Scrum dreams are created. After all, it’s the only way to check off everything on your to-do list during a sprint without any form of supervision or leadership.

That said, leadership and management are still necessary for setting directions and goals within the team’s structure. 

For self-managing Scrum teams, managers are only responsible for the beginning stages of a sprint. They help establish the best team structure and simultaneously improve development capacity. After that, it’s the Scrum Master’s and team members’ jobs to ensure everyone stays on track to hit their sprint goals as well as keep slacking members in check. 

Many people find this situation alarming–at first. After implementing Scrum, they realize how independent teams are more likely to boost their efficiency levels.

Tips to Promote Self-Management:

  • Encourage your team to take up more responsibility.
  • Make them more open to handling challenges together instead of working individually
  • Discourage the practice of taking problems directly to the supervisor.
  • Create an environment that encourages the development of stronger problem-solving skills and teamwork capabilities.

Encourage Internal Communication

Scrum project management is largely dependent on communication for building team collaboration and trust. The process has to be transparent, and for this type of transparency, members need to work on their internal communication skills to express the ideas and concerns properly.

It’s crucial for the members to openly share and talk about their issues, wins, and losses. More so because one never knows what is holding the team back from finishing sprint tasks. 

Plus, communication breakdown can result in slow progress and failed tasks. Members may not be aware of the duties either. Yikes!

Interestingly, the key to developing inter-communication is re-learning and changing processes that employees are accustomed to—at least most of the time.

Tips to Improve Inter-Communication:

  • Create Scrum group exercises that promote teamwork and soft skill development.
  • Use Scrum project management tools that let team members post questions or notes within the program.
  • Hold all five Scrum events: Backlog Refinement meeting, Sprint Planning meeting, Daily Scrum meetings, Sprint Review, and Sprint Retrospective.

Speaking of Sprint Retrospective…

Prioritize Retrospective

A retrospective is a compulsory Scrum daily meeting practice. It’s held immediately after the Sprint Review meeting to collect collaborative feedback from project members. This includes looking at successes and obstacles, things that helped, and things that did not, and so on.

The main idea of holding a sprint retrospective is to inspire the focus of the next sprint, and of course, make it smoother.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming retrospective meetings are a waste of time. Instead, treat it as a brainstorming session where everybody should be encouraged to offer positive action ideas that could directly influence better future outcomes.

Tips to Get More Retrospective Feedback:

  • Hold frequent meetings, and encourage every team member to attend.
  • Ask attendees to share any tasks they are struggling with or any alternative practices to make the project successful.
  • Collaborate together to brainstorm ideas.
  • Respect the opinion of every team member.

Promote Individuality

This may sound contradictory to the two main concepts of Scrum project management: teamwork and unity. But team-based success is actually dependent on individuality. Think of it as an oxymoron of sorts.

Individuals and interactions are always given priority over processes and tools. Every member matters as an individual in a Scrum team, so if even one person suffers from a problem, it affects all the tasks of a sprint or even the whole organization.

Sprints are an overall team effort, with tasks assigned to individuals to complete. And since every person operates differently—some more independently, some less so—you need to figure out a system that works for everyone involved.

Tips to Improve Individuality Within Teams:

  • Encourage accountability, and hold individuals accountable for their actions.
  • Play to every team member’s strength.
  • Recognize development and accomplishments.
  • Encourage members to keep up the good work.

4 Best Practices for Scrum Project Development

Want to get even better results? Below, we‘ve compiled a list of the Scrum project management best practices that can help you improve your flow and skyrocket efficiency levels.

Get the Stakeholders Involved

Although not a part of the Scrum team, stakeholders have a vested interest in the product. They help you discover, develop, release, support, and promote the product—precisely why you should get them more involved during the planning and progress meetings.

Set workshops to form product backlog and product vision. The product backlog documents the stakeholders’ product vision. And what better way to get the vision other than hearing it directly from the stakeholder?

We highly recommend filling in the product backlog with the stakeholders present before signing a contract. This way, the team can get to know the stakeholder better and understand what needs to be done to align with their vision.

Extend Invitations to Scrum Meetings. Get stakeholders to participate in a few Scrum meetings. This will let them experience how the meetings are held and how members communicate from the inside. In return, they can give valuable feedback about deliverables and collaboration efforts, which can help deliver better results.

Manage Backlogs

While product backlogs are continuously updated, sprint backlogs are frozen in most cases. Due to this, it’s better to maintain separate backlog documents, especially to plan, estimate, and forecast springs better.

Use Task Prioritization Techniques. You can use backlog prioritization techniques like MSCoW, technology risks, and business value to ensure complete transparency during Scrum project management.

That said, it’s better to avoid HiPPO (highest-paid person’s opinion) as not only does it compromise transparency, but it also prevents data-driven decision making. Irrespective of the method you use, prioritizing backlog features can help you attain sprint goals faster.

Use a Scrum Board. You can use a scrum board for better sprint visibility. The board itself is typically divided into four main columns: Stories, Not started, In Progress, and Done.

In addition to this, you can also have other optional columns like Blockers, Testing, and Product owner‘s review. The main idea here is to keep everything well organized and promote transparency.

Plan Sprints Carefully

Sprints are the smaller versions of a task. If even one sprint fails, it’ll end up damaging the overall progress of the project. It’s due to this everything revolving around sprint must be done carefully.

Plan Sprints After Developing Product Backlog. You should start sprint planning only when you have enough items on your product backlog. A good rule of thumb is to have items for at least two Springs.

This helps eliminate scope creep, which is an uncontrolled growth in project scope due to the lack of a clear definition of the nearest springs in the product backlog.

Have a Main Goal for Every Sprint. Sprint goals make it easier for the team and the customer to align their objectives. Setting goals informs the team what they should accomplish during a sprint, helping them prioritize items from the backlog. 

Additionally, make the goals as clear as possible—preferably in one or two sentences, such as: “Implement the checkout workflow: view cart, set payment, choose delivery method, pay, receive a confirmation email.”

Balance Sprint Timings

Sprint progression creates many risks. For instance, someone may fall sick unexpectedly, certain problems may arise, and whatnot. You must manage sprint time effectively to achieve results without missing deadlines.

Don’t Stretch Sprint Time. You’ll be very tempted to stretch a sprint to complete and meet goals but resist, you must.

Sacrificing the rhythm will lead to damaged schedules and create situations where teams neglect predetermined time frames. Instead, you can discuss timing problems during a retrospective meeting to gain useful insights from team members and improvement suggestions.

Don’t Cut Down Sprint Time. Just like you shouldn’t stretch, you shouldn’t reduce, too. 

Cutting down the duration of a sprint once a story is completed is always a bad idea. If you find yourself in this situation, try to come up with small stories and add them to the scope until you strike the sprint ending. This can help maintain the project rhythm.


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