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Ken Schwaber and the asphalt truck

Last week, I attended the breakfast conference presented in Montreal by Ken Schwaber.

As always, Ken gave a great presentation focusing on the “definition of done” in Scrum and the impact of incorrectly defining what done really means.

As I was listening to the presentation, I looked outside the window overseeing René-Levesque boulevard and noticed an asphalt truck and city workers filling a pothole – then it hit me… As interesting and valuable Ken’s presentation was, we need a systemic approach if we want Scrum to succeed in organizations. Let me explain…

Nobody likes to drive on a street with potholes. So what do cities do? Obviously, they fix them! If you live in Montreal, you realize that every year, the city fills thousands of potholes in an attempt to keep their streets in a good driving conditions but no matter how much efforts (and money) the city invests, the potholes keep appearing.

Isn’t this like implementing Scrum within an organization?

As attendees to Ken’s presentation, weren’t we simply like city workers attending an asphalt conference? It is as if an asphalt guru was explaining to us the right mix of tar and rocks to make the most resistant asphalt when in reality, the problem isn’t really with the asphalt itself but with the city’s traffic management approach.

Same goes for Scrum.

The definition of done is critical. The right people in the right roles is important. Dedicated teams members is crucial. But what about the managers in the organization? Are they supporting Scrum? I mean, are they really supporting the use of Scrum within their organization?

Don’t get me wrong. I truly believe doing Scrum the right way is critical but it is not sufficient to be successful. If your managers aren’t on board, you can try to implement as many of the Scrum best practices as you want – including the right definition of “done” – your teams will never reach the highest level of performance they could. Get the managers on board and your Scrum implementation will be greatly improved.


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