17 November 2017

Scrum in the Industry - Let’s Play Ball!

Is the scrum method only suitable for IT projects? Our experience is that industries can achieve better results through this form of collaboration. This has been demonstrated throughout the past decade in a range of industrial projects.

What is scrum?

“Scrumming is really just getting together on a daily basis to help each other make the project simpler.” That is how Onno Jansen, a senior consultant at Stork Asset Management Technology, describes it. This way of collaborating originated in IT, but it can easily be applied to projects in other industries, such as chemistry, oil and gas, transportation and logistics, energy and infrastructure projects. This approach breaks through the traditional style of sorting out every single little detail before getting started. Even in highly regulated industrial environments, the scrum approach can result in substantially lower costs and shorter lead time. The team learns how to define the activities and deliverables for the coming period, as well as how to solve problems more quickly.

What scrum is not

Scrum is not a method for project management, and it is certainly not a cure-all. While it does keep track of statistics regarding team performance, it is also not a way to monitor progress. That information is primarily intended to help the team continue improving.

“Scrumming is like dribbling and passing the ball up the court in a basketball game to score for the whole team”

How does scrum work?

This principle is based on regular and structured - preferably daily - interaction with all team members, short-cycle process steps and intermediate results in the form of “mini deliverables”. In daily meetings that should not last longer than about 20 minutes, team members help each other to overcome obstacles by sharing their knowledge and experience. A weekly plan should be formulated in the “weekly improvement session", during which the team can learn from past experiences in order to continually improve. A facilitator monitors structure and the process, enabling the team members to collaborate more easily.

Onno Jansen says, “Scrumming is like dribbling and passing the ball up the court in a basketball game to score for the whole team.” You have to see the ball first, and then know what your “dribble and pass” abilities are; eventually, you will know your fellow team members so well that you can basically blindly pass them the ball, and your team mates will know they can trust you to catch it when they pass it to you. The ideal team is a multidisciplinary mix with 10 to 12 members at most. Too much turnover should be avoided in order to ensure and maintain maximum teaching value.

What is the gain?

Scrum brings you and your team's performance to the next level. It supports collaboration among team members, increases team effectiveness and efficiency and decreases the amount of effort being spent on activities with no added value by avoiding them. Problems are solved collectively. Last but not least: it makes work more enjoyable.

What do you need?

All you really need is a scrum board with several differently colored post-it notes. You can use these to give an overview of planned and ongoing activities for all team members. Setting aside time in your schedule for your scrum meeting is obviously necessary, too. The board is a place to gather everything discussed in the scrum meeting and a place for all team members to add, reschedule and evaluate activities. Scrum is most effective when it happens in person rather than digitally, but there are apps that can support the process. These can be useful for teams that are unable to come together on a daily basis.

The “engine” of the scrum board

How to start using the srum method

An experienced scrum master can teach your project team the principles and train you to do it yourselves. Every team member should be able to facilitate this process. Onno Jansen is very pragmatic about that. “Pick up the ball and get in the game! Learn to dribble, pass and fake out. The results will naturally follow".

The author

Senior Consultant

Onno Jansen 

Onno Jansen is a senior consultant at Stork specializing in Lean & Agile-based Change Management. He has years of experience in technical settings, specifically Engineering, Construction and Production & Maintenance. He has helped many clients to successfully follow the Scrum-based Way of Working, guiding them in how to use it not only as a tool or method but especially as a way of working that enables teams to achieve higher performance levels.

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