Yesterday I attended a presentation at Tobii on how they've implemented Scrum in one of their development teams. The presentation was started by Henrik Kniberg who gave a short introduction to Scrum. I do not envy his task since a quick poll showed that more than half of the audience was practicing Scrum in their current project. One thing that always amazes me at these kind of presentations are the two or three persons attending who think that Scrum is a silver bullet solution to all problems and who ask all kinds of questions related to their current situation trying to figure out what they have to do in order to make their Scrum implementation more successful. What they don't seem to get is that Scrum is not the answer to your problems - it just helps you see your problems. You still have to solve the problems yourself!

But back to Tobii. We got a great demo on what eye tracking software can be used for,including playing FPS games. And I must say it was extra interesting for me to see what the team was really developing since I was the person brought in to coach them when they wanted to start using Scrum. I attended daily scrums, sprint demos and retrospectives but I never got a chance to see and understand what they really accomplished.

So how did they implement Scrum? I would say they pretty much implemented vanilla scrum from out of the box I would say. But this is usually not enough to successfully implement Scrum I would say. In their case I think the following things were the keys to success:

  • The interest in Scrum came from the development team. Not everybody and they were a bit suspicious to some of my suggestions in the beginning but that is only healthy. You should be suspicious to new things and evaluate if you really benefit from them, but you must be willing to try at least.
  • The team got a product owner who quickly saw the benefits from a new way to work and embraced it. Last I heard she was talking about implementing Scrum into the sales and marketing teams too...
  • They used an external coach from time to time. I wasn't there to help them every day and sometimes they worked two or three sprints before asking for my help again. Using a coach from the outside is very valuable I think since the coach not only comes in and sees any problems from a new point of view. An external person can easier say things that people involved in the day to day work are reluctant to say in order to preserve a nice fussy feeling at work.

So what can you learn from this? Well, doing great stuff is always easy when you have great people to work with. The team I worked with at Tobii had all the best prerequisites for success and that is one thing you either have or you haven't. But what you can do is to use a coach. Having the ability to discuss different matters with someone outside of your regular workmates as well as having somebody that easily can say those things everybody want to say but are afraid to say can in some cases be what makes or break your implementation of Scrum.