Ad Hoc to Agile, Scrum and Scaling


A colleague recently asked whether a team he encountered was agile.

  • The team is managed by a smart computer scientist with deep architectural understanding.
  • There are two specialist engineers on the team: one with database knowledge, and the other with Javascript/CSS/HTML.
  • Periodically team meets with the manager and product manager to plan. Together they decide the overall functionality to be delivered by the team, and decide how long they need, typically two to four weeks, which they call “sprints”. They select functionality that they believe they can finish in that time. These are not user stories, but a collection of requirements that seem like they should go together. The work is not directly releasable.
  • Since the manager is smart, the team usually defers to the manager’s architectural approach, which consciously considers team member skills. The team decomposes the requirements into tasks, carefully constructed to reduce the need for member interaction. They try to minimize source code clashes in advance, assigning tasks to people carefully.
  • The team members typically work in isolation. Although they do not have daily stand ups, they are co-located, so they can always ask co-workers for advice and help. Each is responsible for the tasks he or she was assigned.

Some team members want to use Scrum, but the manager has said, “No. Scrum involves too much process, too many meetings, team members will feel micromanaged.” Continue reading