Using Scrum for Process Improvement

Scrum was originally defined as an Agile method to manage software development with teams. When I worked at Ericsson I used Scrum to manage Process Improvement projects, where it turned out to be a real enabler for Continuous Improvement.

Improving with Scrum

Scrum was used in 2 process improvement projects, one with a dispersed team at multiple R&D centers, and another which was run locally in an R&D center.

We used a backlog of Process Improvement items, which was prioritized by our product owner, which was the manager of Organizational Development. In a planning game, we defined the products and activities needed to realize the process improvement item.

A wiki was used as work area for the team, containing the items to be delivered.

At the end of every three-week iteration, a demo was given to the product owner and the steering group.

Every iteration was concluded with a retrospective, to continuously improve our way of working.

Several agile practices were used like pair programming (jointly develop or update presentations and documents), frequent delivery and reviews (using the wiki to store items, and collect the comments), and effective communication (phone conference “stand-up meetings”, at least twice a week).

My article Process Improvement, The Agile Way! describes in detail how we used Scrum to do continuous improvement.

Golden Rules

The team used a set of “Golden Rules for Agile Process Improvement”. These rules helped them to understand the agile approach, and to work together in a smooth, efficient and positive way. 

The rules that we have used are:

  • Dare to share – As early as possible and frequently
  • The result depends on the team – Not the individual members
  • The one who checks out a task is not necessarily the one who has to finish it
  • The ones working on a task are the right people
  • You may critique anything, but you may never criticize anyone

These golden rules were formulated based on principles from the Agile ManifestoEVOOpen Space TechnologySolution FocusedRoot Cause Analysis, and Retrospectives.

Benefits

The main benefits of using agile and Scrum were:

  • Being able to deliver the right products with high quality, using frequent feedback
  • Understanding the strengths & weaknesses of our processes, and the business value
  • Alignment and streamlining of processes between several R&D centers
  • Efficient ways for professionals to work together in a dispersed team

So you see, Scrum can also be used to manage process improvement projects, to enable continuous improvement.

Methods and Tools have also published my article which describes how we have applied agile and scrum for process improvement at Ericsson R&D. See Process Improvement, The Agile Way!

Ben Linders

I help organizations with effective software development and management practices. Active member of several networks on Agile, Lean and Quality, and a frequent speaker and writer.

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