Scrum Master Shares Lessons of Success

Young woman near scrum task board in office

“The best way to reduce cost and time is to improve quality.” 

– Deming


Four years ago, I decided to go for it and become a Certified Scrum Master (CSM). Over the next couple of weeks I’d like to share some basic learned lessons from the course, along with advice generated from my professional experience.


Where does agile come from?

Agile bases its principles on the foundation of Lean (aka – lean manufacturing, lean production, and lean enterprise). Lean gets its roots from Toyota Production Systems – a system that essentially enabled Toyota to focus on value and quality by simply removing as much waste in the manufacturing process as possible. As a derivative of lean, agile also aims to eliminate waste through a focus on simplification, quality and value.


Does lean production = mass production?

Actually no. While folks still confuse the two, there is a major difference that lies in the nuance between “utilization” and “throughput.” However small, those nuances are the difference between high quality/value versus something fast and more bug-ridden. Following is a quick outline:


  • Mass Production

    • Designed to build one thing, the exact same way, fast enough to satisfy a forecast, regardless of quality
    • Overruns of product or features (waste) is typically a result as is a lot of defect fixing late in the process due to a poor commitment to quality early
    • Referred to as “Push Processing” because each station (or person) produces as fast as possible regardless of readiness of the person they are handing off to (leaving work in progress or waste)
    • Based on utilization of resources
  • Lean

    • Designed to eliminate waste to build what is needed as fast as possible without compromising quality
    • The entire goal of lean is to remove waste (hence the name)
    • Demonstrates that poor quality (like in a mass production line) will ultimately slow production down due to the amount of cost and resources deployed to support the broken product at the end of the process
    • Referred to as “Pull Processing” because each station (or person) waits until the person handing off has delivered their piece (creating flow)
    • Based on Productivity (higher quality throughput)


What does agile add to lean?

The agile manifesto, while solidly founded on lean principles, offers additional “values” that bring more relevance to software engineering practices. Namely:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan


So agile does not believe in process, tools or documentation!?!?!

Not quite.


In fact, I left one small part out of the manifesto that is important. It states that, “while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.


We certainly should not throw away “effective documentation” or a “good plan”, however we should strive to reduce their footprint and eliminate parts that do not add value.  A good example of this is in documentation.  Many agile teams are moving to mediums that are less permanent such as white-boarding or mind-mapping.  These techniques aim to “guide” as oppose to “rule”.


Ok, so agile is lean – then what is Scrum?

Scrum is a framework that implements agile values. It is particularly popular among organizations that are engineering real software products (versus enhancements, fixes, and support activities). The basics of scrum is to provide a simple construct to usher ideas to tasks to implementation in an efficient way.


Stay tuned to the Olenick & Associates blog for additional posts in my series “AGILE – The Basics from a Certified Scrum Master.” At Olenick, we continue to use the principles I examine in this series as a guide to implement successful agile frameworks.


By Cornel ‘CJ’ Montano, Lean & Agile Software Engineering Practice Lead – Olenick & Associates, Chicago

Related Content: Agile Assessment, DevOps, DevOps

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