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How to drive business results with Lean Startup and Scrum

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September 12, 2019 | Topic: Scrum  
How to drive business results with Lean Startup and Scrum

Last week I had the pleasure to attend a workshop about Scrum and Lean Startup at the offices of Terpel, a leading company of liquid fuel and natural vehicular gas distribution in Colombia.

Together with the company Roca Salvatella, Belatrix delivered a conference about the principles and philosophy behind Agile as well as outlining how it can help a company’s performance. Sergio López, one of our Scrum Masters at Belatix, was in charge of illustrating what Lean and Scrum are all about.

What lies behind Lean Startup?

Lean is part of the Agile method, which is a set of practices that allow organizations to manage their projects more effectively, responding to uncertain environments. It was coined in the context of software development; however, today it is used in many industries. Lean methodologies are part of Agile because they use sprints or iterations as the core of their practices.

The Lean methodology aims to eliminate the activities that represent an obstacle and don’t provide value to a company’s processes. As a result, organizations are able to increase value in the initial stages of product development, thus improving the chances of achieving a successful final result.

Lean Startup is the application of traditional Lean methodologies to young companies that want to launch their product to the market. These practices considerably decrease the probability of failure and economic losses as they prioritize the customer’s needs, creating a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) that can be modified according to the client’s specific requirements.

As mentioned, the cornerstone of Lean Startup method is its iterative process and validated knowledge. An iteration is the repetition of a process in order to refine the final result. The Lean methodology aims to deliver functional features of a product in every iteration in order to adjust to the requirements of stakeholders.

Let’s examine the fundamental steps of Lean Startup:

  1. Create a hypothesis: Identify a problem to solve and a possible solution.
  2. Evaluate its viability: Identify whether the solution meets the needs of the audience. Create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to evaluate your hypothesis.
  3. Measure the hypothesis: Identify KPIs (key performance indicators) to evaluate if the team is meeting the objectives.
  4. Generate validated knowledge: Listen to stakeholders and adjust your product to market needs.
  5. Iterative cycle: Repeat the process to search for improvements and adjustments in every iteration.

Even though Lean Startup was created with young businesses in mind, mature companies have also frequently used, and had success with, the methodology. The benefits of using Lean Startup include:

  • Companies get the most out of their economic resources and their workforce.
  • It fosters teamwork, a sense of responsibility and belonging towards the project.
  • It creates an autonomous work environment where people are constantly motivated and searching for self-improvement.
  • It promotes a culture where communication is essential for the project’s success.

Improving performance with Scrum

The second part of the conference was dedicated to explaining the Scrum methodology, one of the branches of Agile. Scrum was born in 1986 when Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi analyzed how companies such as Canon, Honda, and Epson developed their products. They compared such practices with the scrummage in Rugby, a method in which players pack closely together in order to win the ball. Also known as Scrum, this formation inspired people to create the Scrum methodology based on highly collaborative and multidisciplinary teams who create high-quality products in an ever-changing environment.

Like Lean methodologies, Scrum uses iterations which are called Sprints. Every Sprint can take between 2 to 4 weeks and the sum of several Sprints compose a Release. The Scrum team (product owner, scrum master, development team, and stakeholders) decides the Sprint duration at the beginning of the project. Commitment is vital as the due dates of each Sprint cannot be postponed; the Scrum team needs to prioritize tasks and be aware of what they are capable of within a specific period of time.

Let’s briefly examine the phases of a Scrum cycle:

  • Inception: The Scrum team discusses the challenges, expectations, and technical requirements of the project to make sure everyone is on the same page.
  • Sprint planning: The team plans the work that will be completed in every iteration.
  • Daily meeting: The development team explains what they have done in the previous day, the tasks they are going to complete and the impediments they might be facing.
  • Grooming: Here the objective is to better understand the product backlog, which is a list of every aspect that will compose the final product.
  • Demo – Sprint review: In this phase, stakeholders and the Scrum team review the progress of the product. Stakeholders provide feedback and new functionalities might appear from observing the product operating.
  • Retrospective: The Scrum team discusses how product development was carried out during the sprint, and aspects to improve.

The role of Scrum Masters during the entire process is to eliminate obstacles and facilitate all the resources needed for a correct execution of the process. They are mentors or coaches who make sure that the Scrum team respects and follows the values, principles, and procedures of Scrum.

What drawing can tell us about Scrum

One of the pillars of Scrum is communication. In order to highlight the power of communicative teams, Sergio proposed an exercise that involved drawing. I was surprised when he explained the activity to me before we started the workshop. Who could have thought that drawing images could teach us something about the principles of Scrum?

The activity consisted of dividing the group into two. We handed over sheets with a very simple drawing to the first half of the group. They had to observe the drawing and write down instructions so another person could draw exactly the image that was on the paper we gave them. The second half of the group – who were waiting outside the room – had to read the instructions and draw the image (without looking at the original image, of course).

Lean Startup and Scrum

The results were interesting. Some drawings were very close to the original picture while others were just a circle or a dot. Other drawings had the correct geometrical figures but with the wrong angle or direction.

After a few minutes, Sergio asked the participants who wrote the instructions to modify their indications and this time, communicate them verbally. The results significantly improved.

How to drive business results with Lean Startup and Scrum

The lesson? Verbal communication is key to express and transmit an idea in a clear manner.
This is one of the pillars of the Scrum methodology, which is why the members of a Scrum team should communicate through face to face conversations. When the team is not in the same location, it’s important to use tools such as Skype, in order to make the conversation as empathetic and personal as possible.

Agile practices are one of Belatrix’s key differentiators. Iterative processes are at the heart of our work and they have enabled us to deliver high-quality products at speed. As a result, companies such as Terpel find value in such practices as they increase their productivity, save costs, foster teamwork and promote a spirit of co-creation.

Lean Startup and Scrum

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