Hey, SCRUMstudy, What Happened to the Benefits of Glacial Change?

February 18, 2016

Recently, we saw a picture of cows grazing peacefully at the foot of the Bøyabreen glacier in Fjærland, Norway. The stark black and white photo dates to 1890-1910. The cows stand among sod-roofed sheds and barns in a scene in which everyone appears totally unaware of the approaching river of ice. The pace of change once seemed like that: glacially slow, massive and inevitable.

In those days, everyone could be like the farmers in that valley. They had enough time to perfect their recipe for the best tasting butter, their technique for making the best textured cheeses and their method for nurturing a thick carpet of sod for their roofs. There was time to develop expertise and mastery. That was a definite benefit of slow change.

Things have changed

A look at Google maps shows that the arrival of the glacier was not inevitable; it has receded. However, things did change for the farmers: a lake exists where the valley once was.

We all feel the change in the pace of change. We hear it called “volatile,” “rapid,” even “explosive.” With the pace of change careening ahead like this, how can we keep the benefits we had when change was a bit slower? Where do people develop expertise and mastery when it is needed?

The first answer is to accept the reality of change: “Every project, regardless of its method or framework used, is exposed to change,” says A guide to the Scrum Body of Knowledge (SBOK™), adding, “It is imperative that project team members understand that Scrum development processes are designed to embrace change” (14).

The second is to develop techniques and frameworks in which the necessary practices of life—like churning butter and making cheese—can continue in the face of massive, encroaching change. The SBOK™ suggests that “Organizations should try to maximize the benefits that arise from change and minimize any negative impacts through diligent change management processes in accordance with the principles of Scrum” (14). This type of management will include EPC and Sprints: “Empirical process control and iterative delivery make projects adaptable and open to incorporating change” (4). “Sprints promote order and consistency in a volatile work environment” (105).

One of the successful methods companies have used for obtaining, developing and embedding necessary skill sets has been synergy. In Scrum, both company and individual expertise is achieved through cross-functional, self-organizing teams. The use of cross-functional teams ensures that all of the skills and knowledge required to carry out the work of the project exists within the team itself.

These teams are composed of members who are generalists/specialists in that they have knowledge of various fields and are experts in at least one. Each member has a general set of skills that enable him or her to do most of the tasks associated with the job. Each also has a specialty, a set of specific skills. Scrum encourages team members to share their specialties—teach each other—so that there are immediate back-ups if any member is absent or unavailable to the team and his or her specialty is needed. This gives the team all of the skills it needs immediately and enables the members to grow their skill sets for the future. As a team, they can learn to churn better butter while the cheese is curing.

When handled in a Scrum way, change is not a threat—its butter!


For more interesting articles and blogs on Scrum and Agile visit SCRUMstudy.com.


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