How to select Scrum Patterns
4 January 2020
In my earlier article, I explained what Scrum Patterns are and why they could be useful for you in your transformation. In this blog, I discuss how to select and use the Scrum Patterns from the Pattern Languages.
Scrum Pattern Languages
The patterns in our book organized into two pattern languages that contain 94 patterns in total — the Value Stream language structures time to deliver a product. The Product Organization language structures the relationships between people to deliver Scrum Teams. These two pattern languages form the two Wholes of Scrum.
Now, how to use these languages?
How do you design a house? Ackoff explains: The architect designs to satisfy the needs of the residents, and first draws the house ( the Whole). Then divides the house into rooms ( the parts ). A room is only improved if it also improves the house, and it can be the case that the architect chooses to make a room worse to improve the house as a whole. So, you start with determining the function of the larger Whole, and then improve the Whole by refining it with parts.
We apply the same approach with the Scrum Patterns. You start with the most extensive pattern( the Whole) and then refine it with subsequent patterns. You are always keeping in mind the goals of the Whole.
You might be thinking, so what? Well, it is crucial to understand the boundaries of your system and the goal you are striving to improve, because you are unlikely to improve the performance of the Whole by improving the parts taken seperatly— R. L. Ackoff, Re-Creating the Corporation, page 21. Let me try to explain using a simple example.
Use Patterns to build your Team
Let’s say that a team is having trouble aligning during the Sprint because of the complexity of the work. Thinking about the Scrum framework, what does Scrum offer to help the team members align …..? Yes, you are right, the Daily Scrum event. You can verify that the Daily Scrum might be appropriate for this team by verifying that the pattern’s problem statement matches your current problem. The problem statement of the Daily Scrum pattern states
“The team makes progress in a Sprint by finishing ¶73 Sprint Backlog Items, but given the complexity of the work, the characteristics, size, and quantity of tasks change frequently — sometimes minute by minute.”
A good match! So, let’s apply the pattern, right? Well, maybe. Let’s look at the Daily Scrum pattern position on the Product Organization pattern language.
You can see the location of the Daily Scrum pattern in the language. The Daily Scrum pattern has two incoming arrows, one from Sprint Planning and one from the Development Team pattern. The arrows mean that the Daily Scrum pattern refines both of these patterns, or said otherwise: it improves the larger system’s Sprint Planning and Development Team.
To what use is having a Daily Scrum if the team did not do Sprint Planning…? exactly not very useful. The team will improve its performance with the Daily Scrum pattern if it already works from a Sprint Backlog created at Sprint Planning. Sprint Planning is the more extensive system, and Daily Scrum is a smaller part of that system.
So, before applying the Daily Scrum pattern, the language suggests investigating if you need first to apply the Sprint Planning pattern. If you have not implemented the Sprint Planning pattern already, then do that first.
Expanding system boundaries
Sprint Planning has an incoming arrow from Scrum Team, an even larger system.
So, how do you create a Scrum Team? What is the first step? Do you first need a Development Team?, a Product Backlog, or a Scrum Master?, or maybe a Product Owner? When I ask this question to people, they usually choose a temporal approach. For example, they suggest to start with the Product Owner or Development team and then add to make up a Scrum Team. A problem with this approach is a focus on the parts, Product Owner, Development Team, or Scrum Master instead of a focus on the Whole, the Scrum Team.
Again the language points you in the right direction. The Scrum Team pattern suggests having a Vision for a Product for your customers and gathering people who can make and deliver the product. After you have that then you might refine the Scrum Team by for example Development Team when you face the problems it solves. Key is that you start with the Whole, the Scrum Team, and only improve the parts if it also improves the Scrum Team.
How to select a pattern?
The initial context and problem statements of the individual patterns help you identify if a pattern could be useful for your specific situation, the pattern language help you identify the sequence of patterns you might need to implement. Usually, my customers discover that they need to move up the language graph and create a pattern sequence. In the next blog I will explain how to create a pattern sequence to use in your specific context.
Want to know more?
I will be regularly writing more blogs about Scrum patterns. If you want to keep updated you can register for the newsletter here, or just keep an eye open on social media.
Cesario works on large scale Agile transformations worldwide and is the author of the books Emergent and A Scrum Book. He is also a Certified LeSS Trainer, a Professional Scrum Trainer™ and a certified coach.