Transparency and Jessica Alba – A Scrum Connection? -- Cartoon -- October 16, 2006

This week I address a tough topic to digest and talk about — Transparency.
How do I know this is tough? Besides Tony (the artist) and I (Mike Vizdos) having some great conversations about how to get the topic conveyed in a humorous way, I live this conversation with clients on almost a daily basis. I guess I also found out Tony has a thing for Jessica Alba, and well, I am not complaining on his choice either.
So why is transparency such a hard thing to talk about, and then implement?
Transparency in Scrum is sold as a good thing. It is a good thing. Really. But, it does have some political land-mines you need to be aware of. You need to be ready for what can come up when you start implementing Scrum and being “transparent” to others.
First and foremost, there is no more filtering of status reports (you know, the weekly reports where “everything is 90% done but we need [insert impediment here – bla bla bla]” and then your boss edits out the “bla bla” part then her boss edits it a little more to say “we are right on track” then some executive sees a green light on their report a week after getting the status report from their administrative assistant).
If there are status reports being written — and I know people out there doing Scrum “must” submit them (sigh) — that opens one of the first conversations you can have about coming to stand-up meetings and getting involved with the real world again (more on that later… I promise).
This happens on a regular basis.
Another example to bring this home: A Chicken walks in and sees the burn-down chart not looking good or hears in one standup that there are some impediments that are in your way. Even if the team says they are handling the impediment, the chicken runs from the room and starts a fire drill up the same command chain as stated above. Chaos issues. The sky starts falling. And what rains down in usually not good. Sigh.

Again, more often than not.

What can you do to make sure transparency is used to your (and the teams) advantage?Realize that transparency is a good thing. Really. That being said, some enterprises do not accept transparency within their culture (see above). If you are starting a Scrum team in a heavy command-and-control environment, where the leaders (Chickens) are rewarded for acting that way, you may have a tough ride up the hill. Let’s assume for a moment that your environment is that perfect little happy place where transparency is embraced. How would that look?

The team understands the impact of transparency and can communicate it to the outside stake-holders (Chickens). The team has been trained by the ScrumMaster and learned by “doing” Scrum what transparency means. It has learned that they can indeed expect middle managers and muckity-muck executives to actually attend stand-ups, understand a burn-down chart, and participate in a Sprint Review. Wow. And it has learned it through trial and error, working with both the Product Owner and ScrumMaster in communicating with the outside stake-holders I affectionately call “Noise.” It is not like the comic strip above, where you can request anything — or anyone. But Scrum is set up to help the team ask for help from the Chickens when the team realizes this is necessary.Not the other way around. Think about it. Close you eyes and imagine the above scenario in the two different ways it could play out. I’ll be here when you get back. Go.

Welcome back (smile). What questions did that bring up in your mind? Now, what are you going to do to answer them?

I will have some suggestions in another article.

The story continues soon. Come back for more….As you can tell, the site is starting to reach some regular feel to the delivery and content presented. Please send comments, questions, criticisms, ideas, or whatever here. You can also enter The Scrum Community to discuss this cartoon and other Scrum topics. Thank you!

Originally Published:

October 16, 2006


November 30, 2006

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