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Transparency: A Powerful Tool for Agility

by Priyanka Pandey, Manager Engineering – Program Management, Guavus, Inc.

Having become one of the mainstream software development frameworks for complex projects, Scrum gets thrown around a lot as a hype word within the software development realm. The reason being, it helps teams operate in sync by adding a sense of rhythm and structure to how they work together. As a result, Scrum has proved to be instrumental for software development teams to develop, deliver, and sustain complex products.

By nature, software development is a complex endeavor with great uncertainties, vague requirements, and near to zero repeatability. As a software product evolves, teams get to learn more, and the subsequent steps of execution become clearer.

What Role Does Transparency Play in Scrum

Transparency is one of the three pillars of Empiricism in Scrum theory – the other two being Inspection and Adaptation. It remains critical to implementing the Agile methodology in an organization. But as easy as it may sound, Transparency is difficult to master and implement in a complex development environment.

As Defined in Scrum Guide:

Significant aspects of the process must be visible to those responsible for the outcome. Transparency requires those aspects be defined by a common standard so observers share a common understanding of what is being seen.

For example:

A common language referring to the process must be shared by all participants; and,

Those performing the work and those inspecting the resulting increment must share a common definition of “Done”

Making roles, responsibilities, processes, challenges, and the Feature Quality transparent within a Scrum Team and organization requires a healthy, positive and conducive environment during the early phase of Scrum adoption. The small initiatives of keeping the work-in-progress, challenges and impediments transparent within the Daily Scrum plants the seed of “Being Agile” within the Team.

With the three prescribed roles in Scrum theory, the Product Owner remains accountable for making the artifacts transparent and addressing the concerns of the team for product backlog management. Bringing more clarity to backlog items can prove to be effective in enhancing the cohesiveness within the Scrum Team. Addressing and accepting the technical debt and sharing the true picture with customer is a great practice when it comes to developing the initial trust and building a useful product as an outcome.

The Scrum Master can act as a medium to encourage development of practices for everyone in Scrum Team to understand the importance of “Being Transparent”. Coaching the team post Inspection and then detection of the deviation from transparency and further guiding them to understand its value plays an important role in the growth of Agile values.

Regardless of their respective Scrum role, the fact that the development team members are trusted with their skills and capabilities imbibes the values of Scrum in them. Being open, honest, and respectful while discussing the existing challenges – whether related to people or to the lack of tools/information – and preventing non-adherence to the ‘Definition of Done’ helps teams to become self-organized and more capable to address diverse challenges.

A transformation of senior management from being in a command and control mode to becoming supportive, respecting the transparency of behaviors, information and Scrum values help to bridge the gap created over a period.

However, there is a profound disconnect between the state of affairs desired and the state of affairs that exist. The fear of losing authority, sharing their power, and not being able to micromanage teams on the account of them being self-organized, gives rise to growing insecurities among  individuals from senior management.

Being transparent is a real-world problem in the Agile realm and, like any other complex problem, it is important to break it down, understand the importance, take small initiatives  and deliver value incrementally with inspection and adaptation. An example of this could be making sure that ‘Definition of Done’ exists and is shared and adhered within Scrum Team and stakeholders (while starting its implementation with basic guidelines for software development and enhancing it as the product evolves).

It’s high time we start to treat transparency as a high-priority component and measure its success continually so that we can learn and adapt if and when we hit roadblocks. This will lend strength to the empirical pillars and further help to deliver high quality working software.

Featured Image by Startup Stock Photos

Posted by guavus