Blog: Reflect & Adapt

How do you keep improving in a world that is constantly on the move? 

‘Reflective Communication Scrum’, that is the name of the publication through which Betteke van Ruler, emeritus professor of communication science, introduced Scrum in The Netherlands.

Back then, I was scrumming a little already and the focus and productivity of Scrum made me very happy. But the reflective part didn’t really speak to me. What’s more, I didn’t really know what to do with it.

Four years, one book, many scrum trainings and agile projects later, my opinion has shifted drastically. The reflective part is actually the essence of Scrum. 

If you have heard about agile and scrum, it is usually about its short-cycled character. In short sprints – that last from 1 day to a maximum of 4 weeks – you deliver valuable stuff again and again. A paper prototype, a mock-up display or a test campaign, also called minimum viable product (MVP).

Review – Feedback on the product
This is where your reflection starts. At the end of every sprint, so after a maximum of four weeks, you present a tangible result to your client, end users and/or other stakeholders. In the review – a recurring meeting – you actively organise feedback by third parties. Not on a vague idea or plan, but preferably on something that you can see, experience, taste, feel. Something concrete that they can give feedback on that is not just cognitive but also emotional.

The review offers the project team the chance to receive input from the stakeholders from the early stages of a project. Critique: “But this is not what I meant!”, as well as positive notes: “So cool!”, and new ideas: “Then you can also …”. At the beginning it might hurt a little if your first prototype is completely written off. But early feedback enables you to immediately adjust and thus play into the wishes of the people who you do this for even better. And to adjust to changing circumstances within the organisation or in the external environment.

Retrospective – Reflect on the process
After the review follows the retrospective. The team reflects on the cooperation in the last sprint. What are we proud of? What was the biggest obstacle? If you could change one thing, what would that be? What do we not understand yet? Why do you find this important? And so on.

In classic projects we usually only evaluate at the end. Then we finally voice our frustrations and wistfully note what we could have done better. However, then we miss many chances for step by step improvements. By the time we start a new project, these lessons are often already forgotten.

By stopping and thinking about team collaboration and opportunities for improvement after every sprint, we can immediately turn these lessons into actions. As with all changes, small steps are usually easier than big ones.

The ongoing focus on reflection, for both the product as well as the process, ensures that you can adapt quickly to changing wishes and demands and that you continuously become better at what you do.

By Petra de Boer, facilitator at Perspectivity & co-author of ‘Scrum in Actie’, the book to practice scrum outside IT. 

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