Scrum in a consulting fishbowl

I guess all agile ceremonies like stand ups, backlog grooming, sprint planning, etc. are held in a kind of fishbowl: you’ve got the pigs figuring out what to do and the chickens and hens fussing around the edges. (Yes, I know this is no longer the right vernacular.)

But when you’re leading a consultant team with a client’s agile process the stakes are a little higher, and the temptation to appear competent threatens to corrupt the agile process. I’ve seen it a lot lately: the scrum teams on other teams appear magically coordinated, the burn down rates too perfect. Yet, they fail to land stories. That blows their trust and credibility.

My bottom line is trust: put simply, the basis of all relationships is making promises and delivering on those promises — large or miniscule. And I’m pretty sure my clients almost always know I’m sweating before I notice it. So (within limits), I think it’s usually a good idea to go ahead and expose your clients to the nitty gritty inner workings of your team by inviting them to your standups, grooming sessions, sprint plannings, etc.

I’m not afraid of exposing my clients to my team’s weaknesses, as long as I can show them the team’s strengths in the process. Put differently, I think most sophisticated enterprise clients know nothing is perfect, they want a sense of the weaknesses, and they deeply appreciate the transparency.

Of course, if the strengths can’t offset the weaknesses, then it’s just a matter of time before your client uncovers it. It probably just means your team is out of its league. And the longer it takes for the client to discover that fact, the bigger the hit on your professional credibility, not to mention your employer’s.

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