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And so this is Christmas?

I do like Christmas. I like the decoration, the presents, the tree, the Christmas markets in all the different cities, meeting and feasting with family and friends, snow and people going nuts to find the right presents for their loved ones. But there is one thing I cannot stand. Honestly, I do not like to sing Christmas carols. I loathe it. I am not good at it and believe me – you wouldn’t want to hear me sing.

One could say that this is all Christmas is about: Thinking of the birth of Jesus, singing some carols, celebrating with friends. Is it less of Christmas, because I do not go to church? Would it stop being the „Fest der Liebe“ if we did not have a Christmas tree? What about the people who stopped exchanging gifts for Christmas? And is it less of a reason to celebrate because I do not sing? When does it stop to be Christmas? What is absolutely necessary in order to be allowed to call it so and what is optional? Who decides? And what happens if we ignore the decision and still have the opinion, that it feels like Christmas?

I recently had a discussion on how to help one of our customers. Everyone who regularly deals with Scrum knows that it is most powerful when the roles, meetings and artifacts are used together. The overall framework is thought-out, proven and tested. Planning without reviewing doesn’t make much sense. We know that people should have a kind of understanding for the big picture and for the work items which are coming up next, because that gives a better understanding and more confidence, even if plans are a-changin’. It makes sense to meet in short intervals to check whether the initial plans still are valid. And it is sensible to reflect from time to time to see whether there is something that can be improved.

However, I see that companies often cannot digest so big a change at once. In these situations I would rather take baby steps in the direction of a complete Scrum implementation. I propose to look out for the most pressing issue at the moment and see which meeting, role or artifact might be most useful. „But that ain’t Scrum if we only have Dailys and Planning meetings“ one may say. Really? Is it only Scrum if we have all the roles, meetings and artifacts in place and working? Or is it ‚almost, but not quite, entirely unlike Scrum‘? Isn’t it more about the general spirit and mindset, which really counts? Who decides? Scrum.org? Jeff Sutherland? Boris Gloger?

In fact I don’t really care. I don’t see myself as being ordered to introduce Scrum but to help companies – to help people – find a solution for their business problems. The essence of a transformation is never the introduction of a new method but working on the beliefs and inner attitudes of the employees – which, by the way, includes managers. If meeting with the team on a daily basis helps, let’s go for it. If dancing with a hula skirt in front of the team and stakeholders every other day is useful, I’ll do it (you got to pay me some extra plus pay for the hula skirt, though). This is the equivalent to buying a Christmas tree if it helps getting in the right mood. Two weeks later people might lust for some cookies.

Nevertheless, I have a clear picture in mind on what a fully fledged Scrum implementation looks like so that I can always decide which is the next sensible step when being confronted with a new problem. I have a vision of where I want my customers to be some time in the future. Is one of the current meetings not as good as it could be? Is there room for improvement for some of the roles? Do we need something completely new? Or – even better – is there something which can be taken away to improve things?

In other words, I have a opinion and some experience of what Christmas should be. Therefore I can decide whether it makes sense to go for some decoration or head for eggnog. You might disagree with my idea of Christmas. You might prefer Santa Claus over the Christkind but that is something I can cope with and we can discuss. However, this doesn’t change my view on my perfect Christmas party.

The most pressing issue of our customer at that time was that the project team had too much to do at once. They were missing focus. New problems, tasks, orders kept dripping in and no one took the time to check whether the team was working on the most important issues. So what we proposed as next sensible step was to start prioritize rigorously in regular short-cycled planning meetings with a reasonable planning horizon to cope with the missing focus and the ever changing tasks to be done.

Is it Scrum? Or just „a“ way of being more agile? I don’t care, it helped. And although I won’t be singing in front of our decorated tree I am sure that I will have a wonderful Christmas holiday.