Monday, April 27, 2015

Little Victories

A win is a win.
In the daily grind of business, you take your wins where you can get them.  This week I want to talk about one of those wins and a lesson learned in the trenches as scrum master.

Each quarter my product owner gives a presentation to the executive committee about how the business is doing and how the software development team fits into that vision.  It is dry affair filled with power point presentations and back slapping.  As I was gathering up metrics for the presentation, I noticed something peculiar.  The number or software support tickets had declined over the last fifteen months from an average of 40 tickets a month to 20.  The development team had cut the number of bugs that were in production by half in the span of a year.

I am pretty impressed with this accomplishment but it also taught me some valuable lessons.  First, change and improvement does not happen overnight.  It took numerous refactoring tasks, late nights, and admonitions to do things the right way in order to reduce the number of defects in the applications I was responsible.  Next, change requires everyone to change.  In this case, the developers, the business team, and I had to learn how to work in an agile process together.  It was not easy and everyone had to sacrifice a little of themselves to make it happen.  Finally, measuring results in a concrete fashion puts in perspective what you think might be happening.  I knew that we weren’t having as many support tickets but thanks to the metrics from the ticket system, I could quantify my hunch.

This means what has felt like a long slog for my development team and I is really the continuous improvement that business leaders always talk about.  It is not glamorous but over 15 months we have cut defects in half and are improving the products for the business.  I need to learn to be more patient with myself and others.  Small things do make a difference like asking that bugs get written up in the backlog and always asking why we do things the way we do.  It can feel like repetitive work and be very frustrating but if you keep at it there is a payoff.

Like many scrum masters and business leaders, I suffer from what is called “Impostor syndrome” that feeling that I am not good enough to do what I am doing.  What I have discovered is that I should learn to ignore that voice.  I am not an impostor.  I am a scrum master and servant leader to my team.

Finally, I realize that this improvement did not happen in a vacuum.  It took the efforts of my software development team and the hard work they put into the project.  They were the ones who wrote the code.  They were the ones who worked weekends and late nights.  They were the ones who saw me saying, “There has to be a better way,” and they found that better way.  They are the reason we had this happen.

It is not perfect by any means.  There is still a great deal of work to do but I do not feel like I am swimming against the stream as much as I did.  It is a little victory on the way to bigger victories and I will take it.

Until next time.