Lessons from Scrum for Product Development Teams

In a previous article, we explored agile product development with a focus on early product validation.

There are additional key enablers from agile/scrum that can be borrowed and applied to any product development process, however.

In this article, we’ll compare and contrast the role & responsibility for scrum masters vs. project managers/core team leaders.

Let’s start with (all) the basic scrum roles:

  • Product Manager
  • Scrum Master – enable scrum workflow key practices including self-directed, self-organized teams, goal focused, prioritized backlogs, iterative/adaptive planning, stakeholder/customer feedback, daily stand-up meetings, measured progress, retrospective process after each sprint
  • Cross-Functional Development Team

For a product development team, we’ll use a team structure from previous articles.

  • Project Approval Committee
  • Opportunity Champion
  • Core Team Leader (CTL) – leads cross-functional development team through the product development lifecycle (PLC) process
  • Project Manager – partners with the CTL and provides the discipline of project management, facilitates the PLC process
  • Cross-Functional Development Team

Let’s compare key enablers of a scrum master with enablers of a CTL/PM for a larger waterfall project:

Scrum Master (Scrum/Agile Process) CTL / PM (PLC Process)
Scrum workflow PLC process workflow
Self-directed, self-organized teams Core team and extended team members
Goal focused Focused on PLC phase gate completion
Prioritized backlogs Critical to quality characteristics and requirements
Iterative/adaptive planning Gate reviews
Stakeholder/customer feedback Requirements validation
Daily stand-up meetings Core team meetings
Measured progress Project planning, execution and monitoring
Retrospective process after each sprint Gate 6 Review (project retrospective gate)

Of course, we don’t want to claim we’re applying agile/scrum when we’re really not.  However, the scrum master role and responsibility, as well as key enablers, are similar to an effective PLC process and partnership between a core team leader and project manager.  Scrum process knowledge can therefore be a valuable addition to virtually any project or project manager skillset.