We’re already in our sixth week of using scrum in the Marketing Zone here at Far Reach. Man, time flies!
For a recap of why we decided to use scrum with our marketing team and how we got started, see the first post in this series.
Setting the Stage
One of the key things we did in our first planning meeting was to outline a working agreement. A working agreement is really just a list of expectations the members of the team have for how they will work together effectively.
Our working agreement looks like this:
- Update the board daily in standups (at a minimum)
- The person who is most directly affected will prioritize unexpected things that come up during a sprint
- Every task on the board will be estimated using the following point scale:
- 1 point = 1/2 hour or less
- 2 points = 1 - 2 hours
- 4 points = 1/2 day
- 8 points = 1 day
- If a task will take more than one day, break it down into smaller tasks
- Meet deadlines
- Provide constructive feedback
- Ask for help when you’re stuck
We keep the agreement posted on our scrum board and at our desks, so we’re reminded of the expectations frequently. Going forward we may tweak it based on experience and considering what’s working well and what’s not.
Results So Far
The move to scrum is paying off for us already. In the last 6 weeks, I feel like the team has grown closer and is working together better than ever. We’ve definitely seen an increase in transparency within the Marketing Zone, too, and things are getting done. Cards—lots of them—are moving to “done” everyday.
In addition, it's helped those on the team who also work on software projects better prioritize their work overall. They’re more in control of their work queues instead of being at the mercy of a project manager or resource planner telling them what to do and when. This kind of control over our work contributes a lot to our overall satisfaction and productivity, I think.
Related to this, though, we’ve learned that we need to look past the current marketing sprint (we currently do one-week sprints) so we know how much project availability we'll have in the next one. This is important because most of our software projects run two-week sprints. We need to be able to look ahead at the marketing work and understand how to prioritize things beyond just one sprint.
The Marketing Zone Scrum Board
We’ve also made some small tweaks to how we use the physical scrum board. We’ve found that using a different color sticky note for each person on the team makes it easier to distinguish tasks. If more than one person works on a task, the primary person responsible uses their sticky note color and the other person adds their initials to the note.
We place a small sticker on the note to indicate tasks that were added after the sprint started so if we don’t meet our original sprint commitment, we can more easily tell why. It’s extremely common for tasks we didn’t anticipate to pop up on any given day, so we just expect the unexpected and roll with it as best we can.
There’s Still Work to Be Done
This is all really, really good stuff, however, there are some goals toward which we’re not seeing quite as much progress. Specifically, we have some work to do to increase transparency outside the team. We’re still hearing comments like, “It seems like you guys should have some availability. Why can’t you do this thing for me now?"
We’ve learned that, as big as this change has been for us, it affects others, too. Those outside the Marketing Zone aren’t yet used to our new process and what it means for them. We set our priorities each week in sprint planning and, while we do try to be as accommodating as we can, we prefer not to add tasks to sprints once they’ve started if we can help it (this is a basic principle of scrum). The rest of the Far Reach team is still adjusting to this change.
A bit surprisingly, clients have gotten used to us saying we’ll put things in our backlog and prioritize them in the next week or two faster than our internal team has. Maybe clients understand that it benefits them, too, because when it’s their turn to be our priority, they know we’ll do everything we can to protect the time set aside for them.
We’ll continue to focus on communicating to our Far Reach teammates, and the visibility into our team from outside will no doubt improve as a result.
Stay tuned for another update from the Marketing Zone in a few weeks. In the meantime, we’d love to hear from you about how you use scrum with your team, so go ahead and reach out.