Business is tough. Every day you have to do more with less. Less time, money, and manpower are all standard operating procedure now. What you do have more of are pressures, deadlines, and demanding projects.
If you own or work for a small architecture, engineering, or design firm, you can certainly relate. What might shock you is I’m not talking about you. I’m talking about the software-development world.
If you are asking yourself, “What does the software-development world have to do with my architecture firm?” The answer is easy: nothing. That is the problem. Today we are going to learn about a project-management process used in the software-development world called the Scrum methodology and why you should adopt it into your management style.
Scrum is an iterative project-management framework that is built around a principle of small teams working in short bursts to accomplish large projects. To achieve this there are three prime building blocks:
1. The Work Backlog—A complete listing of all aspects of the project, beginning with the most important and fundamental and ending with nicest of finishing touches. The Work Backlog is managed by the Scrum Master (management), and each individual item is assigned to a Task Owner (production) for execution.
2. The Daily Scrum Meeting—A brief meeting where project owners come together to relate what was done yesterday, what will be done today, and what issues have arisen since the last daily meeting.
3. The Scrum Sprint—A short period of intense work, usually two weeks to a month, in which project teams work on narrow, well-defined scopes of work to achieve very specific goals.
Mastering the art of well-timed project production can be difficult. Implementing this simplified concept of the Scrum method can have a huge impact on your business and begin showing immediate results. Because the total list of possible benefits would be too long, let’s review three major ones.
1. Accountability. Too often the failure of a project, or some phase of one, can be traced back to a lack of responsibility. The Scrum process of project management removes any ambiguity regarding which person has command, or direction, of a given aspect of the project. This clear designation is the first step necessary for leaders to emerge and fulfill the full potential of not only the project, but also themselves.
Practice It: While every endeavor requires a manager, do not overlook the need to delegate authority to others. On your next project, try designating team members to overlook specific aspects of the overall project. Once named, allow your newly empowered Task Owners to have full reign over their particular aspect of the project, and you’ll discover how many leaders you already employ.
2. Constant Understanding. Failure to meet project milestones or deadlines is often the function of a lack of understanding regarding the exact progress of the project at any given time. If the project manager (Scrum Master) does not have a clear understanding of the project’s progress, how can he or she correctly allocate resources to areas of the project requiring extra assistance? The Daily Scrum Meeting gives the project manager a clear understanding of progress at every stage of development.
Practice It: Meeting with your team to conduct a Daily Scrum Meeting should not be regarded as a troublesome, time-consuming affair. Treat your meetings with the efficiency that you wish to see in your projects by keeping them short, on point, and without any interfering topics. Soon your employees will come to regard the Daily Scrum Meeting as a place to come for resolution to obstacles impeding progress and avenues to new opportunities to advance the larger project.
3. Ready to Ship. Project deadlines are often missed because the appointed time comes, but some vital aspect of the project is incomplete. Meanwhile, other aspects of the project—perhaps considered superfluous—have long since been complete. The Scrum process resolves that issue by having the project manager create a backlog of project aspects and assigning teams to tackle the most fundamental components in parallel, then moving on to “window-dressing” features. This ensures that the project is in a state ready to be shipped in the earliest days of production.
Practice It: Instead of the traditional analog approach to developing your next project, try applying the parallel development process of Scrum. Use the Work Backlog to identify the fundamental features, and then assign multiple teams to immediately tackle those. The Scrum process will ensure that your project reaches a shippable state as quickly as possible to be ready for the UPS man on any given day.