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Introducing Scrum at P2P

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Please prepare your answers to the following questions (1.5 line spacing, maximum 4 pages) and submit your answer document to Canvas. Please also bring your answers to class for our discussion. Part A:

1. How well is Scrum working?

The case is basically a tale of two sprints. During the first sprint, Scrum guidelines were adhered to and significant progress was made on the project. The team has evolved into self organizing group and is energized. Unfortunately during the second sprint, the project deviated from Scrum guidelines and the team seems less energized and productivity has declined.

2. What are the issues confronting the Big Foot project?

Prem started off well but as soon as the project experienced trouble during the second sprint he resorted back to the traditional role of project manager as task master. Admittedly there is fine line between coaching and directing, but he needed to play a less assertive role in solving the integration problem. Here, instead of telling the team what to do, he could have poised questions that would have helped them to solve the problem themselves. This is a hard thing to do when you are under time pressure and you are confident you have the answer. He exacerbated the problem by taking control of the daily scrum away from the team. The synergy that had developed during the first sprint dissipated as team members no longer felt personally responsible for their tasks. Not only did motivation suffer, but the project likely suffered by not tapping into the collective expertise of the team.

A second major issue is Prem acquiescing to Isaac’s request to change the work on the second sprint and extending the deadline. This violates one of Scrum’s cardinal rules: no changes are introduced once the sprint backlog has been set! Prem failed in his capacity of Scrum Master to ensure that the process is adhered to. This is the primary responsibility of a Scrum Master. Still on the surface Isaac appears to have justification for making changes if his assertions that much of Sprint 2 work would otherwise be a waste of time. This reflects a dilemma when using iterative methodologies like Scrum.

On the one hand the purpose of locking in Sprint work is to provide focus and certainty so that the team can work uninterrupted on the project. On other hand, the Sprint Planning meeting is based on the best information available at that time, and what to do when contradictory information surfaces is problematic. Most Scrum advocates argue that you have to trust the process and that in the end you are better off adhering to the rules. Conversely, a case could be made that in situations such changes would be justified. Ultimately this is a judgment call, but such instances should be rare and clearly warranted.

At first glance Prem’s violation of the Scrum rule that Sprint deadlines can not be changed seems minor compared to his other transgressions. Still this can quickly become a slippery slope if it becomes the norm rather the exception. The purpose of having set Sprint times is to take time out of trade-off equation. The team focuses only what it is capable of accomplishing given its resources within the sprint time frame. This forces the team to tackle tough questions early rather than later. 3. Assume you are Kendra. What would you want to say at the retrospective? How would you say it? Kendra, as well as the other team members, is likely to want to call Prem out for violating the Scrum guidelines. She has tasted the benefits of Scrum and that taste is quickly vanishing after the second scrum. In particular, she is likely to want to talk about Prem’s transformation from Scrum Master to Task Master.

The problem is how to raise this issue in a constructive manner. Prem is likely to act defensive if his shortcomings are pointed out. This is a delicate matter with no easy solution. One strategy would be to talk to Prem about the Scrum inconsistencies before the meeting so as to avoid a public spectacle. This would give him the opportunity to save face by taking the lead in returning the project back to Scrum principles. If this doesn’t occur, Kendra needs to be careful to focus on the consequences of Prem’s behavior and not attack Prem for failing to perform his role as Scrum Master. Here, she could confess that she does not feel the same level of commitment when she is assigned a task instead of volunteering to do a task.

4. What improvements or changes need to be made?
In theory, Prem should restore the methods used during the first sprint. He needs to relinquish his role as task master and manage just the process. He needs to reaffirm the rules that sprint deadlines can not be extended or the goals changed once the sprint has started. He needs to work at being a coach to the team instead of a supervisor

Part B:
1. How would you assess P2P’s efforts at introducing Scrum?

P2P should receive a failing grade in its effort to introduce Scrum on IT projects. By the end of the project all of the roles have been violated and the only gain is that the project is being done in increments with the opportunity for feedback and adjustments after each sprint. This is a significant improvement over the traditional waterfall method, but the emerging synergy within the team has been lost.

2. What challenges does an organization face when adopting an agile approach like Scrum?

The chief challenge is a culture one. For example, project managers are trained to develop and manage project plans. They are not accustomed to letting the project team manage themselves. It is not surprising that Prem assumed the role of task master since that is the traditional role of a project manager.

A second related challenge is getting everyone to trust the process. Participants have to believe that in the long run the project will be better off if deadlines are not extended, changes are not introduced until after the sprint, and teams are given the freedom to manage themselves.

3. What could P2P have done to enhance success?

P2P was naĂŻve to assume that by simply sending a project team to a two day workshop would produce lasting change in behavior. It takes time to learn new ways of doing things. This is especially true when the behavior represents a radical departure, like Scrum, from how projects were completed in the past. People have a natural tendency to resort back to their old ways when encountering problems. Many organizations have found success in assigning Scrum experts as coaches to novice Scrum masters. While expensive, having an expert available to steer the Scrum master in the right direction can be critical to success.

In the P2P case, such a coach could have worked with Prem on being more of a facilitator rather than task master during the critical Integration episode. One could also argue that P2P tried to do too much all at once. Instead of trying to institute the complete Scrum methodology, segments of Scrum could be introduced over time. For example, the concept of sprints could be introduced first, followed by the introduction of the daily scrum meetings, and so forth.

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