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3 Fundamental Pillars of Scrum: Transparency, Inspection, Adaptation

05 Jun 2020

Scrum is rooted in an empirical approach to delivering value. 

Instead of clunky plans, it puts an analytical mindset, scrutiny of reality, and cultural shifts front and center. We’ve all heard a lot about the main roles, events, and artifacts. This matrix is essential, but we can’t afford to overlook three main pillars this framework rests on. 

We’re talking about the three pillars of Scrum, the consolidative principles of transparency, inspection, and adaptation. Their synergy is nothing short of a transformative force that can help you become a true Agile champion. 

You can use it to refine your practices and processes and gain a strong sense of direction and purpose. This is a chance to master the Scrum methodology and make strides toward your goals.

So, without further ado, let’s inspect what the three pillars are made of.  

Pillar 1: Transparency

Transparency is at the core of everything Scrum stands for. 

In a nutshell, this value manifests as an open work environment in which nobody is left in the dark. All team members, executives, and stakeholders know what is going on at any point in time. They possess easy access to information and have proper communication channels at their disposal. 

Transparency applies not only to day-to-day dealings but higher, strategic priorities as well. Open conversations and close collaboration are supposed to unite people around common goals and vision.  

On the level of teams, Scrum events are the main vehicles for fostering transparency. Across teams, one can do the same with Demos, sound project management, and good leadership. On the development end, Daily Scrums and Retrospectives serve as key events.

All these elements are geared toward boosting the self-organizing capacities of teams and facilitating informed decision-making. 

Of course, this kind of people-first setting needs solid foundations in the form of trust. Everyone has to be comfortable sharing both good and bad news. Ideally, there are no hidden agendas and bottled-up frustrations. 

Therefore, do away with any silos and clogs in the communication pipelines. If you don’t do that, you’ll have trouble setting up the next pillar. 

Pillar 2: Inspection

Inspection requires Scrum practitioners to constantly examine the work as they go about it. 

External inspectors and auditors don’t exist. Hence, rigorous inspection is the responsibility that development and production team members share. And it encompasses all core components of Scrum: people, processes, improvements, practices, products, etc. 

For instance, it’s common for teams to showcase product increments at the end of each Sprint. The goal is to gather customer feedback and use it to better the solution moving forward. 

Any change of requirements is embraced and seen as an opportunity, not a hurdle. Members keep in close touch with customers to clarify new demands and initiate testing of the hypothesis accordingly. 

These processes hold the key to eliminating any issues and impediments as they emerge. They are also a way to either confirm you’re building the right thing or pivot if that’s not the case.

Just remember inspection calls for the right mindset and attitude. You have to be critical without being judgmental and pointing fingers. In other words, constructive criticism is the way to go. 

This rule just goes to show that inspection can be a tough balancing act, which doesn’t come naturally to many people. 

Pillar 3: Adaption

Adaption is the ability to continuously improve through learning and change.

When it comes to learning, inspection results are the main resource deposit. 

The chief objective is to be better today than you were yesterday. What exactly better means for you depends on a variety of factors, including your reasons for doing business and going Agile in the first place. 

Profit-oriented companies tend to give priority to enhancing the bottom line through faster time to market and higher ROI. Others are more preoccupied with “immaterial” metrics— maximizing user satisfaction, software quality, and brand awareness. 

Whatever the case is, never lose sight of the big picture. 

Also, make sure you have the proper tools to empower teams to change the way they work. Encourage them to experiment with new solutions and tackle problems with a dash of creativity. 

Likewise, remember that Scrum accounts for the likelihood of failing. In fact, teams are expected to fail quickly and often. The point here is to unveil issues as soon as possible and push through decisively. You can also carry out shift tactical direction without undermining or derailing projects.

On top of all this, it’s necessary to do one more thing: recognize areas where you’re crushing it and build on that success.    

Bringing it All Together 

It’s imperative to realize three Scrum pillars are interconnected. 

For example, it’s very difficult to inspect something that isn’t visible (transparent). In other cases where transparency is lacking, people may shy away from the ugly truth they uncovered. And without transparency and inspection, constant improvement and change remain elusive goals. 

These are just some illustrations of why uniting three pillars has to be your primary concern. It’s a matter of being a smooth Scrum operator and gaining an edge in the competitive market. 

On the other hand, building just one or two pillars properly compromises your capacity to demolish impediments and weakens your organization from within. So, if you really mean business, ditch all excuses and avoid cutting corners. 

You have only two options: to shape up or ship out. The choice is entirely yours. 

Executing the Trinity Project 

To hammer the main point home, we want to reiterate the importance of relying on all three pillars at the same time.

The alternative is facing the risk of seeing your whole Scrum building falling down like the house of cards.  Thus, get everyone on the same page and embark on a journey of ongoing learning and fine-tuning. 

Critically review all work and identify areas where you can step up. Promote the utmost transparency across all channels and processes. Add the right tools to your arsenal to reinforce Scrum values and practices. 

Following these tactics, you should be able to master incremental delivery and delight your customers. It’s time to summon the Scrum holy trinity to your aid!