Agile to “Be” or “Do”?

If you are reading this, you already know that Scrum has three roles: Product Owner, ScrumMaster, and the Development team members. These three roles make or break Scrum, having a crucial role in delivering successful products.

These Scrum roles are often different from official job titles, meaning that the development team, for example, can be composed of testers, designers, programmers, and more.

When we think about traditional projects, the roles in Scrum could be confused with the functions of the project team.

Let’s start with the ScrumMaster role, as it often gets confused with the team’s Project Manager. Upon hearing about these two roles, one might think that they are similar because they interact a lot with the development team, have management responsibilities, know the processes very well, etc. On a more careful thought upon the ScrumMaster role, we see that they are a facilitator or mentor who empowers and motivates a team and has a certain level of technical proficiency. The Project Manager helps manage and monitor the resources, project schedule, and scope to meet business objectives to make the project successful.

Moving forward to the Product Owner role, this one can be confused with the Client’s Project Manager, as both the Client’s Project Manager and the Product Owner oversee teams who strive and work hard to bring projects across the finish line together. This means both of these roles need excellent communication and people skills. The bottom line is that they are responsible for successfully delivering the project’s outcome. The critical difference between the two revolves around their mindset when approaching a problem to be solved and a project to be delivered – the Product Owner will be more interested in delivering successful products. In contrast, the Project Manager will ensure the project’s success in terms of time and cost.

In Scrum, the Developers are the people in the team that are committed to creating any aspect of a usable increment each sprint. They plan the sprint, perform the sprint execution, inspect and adapt each day to meet the sprint goals, and continuously refine the product backlog. In Scrum, a developer can cover different job titles, which is when the confusion with the roles from traditional projects occurs. A Developer could be covering any (one or more) of the following roles: programmer, quality specialist, software tester, business analyst, UX designer, dev ops engineer, and so on. The vital aspect to remember here is that each team member must be committed to the project’s success no matter the job title.

Many organizations have embraced Agile teams and Agile ways of working, but very few describe themselves as truly Agile.

The most significant barrier to agility is the inability to embrace risk. This can be a particular issue in heavily-regulated industries, where conformity can reduce the risk appetite of leaders.

There is a big difference between “being” Agile and “doing” Agile. By adequately implementing Agile, teams can leverage increased transparency, communication, and flexibility, reducing the risks of building the wrong product and creating more substantial alignment among the organization and its customers.

Understanding the difference between these two concepts will help define what organizations can do to implement Agile.