Agility in the system is necessary for Scrum Masters and teams to respond effectively to external influences and reorganize quickly. However, there is a missing piece of the puzzle for teams relying on scrum project management to adopt agility in their projects.
That piece is OKR (Objectives and Key Results), which improves transparency and effective communication in a scrum lifecycle. Where scrum is about operational goals, OKR offers results-based goal setting. But both OKR and scrum can work in tandem to lay down a robust foundation for agile project management.
Scrum is an agile methodology used by companies to organize and manage complex projects. It emphasizes teamwork and iterative progression toward a well-defined goal.
What are the 4 scrum phases?
The scrum methodology or the scrum lifecycle provides a structure to follow while working on a project. There are five stages in the scrum lifecycle, with an entire project lasting 11-12 weeks.
As a general rule, a project is divided into short iterations called sprints. These iterations usually last for 1-4 weeks, led by a Scrum Master, and each one starts the moment the previous one ends.
The sprints can help your team work efficiently and produce a ready-to-use product. A scrum lifecycle is also known as a continuous development process, enabling you to improve or change the initial process in the future.
Here are the scrum methodology steps:
In the scrum lifecycle, the initiation phase is depicted as the visionary stage. It is when you create a vision statement to serve as an inspiration for the entire project. This phase involves identifying the Product Owner, Stakeholders, and the role of the Scrum Master.
The Product Owner and the Scrum Master select the Scrum team where then a wish list for priority tasks are created in a project (backlog). Group meetings time-boxed into 15 minutes may be held daily to discuss the “epic” (the entire project).
The sprint length is also determined in the initiation phase. This stage is crucial as it brings everyone on the same page.
2. Planning and estimating
During this phase, you create plans and estimates for your sprint. “User stories” (the smallest work unit in the scrum lifecycle) will be created and incorporated into the product backlog.
With support from the leaders, your Scrum team determines the resources needed to develop the functionality defined in each user story. Further on, they will commit to delivering user stories and sprint backlogs. The user stories will be broken down into tasks and compiled into a task list.
Next, you and your team will estimate the effort required to accomplish each task and update the sprint backlog with further details about the tasks.
During the course of the sprint, this will provide clear expectations for all team members. Your team can repeat this process until the project is complete.
This phase involves the implementation of sprints as you and your team planned. During this step, your team will work on the tasks in the sprint backlog to provide sprint deliverables.
Furthermore, you’ll update prioritized product backlogs, remove jobs as your team completes them, and assign new items when needed from the backlog.
Consider conducting daily standup meetings for your Scrum team to get project progress updates and review concepts and work plans. During this meeting, you can encourage your team to ask queries and submit requests or notes that can be valuable to other members.
Like the second phase, you can also repeat the implementation process until your project is complete.
This phase concerns reviewing or testing the sprint deliverables led by the Product Owner and relevant Stakeholders. This provides an opportunity for the Scrum team to learn what went well and where improvements are needed in the sprint.
The real purpose of reviewing is to get approval for sprint user stories from the Product Owner. A review meeting allows the Scrum team to analyze whether the completed sprint is capable of being implemented into a larger project.
This will also help you identify which completed tasks you need to remove from the backlog or add back. Repeat this process if additional work is required.
5. Release and retrospective planning
The last phase involves delivering the product to the respective Stakeholders/clients or releasing it in the market.
After the release, a retrospective planning meeting with the Scrum team will help analyze the performance of individual sprints and the overall project. Analyzing issues will help identify what to avoid and what to aim for in future scrums.
Adopt retrospective meeting best practices from an OKR coach, see how the Scrum retro aligns with the OKR retro.
Benefits of scrum/agile methodologies
Scrum can be a powerful methodology to bring agility across an organization if applied correctly. Here are the benefits of scrum methodologies:
Better focus on priorities
The backlog system in the scrum lifecycle allows you to assign different priorities to different project elements. This will help you focus your efforts and resources on more critical tasks and ensure your team completes them as intended.
Opportunities for open communication
The scrum methodology offers an open line of communication with the senior members of the Scrum team. This helps the team to seek help from their peers when needed to effectively complete their tasks on schedule and within the established budget.
Ability to make quick adjustments
The scrum methodology includes multiple performance analyses and review elements that allow for quick adjustments. This can help you identify where changes are needed and put those changes into effect for the project.
Now: read the benefits of OKRs
25 ways OKRs can help improve scrum phases
There are many ways agile OKRs can help the Scrum Master and team during the scrum phases. Objectives align with an organization’s vision; Key Results identify what efforts are needed to accomplish Objectives. At the same time, scrum manages the actions weekly to achieve Key Results.
Below are the examples of OKRs improving focus and transparency in scrum phases:
OKRs in the initiation phase
- OKRs can be set up in the scrum lifecycle to define Key Results whose outcome will bring the team closer to achieving goals.
- Including OKRs in scrum gives a clear sense of purpose to the teams. The Key Results align with sprint goals throughout the quarter so the team will feel more connected with the organization’s vision.
- Linking OKR goals with scrum goals allows for mutual benefits of both frameworks. Such as the short-term operational goals of scrum and the medium-term strategic goals of OKRs.
- Each Scrum team can agree to set granular Key Results that define a way to measure success.
- Sprint goals are linked to the OKRs in the form of Initiatives linked to the Key Results they pay into.
OKRs in the planning and estimating phase
- In sprint planning, the Scrum team looks at their Key Results and prioritizes the actions from the project backlog, which, if taken in the sprint, will help the team get closer to achieving Key Results.
- OKR simplifies the product backlogs in the scrum, with no need to build and manage them. Just set OKRs and use them as a user story generator.
- If unable to complete user stories for one sprint, you can put them in the product backlog for the next sprint.
- The sprint review meeting offers an excellent chance for teams to update the progress, evaluate whether their effort brought the desired outcome, and estimate how closer they are to achieving their Key Results.
- As OKRs focus on outcomes, they help the Scrum Master to focus on what should be prioritized.
OKRs in the implementation phase
- Few rules in the scrum lifecycle increase internal bureaucracy. Waiting for approvals from the above hierarchy limits the teams below from acting effectively. But including OKRs allows for more autonomy and self-organization.
- OKRs bring transparency and alignment between the Scrum teams. So, they can clearly understand the work they are doing is bringing value to the overall goals.
- With OKRs, the Scrum Master can help the Product Owner convey to the Scrum team the impact, outcomes, and measure of success.
- The Product Owner can present quarterly OKRs to the team and brainstorm ideas for achieving the goals. This will encourage the team to take ownership of the work and understand the added value of the goals.
- OKRs assist the Scrum Master in making informed economic decisions regarding where the Product Owner should focus their efforts and prioritize their activities.
OKRs in reviewing/testing phase
- The scrum plans check-ins for two-week sprint cycles, while OKRs offers weekly check-ins to discuss Key Results and their progress. This helps acknowledge the progress made to achieve Key Results and reorganize priorities from one sprint to the next.
- Weekly check-ins also make it possible to react quickly to external influences so organizations can realign priorities rapidly.
- The focus is more on the Key Results, enabling the team not to lose sight of the overall goals. If the tasks from the sprint are completed, but no Key Results update is made, the team can easily adjust its work. Thus, OKR contributes to more agility in the scrum lifecycle.
- OKR weekly check-ins also increase communication between teams and departments and shorten feedback paths.
- OKRs give decision-making power to the Scrum team. So, they can actively set goals and decide on which features need to be delivered to achieve Key Results criteria.
OKRs in the release phase
- While scrum promotes operational efficiency, OKR aligns collaborative efforts along the vertical chain of hierarchy.
- The Scrum Master’s job is to help stakeholders understand the process followed by scrum teams to achieve the intended outcomes laid out by stakeholders. In this respect, the outlined OKRs can translate to the organization what scrum teams are doing to achieve the organizational goals.
- If Scrum Masters help the teams to develop their OKRs, it enables them to convey it to the whole organization concisely and collaboratively.
- With OKRs, the Scrum teams don’t have to wait for approvals and can respond directly to new developments in the market.
- The focus of the OKR goals is on what is most important. This helps companies to set up communication channels and feedback with the customers, allowing them to be more agile to the outside world.
Differing fundamentally but sharing the same principles, both OKR and scrum brings agility for leaders and teams in managing their projects. For those seeking to add value to their project goals, Weekdone, a leading OKR software, can provide a clear perspective.
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