Did you know that doing experiments is essential in Scrum teams?
As a team member, you want your team to be effective and valuable to your organization. Whether a team is effective or not depends on the way it works. For example, a software development team is more effective at delivering working software if the team members take time to program and test their code, than if they spend most of their time in meetings. Therefore, your team can become more effective if it improves the way it works. Moreover, if your team always keeps working the same way, it will probably become less effective over time.
Staying the same is dangerous
Why is that? If you have found the perfect workflow, you shouldn’t change it, right? If the work you do stays exactly the same, and the team’s environment remains constant as well, then, indeed, don’t change it. Some factories become very efficient by standardizing their environment and finding the optimal workflow. But many teams cannot standardize their environment.
Instead, it constantly changes: customers are changing, the customers’ wishes are changing, your team’s budget is changing, technology is changing, competition is changing, even your team members are changing. You need to adapt: for example, working with one customer may require a different communication style than working with another. If you find the perfect way of working, chances are that it will no longer be optimal in a few weeks’ time, because the world outside will be different. So we see that the more a team’s environment changes, the more often it needs to adapt its way of working.
Why adapting is hard
Improving is easier said than done – despite all the Scrum and Lean and Kanban guide books, we don’t exactly know what the optimal way of working is in a particular situation. Our world is not only changing, but also only partially observable. If we could write down everything about the world in a mathematical formula, we might be able to calculate the optimal way of working; but we don’t know everything about the world. Moreover, if your team starts working differently, its environment might also change in response. For example, if you start declining half of your meetings, your colleagues might respond by coming to your desk to ask questions that they would otherwise have asked in those meetings. We therefore do not know for sure what the optimal way of working is.
So on the one hand, we need to regularly improve, but on the other hand, we are unable to know for sure how we should improve. Here is how to solve this: do experiments! Even though we are not completely sure which improvement would be the best, we usually have some idea. Good teams with changing environments regularly experiment to optimize their way of working. They examine their environment and consider how it changes; they come up with possible changes and pick the ones that look the most promising. They try them out for a while and then evaluate.
The takeaway: it is important for teams to improve their way of working. If they do not, they become less effective over time when the world around them changes. We do not know the best way of working for all situations; so instead of calculating the ideal approach, we do experiments. Experimenting is essential for teams to remain relevant in a changing, partially observable world.