Scrum in HR consulting

  • François Bruneau

Faced with complex problems, how can one evolve from the role of "doctor" to that of "facilitator"? The practice of Agility brings answers, as this testimonial shows.

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Eric Druliolle is co-founder of Umanize, a 4-person company that supports organizations in the field of health at work, by helping to implement best practices, processes, and by providing consulting. After having personally accompanied Eric in the adoption of Scrum, I have the pleasure to collect the testimonial of his journey with Agility.

First contact with Agility

What was your first contact with Agile?

It was 5 years ago. I was looking for a way to do my work as a training consultant differently. Until then, I was doing it in the "doctor" mode, who has the medicine, the solutions, the products, who gives his prescription and leaves. I had been doing this for 10 years and I found that it was not optimal in terms of adherence and results. Then, through someone in my network, I heard about Scrum and Agility.

How did this speak to you?

I found in the Agile approach an echo of my belief that, when asked, people have solutions and good ideas. You just have to listen! A large part of the desired improvement emerges from individuals, as well as from group reflection, which brings the complement. This corresponded to what I was trying to do, i.e. no longer pretending to have "the" solution.

In short, what do you call Agility?

It's the fact of defining a solution in a co-constructive mode, which is not necessarily ideal or definitive, but which is implemented rapidly, giving ourselves the possibility of improving it as we go along.

How long did it take you to integrate Agile into your work?

Very little time. I tested it with the first client I worked with as a freelancer. I was looking to build my services on an innovative approach. We started from a blank page and we co-wrote in "workshop" mode. I was challenged by the impact of the result and the reception of the participants. But I hadn't modeled it, I was doing co-construction without the structure. I was putting people in a room, with an objective and the motto "Let's do it together!".

So the notion of experimentation is at the heart of the approach?

Yes, the idea is: we design, we experiment, and we evaluate, we develop and so on. It's continuous improvement in a co-constructive mode.
What was extremely new for me and for my clients was to see that the more people are involved, the more support and results you will get.

Introduction to Scrum

Why did you come to take the Scrum Master certification?

I decided to go further in the knowledge of the methodology and to "professionalize" myself. I wanted to become a specialist and not stay at a superficial level.
I followed two days of online training with scrum.org and then I took the test.

Following your certification, what were the challenges?

To implement it in a strict way. I realized that what I was doing was very far from the Scrum framework. I was faithful to the principles of iterative work and continuous improvement, but I was not implementing the events, roles and artifacts of Scrum.

How has Scrum itself provided value as a framework?

It was instrumental. As a first step towards Daily Scrum, we set up Weeklies, and that changed everything. Today it's running, and nobody thinks of discussing this practice, because it has allowed us to solve problems and find solutions. It's so obvious that it's useful that no one thinks that we used to do it differently.
Doing it every week (something that seemed very constraining and time-consuming) saves a lot of time, because we can address concerns, questions and problems very fast. We immediately put in place a solution and then we move forward! Otherwise, there are things that we would never have seen, at least not as quickly.

The other very important thing was the Sprint Review. It was a new practice, which proved to be so relevant that it is now part of the standard process. You come out of the review with additional things to address, and with feedback from the customer. It speeds up the building of trust with the customer.

Also, the Retrospective with the team was a key element, as there were collaboration concerns to be addressed. We were living fine without it, but doing it was life changing! And also the client was happy to be included, when asked the question "what do you think of the collaboration?". We pointed out the problems, what was not ideal, and how to improve.

It is Scrum, because of its structure, that led me to do the Sprint Retro. It allows you to be in front of the problems, instead of behind them, and sometimes even ignoring them - that's when you live dangerously! The points brought in retro were things we couldn't see. We were walking on a minefield, and team members had to express themselves to bring out the areas of improvement. People were happy that there was a session to do this. The fact that we announced that we would do this regularly was very well received.

I had never seen this kind of inspection and adaptation triggered by a methodology. Meeting because there is a problem and talking about it, yes, but doing it proactively at regular intervals is what Scrum brings. It allows you to be ahead of the wave.

What was the added value for you to be accompanied by an experienced Scrum Master from Liip?

It was decisive. Between the training (which is excellent and demanding) and the real environment, there is such a "gap" that I needed to clarify whether I was going in the right direction when I made certain deviations. I also needed recommendations on how to do better, suggestions on how to deal with this or that issue, and tools (both digital and "social" technologies in terms of facilitation).

When I finished my training, I was on my own. At that point, having one-on-one coaching was invaluable. It wasn't just about reminding me of the theory, but about what you do in real life, always making that connection between the principles and how to implement them.

Allowing me to make adjustments while staying on course, that's what I found beneficial.

So, is Agile here to stay at Umanize?

Of course it is. With the objective of intensifying the use of the Scrum method.


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