Historians may look back on human progress and draw a sharp line designating “before Scrum” and “after Scrum.”
This is the first in a two-part series from my perspective as the former CEO and Founder of Hope Xchange Nonprofit, before I was aware of Agile and Scrum, and shares with you a sadly missed opportunity to save lives and improve mental health outcomes for a most vulnerable population, LGBTQIA youth who are at the highest risk for suicide.
The second, forthcoming article is from my perspective of a now Certified Scrum Master (CSM), and shares my vision of how nonprofit organizations (NPOs) can implement Agile/Scrum using a bottoms-up, programatic approach to demonstrate its business value (i.e., to sell it in-house and to the Board) and to truly make a dramatic difference.
A Retrospective lesson for nonprofit teams
I share this lesson as I would love nothing more than for this urgently-needed HOPE for LGBTQIA program to see the light of day. For me, there is simply nothing more important than saving lives. Nothing.
I also do so because I firmly believe that this program would already exist if we had used an Agile/Scrum rather than traditional waterfall project management approach. Not only could we have gotten the program launched (deployed in iterative increments), but also delivered a more client-centered implementation in half the time and with half the fundraising effort.
Before I dive into the why and how, for those who may be new to Agile and Scrum, let me first provide a very brief primer with a nonprofit spin for context, as well as some additional reading recommendations for those who would like to dig deeper.
Why Adopt an Agile Mindset and Scrum Framework?
Easily the most insightful and practical business book I have read this year is SCRUM: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland, co-creator of Scrum, and J.J. Sutherland. (Disclaimer: If you’re like me and like to get shit done but also have a balanced life, this is not a book you skim, but one you study. You grab a highlighter or two and, if you’re like me, you not only highlight the golden nuggets littered throughout but put exclamation points and smiley faces in the margins!)
I was intrigued by Sutherland’s proclamation that Scrum doesn’t have to be confined to for-profit businesses. It is universally applicable as it both accelerates human effort and innovates social good. This is not a heady theoretical discussion as he has seen first-hand how this lightweight framework has been used to improve some of the thorniest problems: improving our failing education system, lifting people out of poverty, revolutionizing the way government is run, delivering vaccines to endangered children and eliminating hunger.
What if there was a faster way to solve humanity’s problems that nonprofits are courageously combatting with teams often fueled primarily by compassion? Can nonprofits be more agile and more quickly adapt to today’s environment of constant change? Can we utilize Scrum to solve society’s increasingly complex problems faster, innovating social good with less fundraising effort?
The Answer is Yes.