Archive for November, 2009

Using Agile and Scrum to Manage Philanthropy

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

Most businesses struggle with creating a framework of organic innovation inside the company as they grow. Once companies get to a certain point, they have a difficult time continuing to develop interesting and innovative products for their customers.

About one year ago, Total Attorneys decided to return to its agile beginnings. At first, we broke into small, cross-functional teams. After a few months of this, it became clear that we would need a common framework to make our agile methods effective. The decision was made to adopt Scrum inside Total Attorneys.

Scrum is a methodology of breaking large projects down into smaller tasks with the purpose decentralizing decision making, understanding your velocity and promoting self-organization. Traditionally, it is used in the software industry, but we have also applied it to all areas of the company, including our accounting, legal, and recruitment departments. Employees went through extensive training to learn the methodology.

One of the most interesting applications of Scrum that I’ve seen within Total Attorneys came from a philanthropic effort. We are partnering with Purse of Hope to fund a house in Uganda that will shelter and give aid to women caught in the human sex trafficking industry. The house provides the women with counseling, educational, vocational, and other resources to change the course of their lives. Women’s rights is definitely the cause of our century.

A major benefit of scrum is that it is a decentralized process, and allows people to be innovative and take ownership of what they are working on. So, not long after I announced our partnership with Purse of Hope at the last Total Attorneys all-company meeting, I was happy to see that people had begun to work on the the project organically, and that they had already begun to self-organize. I was walking down the hallway and noticed that a Scrum board for the project had been created, complete with the Story, Task, In Progress, and Done categories.

When you walk through Total Attorneys, you will see many of these Scrum boards all over our walls. It was only natural that people would use Scrum for the Total Impact House because it’s the common framework to get things done here. You can always walk around and see where everyone is at with their projects.

Creating a common framework in which everyone can work is an effective tool to increase productivity. People are able to work together at the drop of a hat. Look into Scrum or other agile methodologies and see if they would be effective at your organization.