The Increment: The #1 most important thing you’re missing about Scrum

One of the most common problems we see when teams and companies are using Scrum is that they don’t get the results they’re looking for and have no visibility into progress. In my experience this comes from one thing and one thing alone. They are not producing usable increments each and every Sprint.

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There are a few reasons why people might use Scrum and not produce an increment. Here are a few of the most common reasons:

Why some are not building an Increment

They don’t understand the importance of the Increment. 

The increment is crucial because it represents a concrete step towards achieving the Product Goal. It’s a usable solution that meets the Sprint Goal. It is a working new version of your product which delivers value to stakeholders and mitigates the risk of developing the wrong thing. It’s an official artifact in Scrum and defined by the Scrum Guide. 

They don’t have the right methods in place to produce an Increment.

Sometimes Scrum teams just don’t know what’s happening until it’s too late. Scrum requires a certain level of discipline in order to be successful including attending Daily Scrums each and every day. Teams need to communicate often and have the right tools and processes in place to track their progress, manage their work, and produce an increment at the end of each Sprint.

They don’t have the right culture or environment. 

Scrum is a collaborative product development framework that requires a high level of trust between the team members. Teams also need to have a culture of continuous improvement and learning in order to be successful with Scrum. Companies that make collaboration difficult will find it also difficult to produce Increments.

They don’t have the right leadership. 

The Scrum team requires strong leadership from the Scrum Master. Without authority to force others, the Scrum master must teach, coach and influence others on how to consistently produce Increments, why they are so important, and why they are expected each and every Sprint. Without the expectation to produce an Increment and a way to consistently do it, Scrum teams will often fail to do so.

If you are using Scrum and not producing an increment, it is important to identify the root cause of the problem. Once you have identified the problem, you can take steps to address it. This may involve providing training to the team, implementing new tools or processes, or changing the culture or environment.

Why is the Increment important?

New product development is a complex activity with many more unknowns than known. You often don’t know what the customer wants. You don’t know the precise requirements to satisfy them because you’re not completely sure what they need. Often the way to build the solution is subjective and has many possible paths. If you’re in this situation, building a large solution that you don’t deliver for months or even years can be very expensive and highly risky. This is where the Increment in Scrum can help.

The increment is important in Scrum because it represents a concrete step towards achieving the Product Goal and one that is created in a month or less. It is a new version of your product that can be used by stakeholders. It helps to mitigate risk. It helps deliver value to your stakeholders. And at a minimum it can provide feedback and insights about what to do next. The increment is the best way to measure progress on a Scrum team and ensure that the team is on track to deliver on larger business objectives.

Benefits of creating an Increment:

Increased transparency: 

The increment provides transparency into the work that is being done and the progress that is being made. This allows stakeholders to see what the team is working on and to provide feedback early and often.

Improved collaboration: 

The increment helps increase collaboration between the Scrum Team and the stakeholders. By working together to create a working product, the team and the stakeholders build trust.

Reduced risk: 

The increment helps to reduce risk by providing a way to test the product early and often. This allows the team to identify and address any problems before they become major issues. Moreover, if the developers are building the wrong thing,  you decrease the costs of building the wrong thing by getting feedback every Sprint.

Increased customer satisfaction: 

The increment helps to increase customer satisfaction by providing a valuable and usable solution every Sprint. If you release every increment you’ll have happy customers using your new solutions immediately and providing even more feedback regarding likes and dislikes which can also help to improve the product.

Overall, the increment is an important part of Scrum because it provides a way to measure progress, increase transparency, improve collaboration, reduce risk, and increase customer satisfaction.

What to know about the Increment:

The increment must be usable. 

This means that it must be able to be used by the stakeholders to perform the work that it is intended to do. Unfinished work brings risk and uncertainty. Unfinished work also just spends money without anything to show for it.

The increment must meet the Definition of Done. 

The Definition of Done is a set of criteria that the increment must meet in order to be considered complete and usable. To meet your Definition of Done means there is no more work to be done on that solution before it could be delivered to stakeholders.

The increment is additive to all previous increments. 

This means that it must be built on top of the previous increments and must work together with them. Again, think of it as the new version of your product.

The increment must be thoroughly verified. 

This means that it must be tested to ensure that it works correctly and that it meets the requirements of the stakeholders. The types of testing will vary depending on your domain and use of Scrum.

By following these guidelines, the Scrum Team can create a working product that is valuable to the stakeholders.

Tips to produce an increment every Sprint

Start with a clear Sprint Goal.

The Sprint Goal is a short-term objective that the team will commit to achieving and actually achieve during the Sprint. It is important to have a clear Sprint Goal so that the team can focus their efforts and produce an increment that is aligned with the Product Goal. A good Sprint Goal will help a team work together on a common objective and make appropriate tradeoffs with a focused target in mind.

Create a Sprint Backlog that is manageable. 

The Sprint Backlog is a list of all the work that the team plans to do to complete the Sprint Goal within the Sprint. It is important to create a Sprint Backlog that is manageable so that the team can complete the necessary work within the Sprint and accomplish the goal.

Track your progress throughout the Sprint. 

It is important to track your progress throughout the Sprint so that you can identify any potential problems early on. This will help you to ensure that you are on track to meet the Sprint Goal and produce an increment. Burndown charts and Kanban-like visualizations can help the developers create more transparency making it easier to produce Increments.

Get feedback from stakeholders early and often. 

Stakeholders can provide valuable feedback that can help you to improve the increment. It is important to get feedback from stakeholders early and often so that you can make changes to the increment as needed. This is where Sprint Reviews come in. A Sprint Review must happen each and every Sprint which includes the Scrum Team and Stakeholders. In this review the Increment is inspected and the Product Backlog is adapted based on their feedback.

Celebrate your successes. 

It is important to celebrate your successes along the way. This will help to keep the team motivated and focused on producing an increment.

By following these tips, you can increase your chances of producing an increment with Scrum. If you’d like any additional tips or help with your Scrum teams to produce more frequent and valuable increments, feel free to contact us.

Robert Pieper

Robert Pieper has been a licensed Professional Scrum Trainer since 2014 and National Public Speaker since 2013. Robb holds an MBA from Marquette University and an Electrical Engineering Degree from Milwaukee School of Engineering. Robb has 15 years of professional software development experience with a passion for making Scrum work delivering real products and services
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