I was working with a team of project managers recently and discussing how scrum works. One of the audience asked me how scrum teams handle third party dependencies. I answered as completely as I could but her response left me temporarily speechless.
Scrum and Project Managers
I have every sympathy with project managers. Frankly, I don’t know how they do the job. We don’t have project managers in scrum. Instead, the work they used to do is now shared across the three roles in scrum. This can be the result of some interesting questions from project managers.
One such question was “How do you handle third party dependencies?” I’ve come across this question a lot and over time I’ve refined my answer:
The Third-Party Dependency Rule
A development team should refuse to accept a product backlog item into a sprint where that product backlog item has a third party dependency. The two exceptions to this rule are when the dependency is provided before the sprint starts or, the third party attends sprint planning and commits to deliver that dependency within the sprint.
The third-party dependency rule is a nice, simple rule that’s readily understood by all. Better still, it’s plain common sense.
Except this one time. The questioner was incandescent. “There’s no way our stakeholders will accept that”, she stated firmly. I was stunned. The only thing I could muster was the question “How’s that working out for you?” Her face told me all I needed to know.
No Silver Bullet
Scrum isn’t a silver bullet. It doesn’t weave magic. But it will shine a bright light into the corners of your organization that could withstand some improvement. Stakeholder training anyone?