Scrum Master Rear Axle Steering

Project facts:
Company: Bosch Automotive Steering GmbH (Automotive Tier 1 supplier)
Company Size: ~15k employees
Domain: Automotive hardware and software development
Team composition: 2x Design engineer, 1x Software developer, 1x Systems engineer, 2x Technical Sales
Method of collaboration: Scrum
Key learning:
Even if the circumstances are not perfect, just start!
Main challenges:
Initial team motivation and acceptance of the agile approach was low.
Balancing the pressure of short-term deliverables promised to customers while developing a robust long term platform solution.
Main successes:
Experiencing the members come together to form a real team.
Sitting in a car with a working prototype of the rear axle steering system. 

The Story:
In spring of 2017, I was tasked with being the Scrum Master for a cross functional team within the steering division of the automotive supplier Bosch. The goal of the cross functional team was to develop a platform concept for rear axle steering within 3 months.

This project was unique in several ways. First, the project sponsor was just beginning to attempt and reshape the entire product development organization towards a more agile approach. This project was the first attempt to develop a product in an agile manner. Second, none of the team members or the PO had ever worked within the scrum framework or actively tried any agile approach. Some were very skeptical to it. Third, several different teams had already started to develop rear axle steering solutions for specific customers. And fourth, right in the middle of the project, the sponsor who was also the main driver for the agile approach overall, abruptly left the company.

The beginning was tough since not all team members were present from day one. Some were still busy with remaining tasks and others were blocked from joining by their superiors. In hindsight, the key was that we just started with the team members who were there and got to work. Once we were able to show more and more results, I felt an increasing acceptance for the team and its work. After several weeks, all team members were on board and from that point on to the end of the project the output, the motivation within the team, and acceptance of the team in the rest of the organization continuously increased.

Luckily the team had a great PO. Although he had no prior experience in the role, he was very open and with some support he quickly became adept at writing stories, prioritizing, and in general helping the team wherever he could.

Most of the time during those three months, I was in a classic scrum master role facilitating ceremonies, removing impediments and working with the PO to refine stories and groom the backlog. Since we were the “agile bubble” within an otherwise more classical product development organization, I sometimes took on the role of a project manager making sure we were aligned with major milestones of other teams and presenting the project progress in several regular management meetings.

As mentioned above, roughly 6 weeks into the project the main driver of the agile approach in the organization and the project sponsor abruptly left the company. Luckily, we had up to that point already delivered first results. That, along with strong support from the PO, meant that we were able to overcome the turbulence this caused and finish what we set out to do. The team delivered a platform concept able to satisfy the requirements of already running and future projects. In the end, the absolute highlight for us was being able to ride a car with a functioning prototype on board!