Scrum Inc. CEO J.J. Sutherland – co-author of Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time – offers a comprehensive, workable guide to understanding and implementing Scrum.
Author J.J. Sutherland is CEO of Scrum Inc. and the son of Scrum’s original co-developer Jeff Sutherland, with whom he co-wrote Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time. The author describes how Scrum enables organizations to develop products quickly and correctly. With Scrum, self-managed teams can accomplish more work with increased agility in less time.
Scrum for Software
Many organizations facing the need to adapt to rapid technological change have turned to Agile approaches, like Scrum, to help them work more efficiently. Software developers created Scrum in the 1990s to help them achieve efficient, valid, rapid results. Scrum reveals new possibilities, expands development options and finds lessons in failure.
Scrum is the art of changing the possible.J.J. Sutherland
Organizations that follow Agile methods prioritize people above rules and regulations. They value functional software above documentation, client engagement above written contracts, responding to change over sticking to a plan and learning from mistakes above assigning blame.
A Scrum team works in one-to-four-week iterations called “Sprints,” each with a definite goal. A Scrum Master coaches the team for improved efficiency. The Product Owner (PO) defines the deliverable after negotiating with customers, stakeholders and the Scrum team. The team then produces the deliverables.
The PO makes sure the deliverables have value by creating the Product Backlog, a list prioritizing the team’s tasks. This list can change during production in response to feedback, market shifts, management requirements and other variables.Scrum emphasizes and enables speed.
Scrum teams hold a 15-minute “Daily Scrum” or “Standup” meeting to discuss the previous day’s efforts and plan their next steps. The team also meets periodically with the PO to refine the backlog, specify what every item requires and set the criteria for being “done,” although that, too, can change.
Sprints’ functions include a Backlog refinement, under which Teams introduce new goals and set expectations. Then using feedback from stakeholders, the PO sets new priorities for any work that is lagging. Each Sprint culminates in a review session, during which the team reveals work that is ready to release. Under the Sprint retrospective, the team reviews the effectiveness of its members’ interactions.
In the Scrum world, making any decision should take no more than 60 minutes, which leaves no time for committee meetings. In most companies, the boss wants the final word. However, the boss is usually the farthest from the work, so he or she asks for more information, which slows things down. Once the boss has all the information in hand, he or she may be reluctant to take sole responsibility for a potentially wrong decision. The boss’s solution: Call a committee meeting to discuss it.
An incremental approach reduces the cost of changing your mind.J.J. Sutherland
If you decide to hold a meeting, consider the salaries of the people who will attend. Calculate the expense of the meeting in terms of their salaries and any other associated outlays. Ask: Is it worth it?
For example, at one large bank, a risk management committee with more than three dozen members must approve decisions. If a decision is a disaster, the bank cannot identify any one individual as accountable. This practice came about after poor decisions led to millions of dollars in regulatory fines. The committee that the bank established to block bad decisions effectively blocked all decisions.
If executives assume that all of their combined brain power could not possibly come up with an incorrect decision, therefore, any problems must be the fault of the people trying to implement their choices. That premise – which leads to erroneous blaming – is sadly common. Systems to control decision-making and promote buy-in usually guarantee that a decision will be wrong, most likely because its time has passed.
Make sure every rule justifies itself. If something doesn’t make sense, call it what it is: Crazy. Set clear priorities and stick to them. Learn to say no. To get something done, define what “done” means. Write the definition and hang it on the wall. Put priorities in writing and display them prioritized according to the effort, risk and value at stake.
Make every rule fight for its life occasionally. The people deserve it.J.J. Sutherland
For example, when J.J. Sutherland produced a radio show at NPR, he scheduled two interviews one after the other, only to learn that this violated station rules. Sutherland contacted the person who founded the show and asked about the rule. The founder said that when the show started, the station was using reel-to-reel tape machines, and it took time to load fresh tapes. The rule had long outlived its purpose, but longtime unquestioned use had entrenched it firmly. No one prior to Sutherland ever thought to ask about it.
Go For It
Change is risky and many managers fear and resist it. With an Agile approach, they need to commit only to a Sprint, an initial trial that demonstrates how the change would work – and offers a perfect opportunity to see how Scrum helps bring about change.
Scrum team members prioritize their projects over their individual roles. Team members commit to each other and to delivering the completed project.Workers concentrate on their particular aspect of the job, resisting distraction and conflict. Scrum companies showcase problems, so people can grapple with the issues that emerge. Mutual respect counters the fear that prevails in goal-directed work settings. Scrum team members respect themselves, each other and their project.
The best results come from “stable teams” of fewer than ten members who work together well and focus on one project. Teams “swarm” by focusing all their resources on completing a priority goal before they turn to the next goal. Sutherland warns you to prepare for organizational resistance and protect Scrum teams from it. To get the most from Scrum, he advises, go all in.
J.J. Sutherland’s Scrum expertise shines throughout this clear, pragmatic, wholly usable guide. He exemplifies Scrum principles with his sharp focus on one aspect and then on the next. He prioritizes readers’ understanding of the process and never tries to prove his expertise. Sutherland writes with brevity and gives instruction in a charming, human voice without ever assuming an all-powerful boss position. He’s an encouraging coach who has structured his text so new users easily can refer back to crucial points. Those attempting Scrum – and those seeking a workable overview of it – will welcome Sutherland’s common sense, directness and readability.