Scrum

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@matteo.talmassonsMatteo Talmassons

Business Reader’s Digest

Team boosting

SCRUM is a working methodology which proves itself extremely useful in contexts where it’s difficult to plan ahead. It’s based on an empyrical approach built on feedback cycles in opposition to the more traditional command-and-control framework.

Its approach to planning and project management is to identify the decision maker with who is executing the job, aka the Scrum Team.

In rugby the term SCRUM identifies an action where all the forewards join together tightly-packed and in this context is a metaphor for the team which is gaining ground toward the goal as an energetic and coordinated entity.

This methodology has been developed in the US during the Nineties to support the software development of modern application packages, but its roots must be searched in that Toyota Production System which reached full maturity in the Japanese factories during the Eighties.

For SCRUM methodology three players must be identified: the Product Owner, the Scrum Team and the Scrum Master.

The Product Owner is the voice of customer (can be an internal customer) and bears the responsibility to create business value. The main task of the product owner is to define the product requirements (what needs to be achieved) and to assign priorities (what comes first).

The Scrum Team is responsible to deliver the product and it’s made by 3–9 persons with cross-functional competences who are actually doing the all job: analysis, planning, development, test, technical communication, documentation, … The team is self-organizing and must have all the needed skills and know-how to realize the vision of the Product Owner into reality.

The Scrum Master is responsibile to remove all the obstacles which could limit the capability of the team to reach the goal. It’s not the team leader but the team servant: keeps the authority of the methodology, coordinates the meetings, challenges the team. It’s neither a Project Manager as the Scrum Master does not manage the members.

Above picture exemplifies SCRUM methodolgy. The key concept is that the team move forwards by the means of timeboxed efforts called sprints. During each sprint (1–4 weeks), the team aims to complete a subset of the backlog. At the end of each spring the team review what has been accomplished versus what has not been accomplished and why. Actions are taken to remove any obstacle, and a new sprint is planned.

The team does not plan trough traditional Gantt charts but by a simple task board which is updated by the team during the sprint meetings, which are short (15') stand-up meetings used by the team for internal communication and mutual coordination.

At the end of each sprint, the team should be able to show to the product owner a working product that implements what has been developed so far. The idea behind is to produce tangible and sellable value at each sprint, with an incremental and iterative approach instead of a long term project where the outcome is shown only at the very end. This is what makes SCRUM methodology sustainable and open to early feedbacks from the customer and recursive adjustments from the team.

Fail Fast So You Can Fix Early. Corporate culture often puts more weight on forms, procedures, and meetings than on visible value creation that can be inspected at short intervals by users. Work that does not produce real value is madness. Working product in short cycles allows early user feedback and you can immediately eliminate what is obviously wasteful effort. -Jeff Sutherland
Autonomy. Give teams the freedom to make decisions on how to take action — to be respected as masters of their craft. The ability to improve will make all the difference, whether the unit is reporting on a revolution in the Middle East or making a sale.
Cross-functional. The team must have every skill needed to complete a project, whether the mission is to deliver Salesforce.com software or capture terrorists in Iraq.
Blame Is Stupid. Don’t look for bad people; look for bad systems — ones that incentivize bad behavior and reward poor performance.
Throw Away Your Business Cards. Titles are specialized status makers. Be known for what you do, not how you’re referred to.
Everyone Knows Everything. Communication saturation accelerates work.

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