What you can learn from ‘Scrum – The art of doing twice the work in half the time’ by Jeff Sutherland (2014, 231 pages)
There any many who believe that the way we work in the modern world is broken. Some people argue that modern work fails to allow workers to self-actualize (see Barry Schwartz TED talk) and others who argue that the processes we have in place are corrosive (see Huffington post article). While there have been many suggestions of how to fix this, there have been very few holistic approaches.
In ‘Scrum’ Jeff Sutherland argues that we need to re-think the whole concept of work. Jeff argues that by accepting how people actually work, their mistakes and frailties, we can build an iterative self-learning system that allows us to accelerate. His agile manifesto re-prioritises work away from process and towards delivering usable outputs (products or features) in short bursts (one or two week ‘sprints’).
The agile manifesto:
- People over processes
- Products that actually work over documenting what the product is supposed to do
- Collaborating with customers over negotiating with them
- Responding to change over following a plan
A ‘sprint’ is a short period of time, where look to deliver a usable produce or feature to the customer. How sprints are run and organised is central to the scrum approach.
- Each sprint starts with listing all the work that could possibly be done. This ‘backlog’ is then prioritised by the ‘product owner’. Working down the priority order, the the team together decide what can be achieved in the next sprint.
- Once this is decided the work is ‘locked in’ and the sprint gets under way.
- A ‘stand up’ is held at the beginning of each day, where everyone gives an update of their work, and highlight anything that is slowing them down (these are called ‘blockers‘). It is the ‘scrummasters’ job to run these meetings and remove these blockers.
- Once the sprint is over, and the product is shown to the product owner for approval. Importantly, everyone also reflects on what they have achieved, what went badly and what went well, and how they can improve next time.
- The whole process is then repeated again.
Central to the process is transparency. By seeing how all work is progressing, people can help each other and time is not waster providing detailed updates. A great tool for this is the kaban board (below). A kaban board provides transparency by showing the progress of each task who is working on what.
In ‘Srum’, Jeff offers a compelling approach to focus work on outcomes rather than process. The book takes you through the high-level theory, as well as some of the tactical implementation. Srum is a great book to read to get an introduction and overview to agile and scrum methodology.