Have you ever been part of a project and found yourself discouraged for lack of advancement? You find yourself having more meetings than necessary without any real return. Projects can be a waste of time but only if managed improperly. That is where the Scrum Methodology comes in.
Jeff Sutherland, author of, “Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time”, originally started Scrum as a faster, more reliable, more effective way to create software in the tech industry. Before Scrum, companies were using the Waterfall method, where a project was completed in distinct stages and moved step by step toward ultimate release to consumers or software users. The process was slow, unpredictable, and often never resulted in a product that people wanted or would pay to buy.
Jeff’s book gives several examples of projects that are delayed by months and over spent by millions of dollars. There is even an interesting example of the FBI and their project delays.
Traditionally, management looks for two things when dealing with projects: control and predictability. Months of effort go into planning every detail, in order to limit mistakes and cost overruns. The problem is that this scenario rarely unfolds.
Scrum works by setting sequential goals that must be completed in a fixed length of time, called cycles. In Scrum, these cycles are called Sprints, typically two weeks in length. At the beginning of each cycle, there is a meeting to plan the Sprint. The team decides what will get done during the Sprint and then meets regularly to discuss progress.
This process works well because Scrum allows you to Inspect and Adapt. Failing fast so you can fix early is part of what makes Scrum work. The Scrum Master (Product Owner) is constantly asking his team how can it be done better and faster?
Don’t Guess. Plan, Do, Check, Act.
Plan what you’re going to do. Do it. Check whether it did what you wanted. Act on that and change how you’re doing things. Repeat in regular cycles, and, by doing so, achieve continuous improvement.
Where I currently work, we started implementing the Scrum methodology to completing tasks. It was how I was introduced to the Agile method which got me curious enough to buy the book. Once my company started using Scrum for project management, it began to see a huge increase in project completion.
The retail environment is difficult and you have to be able to adapt quickly to changing market needs. Creating new processes, tools or CRM’s would not be possible at the speed we have been going at without Scrum.
Now how does this all tie in to the Agile Scrum Methodology and getting projects completed in half the time?
Think of a project you want to complete that requires a team.
Now, take a piece of paper and pencil and follow the following steps outlined in the book, on how to complete it using Scrum.
11 Step Process Of Agile Scrum Methodology
- Pick a Product Owner
The product owner is the visionary of what needs to get done including risks and rewards.
- Pick a Team
Teams should be small, 3 to 9 people is the general rule of thumb. The team needs to have all the skills required to take the Product Owner’s vision and make it a reality.
- Pick a Scrum Master
The Scrum Master is the coach who leads the team through the Scrum framework. One of their most important tasks is helping the team eliminate anything that is slowing them down.
- Create and Prioritize a Product Backlog
This is a list at a high level of everything that needs to be built or done to make that vision a reality. It is in constant evolution depending on how the project is progressing and is meant as the Road Map.
The Product Owner is responsible for prioritizing the Backlog across the entire spectrum.
- Refine and Estimate the Product Backlog
The team needs to look at each backlog item, and see if it is actually doable. Is there enough information to get it done? Jeff suggests that time not be estimated in hours as we are often way off. Instead, he recommends estimating by relative size: small, medium, or large.
“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”
- Sprint Planning
Once the Product Backlog is complete and refined, work is broken down into Sprints. Breaking down the project into sprints, makes the project manageable.
The team, the Scrum Master, and the Product Owner sit down to plan the Sprint. They are always a fixed length of time and is less than a month.
Each Sprint needs to have a Definition of Done by starting with the End in Mind.
Definition of Done: Clear standards that any piece of work has to meet. Defining conditions that need to be met and tests that need to be passed to call complete.
- Make Work Visible
A Kanban board is the most common method of making your work visible. Kanban boards are separated in three columns: To Do, Doing, Done. Sticky notes are used to represent the items to be completed. The sticky notes allow for easy transfer from one column to another.
- Daily Stand-up or Daily Scrum
This is a major part of the formula of what makes Scrum work. Each day, at the same time, for no more than fifteen minutes, the team and the Scrum Master meet and answer three questions:
- What did you do yesterday to help the team finish the Sprint?
- What will you do today to help the team finish the Sprint?
- Is there any obstacle blocking you or the team from achieving the Sprint Goal?
The whole Sprint should not take more than fifteen minutes. This meeting allows every member to get familiar with each part of the Sprint even if you are in different departments. I have worked in projects where every department worked on their own part without ever getting together to see how it all fits together. This increases the chance for error and slows down efficiency.
The Daily Stand-up helps to quickly identify opportunities preventing the Sprint from moving forward and allows team members to come up with solutions.
- Sprint Review or Sprint Demo
During the review period, team members show what they have accomplished during the Sprint. The team should only demo what meets the Definition of Done. What is totally and completely finished and can be delivered without more work.
This part of Scrum works well because it holds each team member accountable for their part. When you have to report on your progress, you don’t want to be the person holding the project back.
“What gets measured gets improved.”
- Sprint Retrospective
Once the Sprint Demo is completed and the team has shown what they have accomplished, they sit down for a retrospective. The goal is to determine how the process can be improved upon.
- What could have gone better?
- What can be made better in the next Sprint?
- What is the improvement in the process that they, as a team, can implement right away?
- What could make us faster?
The point is not to find blame but look at the process. At the end of the meeting, the team and the Scrum Master should agree on one process improvement that they will implement in the next Sprint.
“Mistakes should be examined, learned from, and discarded; not dwelled upon and stored.”
– Tim Fargo
- Immediately start the next Sprint cycle, taking the Team’s experience and process improvements into account.
Scrum Methodology was designed for teams to complete projects in half the time. However, with a little tweaking, you can easily use it to complete your own personal projects.
Write down all the steps required in order to complete the entire project. Next, break it down into Sprints and review your progress on a daily basis. It is recommended to share your project with someone who will hold you accountable for completing Sprints in time. A friend, colleague or family member who wants to see you succeed.
The Kanban board is a great tool to manage group or personal projects. A great app to help manage your Sprints is the Trello board.
Trello: (Trello.com) This extremely popular productivity tool is built around a Kanban-style task organization. They have boards, lists, and cards available for you to organize and prioritize your projects. All you need to do is define your columns and start adding to-dos.
There have been some critics of Scrum Methodology.
The three most common complaints are:
- The process can take center stage over the work.
- It can be easily confused for micromanagement by another name.
- The daily stand-up can feel like a meeting where one has to justify its existence.
There is a great blog post that discusses the five false hopes of Scrum, including ideas on how to solve them. It’s worth the read.
Looking for more ideas to increase your productivity? Download the Productivity toolbox e-book, “54 Productivity Apps for Busy People”.
Have you used the Scrum Methodology before?