Scrum, the most widely practiced Agile process, has been successfully used in software development for the last 20 years. While Scrum has been practiced in a commercial software environment, the methodology has been successfully applied to education, manufacturing and an array of other industries.
Scrum is not a process, technique, or definitive method. Rather, it is a framework within which you can employ various processes and techniques. Scrum make clear the relative efficacy of your product management and work techniques so that you can continuously improve the product, the team, and the working environment.
Like other Lean and Agile methods, Scrum optimizes limited resources and creates efficiencies. Scrum also empowers teams to self-organize and work at a sustainable pace, free from outside interference. This helps teams reach their full potential and frees leadership to focus on the company’s vision rather than on day-to-day management.
Divide and Conquer: Scrum divides complex work into simple pieces, large organizations into small teams and far-reaching projects into a series of short time horizons called sprints.
When complex work is divided into simple pieces it is easier to map out what needs to be done. With a clear roadmap, the team can start working immediately, know what items need to be worked on together and understand when the job has been completed. Small bites of work, just like food, are easier to chew, swallow and digest.
By dividing large organizations into small teams, Scrum enables organizations to perform like small ones. Small teams make it easier to maintain focus because less time is spent communicating details. Coordinating is much easier for a team of five people than it is for a team of 20.
The divide and conquer principle also works when sectioning large projects into a series. It is easier to plan for short periods of time because there is less involved. Think in terms of writing a book. Writing a chapter at a time is easier than writing an entire novel at once. This iterative process also allows the author to apply what he or she has learned writing the first chapter to writing the next.
Inspect and Adapt: When work is divided into simple pieces, it can be finished in a shorter period. By accelerating the development process and getting a functioning product in the hands of people who will use it, the team can gather feedback more quickly than it otherwise would have. Feedback helps the team improve the product based not only on what they have learned during development, but also from people interacting with the product. To carry the book analogy forward, after writing the first chapter and receiving feedback from an editor, the author can make adjustments. Without this feedback, the author may have headed in the wrong direction and wouldn’t have known that until he or she finished writing the book. At that point, the author would have to re-write the entire book rather than just the first chapter. With timely feedback, the author can make minor adjustments to the books outline early, avoiding mass amounts of re-work and waste.
Transparency: Scrum makes all work transparent. There are no secrets about what needs to be done, who is doing it, and how it is being accomplished. When the entire organization is armed with this information, it can address problems as they arise and correct course at the earliest possible moment. Stakeholders and leadership are able to make more informed strategic decisions when they have an honest and clear idea of how a project is progressing.
Scrum Board: A traditional scrum board has three columns: To Do, Work in Progress, and Done. Each activity is first placed in the “To Do” column. Activities in this column retain the same order of priority as established by the owner. Team members begin by choosing an item from the top of the “To Do” column and moving it into the second column, “Work in Progress”. When completed, the item is moved to the third and final column, “Done”.
Scrum boards can be physical or digital, but it is important that they be visible to the entire team so that the status can be seen in real-time. This allows the team to change course if an item is in danger of not being completed.
Scrum Values: When the values of commitment, courage, focus, openness, and retrospect are embodied and lived by the Scrum Team, the Scrum pillars of transparency, inspection, and adaptation come to life and build trust for everyone. Successful use of Scrum depends on people becoming more proficient in living these five values.