e-LeaderLounge: SCRUM

Last night we kicked off another full house LeaderLounge, taking over Salt Tasting Room with our Leaders are Readers book study that focused on mastering the SCRUM methodology. Presenter Peter Reek unpacked the 256 pages of Jeff Sutherland’s Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time while Joseph Thompson (VP, Marketing & Communications @ BuildDirect) gave annotated examples of how to apply SCRUM both at work and at home. (His example? Why, he even used SCRUM with his construction team while renovating his house). LeaderLounge Scrum photo

Scrum is a weird word — we’re convinced it’s an onomatopoeia — but if you’re a rugby fan you’ll be very familiar with this word.
It’s a play that happens during rugby (see right) to gain possession of the ball. As Jeff Sutherland writes in the book, “The term comes from the game of rugby, and it refers to the way a team works together to move the ball down the field. Careful alignment, unity of purpose, and clarity of goal come together. It’s the perfect metaphor for what teams should do.”

SCRUM Methodology, then, is a particular form of project/product management that involves close team collaboration and daily or weekly ‘huddles’ to check in. SCRUM essentially aims to create a structure around the learning process and allow the team to inspect, adapt, and improve throughout it. 

The Agile Manifesto

The backbone of SCRUM is the Agile Manifesto, defined by four principles:

  • People over process
  • 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


Daily Scrum

Just like in rugby, SCRUM is pieced together by players who play important roles: the product owner, the SCRUM master, and the surrounding team who support the vision of the product owner. As Joseph Thompson said last night, SCRUM teams should be no larger than a “one-pizza team.” If it takes five pizzas to feed your team, your team’s probably too big and you’re probably running in first gear rather than fourth. Daily scrums, with your small team, are scheduled, time-boxed, keep-it-to-15-minutes-but-tell-me-these-three-things meetings (usually done every morning):

  • What did you do since we last talked?
  • What are you going to do before we talk again?
  • What is getting in your way?



Change or Die

Plans are what allow us to go from first draft to final product — but don’t fall in love with your first draft. Blindly following plans is stupid. Plans are created on paper, in Microsoft Word, on your notes app on your iPhone— but when these plans meet reality, they usually crumble, fall apart, or require an overhaul.  As our principal Peter Reek said last night, “the map is not the terrain.” Incorporate the assumption of change, discovery, and new ideas into your plan ahead of time. Clinging to the old way of doing things, of command and control and rigid predictability, will bring only failure. In the meantime, the competition that is willing to change will leave you in the dust.


The Best Scrum Team?

Throw away the business cards. Forget titles and hierarchy. Just be. On top of being a small team (have we said that enough yet?), SCRUM team members come to the table (AKA the scrum) with a number of essential characteristics:

  • Transcendence
    • The mindset that the team is more important than the individual. If you’re going for the Stanley Cup or the Super Bowl, you know a “me, me, me” attitude won’t get you there. You succeed, and you fail, together.
  • Autonomy
    • Leaders should give teams the freedom to make decisions on how to take action. Respect them as masters of their craft.
  • Cross-functional
    • Teams must have every skill necessary to complete a project or hit a goal. 
  • No Assholes
    • There’s no room for assholes in a SCRUM. Don’t be one and don’t tolerate one.