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Scrum: 2Q18 PM Book Club Review

Scrum Book Cover

Title: Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time
Author: Jeff Sutherland, Co-creator of Scrum and J.J. Sutherland
Year: 2014
PMEvolution.com Book Club Review: 2Q18
PM Evolution Amazon Store Ordering Link: Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time
Video: TEDx Talk by Jeff Sutherland

Scrum is a project management framework based upon Agile principles and values. While originally designed for software development projects, Scurm is being adopted by project teams throughout IT and even external to IT. Co-creator of Scrum, Jeff Sutherland’s book is the authoritative source for understanding the big-picture concepts behind Scrum as well as an overview of how Scrum practices are intended to function. For this review, we’ll play the true/false game with some common perceptions about Scrum, using the concepts from the book as our answer key.

No More Long Term Planning. A.K.A. I Just Need to Plan My 2-4 Week Sprint
FALSE! Mr. Sutherland uses multiple examples of planning several months or even a year out as a communication tool for stakeholders. While the Scrum team will be focused on the current sprint, the Scrum Master, Product Owner and other stakeholders will also be looking at the big picture for the project and communicating to the broader organization what can be expected, with a certain level of certainty, well beyond the current sprint.

The level of certainty is dependent upon the maturity of the Scrum team, in particular, by 1) how consistently the number of story points they will complete each Sprint can be predicted and 2)how well groomed/refined the backlog is.

Organizations can struggle to fully adopt Agile concepts. Being able to communicate expectations beyond the current sprint is crucial to gaining buy-in from stakeholders external to the Scrum team.

All of My Project Managers Will Become Scrum Masters
FALSE! The role of the traditional project manager and the role of the Scrum Master do have some similarities, but not all traditional project managers will be strong Scrum Masters. The primary reason is that Scrum Masters have to be champions for Agile values and principles and, as such, have much more of a facilitation role than a “manager” role. Project managers will strong facilitation and soft skills are those most likely to adopt well to the role of Scrum Master.

A second factor is that Scrum requires a formal, active role for the Product Owner. In some organizations, project managers are expected to perform, at least via proxy, many of the functions Scrum allocates to the Product Owner. Project managers who take ownership over the direction of the product may be better suited as Product Owners in a Scrum environment than as Scrum Masters.

Any organizational implementation of Agile-based concepts such as Scrum should involve HR in order to ensure the right roles, job descriptions and staffing are available.

Scrum is More Effective Than Traditional Project Management
TRUE & FALSE! Scrum and other Agile-based frameworks are now the standard for managing software development projects. For other IT projects and for projects outside of IT, Scrum may not be the most effective project management approach. Determining when to apply Scrum or other project management approaches is dependent upon the complexity of the effort. For this purpose, consider complexity a factor of both how well known the end result is understood from the beginning and how well the team understands how to create that result.

Generally, Agile-based approaches will be more effective when there is a high degree of complexity. That is, when the end result isn’t well understood and/or the method for creating it is uncertain. For example, the typical software development project is notorious for the end result evolving as end users realize that what they describe as wanting isn’t what they actually end up needing. In such cases, Agile-based approaches such as Scrum are very effective for handling change throughout the project. Another way to phrase it is that when the project team will need to be highly creative to solve a large number of challenges, an Agile-based approach will be more effective.

Alternatively, traditional project management approaches such as waterfall or checklists are more effective when there is a low level of complexity. That is, when the result is very well understood and/or the method for creating it is certain. For example, when implementing a software solution at a new client, when that same solution has been implemented previously at similar clients, a traditional project management approach may be more effective because the end result is well known and how to achieve it is well known. In other words, the number of unique challenges is likely low and thus the creativity required isn’t as high. For such projects, traditional approaches to project management may be more efficient and effective than Agile-based approaches.


Discussion Questions

  1. How far out is it realistic to plan in a Scrum environment?
  2. Should your IT help desk use Scrum?
  3. Which role is harder: Scrum Master or traditional project manager?



About Patrick Quirk

Founding Member of PMEvolution.com President & CEO of FOQUS Partners, LLC PMP since 2005

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