Thursday, April 07, 2011

The Essentials of Scrum: My Take-aways

Strange to say, but its been over a year now since I started doing SCRUM.

At my new job, recently I was asked to provide a brief overview of SCRUM
to a bunch of project managers. This got me thinking about what the most important parts of SCRUM actually are.

For me, it boils down to these 3 concepts;

1) Don't let the fox guard the hen-house. What that means is; your Scrum 'Product Owners' are there to represent the customer. If the project is an 'internal' project -- the recipient of the output of that product needs to be represented by your product owner. Many waterfall shops fail to understand that. They are used to managers automatically filling the product owner role. But if you put the manager of the group that receives the product in the Product Owner role; you are much more likely to get better results, than if the manager of the development team pretends to fill that role...

2) Insist on well defined (small) tasks in your Scrum Backlog! Early on this was something I simply got wrong. I had scrum tasks like 'update the database schema'. Later on I'd learn that there were several parts to this; and it really spanned several days/tasks. The DBA doing the task was constantly revising how much time was remaining on the task. Getting decent visibility into the progress depends on getting the tasking clear. Spending extra time on decomposing tasks is always worth the effort. More than 8 hours per task is probably a sign you're task needs to be split up into smaller ones. I like to see 2--to--4 hours task sizes.

3) Look forward to the problems/issues; Problems are Good (especially when you find them early)! For a lot of long-time waterfall shops; problems do not exist. Er; that is -- no one admits to them until it is too late to deal with them effectively. It takes a certain amount of courage on the part of developers to realize that in-the-light-of-day the problems they bring up aren't so bad after all. If you chose the right 'Product Owners' they are anticipating them already; and relish the chance to help tackle the next ones.

Anyhow; these are the 'essentials-of-scrum' to me. If you're a Scrum Master -- and wouldn't mind comparing notes -- post away!


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