Poor Man’s Agile: Scrum in 5 Simple Steps

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Egads! I was recently given a 478 page hard-cover textbook by a major educational publisher on Scrum. You gotta be kidding me. There is so much talk and writing about Agile and Scrum and, frankly, in my opinion, 99% of it is confusing and makes things worse for the people who read it.

Don’t read that stuff. Read this. Keep it simple. Here’s how Scrum works:

Step 1
Decide on amount of time that you’re going to work. This is your work cycle, and at the end of this amount of time you’re going to start a new work cycle.

It does not matter how long this amount of time is, though people with experience will tell you either one or two weeks is the amount of time that seems to be the most effective.

Step 2
On the first day of the period of time, have a meeting where you decide on the work that you’re going to try to get done in that amount of time. Write down a list of the work things that you decided in that meeting on trying to get done.

Essentially, making the list of things to get done involves understanding three things: a) how much stuff the team thinks it can get done, b) which things provide the most business value, and therefore need to be done first, and c) how much each of those business value things will take to get done.

People use many techniques for figuring these things out and deciding what they’re going to try to get gone. Frankly, it doesn’t matter. Whatever method you feel like using to arrive at a list of stuff you’re going to try to get done is fine.

Using a technique called called “points” is very popular. I use points with my team. If you know how to use points, then they work very well. If you don’t know how to use points, just use your gut or smoke signals or whatever works for you.

Lots of people get hung up on points. Scrum is not points. Points is not scrum. Points are just a popular technique for making the list of stuff that you’re gonna try to get done in the amount of time.

Step 3
Start working on the stuff on the list. Have fun!

Step 4
Meet every day with your team to see how things are going. Cross things off the list when they are done.

Talk about if you think you’re gonna be able to get all the stuff done or not. Talk about if there are things slowing you down or preventing you from getting stuff done.

A lot of people think they have to get together every day and answer three questions: what got done yesterday, what’s gonna get done today, and any blocking issues? That’s a nice technique for facilitating a conversation about how work is progressing on the list of stuff to get done.

But, if it’s not facilitating that conversation…if the team is just going around the circle answering those questions, and not having a conversation about how things are going, then you’re doing it wrong.

Scrum is not three questions. Three questions is not Scrum.

If you don’t think you’re gonna be able to get everything done, then talk about which stuff is more important. Try to get that stuff done, and leave the less important stuff undone.

Sometimes, to get the more important stuff done first, that means a person who is working on a less important thing has to stop what they are doing, and go help a person who is working on a more important thing. When this happens it is AGoodThing™ because it means that the team is FocusedOnPriorities™.

Step 5
At the end of the amount of time, get the team back together and look at the list of things. Did you get them all done? If so, good job!

If not, then talk about why. Did you take on too many tasks? Did something block you? Was someone sick? Did a dog eat your homework? Did something new or more important come along? Was it something else?

Now, go back to Step 2 and start the next work cycle. When you get back to Step 2, consider the things you discussed in Step 5 and learn from them, so that in the next period of time your team will complete all the work it set out to do.

See, Scrum really isn’t that hard. Choose an amount of time, make a plan, check on progress daily, and see how you did on your plan at the end of the time. Rinse, lather, repeat. It’s just that simple.

Don’t get all mixed up with the lingo. I guarantee you that after four periods of time that your team will be doing really great work.

P.S. Do you want Rich Man’s Scrum? Here’s how it goes:

  • Step 1: The period of time is called a “sprint”.
  • Step 2: The meeting is called “sprint planning” and the list is called the “backlog”.
  • Step 3: That’s just doing your work.
  • Step 4: Meeting everyday to evaluate progress is called the “daily standup”.
  • Step 5: Looking at your end progress and applying those lessons for the next time around is called the “retrospective”.



Written by scottporad

March 19th, 2013 at 9:27 am

Posted in Miscellaneous

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