April 15, 2019
Scrum is the most popular agile process, and Essential Scrum: A Practical Guide to the Most Popular Agile Process by Kenneth S. Rubin is arguably the most popular book on the topic. The problem that Scrum seeks to solve is how do we empower teams to identify and solve their own problems? The following book summary is a combination of my notes and quotes.
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Scrum is an agile approach for developing innovative products and services.
With an agile approach, you begin by creating a product backlog — a prioritized list of the features and other capabilities needed to develop a successful product. Guided by the product backlog, you always work on the most important or highest-priority items first. When you run out of resources (such as time), any work that didn’t get completed will be of lower priority than the completed work.
The work itself is performed in short, timeboxed iterations, which usually range from a week to a calendar month in length. During each iteration, a self-organizing, cross-functional team does all of he work — such as designing, building, and testing — required to produce complete, working features that could be put into production.
Typically the amount of work in the product backlog is much greater than can be completed by a team in one short-duration iteration. So, at the start of each iteration, the team plans which high-priority subset of the product backlog to create in the upcoming iteration.
At the end of the iteration, the team reviews the complete features with the stakeholders to get their feedback. Based on the feedback, the product owner and team can alter both they plan to work on next and how the team plans to do the work.
At the end of each iteration, the team should have a potentially shippable product (or increment of the product), one that can be released if appropriate.
Scrum’s focus on delivering working, integrated, tested, business-valuable features each iteration leads to results being delivered fast. Scrum is also well suited to help organizations succeed in a complex world where they must quickly adapt based on the interconnected actions of competitors, customers, users, regulatory bodies, and other stakeholders. And Scrum provides more joy for all participants. Not only are customers delighted, but also the people doing the work actually enjoy it! They enjoy frequent and meaningful collaboration, leading to improved interpersonal relationships and greature mutual trust among team members.
Though Scrum is an excellent solution for many situations, it is not the proper solution in all circumstances. The Cynefin framework (Snowden and Boone 2007) is a sense-making framework that helps us understand the situation in which we have to operate and decide on a situation-appropriate approach.
Scrum is not the best solution here.
Scrum is not a silver bullet or a magic cure. Scrum can, however, enable you to embrace the changes that accompany all complex product development efforts.
Although the Scrum framework is simple, it would be a mistake to assume that Scrum is easy and painless to apply. Scrum doesn’t prescriptively answer your process questions; instead, it empowers teams to ask and answer their own great questions. Scrum doesn’t give individuals a cookbook solution to all of their organizational maladies; instead, Scrum makes visible the dysfunctions and waste that prevent organizations from reaching their true potential.
Plan-driven processes (waterfall, tradiational, sequential, anticipatory, predictive or prescriptive development processes )are so named because they attempt to plan for and anticipate up front all of the features a user might want in the end product, and to determine how best to build those features. The idea here is that the better the planning, the better the understanding, and therefore the better the execution.
Plan-driven development works well if you are applying it to problems that are well defined, predictable, and unlikely to undergo any significant change. The problem is that most product development efforts are anything but predictable, especially at the beginning. So, while a plan-driven process gives the impression of an orderly, accountable, and measurable approach, that impression can lead to a false sens of security. After all, developing a product rarely goes as planned. [P]lan-driven development approaches are based on a set of beliefs that do not match the uncertainty inherent in most product development efforts.
Scrum, on the other hand, is based on a different set of beliefs — ones that do map well to problems with enough uncertainty to make high levels or predictability difficult.
Variability and uncertainty
Embrace helpful variability
Employ iterative and incremental development
Leverage Variability through Inspection, Adaptation and Transparency
Reduce All Forms of Uncertainty Simultaneously
Prediction and adaptation
We are constantly balancing the desire for prediction with the need for adaptation. How?
Last responsible moment
Accept that you can’t get it right up front
Favor an adaptive, exploratory approach
Embrace change in an economically sensible way
Balance predictive up-front work with adaptive just-in-time work
Validate important assumptions fast
Leverage multiple concurrent learning loops
Organize workflow for fast feedback
Use economically small batches
Recognize inventory and manage it for good flow
Focus on Idle work, not idle workers
Adapt to real-time information and replan
Measure progress by validating working assets
Focus on value-centric delivery
Go fast but never hurry
Build in quality
Employ minimally sufficient ceremony
Scrum isn’t anti-documentation:
This book summary captures the high-level, conceptual framework of Scrum. The remainder of the book discusses it’s implementation. If you’re a technical manager or leader interested in implementing Scrum in your organization, I recommend reading Essential Scrum: A Practical Guide to the Most Popular Agile Process by Kenneth S. Rubin.
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