Scrum FAQ

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If the word "Scrum" evokes images of dirty back alleys or moldy showers, think again. Think happy sunshine thoughts like...controlling chaos. At least that's how Ken Schwaber, leading proponent of Scrum, thinks about it. He calls his website controlchaos.com and describes this chaos as consisting of "conflicting interests and needs." If you've ever been in any kind of a business meeting, no doubt you can relate. Often this chaos log-jams an organization, keeping its products from shipping and its services from reaching the consumer.

What Does Scrum Stand For?

  • Scrum is a project management process that promises to restart the flow of work in a log-jammed organization and to help the product or service get to the end user more quickly. While it looks like an acronym, in fact, the term is simply borrowed from the game of rugby. In rugby, a scrum (short for scrummage) restarts a game after an accidental interruption. Proponents of Scrum build further on this analogy by comparing the way rugby players interact with the whole team during a scrummage, passing the ball back and forth. The hallmark of Scrum project management is its focus on teamwork and meeting the ultimate goal one "sprint" at a time.

Who Started Scrum?

  • In 1986, Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka wrote a 10-page paper in Harvard Business Review called "The New New Product Development Game." Using the rugby analogy to describe a new, holistic approach to project management, Takeuchi and Nonaka heralded the benefits of this new approach with detailed case studies from various industries. In the early 1990s, this approach, along with other agile software development approaches, began to spread. Scrum, as we know it today, is based on the collaborative efforts of lead proponents Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland, who presented a compilation of writings, best practices and professional insight at the 1995 conference of OOPSLA (Object Oriented Programming, Systems, Languages and Applications).

What Roles Does Scrum Involve?

  • The main Scrum roles include the Product Owner, the ScrumMaster and the Scrum Team. The Product Owner is available to the Team at all times and represents the interests of the customers. The ScrumMaster acts as a facilitator for both the team and Product Owner. She or he guides the whole group toward better communication, seeking to protect the team from external barriers. The Team consists of a cross-functional group of people representing involved departments of an organization.

How Does Scrum Work?

  • The Scrum process begins with a backlog or a list of tasks needed to complete a project or meet a goal. Team members complete each task with a series of "sprints," usually 30 days each. Sprints are highly focused, fast-paced and seek to eliminate all distractions. In a 15-minute daily Scrum meeting, the ScrumMaster asks members what was done since the last meeting, what will be accomplished before the next meetings, and what obstacles there are. Common obstacles are usually external stakeholders who have the least to lose in the process.

What Do Chickens Have To Do With It?

  • In his book, Agile Project Management With Scrum, Ken Schwaber uses an analogy of a chicken and pig to help the ScrumMaster protect the Scrum Team from external distractions. A chicken and a pig open a restaurant and decide to name the restaurant Ham and Eggs. The pig soon realizes that he's the committed owner while the chicken is only the involved owner. The Scrum process helps speed productivity by keeping the clucking chickens, or external stakeholders, away from the pigs, or the Scrum Team, while they focus on the task at hand. This philosophy, plus the daily meetings, increase product adaptability while increasing work flow.

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