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Review: Jeff Sutherland’s Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time

scrumThis review first ran in the Oct. 27 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time

By Jeff Sutherland

Crown Business

$32

Put away the Gantt chart, put up a white board and pick up a pack of Post-it Notes for your next project.

Write do, doing and done on your white board. Transfer your project’s to-do list onto the Post-it Notes.

Recruit three to nine colleagues to serve on a team that’s self-directed and cross-functional.  Moving the Post-it Notes from do to done as fast as possible is your team’s goal.

Pick a product owner and Scrum master. The product owner has the vision for what your team’s going to accomplish while the Scrum master eliminates anything that bogs down your team.

Break your project into an equal series of sprints that last anywhere from a week to a month.

Review, demo and test what your team has accomplished at the end of each sprint.  Extend an open invitation for anyone in your organization to pay a visit and check out your work.

And kick off every day with a 15 minute stand-up meeting where your team looks at what they did yesterday, what you’re doing today and what obstacles are still in your way.

Author Jeff Sutherland calls this framework for team performance Scrum. “The term comes from the game of rugby and it refers to the way a team works together to move the ball down the field,” says Sutherland. “Careful alignment, unity of purpose and clarity of goal come together.”

Sutherland is a West Point-educated fighter pilot and biometrics expert who’s worked as a VP of engineering and chief technology officer at 11 technology companies.  He co-created Scrum to help companies get software out the door ahead of schedule and on budget.

While Scrum is making inroads beyond tech firms, many organizations still rely on Gantt charts.  Invented by Henry Gantt around 1910 and first used in World War I, these project management charts resemble cascading waterfalls and map out all the steps and hand-offs in a project from beginning to end.

Gantt charts warm the hearts of managers who want control and predictability with their projects.  But Sutherland’s not a fan.

“The problem is that the rosy scenario never actually unfolds. All that effort poured into planning, trying to restrict change, trying to know the unknowable is wasted. Every project involves discovery of problems and bursts of inspiration. Trying to restrict human endeavour of any scope to colour-coded charts and graphs is foolish and doomed to failure.”

Scrum is based on a simple idea, says Sutherland. “Whenever you start a project, why not regularly check in, see if what you’re doing is heading in the right direction and if it’s actually what people want? And question whether there are any ways to improve how you’re doing what you’re doing, any ways of doing it better and faster, and what might be keeping you from doing that.”

Real world examples from business, education and government show how Scrum helps teams get far more work done in much less time.  You’ll be inspired to scrap the Gantt chart and get a whiteboard.

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