Jeff Sutherland, father of Scrum (Agile) development

Tysons Corner, Virginia – September 7, 2016

It was a thrill to sit in the front row of an auditorium at Mitre in McLean, Virginia and listen to Jeff Sutherland, co-creator of Scrum, discuss how Scrum and Agile came about.  Of course, he was pitching his new book, “Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time,” which I did buy and am reading.

Jeff is a brilliant guy and there were too many take-aways, words of wisdom, and nuggets of knowledge to share.  So, I would just say that you probably ought to buy the book and read it yourself.  But, in the meantime, these are a few of the things he said worth remembering…

  • Most people, he says, hate their work.  But there is something about Scrum, if done well, helps to improve moral and motivate people to want to work and enjoy their work mostly because it allows people to actually get things done and what gets done will have been important and meaningful.
  • Scrum helps turn average teams into great teams because there is a process improvement aspect to scrum, in the retrospective, that allows teams to constantly identify areas of opportunity to improve their performance.
  • There is something about the waterfall methodology and Gantt charts that make late projects later, requiring more meetings and more people, which in turn causes projects to become less efficient and teams less productive.
  • DevOps, which is a concept derived from agile and scrum is like a rolling wave of releases and nowadays, the high performing software development teams ship multiple releases, many times per day.  That is becoming the new measure of productivity, how often new software gets released per day.
  • The ideal scrum team size is 4-5 people.  When a team grows to 9 people, that it too many and it needs to be split.  When a team increases beyond 8, the number of communications channels starts to impede efficiency and a natural hierarchy begins to take place, which goes against self-organizing teams.
  • Radical performance can be achieved with Scrum and it often takes 3-5 sprints in order to start to develop a velocity that can be measured and improved.  If you don’t see immediate improvement in 2-3 sprints, don’t give up, this is part of the storming and norming phases of team development. Hang in there and remain committed to the process.
  • The happiness factor – the measure of happiness of the client and the team – is a better forward leaning revenue metric than just about anything else.  Happy teams are productive, cooperative, and collaborative.
  • There are only two effective ways of doing agile: Scrum and XP.  Scrumban is particularly good in a DevOps environment requiring continuous deployment.
  • A huge difference between the traditional waterfall method of software development and agile is change.  With waterfall, there is a cost to changes and change management.  With agile, changes are free.  Change usually results in better products because it is based on feedback and continuous improvement.


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