Experiencing Scrum

Published by Richard Hare on


“Oh, dinosaurs!”

I should’ve got to grips with Quentin Blake’s book earlier – there’s a whole section on drawing dogs. I can’t imagine Hugh MacLeod is quaking in his boots.

Across town to Microsoft’s Cambridge Research Centre on Wednesday night for April’s SPA CAM meeting. This month’s session was a workshop based around Scrum. If you’re not familiar with Scrum, don’t be surprised. It’s a project management method which has recently gained a lot of coverage, but mainly in IT circles.

We arrived in time to scavenge the remainder of the buffet. No wine this time, but perhaps that was intentional. We got our thinking caps on for the next couple of hours and applied ourselves to the serious business of designing a marketing brochure for a doggie daycare centre.

The workshop featured a simulation of two days in the project. The team sets a goal, such as “produce two prototypes” by a particular milestone (many teams work to an end-of-month schedule). It self-organises, selecting from a prioritised feature list (sometimes called a “backlog”, but many people prefer to avoid such a negative name!) the features they will need to implement to reach the goal. They then break the features down into a list of tasks and team members choose which tasks they will work on.

One of the main benefits of Scrum is enhanced communication between team members. Every morning, everyone gets together for 15 minutes for a stand-up meeting (you meet standing up – it reduces wasted time!) and each person answers three questions:

1. What have you done since yesterday’s meeting?

2. What will you do today?

3. What is stopping you getting things done?

Naturally, I was pleased to see a retrospective phase included at the end of each Sprint to assess what went well and what had been learned.

Our team were all surprised by the fact that we met the deadline despite underestimating the tasks. Team members were flexible enough to adapt to changing situations and there was no overall leader. All the team members showed leadership, contributed ideas and worked on execution when it was needed.

Other groups felt their lack of familiarity with the process hindered progress in places, but everyone seemed to enjoy the event.

There was even an artist present whose talents far exceeded mine.

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