Sunday, April 05, 2009

Mr Scrum - Jeff Sutherland in London

On Thursday night I was lucky enough to meet Jeff Sutherland - one of the originators of Scrum - and hear him speak. The event was organised by the Scrum Training Institute and hosted by BT. If you missed this talk I’m please to say ACCU London will be hosting another talk by Jeff in May. Details have yet to be finalised so keep en eye on this blog or join the ACCU London mailing list - although I can say it will be a different talk, so if you did go to this weeks you may well want to go again in May.

So what did Jeff say?

Well there was some drum beating for Scrum. About how Scrum can improve team performance by 200%, 600% or even 1000% in some instances. And about how one venture capital firm in Silicon Valley now only works wit companies who develop software using Scrum.

Jeff also had some notes from Scott Downey on how to get a team started with Scrum. The interesting bit here for me, was that Scott uses some of the same techniques I do when I’m coaching Agile and Scrum teams. For example, I like to run very compressed iterations at first, 1 week instead of 1 month. This helps the team get used to the routine.

Scott is also very keen in “information radiators”, also known as “Kanban boards”, or for the non-techies White Boards. And like me he avoids the use of tools to manage the tasks.

Almost every team I introduce to Scrum or Agile says: “We don’t need a white board, we have a tool”, or “Why should we use a white board when we can get a software tool.” Personally I don’t like tools but I know some people do and some people find them useful. So my answer is: Lets start by not using a tool, using a simple board, and once the team has settled down lets look at whether a tool would be better

A couple of other things Jeff said which I think worth noting.

According to Jeff, Scrum is NOT ...
• a methodology
• a defined process
• a set procedures

One of the questions that often comes up about Agile and in especially Scrum is: “What is the future of the Project Manager?” so I took the opportunity to ask Jeff directly. In summary he said:
• some Project Managers will become Scrum Masters: although the two roles are very different some Project Managers will find the Scrum Master role natural
• some Project Managers will become Product Owners: again, these are different roles but some Project Managers will find the Product Owner role a logical move
• some Project Managers - presumably on large projects - will take on a wider brief, possibly called Programme Manager which involves them less with the development team and more with the groups who are impacted by the work

Jeff was keen to point out that there are still jobs for the those who now hold Project Manager jobs but that those jobs will be different.

Finally, Jeff also named the phenomenon of customers not knowing what they want until they see it. He called it Humphrey’s Law. I’ve not heard it called this before and I can’t find a reference to it so if anyone out there knows it then please send me a link.

For me Jeff’s talk was well timed - I’m off to Switzerland today to teach a Scrum course.