Thursday, June 23, 2011

Scrum Outside of Software Development

I shared the Scrum methodologies to a teacher friend of mine the other day and focused on the Daily Stand Up.  Explaining that this meeting should be short (time block it to 60 seconds/person if need be), yet informative and having everyone answer the following 3 questions:

-What did you do yesterday?
-What are you doing today?
-What roadblocks do you have?

He had an "ah ha" moment and went on to explain how many communication issues this would solve and how much more efficient they could be working if they just practiced this one facet of Scrum.  They plan to implement the daily stand up starting with next year's school year.

At the core, Scrum is about delivering value to customers.  Isn't this what we do on a daily basis?  Professionally, we need to deliver value to our clients; personally, we need to deliver value to our families, friends or ourselves.

-If you're a developer, the value is delivering quality software to your customer.
-If you're a sales person, the value is accurately selling a product to potential customers.
-If you're an author, the value is creating a solid piece of work to your publisher.
-If you're a student, you need to deliver quality homework to the teacher/professor.

I heard of a story of a stay at home mother using a Kanban board (same as Scrum but differs where Scrum has Sprints, Kanban is a continuous workflow) to help manage her tasks throughout the day.  She developed swim lanes and put post its up as her action items and watch them move through the process until they were done.  It was something big and visible and she felt a sense of accomplishment and accountability while watching post its move across the board.  Of course, since the work was "laid out" she could give some of those post its to her spouse to get done.  Maybe she had a swim lane dedicated to her spouse (aka the "Honey Do" list), I'm not sure.

This got me thinking, Scrum is a framework and really can be applied to about anything.  While some would argue just because you could, should you?  While that's a topic for another discussion, the Scrum framework is very versatile.  While Scrum has gained traction particularly with Software Development, it doesn't end there.  Scrum can be applied to a wide array of projects, both personally and professionally.

Let’s take a look at the Scrum framework.  Here’s a graphical representation of it:


We can practically apply these concepts outside of software development.  I’ll use a Sales Person and an Author as two examples through the process.  How?  Think of each stage in the following manner:

1.  Vision – this step is not shown but this step is your final goal; what do you want to accomplish.

  • Sales Person – this could be a territory to cover, preparing for a presentation, any type of goal(s) you need to meet.
  • Author – this is the book or piece of work that you want to create.
  • Coach – to win a game

2.  Product Backlog – this is your high level to do list, the planned work.  Questions like how do you obtain the vision or the goal you want to meet?  Some examples could be:

  • Sales Person – high level list (by company, territory, etc.) of cold calls, follow up calls and/or visits you need to make with customers or potential customers.
  • Author – this could be the chapter titles or chapter ideas for the book
  • Coach – determining the high level, measurable areas of where the team needs to improve in order to win

3.  Sprint Backlog – this is a more detailed account of work to be done.  Break down the high level product backlog into manageable tasks that can be accomplished within a Sprint (2-4 weeks or whatever that time frame may be).  If something unexpected comes up (aka life!) that needs immediate attention, add it to your Sprint Backlog, and consider the additional amount of work it will take and if anything in your current Sprint can be pushed off to the next one.

  • Sales Person – specific call list of who to call or places to visit
  • Author – taking a chapter and determining sub topics, developing a chapter outline
  • Coach – specific activities, exercises, drills for specific player or players to execute

4. Daily Scrum Meeting – the idea of a small feedback loop for your team.  If you are a team of one, this may be reflecting/reviewing for yourself to get yourself re-aligned with the goals such as an author or Sales Person.

  • Coach – gathering the team around, getting re-aligned with the goals

5. Potentially Shippable Product Increment – think of this as your potential deliverable to your client.  This does not necessarily mean that this will be delivered to the client but that this unit of work is done, completed, and “production ready”.

  • Sales Person – finish a specific block of calls or visits of customers
  • Author – finishing a complete chapter and delivering it to the publisher
  • Coach – having the team reach certain goals incrementally and being able to execute to win the next game!

Scrum has a wide variety of applications other than just for software development.  While I’ve only given a few simple examples, I hope it aided in broadening your thinking regarding the application of using Scrum and how it can apply to different areas.

What other areas of life or activities have you practiced Scrum in?

Additional Resources: