We often hear words in a business context that don’t always make sense. Sometimes we are familiar with terms from other areas of life, but they just don’t seem to fit into our expectations. “Controlling,” for example is one of those words. In our day-to-day lives, controlling is often a negative word, meaning a person who exhibits manipulative behaviors or restricts the actions of another person. Parents “control” their children to prevent them from grabbing items off the supermarket shelf.
However, controlling in the business sense means comparing the gap between our planned performance and our actual performance. By implementing corrective actions, we “control” the situation to better align business results with an expected strategic objective.
Another strange word that we often hear associated with project management is “scrum”. In rugby, a scrum is a play in which eight-membered teams attempt to gain possession of the ball and move it downfield. It is loosely similar to a “scrimmage” in American football. A sports fan may have watched a rugby match on television and viewed the scrum, involving strong athletes and a force of will.
Scrum as a Project Management Framework
In the world of project management, Scrum is a relatively new framework to conduct project activities. Scrum applies to both small and large projects, and can be used to execute projects, programs, and portfolios.
Scrum is a framework, not a prescription, to guide project work for the team executing the project activities. It is built on the Agile philosophy and utilizes lean development tools. The fundamentals of Scrum include prioritizing work on business value, highly collaborative teamwork, and iterative development.
Following the principles of lean product development and of total quality management, we know that waste occurs in many processes. Waste in project management occurs when the customer and stakeholders are uncertain of the final result or when there are many alternatives to accomplishing the project deliverables.
Scrum reduces waste in development by delivering high value product results on a continuous basis. Project work is conducted in sprints lasting from one to six weeks (typically two to four weeks). A customer representative, knowns as the product owner, delineates the highest value features for project delivery during each sprint.
As the conclusion of each sprint, a workable result can be delivered to the product owner. By prioritizing the work, business value is continually realized which not only reduces waste but is motivating to team members. For large scale projects, the quick hits of a sprint yield a better understanding and selection of alternative solutions thereby creating higher quality investment decisions.
Scrum teams are absent the hierarchy of traditional project teams. Rather than a boss telling people what and how to do a task, Scrum team members self-organize to select activities within a sprint for completion. Team members are both specialists in their area of expertise and generalists to help reduce the project backlog during a sprint as necessary.
Normally, Scrum teams are co-located in a single location. Often known as a “war room,” team members work together on tasks, sharing a workspace to increase collaboration and creativity. Team members literally move from contributing to one project task to another as demand requires. Skills are acknowledge in this flat organizational structure, rather than seniority.
As discussed above, the Scrum framework is built upon iterative development. Basic project work is broken down into sprints lasting an average of two to four weeks. Team members commit to completing one or more of the prioritized project tasks during the iteration. At the conclusion of the sprint, the deliverable is demonstrated to the product owner.
The product owner, acting as the voice of the customer, will approve the sprint deliverables. During the next sprint, the Scrum team will work on the next highest value project tasks.
In this way, the project continually delivers business value. More importantly, when projects involve a high degree of uncertainty as in software development or radical innovation for new products and services, the product owner can view deliverables progressively. Feature sets can be altered based on market demand and technical capability during the project since the sprints allow for rapid experimentation and product evolution.
Learn More about Scrum
Scrum is an effective framework for executing projects with uncertainty. It can be used for projects of all sizes and types. Key features of Scrum include continuous delivery of high business value priorities, collaborative team work, and iterative development. If you’d like to learn more about Scrum, please join us for a free webinar or 2-day Scrum Master certification workshop. We want to make it simple for you to study, learn, and earn!
Study. Learn. Earn. Simple.
by Global NP Solutions, LLC