An Introduction to Scrum Basics with Jeff Sutherland

In today’s fast-paced competitive environment, it’s every team and department’s imperative to quickly identify priorities and eliminate waste to deliver maximum impact, value, and results.

Scrum basics

That’s why more and more companies are adopting agile development methodologies like Scrum that allow them to improve their organization’s cohesiveness, flexibility, and productivity, giving them a lasting competitive advantage.

In this series of videos, co-creator of Scrum Dr. Jeff Sutherland, an OpenView Senior Advisor and CEO of Scrum Inc. provides a breakdown of the Scrum basics — the procedures and fundamentals behind the Scrum process and the keys and challenges to successfully implementing it throughout your own organization.

Structure & Foundation of Scrum

In this first video, Sutherland explains the origins and development of a number of Scrum fundamental components, revealing how they were created and the purpose each serves in successful Scrum adoption.

Sutherland, one of the founding Scrum members, brought a unique take to Scrum during its creation. Having spent 11 years as a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot, he was able to help come up with staple elements such as the Burn Down Chart. Years later, these processes and procedures have helped revolutionize product and team development. Watch this video for a solid introduction to the formulation of Scrum and read on for more in-depth looks at its fundamental elements.

Importance of Daily Meetings

“It turns out, when people start Scrum, people think it’s all about them,” says Sutherland in this short video. “But it’s not about them. It’s about the team.”

Inwardly focused individuals can hurt the overall productivity of a Scrum environment. The team needs to work cohesively to fuel productivity. Yes, they’re made of individual components, but the whole is the driving force. To make the team move forward as a unit, you need to implement a daily Scrum meeting as part of your arsenal of agile development methods.

Your meeting should take approximately 15 minutes. To curb overages, if any single topic exceeds an allotted time frame, you should postpone further discussion to a later meeting, assuming the issue goes unresolved.

The Sprint Review

When Scrum was still in its infancy, Sutherland used to pluck young minds from MIT’s Media Lab as they were graduating and put them to work for his company. They brought with them a mantra that would go on to influence Scrum deeply. They called it “Demo or Die.”

And as a result of Demo or Die, Scrum was built on the idea that it’s imperative, as part of a best practices process, to include a demonstration phase prior to a roll-out.

“[The team] would meet after a demo and we’d talk about, ‘Well how can we do better in the next cycle?’” Sutherland explains in this video. “That review has come to be called a Retrospective, where the team goes through [and asks], ‘Okay. What have we done? What did we like?’”

One of Scrum’s most critical elements, reviewing and retrospecting makes acknowledging impediments and potential solutions a formalized part of the process, ensuring that teams learn from their mistakes and are constantly striving to improve performance.

Product Backlog Review

In traditional software development methods, the backlog is typically cumbersome and a burden on the project. And it’s piled atop mountains of previous tasks for the employees. Often times, it takes tremendous, unbudgeted amounts of time to sort through an entire backlog. With agile product development, the idea that this is a standard practice has been vanquished. Instead, companies are pulling from backlogs as they’re progressing through their agile development methods.

Sprint Retrospective

What is the purpose of a Sprint Retrospective?

“The first thing they need to do is really recollect what happened,” explains Sutherland. “It’s hard for people to remember all the details of what’s happened in the last couple of weeks. So often they’ll have people maybe make a visual, maybe put things on sticky notes, of all the things that happened in the last few weeks…. Then, given that picture, what did they like and what didn’t they like?”

One of the biggest problems with fast-paced projects is that people always assume when the product has been pushed out the door, the work is done. But with Scrum, there are still more steps to take in order to improve the fluidity of the next project. Sprint retrospectives exist so that the employees can learn from the last Sprint.

Burndown Chart

Part of the inspiration for the Burndown Chart — a vital Scrum component — came from Sutherland’s days as an aviator. During a particular trip, Sutherland was ordered on a reconnaissance flight in order to gather information.

The Burndown Chart is intended to allow members to keep an eye on all of the simultaneous agile development processes going on within a Scrum team. Like a fighter plane landing, there is no room for error, and the chart is intended to monitor such issues.

For a more comprehensive overview of the Scrum process and best practices for implementing it successfully, visit our Scrum Process and Resource Guide.

Jeff SutherlandDr. Jeff Sutherland is the co-creator of Scrum and a leading expert on how the framework has evolved to meet the needs of today’s business. As the CEO of Scrum Inc. and the Senior Advisor and Agile Coach to OpenView Venture Partners, Jeff sets the vision for success with Scrum. He continues to share best practices with organizations around the globe and has written extensively on Scrum rules and methods. With a deep understanding of business process — gleaned from years as CTO/CEO of eleven different software companies — Jeff is able to describe the high level organizational benefits of Scrum and what it takes to create hyperproductive teams.

Editor’s note: This article has been adapted from a video series recorded with the co-creator of Scrum, Dr. Jeff Sutherland, CEO of Scrum Inc.




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