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The SCRUM method, the best known and most used Agile method, offers a pragmatic and effective management of projects.

Introduction

SCRUM is the main Agile method. The first trace of the SCRUM method, we find it again in 19861 by Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka. Their goal was to bring a new approach to project management, considering a project as a unit and not a multitude of individual tasks.

They drew the term SCRUM, highlight the need for a united team towards the same goal to ensure the achievement of results.

A first standardization of the method will be proposed in 1990 2 . But it will be during the 90s, especially with Jeff Sutherland, Ken Schwaber and Mike Beedle, that the method will unfold in the main IT companies (Microsoft, Google, Yahoo…).

To draw a parallel with Lean, the SCRUM project management mode has many similarities with Lean project. We will remember 2 elements that we particularly appreciate that we could add in the standards of Lean project management :

  • The mandatory retrospective meeting.
  • Systematization of iterations and validations of Backlogs.

The SCRUM Team

The SCRUM method is based on a dedicated team, close to the concept d’Autonomous Production Unit. The SCRUM Team is autonomous to perform all actions, make decisions and is dedicated full-time on a project. The SCRUM Team works in the same office with all the project data displayed on the walls as well as Obeya.

The Product Owner

It is sometimes the client himself, but most often it is the internal project manager in charge of reporting to the client. It is he who sets the needs for the coming month. It is he who has the vision of the product, who manages the Backlog, prioritizes the actions and validates the results. He is available for the team, present at many meetings) and is a facilitator just like the Scrum Master. In Lean term, this function is to be matched with the Pilot or the Sponsor.

The Scrum Master

He has the role of facilitator and ensures that the project runs smoothly. It minimizes possible disturbances and removes barriers. In Lean terms, it is similar to Lean LeaderLean Practitioner or Lean Expert.

The Scrum team

They are the ones doing the different tasks and reporting to the Product Owner. From 5 to 9 people, they agree on the objectives of each iteration. They are dedicated to the project full-time and have cross-functional skills allowing them to be autonomous. Note that members can only change when a Sprint change.

SCRUM structure

Any project can be driven by the SCRUM method. The work done by autonomous teams is done through short cycles called SPRINT. Within a Sprint, the team realizes the Story Point of the Backlog (what the customer expects).

1 – Product Backlog

Needs are managed as a Product Backlog. This is the list of needs that is most commonly called Story Point . The features are as follows :

  • They are all related to a customer’s expressed need.
  • They are all quantified in terms of their importance to the customer’s expectations.
  • They are easily understandable and editable.
  • One or more acceptance criteria are identified for each.

In software development, the Product Backlog consists of :

  • The User Stories : the functions of the software
  • The Technical Stories : technical improvements and other specific constraints.

It is the Product Owner who prioritizes the elements of the Backlog according to the added value of each.

2 – Sprint planning

This is the session at the beginning of each Sprint where we will identify, estimate, prioritize and compose the Backlog of the sprint to come (Attention, the dates of Sprints Planning are identified at the beginning of the project to facilitate the general organization ). This meeting is animated by the Product Owner, and requires the presence of Scrum Team and ScrumMaster. It can last a full day.

The challenge: to commit to the “Stories” that will have to be carried out during the next sprint, taking into account the team’s capacities and the various constraints (technical, vacancy …).

The process is as follows :

  1. The ScrumMaster introduces the team and the role of each.
  2. The Product Owner proposes the goals of the next sprint, which he would like to see accomplished. It will specify the why of the priorities. It will rely on Velocity to identify the amount of work possible.
  3. The Product Owner reviews with the team the Product Backlog and details the Stories.
  4. An exchange takes place to detail all points : perimeter…
  5. Once the Story Points are identified, we pass them from the Product Backlog to the “Plan” phase of the board Kanban.

3 – The Sprints Backlog

Sprint Backlogs, resulting from sprints planning, contain the list of Stories to be made during the sprint.

Depending on the results of the Daily meetings, the Backlog sprint can be re-estimated according to new information.

4 – Estimating meeting

The estimating meeting takes place in the wake of Sprint planning (if possible in the same day to ensure the presence of the Product Owner). Its duration is about 2hr. The Scrum Team will work together, building on the Planning Poker Card  and the Wall Planning Poker, for :

  1. Detail and cut Stories into tasks to be done (Story Point).
  2. Estimate the completion times of each Story Point.

 

To make these estimates, the team will need the skills and abilities to respond. Because the estimates will be faced with the customer’s request for validation. If there are Gaps, the ScrumMaster will have to negotiate with the Product Owner to review the client’s lead times or request new resourc.

5 – the sprints

 

The SCRUM method proposes to advance projects through a series of “Sprint . The sprints are of identical duration, from 2 to 6 weeks. You can only finish a sprint if all the actions are completed and validated. Note that no major changes in the project can occur during a sprint.

6 – Daily Meeting

The method relies on a very reactive update of data to improve communication in projects. For this, she proposes the setting up of daily meeting, the Daily Meeting, making it possible to take stock of advances and problems. It should be noted that the other project actors can participate and intervene to make changes to the need, the context…

As the name suggests, the meeting takes place every day with the entire team and lasts about 15 minutes. It is based on 3 questions :

  • What did you do yesterday ?
  • What are you going to do today ?
  • Do you meet obstacles ?

 

Depending on the answers, if problems are found, we will have to postpone or review the definition of some Stories.

The set of indicators are updated during this meeting: Burn Down Chart, Velocity, Kanban.

7 – Sprint Review Demo

At the end of each Sprint, the Scrum Team (all present) presents the actual results (no powerpoint) of the results to the Product Owner. This meeting open to all and lasting 4hr, is the moment when we validate the Stories and compare the results with the objectives of Sprint.

We can calculate the Velocity* of the sprint (sum of the Storie Points we have accepted), and calculate a Velocity average allowing us to plan more easily.

We update the board Kanban and the Product Backlog. The results must be displayed, visible and understandable by all.

*To artificially improve Velocity , a practice is to accumulate technical debt : it consists of taking shortcuts to save time (typically copy and paste computer code), but therefore generating problems that will be treated or not … later.

8 – Sprint Review Retrospective

Book the team and lasting 4 hours, it is an introspection vis-à-vis the progress of each sprint (+ and -). Planned at the beginning of the project, there is one at the end of each Sprint. The challenge here is to identify possible improvements to optimize the next sprint. It’s the ScrumMaster that drives this meeting.

Each feedback is discussed and commented on as a team until consensus is reached. If actions are identified (training …), a pilot with a delay and a deliverable must be identified.

Media

The progress board

It is on this visual table that we find all the progress of the project. User stories are put on post-its and positioned in the form of Kanban of which here is an example :

The burn down chart represents, in graphic form, the evolution of the number of stories in time. There are 2 types of Burndown :

  • The burndown of product backlog: in this case the number of initial story is that of the project.
  • The burndown of sprint backlog: in this case the number of initial story is that of the sprint.

Velocity (the slope of the Product Backlog curve) is the main indicator of agility.

Source

1 – H. Takeuchi, I. Nonaka (1986) – The new new product development game

2 – P. De Grace, L. Hulet Stahl (1990) – Wicked problem, righteous solutions : a catalog of modern engineering paradigms

3 – http://agilemanifesto.org

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