Book Notes #39: Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland

Scrum is the revolutionary approach to project management and team building that has helped to transform everything in business.

Title: Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time
Author: Jeff Sutherland
Year: 2014
Pages: 256

Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time is a book written by Jeff Sutherland, one of the co-creators of Scrum, that provides an overview of how to increase productivity and efficiency using Scrum methodologies.

There must be a more agile and efficient way to accomplish things, and this brilliantly discursive, thought-provoking book discusses how leadership and management are evolving.

There may be a sharp line between “before Scrum” and “after Scrum” in the future, as historians look back on human progress. 

That change-maker point is Scrum. According to its creators, at least.

As a result, I gave this book a rating of 9.0/10.

For me, a book with a note 10 is one I consider reading again every year. Among the books I rank with 10, for example, is Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Overview of Scrum

Drawing on his experience as a West Point-educated fighter pilot, biometrics expert, early innovator of ATM technology, and V.P. of engineering or CTO at eleven different technology companies, Jeff began challenging those dysfunctional realities, looking for solutions that would have a global impact.

In this book you’ll journey to Scrum’s front lines where Jeff’s system of deep accountability, team interaction, and constant iterative improvement is, among other feats, bringing the FBI into the 21st century, perfecting the design of an affordable 140-mile-per-hour/100 mile per gallon car, helping NPR report fast-moving action in the Middle East, changing the way pharmacists interact with patients, reducing poverty in the Third World, and even helping people plan their weddings and accomplish weekend chores. 

Scrum is one of the reasons why the world is changing so fast. Most of the world’s top technology companies already use Scrum. 

Today, it’s spreading to every domain where complex projects are being tackled by leaders.

There have been productivity gains of up to 1200%, and Jeff Sutherland is the man who created the first Scrum team more than twenty years ago, and he is one of the best explainers of Scrum and its bright prospects.

People are terrible at being agile and efficient, which is Jeff’s thorny problem back then. 

There is often a conflict between teams. An increase in pressure leads to an increase in unhappiness. 

The book covers the principles and practices of Scrum and how to apply them to increase productivity and efficiency.

The author covers the key practices and strategies needed to successfully implement Scrum, including time-boxing, sprint planning, and daily stand-up meetings.

The book provides real-world examples and case studies from the author’s experience implementing Scrum in various organizations and industries.

Scrum covers the importance of leadership, communication, and collaboration in the Scrum process. The book includes practical tips, tools, and checklists to help teams implement Scrum effectively and increase productivity and efficiency.

But the most significant reason to read this book is that it might just help you achieve what others consider unachievable – whether it be inventing a trailblazing technology, designing a new educational system, or building a foundation for your family to flourish and prosper.

The FBI, one of the most well-known and respected law enforcement agencies in the world, faced a problem common to many organizations: a backlog of cases and a lack of coordination and efficiency among its teams.

In order to address this issue, the FBI decided to implement Scrum, a popular Agile development methodology, to streamline its workflow and increase productivity.

The implementation of Scrum was not without its challenges. The FBI’s teams were used to working in a hierarchical, bureaucratic environment, and the idea of self-organizing teams and regular progress reviews was a major shift.

However, with the help of Scrum trainers and coaches, the FBI’s teams quickly adapted to the new way of working.

The results were remarkable. The FBI’s teams were able to clear their backlog of cases and increase their productivity by over 30%.

The regular progress reviews and daily stand-up meetings helped to improve communication and coordination among teams, and the Scrum framework provided a clear and flexible structure for managing and prioritizing tasks.

The FBI’s success with Scrum was so notable that it served as a model for other government agencies looking to improve their workflow and increase productivity.

The FBI’s experience with Scrum is a powerful reminder of the potential of Agile methodologies to bring about positive change in organizations of all types and sizes.

My Book Highlights & Quotes

Planning Is Useful. Blindly Following Plans Is Stupid. It’s just so tempting to draw up endless charts. All the work needed to be done on a massive project laid out for everyone to see—but when detailed plans meet reality, they fall apart. Build into your working method the assumption of change, discovery, and new ideas.

Inspect and Adapt. Every little while, stop doing what you’re doing, review what you’ve done, and see if it’s still what you should be doing and if you can do it better. 

Change or Die. Clinging to the old way of doing things, of command and control and rigid predictability, will bring only failure. In the meantime, the competition that is willing to change will leave you in the dust. 

Fail Fast So You Can Fix Early. Corporate culture often puts more weight on forms, procedures, and meetings than on visible value creation that can be inspected at short intervals by users. Work that does not produce real value is madness. Working on the product in short cycles allows early user feedback and you can immediately eliminate what is obviously wasteful effort. 

Hesitation Is Death. Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. Know where you are, assess your options, make a decision, and act!

Look Outward for Answers. Complex adaptive systems follow a few simple rules, which they learn from their environment. 

Great Teams Just Are. They are cross-functional, autonomous, and empowered, with a transcendent purpose. 

Don’t Guess. Plan, Do, Check, Act. Plan what you’re going to do. Do it. Check whether it did what you wanted. Act on that and change how you’re doing things. Repeat in regular cycles, and, by doing so, achieve continuous improvement.

Shu Ha Ri. First, learn the rules and the forms, and once you’ve mastered them, make innovations. Finally, in a heightened state of mastery, discard the forms and just be—with all the learning internalized and decisions made almost unconsciously. 

Pull the Right Lever. Change Team performance. That has much more impact—by several orders of magnitude—than individual performance. 

Autonomy. Give teams the freedom to make decisions on how to take action —to be respected as masters of their craft. The ability to improvise will make all the difference, whether the unit is reporting on a revolution in the Middle East or making a sale. 

Cross-functional. The team must have every skill needed to complete a project, whether the mission is to deliver software or capture terrorists in Iraq. 

Small Wins. Small teams get work done faster than big teams. The rule of thumb is seven team members—plus or minus two. Err on the small side. 

Blame Is Stupid. Don’t look for bad people; look for bad systems—ones that incentivize bad behavior and reward poor performance. 

Time Is Finite. Treat It That Way. Break down your work into what can be accomplished in a regular, set, short period—optimally one to four weeks. And if you’ve caught the Scrum fever, call it a Sprint. 

Demo or Die. At the end of each Sprint, have something that’s done— something that can be used (to fly, drive, whatever). 

Throw Away Your Business Cards. Titles are specialized status markers. Be known for what you do, not how you’re referred to. 

Everyone Knows Everything. Communication saturation accelerates work. 

One Meeting a Day. When it comes to team check-ins, once a day is enough. Get together for fifteen minutes at the Daily Stand-up, see what can be done to increase speed, and do it. 

Multitasking Makes You Stupid. Doing more than one thing at a time makes you slower and worse at both tasks. Don’t do it. If you think this doesn’t apply to you, you’re wrong—it does. 

Half-Done Is Not Done. A half-built car simply ties up resources that could be used to create value or save money. Anything that’s “in process” costs money and energy without delivering anything. 

Do It Right the First Time. When you make a mistake, fix it right away. Stop everything else and address it. Fixing it later can take you more than twenty times longer than if you fix it now. 

Working Too Hard Only Makes More Work. Working long hours doesn’t get more done; it gets less done. Working too many results in fatigue, which leads to errors, which leads to having to fix the thing you just finished. Rather than work late or on the weekends, work weekdays only at a sustainable pace. And take a vacation.

Don’t Be Unreasonable. Goals that are challenging are motivators; goals that are impossible are just depressing. 

No Heroics. If you need a hero to get things done, you have a problem. Heroic effort should be viewed as a failure of planning.

Enough with the Stupid Policies. Any policy that seems ridiculous likely is. Stupid forms, stupid meetings, stupid approvals, and stupid standards are just that—stupid. If your office seems like a Dilbert cartoon, fix it. 

No Assholes. Don’t be one, and don’t allow the behavior. Anyone who causes emotional chaos inspires fear or dread or demeans or diminishes people needs to be stopped cold. 

Strive for Flow. Choose the smoothest, most trouble-free way to get things done. Scrum is about enabling the most flow possible 

The Map Is Not the Terrain. Don’t fall in love with your plan. It’s almost certainly wrong. 

Only Plan What You Need To. Don’t try to project everything out years in advance. Just plan enough to keep your teams busy. 

What Kind of Dog Is It? Don’t estimate in absolute terms like hours—it’s been proven that humans are terrible at that. Size things relatively, by what breed of dog the problem is, or T-shirt size (S, M, L, XL, XXL), or, more commonly, the Fibonacci sequence. 

Ask the Oracle. Use a blind technique, like the Delphi method, to avoid anchoring biases such as the halo effect or bandwagon effect, or just plain stupid groupthink. 

Plan with Poker. Use Planning Poker to quickly estimate work that needs to be done.

Work Is a Story. Think first about who’ll be getting value from something, then about what it is, and then why they need it. Humans think in narratives, so give them one. As an X, I want Y, so that Z. 

Know Your Velocity. Every team should know exactly how much work they can get done in each Sprint. And they should know how much they can improve that velocity by working smarter and removing barriers that are slowing them down. 

Velocity × Time = Delivery. Once you know how fast you’re going, you’ll know how soon you’ll get there. 

Set Audacious Goals. With Scrum, it is not that hard to double production or cut delivery time in half. If you do it in the right way, your revenue and stock price should double as well. 

It’s the Journey, Not the Destination. True happiness is found in the process, not the result. Often we only reward results, but what we really want to reward is people striving toward greatness. 

Happy Is the New Black. It helps you make smarter decisions. Plus, when you’re happy, you’re more creative, less likely to leave your job, and more likely to accomplish far more than you ever anticipated. 

Quantify Happiness. It’s not enough just to feel good; you need to measure that feeling and compare it to actual performance. Other metrics look backward. Happiness is a future-looking metric. 

Get Better Every Day—and Measure It. At the end of each Sprint, the team should pick one small improvement, or kaizen, that will make them happier. And that should become the most important thing they’ll accomplish in the next Sprint. 

Secrecy Is Poison. Nothing should be secret. Everyone should know everything, and that includes salaries and financials. Obfuscation only serves people who serve themselves. 

Make Work Visible. Have a board that shows all the work that needs to be done, what is being worked on, and what is actually done. Everyone should see it, and everyone should update it every day. 

Happiness Is Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose. Everyone wants to control their own destiny, get better at what they do, and serve a purpose greater than themselves. 

Pop the Happy Bubble. Don’t get so happy that you start believing your own bullshit. Make sure happiness is measured against performance, and if there is a disconnect, be prepared to act. Complacency is the enemy of success.

Make a List. Check It Twice. Create a list of everything that could possibly be done on a project. Then prioritize it. Put the items with the highest value and lowest risk at the top of that Backlog, then the next, and then the next. 

A Leader Isn’t a Boss. A Product Owner sets out what needs to be done and why. How the team accomplishes it and who accomplishes it is up to the team. 

Observe, Orient, Decide, Act (OODA). See the whole strategic picture, but act tactically and quickly. 

Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. It’s better to give than to receive. Get inside your competition’s OODA loop and wrap them up in their own confusion. 

Get Your Money for Nothing and Your Change for Free. Create new things only as long as those new things deliver value. Be willing to swap them out for things that require equal effort. What in the beginning you thought you needed is never what is actually needed. 

ScrumAccelerates All Human Endeavors. The type of project or problem doesn’t matter—Scrum can be used in any endeavor to improve performance and results. 

Scrum for Schools. In the Netherlands, a growing number of teachers are using Scrum to teach high school. They see an almost immediate improvement in test scores of more than 10 percent. And they’re engaging all sorts of students, from vocational to gifted. 

Scrum for Poverty. In Uganda, the Grameen Foundation is using Scrum to deliver agricultural and market data to poor rural farmers. The result: double the yield and double the revenue for some of the poorest people on the planet. 

Rip Up Your Business Cards. Get rid of all titles, all managers, all structures. Give people the freedom to do what they think best and the responsibility to be accountable for it. You’ll be surprised at the results 

In conclusion, Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time is a valuable resource for anyone looking to increase productivity and efficiency using Scrum methodologies.

The author, Jeff Sutherland, provides a comprehensive overview of the key practices and strategies needed to successfully implement Scrum, and offers real-world examples and case studies to illustrate the concepts.

The book also covers the importance of leadership, communication, and collaboration in the Scrum process, and includes practical tips, tools, and checklists to help teams implement Scrum effectively and increase productivity and efficiency.

It’s a must-read for anyone looking to improve their Agile skills and knowledge, and for organizations looking to optimize their workflow and increase productivity and efficiency.

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