Scrum you say? Ah yes, Scrum!

Image: Flickr

Image: Flickr

My blogging efforts are designed to give the feel of a small town coffee house. Where I was raised, years ago, a crop of entrepreneurs grew from those coffee house days. Rising early and at the coffee house by 6 am, a person could learn all manner of insights regarding their community. And we were inspired by one another; by ideas and action. Back then there were 280 'Mom and Pop' oil and gas companies operating in the Estevan and Weyburn area. As expected, the coffee house business was booming. Since the advent of the Bakken resource play, most of those companies have been gobbled up by larger oilco’s. Yet that basic Monday morning entrepreneurial spirit lives on.

Recently, I was invited to something called a business scrum here in Vancouver. Honestly, I felt like I was back in Grandma Lee’s coffeehouse and bakery. If you are unfamiliar with Scrums, they are a project management technique used in the development of Software and the like. It is a flexible, holistic, product development strategy whereby a development team works as a unit to reach a common goal-challenging assumptions and monitoring progress on a daily basis. Scrum was first defined in 1986 by Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka in the New Product Development Game. Takeuchi and Nonaka argued that in today's business, often, a solution to a corporate problem is not immediately known, and that a scrum is a form of "organizational knowledge creation, especially good at bringing about innovation continuously, incrementally and spirally".

How did our scrum work? Well, we all stood up, looked each other in the eye and introduced ourselves. Then, we answered-as it related to our individual projects-1) what did we work on yesterday? 2) What problem do we need help solving today. 3) Feedback, suggestions and criticism from other scrum members. 

A highly collaborative conversation

Image: Hai Van Pass (Flickr)

Image: Hai Van Pass (Flickr)

Our Scrum was facilitated by a scrum master, who is accountable for removing impediments that the scrum members are working to overcome.  The scrum master is not a traditional team lead or project manager, but acts as a buffer between the team and any distracting influences. Meet our Scrum Master: a 20 something tech millionaire, who really did a good job of drawing out from the participants, their particular needs and comments. We had a diverse group-techies, educators, miners, and Internet gurus. There was also a real mix bag of countrymen-Canada, Phillipines, India, Hong Kong and Iran-in attendance.

Like the small town coffee house of my early career, I walked into a circle of diverse entrepreneurs and connected with individuals face to face, whom, by the way, meet regularly for 'scrumming'.  For myself, the experience turned out positive. However, I learned that not everyone believes the Scrum philosophy to be effective. Some say Scrums are just another form of micro-management. For example a leading scrum educator comments on some of the problems that are encountered with a daily Scrum ( :

  • Some people show up late, if at all.

  • Some people don’t say much.

  • Other people don’t know when to shut up.

  • Everyone talks to the Scrum Master (especially if that’s also the manager), instead of to each other.

  • Some people prattle on endlessly about how pointless the Daily Scrum is.

  • Some people whisper about how the Daily Scrum is just another form of micromanagement.

While these are valid points perhaps they may weed out the non-team players on your team. Regardless, Scrums are used at Google, Apple and a long list of huge high performance global companies. In Vancouver’s prominent tech sector, I especially like this novel idea of unrelated business interests using the scrum platform to brainstorm ideas and solutions. This is akin to the design thinking approach configured by IDEO.  As our scrum master pointedly says, “Scrums are highly effective, you just have to learn to do them right, and you never know whom you may meet!”

Image: Charlie Summers (Flickr)

Image: Charlie Summers (Flickr)