Scrum: Book Review

October 13, 2016 Focus area: Scaling Agile

The godfather of Scrum

Jeff Sutherland, one of the godfathers of Scrum, wrote this book together with his son. And it is not meant for Scrum-experts, but for people who are new to this Agile methodology. And preferably don’t even have an IT-background. If you fall into this category, this book is a good starting point for you. Otherwise, better skip it.


Ideas behind Scrum

In this book Sutherland mainly explains the ideas behind Scrum. Why and how he developed it, and why he thinks it works so good. When telling the history of Scrum he even goes back to his days as a pilot in the Vietnam war. The principle he learned back in those days, Orient, Observe, Decide, Act (OODA) is still very important to him now. And together with the Lean methodology, OODA formed the inspiration for Agile / Scrum.

In the book he emphasizes that it is not just about abiding to the rules of Scrum, but more about the Agile principles Scrum is founded on. The rules are just the embodiment of the idea. And he explains that one of the most important ideas, or maybe even the most important idea is that you are always able to adapt to your environment, and can react quicker than your opponent. Be it a competing company or a enemy fighter pilot. Another important principle is that of the quick feedback loop, so you always get a quick response on your actions, making you able to give a quick reaction. And just like the Lean methodology, Sutherland also really dislikes waste. Processes or actions that deliver no value are removed as much as possible. What he further emphasizes is the importance of autonomy of teams, and that they should have fun in their work. Because it is important to enjoy your job, and of course this optimizes productivity.


Scrum to save the world

All this he explains with personal anecdotes and interesting examples, making the book an entertaining read. What he also tries to accomplish with the examples, is to prove that Scrum can be used for more than only software development. For example, it could be used to build a car, a house, or even as a teaching methodology. To prove that last point he mentions a case from the Netherlands were a chemistry teacher uses Scrum to improve the skills of his pupils and to teach them teamwork. 

Sutherland goes a bit overboard when he tries to convince the reader that Scrum is not only a way to increase productivity and pleasure at work, but it also (automatically) is a force for good. He mentions examples of Scrum being used to reduce poverty in developing nations, by making local business more efficient. Or improving politics by involving citizens in a Scrum way. These are interesting examples, but it is too much of a stretch to claim that thus the methodology is inherently good and makes the world a better place to live in. A more critical approach would have been more fitting, but we could have expected that one of the godfathers of Scrum is really, really enthusiastic about the method he created.