Archive for March 2014

Understand Scrum in a simple metaphor (Medicinal Agility)

I and my colleague Madhavi were discussing in general about Agile and Scrum last week. During the discussion she has suggested that it will be nice if there is a simple explanation about Scrum framework using a common language that makes the concepts easy to anyone. During the discussion we had come up with below explanation.

This article is also published in scrum alliance website:

The Metaphor:

Assume that if some falls sick, he/she visits a doctor for clinical check-up and follow the doctor advice to get well soon. So considering this scenario, we tried to explain the Scrum concepts.

1. Find out which medicine suits your body? [Which framework should I use? Scrum or Kanban?)

Which flavour of Agile is suitable to your team should be analysed first. It is as simple as just like we have various flavours of same drug like paracetamol, Colpol, Crocin for curing fever and not every medicine suits you. So what do we do? We first try with one flavour and experiment with it for some time and if it suits your body, then we continue with it until you are completely recovered.  Else we would try a different flavour.

Exactly similar, is the case with Agile. We do some initial study, start using scrum or Kanban and see how it works for a sprint and then decide whether we want to continue with it or use a different method. Of course if you clearly know you cannot plan at least for one week then you better go with Kanban model, else Scrum.

2. Find out what dosage suits your body? [What is the Sprint Cycle]

Based on various factors like age, weight and intensity of fever, we decide on the dosage of the medicine to be used. Similarly based on factors like how long backlog can be fixed, how often requirements can change etc., the sprint cycle duration needs to be worked out.

If we haphazardly vary the dosage i.e. if we take one dose of medicine today and two doses next day and skip the does in between, the ailment that we are trying to cure becomes worse and the situation goes out of control and our body may develop resistance to that medicine. Similarly, if we try to vary the sprint cycle haphazardly from 1 week, to 2 weeks and back to 2 weeks etc. frequently without having any rhythm, it would be very difficult to see the results and the project would become unpredictable and may end up in a chaos.

You may experiment for a couple of models and fix to one model.

 3. Planning and Execution as per the dosage: (Sprint Planning/Daily Scrum)

After the flavour and dosage of the medicine is decided, doctor (Product Owner) advices the exact medicine names that need to be taken and in what order as per the priority i.e. may be a multi vitamin tablet first followed by an antibiotic etc. We go ahead and take the medicines that is consume them in however way we want, i.e. some take them with water, some may make it a powder and dissolve and drink, sometimes you mix it in food and give to kids. So if you observe the scenario here, the WHAT part is being decided by the doctor and the HOW part is decided by the person taking the tablet. Similarly, in the sprint, WHAT to achieve is decided by the Product Owner and HOW part is decided by the team.

4. Re-check and Feedback on how did the medicine work (Review & Retrospective):

After the completion of the medicine course for the given period, we go to the doctor for re-check up to evaluate how the medicine worked and if the tablets or dosage needs to be changed for the next cycle if needed.

In a similar fashion at the end of the sprint you will give a demo to the Product Owner and the team will conduct a retrospective to inspect and adapt.

5. Daily alarm for the consumption of medicine (Daily Scrum Meeting):

In order to have effectiveness, you take medicine at same time and same dosage every day. For this, you may have some mechanism like mobile alarm to remind you. You might check the progress in your health day by day.

Similarly, in Scrum you will have daily scrum meeting for timeboxed duration (up to 15 minutes) and share everyone’s update and the by-product of this meeting is the status of the work progress.

Conclusion: The scrum framework is very simple common sense which we really practice day in and day out in some or the other way, so maybe we just need to make a good quick short experiment to figure out what suits our nature of the project and execute it the right way and it would really work wonders. However, do remember that it is really hard to master in Scrum unless you have thorough understanding on Scrum Values and follow the framework with a high level of discipline and passion.