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And they called it Scrum (iteration 5)

[Why iteration 5? Just because I wanted to see what would happen if I iterated toward a finished blog post.  I learned that I do not consider blog post to be finished works of writing, the better the post the more I wish to iterate on it. ]


I'm sitting here drinking a Big Orange and thinking about Scrum.  How much does Andy's monologue, What it Was, Was Football sound like your management or C-level?

Why did they call this lightweight process (that later became know as an Agile process framework) Scrum?  I don't know - but allow me some revisionist historical fiction, and I'll tell you.

Scrum by definition is a play in the real sport of Rugby.  I think Jeff Sutherland (roots of Scrum) may be a Rugby fan.  Being an observant guy and noticing the similarity to software development and the true game, it hit him one day in the midst of a game (it was most likely a legal hit, as there are few illegal hits in Rugby - this ain't Football).

Scrum - in Rugby:  a play that commences after a pause in play (and we ain't goin' stop for just anything - this ain't Football) where the two opposing teams discuss in an orderly fashion the true possession of the ball.  The outcome of this play is the start of a complex (perhaps chaotic) plan by the possessive team to reach their objective and score a goal.

Now why does software development even resemble this game?   Well we do sometimes pause during development.  Well not the really good teams - just the nanzy-panzy teams.  But it is the beginning teams with which we must work first.  The paws of which I speak are the daily breaks we take for the dog walking and the spouse's honey dew list, and resetting the alarm clock to 6:00 AM after the cat unplugged it again (rather that default to 12:00 - wouldn't 6:00 AM be a better default - wonder what their Story Test script has in that spreadsheet cell).

So how do we restart the team after a pause?  One technique is a stand-up meeting where we gather around in a lose circle and focus upon the first objective, who has the ball?  Then we make a plan (maybe we call an audible play) we break and execute the plan.  In the mean time we would like a referee (preferably wearing an embarrassing shirt) to be watching the group, to make sure we don't inadvertently violate some rule of the game.

Now just for the edification of American's who think they know all about Football (the world snickers - oh, you mean American Football - that nanzy-panzy game).  Why not call this new lightweight process Football?  It has much more planning and the teams pause at very defined regular intervals to re-plan.  They have more people in funny looking shirts running all around blowing the whistle on violators.  Much better analogy - right?  Well yes, to the old way of doing software development - waterfall.  In waterfall we did a lot of planning, and then executed the plan.  In Football, they spend more time in huddles, than running the plays.  Jeff must have considered this.  Did he wish his software developers to spend 4 hours to complete a project (wall clock of a televised game), when the actual time running plays was some small fraction of the official 60 minute game clock?  Small fraction you say - what?  Well, yes the plays take 10 - 20 seconds, but the huddles take up to 25 seconds. A Wall Street Journal study found only 11 minutes of play in the game.

That equates to less than 20% of the game in true action.  Not to mention the overages to total project duration caused by advertiser (stakeholders) request to pause the game for their special agenda item of interest (commercial breaks) which delays the value (win/loss) to the customers.

Hey, Jeff, good call on the naming - Football sucks!

What about another sports analogy?  I just saw one in my office this week.  "It ain't over till it's over"-- Yogi Berra.  This baseball reference was made as an analogy to Scrum's definition of done.  Why did Jeff & Ken not think to use such a rich treasure trove of language?  Well for one reason, that is a reference to a feature bound game.  It requires 6 outs and 9 innings to end a regular baseball game, however they can last forever (record 8 hour game with 25 innings).  Baseball is great -- but not a great metaphor for a lightweight time bound process -- Scrum.



What it Was, Was Football (YouTube).
Andy Griffith's famous 1953 stand-up monologue about college football. It has become one of the most beloved comedy recordings of all time. The illustrations used in this video were drawn by George Woodbridge, a Mad Magazine artist.

Listen to Andy (what Dialect is that?) mentally map Football to Scrum.

I grew up in the shadow (plus 85 miles) of Pilot Mountain which is in very Surry county of North Carolina.  But I don't sound like it unless I've had a few beers.

If you are a fan of Sheriff Taylor's management style - you will enjoy this article by Donald E. Gray: 

Managing in Mayberry: An examination of three distinct leadership styles



Just found this video of Jeff Sutherland on the evolution of the Scrum process framework.


Related posts:
And they called it Scrum (iteration 1)
And they called it Scrum (iteration 2)
And they called it Scrum (iteration 3)
And they called it Scrum (iteration 4)

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