Scrum is a Lean method first adopted in software development in the early 90s. With many companies now adopting Lean approaches wherever possible, it is seeing more implementation in industrial and manufacturing environments.
Scrum is a process skeleton with a number of predefined roles and practices that encourage the processes at hand to be carried through by the team as a whole–much like rugby, the sport from which the term “scrum” was taken.
The undertaking as a whole is broken down into “sprints,” which are usually 2-4 week periods. During these sprints, very specific tasks are laid out in meetings, and the group stays in constant daily contact to ensure all tasks are completed according to the schedule.
The main roles in Scrum are divided into two groups of people – referred to as “pigs” and “chickens.” These groups get their name from an old joke about a pig and a chicken opening a restaurant:
A pig and a chicken are walking down a road. The chicken looks at the pig and says, “Hey, why don’t we open a restaurant?” The pig looks back at the chicken and says, “Good idea, what do you want to call it?” The chicken thinks about it and says, “Why don’t we call it ‘Ham and Eggs’?” “I don’t think so,” says the pig, “I’d be committed, but you’d only be involved.”
So the “pigs” are committed to the project regularly and frequently, while everyone else is a “chicken”—interested, but really not accountable. The needs, desires, ideas, and influences of the chicken roles are taken into account, but are not in any way allowed to get in the way of the actual Scrum project.
- ScrumMaster – Responsible for the Scrum process–a project manager of sorts. This individual is not the group leader, but rather acts as a buffer between the team and any distractions or work impediments. It is also their duty to ensure that the team is adhering to the Scrum process and that all individuals are focused on the tasks at hand.
- Team – Cross-functional group of individuals responsible for performing work and delivering the product.
- Product Owner – This individual is an internal individual responsible for representing the voice of the customer. They play a crucial role in making sure the backlog of tasks to be completed represent the business needs of the customer.
- Stakeholders – Customers, Vendors. These are the people that the project results are intended for. These individuals are only directly involved in the project during sprint reviews.
- Managers – People who will set up and manage the working environment for the team.
Sprint Planning Meeting – Held at the beginning of the sprint cycle, this meeting will lay out what work is to be done and should not be longer than 8 hours. At this time, the Product Backlog (basically a list of all potential goals/features to be addressed) is discussed, and an action plan (Sprint Backlog) is created.
Daily Scrum – A project status meeting held every day during the sprint. This meeting should happen every day in the same place, at the same time. This meeting must start precisely on time, and should last NO MORE than 15 minutes. It is important to note that only “pigs” may speak during this meeting, although all are welcome.
During this meeting, each team member will answer three questions:
- What have you done since yesterday?
- What are you planning to do today?
- Do you have any problems preventing you from accomplishing your goal? (It is the role of the ScrumMaster to facilitate resolution of these impediments. Typically this should occur outside the context of the Daily Scrum so that it may stay under 15 minutes.)
Sprint Review Meeting – Held at the end of the sprint cycle, in this meeting the team will present completed work to the stakeholders (demo the product), and review work that was completed or not completed.
Sprint Retrospective – Held after the Sprint Review Meeting, all team members reflect on the past sprint, and make continuous process improvements (the basis of kaizen, another lean practice). Two areas are addressed: What went well during the sprint? What could be improved in the next sprint?
The following are some general practices of Scrum:
- “Working more hours” does not necessarily mean “producing more output.”
- “A happy team makes a tough task look simple.”