Book Notes : Scrum

Scrum: The art of doing twice the work in half the time by Jeff Sutherland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have read lots on Scrum and have used it for some time but even for me it was an interesting read to hear the background and a refresher on the motivation to some of the ideas in the Scrum methodology.

These are the notes provided by the book.

The way the world is broken

  • Planning is useful, blindly following plans is stupid.  It’s just so tempting to draw up endless charts.  All the work needs to be done on a massive project laid out for them to see – but when detailed plans meet reality they fall apart.  Building into your working method assumption of change, discovery and new ideas
  • Inspect and adapt.  Every little while, stop doing what you’re doing, review what you’ve done and see if it’s still what you should be doing and if you can do it better
  • Change or die.  Clinging to the old way of doing things, of command and control and rigid predictability will bring only failure.  In the meantime the competition that is willing to change will leave you in the dust
  • Fail fast so you can fix early.  Corporate culture often puts more weight on forms, procedures and meetings than on visible value creation that can be inspected at short intervals by uses.  Work does not produce real value is madness.  Working products in short cycles allows users early feedback and can immediately eliminate what is obviously wasteful effort

The Origins of Scrum

  • Hesitation is death.  Observe, Orient, Decide, Act.  Know where you are, assess your options, make a decision and act.
  • Look out for answers.  Complex adaptive systems follow a few simple rules that they can learn from their environment
  • Great teams are.  They are cross-functional, autonomous and empowered with a transcendent purpose.
  • Don’t guess.  Plan, Do, Check, Act.  Plan what you’re going to do.  Do it.  Check whether it was what you wanted.  Act on that and change how you’re doing things.  Repeat in regular cycles and by doing so achieve continuous improvement
  • Shu Ha Ri.  First, learn the rules and the forms, and once you’ve mastered them make innovation.  Finally in a heightened state of mastery discard the forms and just be –  with all the learning internalised and decisions made almost unconsciously


  • Pull the right lever.  Change team performance.  That has much more impact – by several orders of magnitude than individual performance
  • Transcendence.  Great teams have a purpose that is greater than the individual e.g. winning the NBA championship
  • Autonomy.  Give teams the freedom to make decisions on how to take action – to be respected as masters of their craft.  The ability to improvise will make all the difference, whether the unit is reporting on a revolution in the Middle East or making a sale
  • Cross-functional.  The team must have every skill needs to complete a project, whether the mission is to deliver software or capture terrorists in Iraq
  • Small wins.  Small teams get great work done faster than big teams.  The rule of thumb is 7 team members plus or minus two.  Err on the side of small
  • Blame is stupid.  Don’t look for bad people, look for bad systems – ones that incentivise bad behaviour and reward reward poor performance


  • Time is finite, treat it that way.  Break down you’re work inti what can be accomplished in a regular set short period – optimally one to four weeks.
  • Demo or die.  At the end of each sprint have something that’s done so it can be used.
  • Throw away business cards.  Titles are specialised status markers.  Be known for what you do not what you’re referred to.
  • Everyone knows everything.  Communicate saturation accelerates work
  • One meeting a day.  When it comes to team check-ins, once a day is enough.  Get together for 15 minutes at the daily stand-up, see what what can be done to increase speed and do it.

Waste is a crime

  • Multitasking makes you stupid.  Do more than one thing at a time makes you slower and worse at both tasks.  Don’t do it.  If you think it’s doesn’t apply to you you’re wrong –  it does
  • Half done is not done.  A half built car simply ties up resource that could be used to create value or save money.  Anything that’s “in process” cost money and energy without delivering anything
  • Do it right the first time.  When you make a mistake fix it right away.  Stop everything else and address it.  Fixing it later can take you more than 20 times longer than if you fix it now
  • Working too hard only makes more work.  Working longer hours doesn’t get more done, it gets less done.  Working too much results in fatigue, which leads to errors, which leads to having to fix the things you just finished.  Rather than work later or on weekends work weekdays only at a sensible pace .  And take a vacations!
  • Don’t be a reasonable.  Goals that are challenging are motivators, goals that are impossible are just depressing.
  • No heroics.  If you need a hero to get things done, you have a problem.  Heroic effort should be viewed as a failure of planning
  • Enough of the stupid policies.  Any policy that seems ridiculous likely is.  Stupid forms, stupid meetings, stupid approvals, stupid standards are just that – stupid.
  • No idiots.  Don’t be one, and don’t allow that behaviour.  Anyone who causes emotional chaos, inspires fear or dread, or demeans or diminishes people needs to be stopped cold.
  • Strive for flow.  Choose the smoothest, most trouble-free way to get things done.  Scrum is about enabling the most flow possible.

Plan reality, not fantasy

  • The map is not the terrain.  Don’t fall in love with your plan.  It’s almost certainly wrong
  • Only plan what you need to.  Don’t try to project everything out years in advance.  Just play enough to keep your team busy
  • What kind of dog is it?  Don’t estimate in absolute terms like hours – its been proven that humans a terrible at that.  Size things relatively by what breed of dog the problem is or t-shirt sizes, or more commonly the Fibonacci sequence
  • Ask the Oracle.  Use a blind technique, like the Delphi method, to avoid anchoring bias such as the halo effect or bandwagon effect or just plain stupid groupthink.
  • Plan with poker.  Using planning poker to quickly estimate work that needs to be done
  • Work is a story.  Think first about who’ll be getting value from something, then about what it is, and then why they need it.  Humans think in narratives so give them one.  As an X, I want Y, so that Z.
  • Know your velocity.  Everything should know exactly how much work they can get done in the spring.  And they should know how much they can improve that velocity by working smarter removing barriers that are slowing them down
  • Velocity x Time = Delivery.  Once you know how fast you’re going you know how soon you’ll get there.
  • Set audacious goals.  With Scrum it is not that hard to double productivity or cut delivery time in half.  If you do it the right way, your revenue and stock price should double as well.


  • Its the journey, not the destination.  True happiness is found in the process, not the result.  Often we only reward results, but what we really want to reward is people striving towards greatness.
  • Happy is the new black.  It helps you make smarter decisions.  Plus, when your’re happy, you’re more creative, less likely to leave your job, and more likely to accomplish far more than you ever anticipated.
  • Quantify happiness.  Its not enough just to feel good; you need to measure that feeling and compare it to actual performance.  Other metrics look backwards.  Happiness is a future-looking metric.
  • Get better every day – and measure it.  At the end of each Sprint, the team should pick one small improvement, or kaizen, that will make them happier.  And that should become the most important thing they’ll accomplish in the next sprint.
  • Secrecy is poison.  Nothing should be secret.  Everyone should know everything and that includes salaries and financials.  Obfuscation only serves people who serve themselves.
  • Make work visible.  Have a board that shows all the work that needs to be done, what is being worked on and what is actually done.  Everyone should see it, and everyone should update it every day.
  • Happiness is autonomy, mastery and purpose.  Everyone wants to control their own destiny, get better at what they do and serve a purpose greater than themselves.
  • Pop the Happy Bubble.  Don’t get so happy that you start believing your perfect.  Make sure happiness is measured against performance, and if there is a disconnect, be prepared to act.  Complacency is the enemy of success.


  • Make a list, check it twice.  Create a list of everything that could possibly be done on a project.  Then prioritise it.  Put the items with the highest value and lowest risk at the top of the backlog then the next etc.
  • The product owner.  Translates the product vision into the backlog.  Need to understand the bussiness case, the market and the customer
  • A leader isn’t a boss.  A product owner sets out what needs to be done and why.  How the team accomplishes it and who accomplishes it is up t the team.
  • The product ownder.  Has knowledge of the domain and the power to make final decisions.  He or she is available to answer questions and is accountable for delivering value.
  • Observe, Orient, Decide, Act (OODA).  See the whole strategic picture, but act tactically and quickly.
  • Fear, uncertainty and doubt.  Its better to give than to receive.  Get inside your competitors OODS lop and wrap them up in their own confusion.
  • Get changes for free.  Create new things only as long as those new things deliver value.  Be willing to swap them out for things that require equal effort.  What in the beginning you thought you needed is never what is actually needed.

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