Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time [Book Summary]

Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time 

Introduction

Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, is a book written by one of the creators of Scrum himself, Jeff Sutherland. Its an essential handbook for anyone interested in implementing this agile methodology in their work or life.

Scrum is an evolution on the waterfall project management methodology. Whereas the latter works by sequentially planning and executing each component of the project, the former works by designing and executing sprints and iterating (changing) the approach on the fly using the learnings. The methodology is built on the foundations of the Agile Manifesto

The manifesto has 4 pillars: 

  • Prioritizing Individuals over Processes
  • Working Prototypes over Documentation
  • Customer Collaboration over Contract Negotiation
  • Responding to Change over Following a Plan

Sutherland takes these 4 points and walks the reader through translating them into scrum principles to get “twice the work done in half the time”. The book gives an insight into how this widely adopted methodology was formed and why it has become so successful.

How Scrum Works

Scrum is a methodology that can be adopted in a variety of ways. However, in general, it consists of 3 main stages.

Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time

Stage 1: User Stories [Product Design]

  • User Story Mapping: User stories are where the team hones down on how they are solving the customer problem and lists down the components they have to build in order to deliver that experience to them. [User Stories Video]
  • Product Backlog: The user stories are then ordered sequentially to create the product backlog. This can be a categorized list of all features that have to be built into the product. [Product Backlog Video]

Stage 2: Sprints [Implementation]

  • Sprint Planning: This is where items from the product backlog are prioritized and timelines are set. A sprint is basically a fixed time frame (e.g. a week or a month) in which the highest priority tasks from the product backlog are executed. [Sprint Planning Video]
  • Scrum Board: Also known as a Kanban Board, a Scrum Board is a canvas with 3 columns – To Do, Doing and Done. The To Do column lists all the tasks that the team has to do in the current sprint, the Doing column lists the ongoing tasks and the Done column consists of tasks that have already been completed during that sprint. [Scrum Board Video]
  • Iteration Burndown Charts: This is a tool by which team assesses the progress of the sprint. It measures how much of the work that was supposed to be completed was actually completed. [Iteration Burndown Chart Video]

Stage 3: Iteration & Learning [Learning and Adjustment]

  • Daily Stand ups: This is one of the core stages of Scrum. Its where teams meet everyday for 15 minutes to discuss 3 things. What they did yesterday, what they plan to do today and whether their are any obstacles standing in their way. And yes. They do this standing up. [Daily Stand up Video]
  • Retrospectives: Once the sprint is over, the team gets together and sees what worked and what didn’t. They then adjust the next sprint to take these into account. This in turn improves the output of each progressive sprint until the work is completed. [Retrospectives Video]

These are the 3 broad stage of Scrum, as originally designed. But as the modular diagram above shows, different parts can be mixed and matched to fit the needs of the project. See the video below to see Scrum in action.

Awesome Concepts from the Book 

  • Activity Batching: Batch similar activities together to achieve economies of scale. For instance, when you check email, check all your email. Don’t do anything in between. This means your brain has to do less switching and churn out work faster.
  • Delphi Method: A method of data gathering and planning where anonymous feedback is taken from experts and a solution triangulated.
  • Planning Poker: An estimation method where only the Fibonacci numbers (0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 20…) can be used. Consensus is reached by whittling down the estimates until a mid point is reached.

Conclusion 

Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time is essential reading for those that want a thorough introduction to Scrum and its applications in life and business. It comes highly recommended.

Additional Resources 

  • Here’s a video that walks you through the main learnings of Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time

Mohammad Kashif Choudhury

Kashif is a Business Analyst and Strategy Consultant trained in the art and science of breaking down problems, structuring solutions and implementing them. He works at the intersection of data and strategy across health, education and finance, striving to find ways to synergize technology and human effort to solve the biggest problems.

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