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InfoQ Interview: Jeff Sutherland on "Who's Doing Scrum"

by Deborah Hartmann Preuss on Oct 24, 2007 | NOTICE: The next QCon is in San Francisco Nov 3-7, Join us!

At Qcon London 2007, Dr. Jeff Sutherland spoke with InfoQ about "the Nokia test" - a list developed by one Agile IT organization to evaluate a team's level of Scrum adoption, and about how MIT's AI research contributed to the ideas behind Scrum.

Scrum, XP and other Agile processes ... are built out of a set of interlocking pieces, and one of the things that companies are trying to do is say "well, let's pick this Agile process because it's hard to do the other ones, and we'll get some improvement". But the improvement is often not what they expect.

It's as if you look at object oriented technology and say "well our developers can do everything with objects except they have a tough time with inheritance ... So we are going to do everything but inheritance". Now the product comes out, and it's brittle, it's not adaptable, it's not flexible, all the qualities that you expect to get are missing. And then management says "well, we are doing object oriented development, we invested a lot in this, and we are not getting the benefits".

The "Nokia test" consists of two sets of questions: first: "Are you doing Iterative development?" and if the answer is yes, then "Are you doing Scrum?". They maintain that if a team isn't meeting the basic requirements for iterative development, there's no way they are doing Scrum, or any other Agile methodology.

Sutherland also spoke about how Mark Striebeck gradually grew a full Scrum approach with the Google AdWords team, by adding each practice as the team realized they needed it. Striebeck's account "Shh, We Are Adding a Process..." was presented at Agile2006 and is available in the IEEE library.

Clearly, for Sutherland, it's not all-or-nothing, but more a matter of being aware of the full Scrum pattern language [1], which provides a benchmark for measuring adoption and guiding further improvements at the right time.


Excerpt from SCRUM: An extension pattern language for hyperproductive software development [1]

View the InfoQ exclusive interview: Jeff Sutherland on Scrum and Not-Scrum.

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[1] Beedle, Mike; Devos, Martine; Sharon, Yonat; Schwaber, Ken; Sutherland, Jeff. SCRUM: An extension pattern language for hyperproductive software development. In Harrison, Neil; Foote, Brian; Rohnert, Hans (Eds.) Pattern Languages of Program Design 4. Addison-Wesley Software Patterns Series, 1999. (This is the formalization of the SCRUM organizational pattern.) Also available here in pdf.

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Scrum and not... Fantastic perspective! Thank you!!! by Ken 'classmaker' Ritchie

Dear Jeff (and interviewer), WOW!!!

This is informative, relevant, entertaining, and reveals the heart of Scrum. I appreciate how you wove the example industry stories together with clear enumeration of the Nokia criteria. This is a great presentation for outreach and understanding.

Thank you so much for taking the time to create and share this interview.

Bravo!
Ken Ritchie, CSM'2006, Atlanta

Re: Scrum and not... Fantastic perspective! Thank you!!! by Rajagopal Y

Really Very Very good and i learned few more things from this interview.

Thanks Jeff ..

Great interview Jeff and Deb! by Michael James

I'm glad to see a simple checklist to help separate the men from the boys when it comes to claiming to do Scrum.

Maybe my favorite part was seeing the esteemed Jeff Sutherland flail like the neural network robot learning to walk the first time.

--mj ( danube.com/blog/michaeljames )

great interview... by Jason Little

This video is a must-watch for anyone new to Scrum. I've come across a lot of people who are mis-informed about what Scrum is and tend to think "bah...don't like that rule...throw it out" Do Scrum or don't do Scrum, but don't implement Scrum half-assed and call it Scrum!

Re: great interview... by joshua milane

This video is a must-watch for anyone new to Scrum. I've come across a lot of people who are mis-informed about what Scrum is and tend to think "bah...don't like that rule...throw it out" Do Scrum or don't do Scrum, but don't implement Scrum half-assed and call it Scrum!


You really think there is only one way to implement ANY methodology? What if you have 3 developers on different projects? Can't you leverage some principles of Scrum?

Yea. You can. I bet you know that, too.

Josh Milane
josh@mittechnical.com
www.mittechnical.com

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