The Scrum Fieldbook by J.J. Sutherland [Book Summary – Review]

All organization experiences hindrances while attempting to reach their goals. For the navy, it could be carrying out a precision military job or maybe attempting to ship an updated software suite. Therefore, what methods can be used to reach your goals without going astray?

You can begin by using the Scrum method which is a smart organization framework. In this book, you will see just how this smart, collaborative method can be of assistance to you and your organization, your team, and even your department in being successful. Also, you will learn the fundamentals of the Scrum framework and see beneficial stories on how businesses such as 3M as well as Saab utilized Scrum. Furthermore, you will understand how this present-day management method can help in making your team remain on the right path, work with speed, and constantly bring impact in the growing market. 

In this book, you’ll discover

  • the reason businesses are similar to Swedish airplanes;
  • the reason why deliberating can be debilitating; and
  • how to create a flawless printer.

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Chapter 1 – Scrum entails adapting to swiftly evolving circumstances.

In the year 1965, Gordon Moore, one of Intel’s co-founders, formulated a prediction called Moore’s Law. He predicted the number of transistors on a computer chip would be twice its number every two years. In the meantime, the chip would be half the price. 

Remarkably, Moore’s Law has proven accurate over time, leading to smaller, faster, and more affordable chips with exponential increases in computing power. Presently, we live in a society where the abilities of any particular smartphone far surpass those that were available in the year 1965.

However, computer chips are not the only thing progressing. In our modern-day world, almost everything occurs at a fast speed, including innovation and business growth. To keep up with this rapid growth, your organization must be equally agile.

The main point here is that: Scrum entails adapting to swiftly evolving circumstances.

Therefore, what does Scrum entail? To know what Scrum entails, one needs to know what Agile is first. At its core, Agile is a procedure designed to efficiently address problems in the organization of work. Collaboration, complexity management, and continuous adaptation are key values within Agile methodology. Scrum stands out as the predominant framework for translating these principles into practice. The truth is that 70% of Agile teams utilize Scrum.

The benefit of Scrum lies in its ability to deal with large jobs by dividing them into smaller, attainable goals. This method is important because, without it, complicated projects can easily become overwhelming. For example, during the early 90s, the London Stock Exchange endeavored to modernize its computer systems by using a project known as TAURUS. The Exchange tried to boost everything simultaneously and this ultimately led to the failure of the multi-million dollar project because it had a lot of details.

On the other hand, let’s look at the example of Saab, the Swedish engineering company. Saab was assigned the job of upgrading the Gripen 39C, Sweden’s standard fighter jet. Truly, fighter jets are complicated tools, and creating a brand new one presented a monumental work. However, Saab used a Scrum method. Rather than addressing the entire aircraft simultaneously, they divided it into independent sections. Various teams were assigned to various components such as the radar, engine, and computer systems.

Due to this, the outcome was a highly versatile new Gripen. Each element can be modified and upgraded as needed. All thanks to Scrum, the aircraft is exceptionally adaptable and comes at roughly half the price of its American counterpart, the F-35. Therefore, how does Scrum function? You will learn about that in the following chapter.

Chapter 2 – Scrum arranges complicated projects into brief and straightforward sprints.

Let’s assume you’re venturing into the real estate field with a plan to purchase an old house, renovate it, and relist it on the market, brand new and upgraded, for a huge profit. It may appear like a simple work, right?

It all depends though. Upon acquiring that fixer-upper, you might discover it needs lots of renovations. The floors may need replacement, there could be plumbing issues, and the walls might be adorned in an unappealing shade of orange. Where do you start?

This is where Scrum proves beneficial. By adopting Scrum, you’ll have an approach to deal with this home renovation project in a straightforward, organized, and efficient manner.

The main point here is that: Scrum arranges complicated projects into brief and straightforward sprints.

To start, Scrum operates at the team level, employing a small group known as a Scrum Team to handle project tasks. The team comprises three roles: the Product Owner, responsible for project oversight and task prioritization; the Team Members, who perform the job; and the Scrum Master, facilitating the overall process by eliminating obstacles for the team to make progress.

Initiating a project involves the Product Owner and Scrum Team generating a details list of necessary jobs, termed the Product Backlog. In the case of the house flipping project, the list might include remodeling the kitchen and fixing the plumbing. Duties from this backlog are then incorporated into a Sprint, a one- to four-week time during which the team concentrates on finished agreed-upon jobs.

Every Sprint begins with a Sprint Planning session where the team determines the achievable goals based on priority and available resources. Within the Sprint, a Daily Scrum takes place – which is a brief 15-minute stand-up meeting where each team member outlines their objectives for the upcoming day and highlights any potential challenges. Subsequently, the team engages in the tasks. At the Sprint’s conclusion, the team member presents its completed activity during a Sprint Review, getting feedback from every member. Finally, a Sprint Retrospective is held to assess teamwork and identify areas that need improvement in the coming Sprint.

This cooperative and open methodology enables teams to prioritize the most valuable duties first, providing flexibility to align and adjust to growing circumstances. For instance, a team may focus on remodeling the bathroom in the first sprint. In the Sprint Review, the team might contemplate every electrical issue it faced. Consequently, in the subsequent Sprint, the team can redirect its actions toward fixing the house wiring, avoiding potential electrical challenges in the future.

Chapter 3 – Scrum enhances innovation by granting your team the autonomy to work independently.

Picture yourself as an engineer in a big automotive company. Through your daily occasions on the factory floor, you recognize that upgrading a piece of tool could enhance productivity greatly. Now, the only hurdle is obtaining approval.

You proceed to draft a purchasing request for your manager, who then forwards it to the main planning group. The planning group formulates a budget for review by the finance board. Subsequently, the finance board presents it to the regional VP, who further involves managing directors and so forth. By the time the approval is granted, the equipment you sought has already become outdated.

This illustrates the challenge with conventional organizational structures where even a straightforward decision can undergo an extended processing time. In a rapidly evolving market, this time delay incurs a cost. Fortunately, the Scrum framework provides a more efficient alternative.

The main point here is that: Scrum enhances innovation by granting your team the autonomy to work independently.

Finishing a small project needs a considerable amount of decision-making, and understandably, most organizations aim to make the best decisions. This is the reason why traditional businesses usually establish detailed systems to thoroughly consider every choice. However, the issue is that prolonged decision-making contributes to a high failure rate. According to a study that was conducted by the  Standish Group, it was discovered that stalling on deciding by only four hours can increase the likelihood of the project failing by 40%.

Therefore, why does comprehensive deliberation undermine hopeful projects? Part of it is because the creation of a detailed approval process tends to overshadow the voices of those with the most knowledge. Your engineer on the factory floor possesses the precise solution to the issue. However, if his solution needs to pass through three committees, it is likely to be diluted or altered by individuals with less straightforward experience with the problem.

Scrum evades this challenge by providing teams with greater autonomy in their decision-making processes. Each team works independently in the Scrum framework. It determines its Backlog, selects tasks for addressing in Sprints, and devises solutions for any arising issues. Primarily, every team has the freedom to work how they like provided it achieves a meaningful result.

While this might look to be a recipe for disaster—and indeed it is—it is precisely the right kind of disaster: structured chaos! Teams that have autonomy foster increased experimentation and a greater acceptance of failure. Given the brief duration of Sprints, coupled with regular Sprint Reviews and Sprint Retrospectives, teams can rectify and refine their ideas constantly. Consequently, bad intentions are swiftly replaced with more effective ones, constituting the essence of innovation.

Chapter 4 – Scrum emphasizes prioritizing results over mere output.

Russell Wassendorf Sr. thrived on financial fraud while serving as the chairman of Peregrine Financial Group, exploiting fake bank statements to deceive investors and embezzle over $200 million. However, hindering financial fraud also proves to be a lucrative business. Ask’s founders.

This innovative startup exposed Wassendorf’s fraudulent activities through groundbreaking digital auditing software. Following this notable achievement, this small firm experienced a surge in demand. Nevertheless, a challenge emerged—its workforce couldn’t continue at that pace. Despite the programmers’ relentless efforts of working both day and night, they struggled to scale their product rapidly enough to meet the expanding customer base.

Eventually, the company sought assistance from Scrum experts. Upon scrutinizing the organization, they identified a crucial issue: everyone was excessively occupied with tasks which hindered overall effectiveness.

The main point here is that: Scrum emphasizes prioritizing results over mere output.

Step into any workplace, and you’ll probably observe a diligent workforce immersed in their tasks at their desks. Sadly, without effective management, a significant portion of that effort may be in vain. According to an evaluation that was done by Scrum Inc., an astonishing 30% of the work performed by workers in a normal company doesn’t contribute to anything for the organization’s business. As for the remaining 70%, it is likely dedicated to producing qualities that customers seldom or never utilize.

This issue arises when companies prioritize output over outcome. In essence, output represents what employees generate, whether it’s software, reports, presentations, or any other work product. Outcome on the other hand reflects the team’s real effect on the business, measured by metrics such as time saved, revenue generated, or customer satisfaction. It’s crucial to recognize that not all output translates into valuable results. Scrum aims to minimize needless output while optimizing positive results.

Scrum achieves this aim through the Product Backlog. A well-constructed Backlog goes beyond merely writing out tasks; it outlines tasks that specifically fulfill consumers’ needs. This entails that teams need to precisely define the desired outcome for each selected task during every Sprint. For example, an effective Sprint for could involve the development of a Japanese interface, with the Sprint’s outcome being a new tool enabling a fresh set of customers to utilize the company’s services.

Certainly, determining the beneficial outcomes needs prioritization. Each team needs to have the autonomy to assess which outcomes are genuinely significant and decline tasks that don’t meet its criteria. While this may result in teams rejecting specific tasks, it also ensures that their efforts are directed toward items that hold genuine importance.

Chapter 5 – Implementing Scrum involves reassessing and letting go of outdated frameworks.

Before establishing Scrum Inc., J.J. Sutherland served as a producer for Morning Edition, NPR’s morning news radio show. One day, during the show’s planning, a coworker declined his proposed script due to a rule against scheduling two interview segments consecutively.

Sutherland found this rule weird and also a hindrance to the creativity of the show. Therefore,  he decided to investigate its beginnings. After a few calls, he found out that it started in the year 1978 when the studio’s basic equipment couldn’t smoothly transition between two interview tapes. As a matter of fact, with advancements in digital technology, this was not a problem anymore. Still, producers continued to adhere to this outdated rule decades after.

The lesson from this narrative is that organizations often avoid change. Nevertheless, to fully embrace the advantages of Scrum, huge, structural changes may be essential.

The main point here is that: Implementing Scrum involves reassessing and letting go of outdated frameworks.

Each organization possesses its structure, where “structure” encompasses all aspects defining how the organization operates. This involves the hierarchy and positioning of staff, the delegation and execution of tasks, and the cultural norms influencing interpersonal interactions.

The collective impact of these factors is substantial. An inflexible, hierarchical organization lacking mechanisms for feedback or collaboration with workers tends to evolve slowly, generate limited innovative ideas, and eventually experience diminishing efficiency. Naturally, one would aim to steer clear of such a structure. However, a lot of organizations find themselves presently fixed in this particular mold.

Embracing Scrum requires breaking free from this old structure, a task that may pose challenges as individuals tend to adhere to familiar means despite the evident benefits of positive change. Therefore, consider beginning with a single Scrum Team dedicated to a significant project. For instance, when Drummond, the energy company implemented Scrum, it assigned a diverse team to develop a new oil well. Normally, this needed a lot of departments to handle legal paperwork, exploration, and engineering. Rather, the team treated each phase as a Sprint, demonstrating how the company could optimize its existing structure.

This kind of shift can be profound and challenging. Hence, all involved parties must embrace core Scrum values. These values encompass a commitment to open communication, focused dedication to achieving each Sprint, and a willingness to explore great ideas, regardless of their root. Also, team members need to respect one another’s input, treating failure not as a punishable offense but as an opportunity for learning. Remember, the essence of adopting Scrum lies in opening new potential rather than reinforcing old standards.

Chapter 6 – Maximize the benefits of Scrum by adhering to established and effective strategies.

In the year 2015, the data professionals at 3M Health Information Systems faced a dilemma. They were tasked with updating the medical databases of hospitals across the United States. The previous databases monitored health outcomes using 14,000 unique codes, and the new system aimed to expand that number to 140,000 codes—a significant tenfold expansion.

Despite the ambitious goal, 3M accepted the task and implemented Scrum to achieve its aim. However, a few weeks into the project, the company found itself falling behind schedule. The team members became overwhelmed, Sprints were unsuccessful, and morale was low.

In response, 3M sought assistance from Scrum Inc. to assess the issue at hand. It was revealed that 3M was on the right path but was still making some common errors. Fortunately, these typical issues had readily available answers.

The main point here is that: Maximize the benefits of Scrum by adhering to established and effective strategies.

At this point, a lot of companies from various industries have applied Scrum to undertake numerous projects. Although each implementation has presented its distinctive issues, recurring patterns have surfaced over time. Analyzing these trends reveals several best options that enhance the effectiveness of Scrum, irrespective of the specific circumstance.

Initially, Scrum demonstrates optimal performance when teams remain intact instead of being reorganized after each project. This enables the team members to understand one another’s strengths, weaknesses, as well as working preferences. Cultivating and expanding this interpersonal understanding allows teams to swiftly establish effective working patterns and deliver more efficient outcomes.

Additionally, it is important to keep the teams focused. While there may be a temptation to put workers into multiple teams. This is particularly the case when there is only one expert in a particular area but is needed by several teams. However, splitting a person’s attention across teams is most likely to diminish their endeavors. Instead of having individuals perform suboptimally on two teams, it’s more effective to keep them dedicated to one team so they can give their best attempt.

Lastly, you have the option to significantly enhance a team’s outcomes by utilizing a strategy known as Swarming. This approach entails channeling the collective effort of everyone towards a single thing from the Backlog. Consider how a Formula One pit crew efficiently conducts a complete tune-up on a car within a time frame of seconds. By having everyone collaborate on a certain challenge, it becomes feasible to quickly achieve remarkable speed and efficiency.

While these strategies have consistently proven successful, some techniques repeatedly fail time after time. These unsuccessful approaches will be looked at in the subsequent chapter.

Chapter 7 – Stay away from Scrum errors by meticulously incorporating every part of the framework.

Picture yourself successfully running a great Scrum process. Your Backlogs are meticulously defined, Sprints consistently meet their goals, and your teams are in high spirits. A few weeks later, you proudly present your product—a sleek and efficient flip phone.

Yet, hold on— it’s the year 2008. Apple’s iPhone dominates the market, and nobody notices your new phone because it lacks a touch screen. This same scenario was what happened to Nokia. Despite excelling in most aspects of Scrum, the company’s Product Owners failed to accurately assess customer preferences. Consequently, all their Sprints resulted in the creation of the wrong good.

This is only one of the usual errors companies make during Scrum implementation, However, it isn’t just this alone. 

The main point here is that: Stay away from Scrum errors by meticulously incorporating every part of the framework.

While Scrum has the potential to address numerous challenges, incorrect implementation can lead to its own set of problems. Luckily, examining past failures allows us to know where some Scrum processes have gone awry. In the situation of Nokia, the mistake it made was Product Owners overly focusing on Sprints and neglecting the important step of market assessment. This lopsided or à la carte method to Scrum is a common cause of a lot of mistakes.

A frequent à la carte method happens when management introduces Scrum for its employees but doesn’t alter its own practices to make the system function. For example, a manager might put her department into teams but scatter their Sprints by assigning additional tasks, as she does usually. This negligence to completely embrace the Scrum system brings about a whole lot of disaster and stress.

A different issue arises when organizations restructure based on Scrum principles, but the changes remain superficial. For instance, a company might refer to its managers as Scrum Masters, rename weekly meetings as Scrums, but essentially continue business as usual. Without genuinely embracing Scrum’s values of open communication, dedication to the completion of a project, and a willingness to learn from failure, such change will bring about no substantive improvements.

Finally, at times companies may take Scrum’s goal of enhancing productivity to an extreme. They repeatedly run and refine the exact Sprints, aiming for increased efficiency with each iteration. However, this approach may lead to workers overworking and a diminished eagerness to explore new ideas. Eventually, the workers become highly proficient at performing one task but struggle to generate any new outcomes.

Chapter 8 – To completely use Scrum, the whole organization needs to work together.

For several years, Markem-Imaje has been a global leader in the production of industrial printers. During the mid-2000s, the organization had a quite balanced production cycle. It would initiate a new model first, followed by dedicating subsequent weeks to deploying what they termed “Tiger Teams” to address the unavoidable flaws.

Seeking to eliminate the need for the second phase, the company decided to give Scrum a try. Scrum Teams were established to cover every part of the development cycle, including marketing, technical design, software, and quality assurance. Daily stand-up meetings were held, allowing team members to share the progress they have made.

Upon the release of the new machine, the anticipated “Tiger Teams” were set to take action. However, surprisingly, they found no issues to address. For the first time in the history of the company, it produced a printer that had no flaws

The main point here is that: To completely use Scrum, the whole organization needs to work together.

The narrative of Markem-Imaje highlights the revolutionary potential of Scrum, even for organizations with family roots. The key lies in firms being open to taking risks and reimagining their previous approach. In essence, when using Scrum, businesses must transform into Renaissance Enterprises—entities that work swiftly and adapt fast.

Another compelling illustration of a huge corporate rejuvenation through Scrum is evident in the case of Schlumberger. As one of the top firms in the oil and gas industry, recruiting 100,000 individuals from all over 120 nations. The firm went through the huge work of upgrading its whole IT infrastructure in 2017. By utilizing Scrum, Schlumberger managed to accelerate the project’s pace by 25 percent while simultaneously reducing costs by an impressive 30 to 40 percent. This represents a substantial impact!

Therefore, how did these large corporations successfully implement Scrum on a broad scale? Firstly, they adhered to Scrum approaches throughout the whole organization. Every team had the autonomy to innovate on their own, provided they maintained robust and transparent communication with the remaining teams. By doing this, one team’s win could be utilized to boost the approach of the other team. On the other hand, the failure of one team did not jeopardize the whole system. In this way, the whole firm operated with agility, swiftly adapting and evolving as it collectively learned.

To ensure such cohesion in your organization, establishing an Executive Action Team is a recommended strategy. This team takes on the responsibility of looking after the whole implementation of Scrum, facilitating communication between teams, eliminating obstacles that hinder productivity, and consistently refining the overall Scrum framework. While the process may present challenges, the outcomes are sure to justify the effort.

The Scrum Fieldbook: A Master Class on Accelerating Performance, Getting Results, and Defining the Future J.J. Sutherland Review

Scrum serves as a flexible and versatile approach for structuring a company’s operations and achieving significant positive outcomes in the market. Rather than depending on conventional hierarchical setups, tasks are executed by Scrum Teams, undertaking them in brief and concentrated Sprints. After each Sprint, teams collaborate to assess their work, pinpoint challenges, and devise strategies for enhancing subsequent Sprints. Introducing this methodology at a big corporation demands courageous leadership and extensive coordination, yet the ultimate result can yield a substantial increase in productivity.

Enhance Sprints with Kaizen.

At the end of each Sprint, the team holds a Sprint Retrospective to assess limitations and find means to improve. Optimize these meetings by incorporating kaizen principles. Originating from Japanese business practices, Kaizen involves a team’s dedication to ongoing improvements in its processes. Therefore, during each Sprint Retrospective, select a gradual, tangible action that will enhance subsequent Sprints. This might involve something as simple as increasing the use of Post-its or addressing a malfunctioning piece of equipment.

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Savaş Ateş

I'm a software engineer. I like reading books and writing summaries. I like to play soccer too :) Good Reads Profile:

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