High Performance: Jeff Sutherland on Scrum Best Practices

November 16, 2012

Dr. Jeff Sutherland, co-creator of Scrum, provides best practices for implementing the agile development methodology that will take your team’s productivity and efficiency to the next level.

Boost your performance with these Scrum best practices

With today’s companies expected to deliver impact and results more quickly and efficiently than ever before, agile development methodologies like Scrum can provide them with a structure and roadmap to success.

While traditional software development principles have fallen out of favor with many forward-thinking companies, Scrum has been widely adopted as the next advancement in not only software, but company-wide team and organizational development.

Scrum co-creator Jeff Sutherland, an OpenView Senior Advisor and CEO of Scrum Inc., has implemented Scrum at countless companies and watched it completely transform productivity levels. This is largely made possible by the fail-safe features built into Scrum — a high-functioning agile environment can simply enable teams to do what traditional development methods can’t. In this video series, Sutherland divulges the secrets behind implementing and optimizing the agile development process he helped pioneer.

Using Scrum to Crush the Competition

Jeff Sutherland likens software developers to professional sports teams because they both find themselves under pressure often. Software development projects have a tendency to operate under incredibly tight deadlines and run behind schedule. Scrum was created to help minimize issues such as these and allow development teams to function like high-performing sports teams.

“We created Scrum to help teams function a lot better in software development,” says Sutherland. Scrum can have tremendous business benefits. Under Sutherland’s guidance, one team improved its velocity by 10x for a third of the cost of a comparable outsourced team in India. As this team hit its peak, they were doing 45 releases a year while its competition was completing just two.

How Scrum Really Works

In this short video, Sutherland shares a few basic tips for Scrum success. When you get right down to it, this agile development method hinges on workflow rates, he explains. If productivity is too slow, the backlog will grow and throw the timetable for completion off. Each component is designed to facilitate the development of a project. So maintaining a steady workflow is absolutely paramount in Scrum.

“Scrum is based on self-organization,” says Sutherland. “People need to figure out how they will work during the Scrum, dynamically in real-time. Nobody is telling them what to do.”

Scrum Best Practices

When an objective is unclear or poorly developed, adding it to a Scrum sprint can severely hinder your productivity.

Even minor debris can significantly clog a sprint, Sutherland says. For this reason, keeping sprints free of productivity inhibitors and impediments is critical. For developers, these blockages can come in the form of an unnecessary feature or a buggy add-on. By keeping the sprint backlog clean, teams can ensure that they won’t have to deal with any unforeseen issues in development.

The Nokia Test

In this short video, Sutherland details the nine steps that comprise the Nokia Test and how it can be used to help a Scrum team improve its overall output and performance. Cumulatively, the test’s questions are intended to see a team through the Scrum process, all the way to a project’s completion. Every step is a checkpoint that must be met in order to reach the intended goals of a project, Sutherland explains.

Getting to “Done-done”

Before the launch of a new Scrum project, the team really needs to sit down to create and adopt a common definition of project completion. In order to arrive at a definition that is accepted by every department within a company, Sutherland says, certain steps must be taken.

Achieving a universal definition of done is necessary for every project. And it isn’t just limited to code. Completeness needs to be a consideration at the feature level, too.

“We have some really process-oriented companies that collect tons of data,” Sutherland explains. “And they show that the whole done-done stage can be driven by a good, continuous build system with automated testing. [Companies] can manage the done-done by monitoring the time it takes to fix problems.”


Editor’s note: This article has been adapted from a previously recorded video series. For a more comprehensive overview of the Scrum process and tips for implementing it successfully, visit our Scrum Process and Resource Guide.


Share your view: What impact has Scrum had on your organization? What tips and best practices can you share with others currently in the process of implementing it?


<strong>Dr. Jeff Sutherland</strong> is the co-creator of Scrum and a leading expert on how the framework has evolved to meet the needs of today’s business. As the CEO of <a href="http://www.scruminc.com/index.php">Scrum Inc.</a> and the Senior Advisor and Agile Coach to OpenView Venture Partners, Jeff sets the vision for success with Scrum. He continues to share best practices with organizations around the globe and has written extensively on Scrum rules and methods. With a deep understanding of business process — gleaned from years as CTO/CEO of eleven different software companies — Jeff is able to describe the high level organizational benefits of Scrum and what it takes to create hyperproductive teams.