Agile Scrum methodology and a Rugby Scrum – any similarities?

With the Rugby Six Nations now well under way, and the usual excitement of two packs of eight crashing in to each other (joke as in reality it is now 8 people pushing lightly against another 8 people before one of them falls in a heap on the floor and the ref blows his whistle) my mind turns to the Agile Scrum methodology.

When the Scrum process was created in 1993 the term ‘Scrum’ was picked up from an earlier analogy (1986) published in the Harvard Business Review by Takeuchi and Nonaka comparing high-performing, cross functional teams to the scrum formation in rugby.

The Scrum Alliance describes the scrum framework as:

  • A product owner creates a prioritised wish list called a product backlog.
  • During sprint planning, the team pulls a small chunk from the top of that wish list, a sprint backlog, and decides how to implement those pieces.
  • The team has a certain amount of time — a sprint (usually two to four weeks) — to complete its work, but it meets each day to assess its progress (daily Scrum or Huddle).
  • Along the way, the ScrumMaster keeps the team focused on its goal.
  • At the end of the sprint, the work should be potentially shippable: ready to hand to a customer, put on a store shelf, or show to a stakeholder.
  • The sprint ends with a sprint review and retrospective.
  • As the next sprint begins, the team chooses another chunk of the product backlog and begins working again.

This could be considered contra to the use of the word scrum in rugby as, whilst there are similarities in the daily Scrum/Huddle, the concept of sprints is related to the wider game of rugby and the use of wingers who would normally not go anywhere near a scrum!

The daily Huddle is an important part of the Agile process and yet widely misunderstood as ‘just standing up for 10 minutes’. As one colleague asked me of my agile team in a previous role, “why do they keep standing around having a daily cuddle?”

I am sure the prop forwards of this world would be delighted with that analogy!

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