Up at 5AM: The 5AM Solutions Blog

Betting on the Future with Scrum

Posted on Thu, Sep 01, 2011 @ 06:00 AM

At 5AM, we use Scrum to manage our work. Scrum keeps the team highly committed and productive by making the best use of what we know now to guide the team toward developing solutions that will provide value today. It's great. What Scrum doesn’t do so well is deal with the “big picture” - At least, that’s how I felt when I first started using it.  

Long term planning places a bet on the future. You’re betting that nothing significant will change between the completion of the plan and the completion of the work. The more detailed your plan, the more you're doubling down on the bet. It seemed to me that Scrum just wasn't willing to take that bet.

Turned out I was wrong – Scrum will take the bet. It just does so differently.

Scrum processPlanning and vision go hand-in-hand: It’s no use planning if you don’t know where you want to go. Scrum recognizes that achieving your vision is a journey. As you progress, you learn new things along the way. Scrum allows you to adjust your direction to take advantage of what you learn.

What can be challenging is staying in sync with other teams as you adjust. This is where “Rolling Lookahead Planning” comes into play. As described by Mike Cohn, founder of Mountain Goat Software, instead of planning a single iteration, each team “looks ahead” two or three iterations to identify any dependencies on other teams, so the teams can stay aligned. 

Knowing where you are in your journey is also challenging. As described by John Rusk and Alistair Cockburn, agile charts provide a concise, easy to understand map of what’s been accomplished, how much change has occurred, and what remains to be done before we arrive. The charts come in a number of flavors, depending on your reporting needs, including some that incorporate Earned Value Management

In the end, whether you use an agile approach like Scrum or a more traditional approach, vision and planning are essential. It’s up to you whether you want to bet on a vision that’s fixed and an unchanging future or use an agile approach to hedge your bets, knowing that new information may compel change.  In our experience, change is a constant, and we use Scrum to help us make the most of it.

-Michael Hunter, 5AM Solutions

Tags: agile, scrum, earned value management

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