I: How I started to use Scrum
In the last post, we looked at
how I got into Agile and Scrum. Today we will take a look at how I started to break
After reading the Agile books by Ken
Schwaber and obtaining my Certified
ScrumMaster credential, I doubled down on Scrum at my start-up since it was working
so well. As things progressed and our
business evolved, I started to bump up against the “rules” of Scrum.
As I mentioned last week in Part
I, the guidance was to only use Scrum locally, not with offshore developers several
time zones ahead. I was also breaking
many other “rules” most notably the sprint length, at that point the length was supposed
to be one month, but I was using one week. I also changed the daily scrum to late
in the day for the developers and inverted the questions to:
did I do today?
will I do tomorrow?
do I need from you?
We also had a very small team so
we dispensed with the formal sprint retrospective and did it continuously. Then
the big one hit. A business requirement came down where we had to develop thousands
of Regular Expressions (RegEx) for sites that we spidered. Each
RegEx would be considered a work item in our backlog. They came with a spec from the
business (what to capture) and the end result was a few RegExes as rows in a database. We
had to produce massive amounts of RegEx patterns so we hired a ton of “regex developers”
or college kids in India looking for extra money.
We managed our backlog pretty easily
but I struggled with applying the rules of Scrum to this process. Typically a developer
would take the next highest high priority items from the backlog, work on it for a
few hours and return it. They would work on two or three of these a day. I tried doing
a daily scrum but it was boring for all involved. (Today I worked on RegEx. Tomorrow
I will work on more RegEx. I need more Regex!) Also time boxing our iterations to
a month did not make sense. We had to “release” or upload the patterns to our sider
engine farm daily.
I asked Scrum experts and consulted
the blogs and they all said not to change Scrum! They kept on about cross functional
teams, a sprint backlog, 30 day sprints, daily scrums, etc. It was then when I decided
that I would just apply the values of Agile and some features of Scrum to my process.
I was labeled a “Scrum, butter” by Ken Schwaber (he even did this publically many
years later at TechEd 2010.) I went back to the Agile
looked at the original four values:
and interactions over processes and tools
software over comprehensive documentation
collaboration over contract negotiation
to change over following a plan
I looked long and hard and realized
that the current Scrum experts were too rigid. Scrum
boxed me in and when I had a business need that required some creativity, I was not
able to use Scrum. So I ditched Scrum
and what I wound up doing was using an early form of Kanban. (More on this in the
Stephen Forte sits on the board of several start-ups including Triton Works. Stephen is also the Microsoft Regional Director for the NY Metro region and speaks regularly at industry conferences around the world. He has written several books on application and database development including Programming SQL Server 2008 (MS Press).
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