Scrum Shortcuts Book Review

Scrum ShortcutsScrum Shortcuts without Cutting Corners: Agile Tactics, Tools, & Tips by: Ilan Goldstein was a quick read chalked full of useful and immediately applicable tips to use with teams and organizations I work with. And while shortcuts don’t typically work out, the author states, “these are different.” They are more like lessons. The book is geared towards the ScrumMaster but can be useful to others. It is useful for newcomers and seasoned vets.

The book started out by stating that the ScrumMaster is the equivalent of a lead out man on a cycling team. I loved this. For those that may not know, I used to race bikes back in the day and served as the lead out man many times because I couldn’t sprint my way out of a paper bag. The lead out person is responsible helping the team go faster by blocking some of the wind for the teammates behind them.

Below are some other takeaways that I found useful. Many of which I have already started using.

  • Create a good team culture – team name, colors, uniquely decorated space
  • Build a team of studio musicians over rock stars. You want attitude over aptitude. Rock stars have some good traits (i.e. charismatic, creative). But flip that coin and they can also be temperamental, attention-seeking and arrogant. The studio musicians tend to be people with energy, empathy, curiosity, friendliness.
  • Everyone is a developer on the team. It is the equivalent of being a doctor. There are specialist doctors.
  • Advocate that a specialist can only assist with the work in their specialty area.during an upcoming sprint. A tester would assist the others and not do most of the testing.
  • Breakdown tasks within user stories that cut across the system layers instead of a task for each layer and/or discipline. The latter is the equivalent of doing a mini-waterfall.
  • Loved the story about how the author uses Scrum in other aspects of his life. The author said that his wife moved a task back to “In Progress” that he thought he had completed and she said that, “it didn’t meet their definition of done.”
  • Great building metaphor to help understand relative estimating in the chapter on Establishing Estimates.
  • Benefits of Planning Poker:
    • Rapidly estimate long-term backlogs without requiring detailed specification and complicated dependency mapping.
    • Provide broader insight from a collection of perspectives to ensure estimates aren’t padded or underbaked.
    • Leverage knowledge obtained from completing legacy work.
    • Team has fun doing something that is normally mundane and frustrating.
  • Liked the quote, “It appears that the failure (or other expletive) fairy has been to town again, doesn’t it, people?” to help lighten the mood when a build failed or something.
  • Gave a simple one-page product overview table to fill out
  • Based on a graphic I saw in the Taming the Task Board I added some decorations to our team wall. Things like Definition of Done, Definition of Ready, Sprint Goal, Retro Goals. These were all items listed on our team page but this put them front and center.
  • Provided a good figure that highlighted when and what to do to help an agile adoption.
  • If you need help making the case for paying down technical debt, the author referenced an article on ebay about this.
  • Benefits of team-centric (that is, bring work to the team) organizations:
    • Teams go through proven lifecycle of forming, storming, norming, performing. This can take months.
    • Team members know their strengths and weaknesses.
    • They have learned how to communicate
    • They have learned how to collaborate and resolve conflict.
  • To see how your Scrum rollout is going, use the comparative agility assessment. The author warns the reader to be careful. If you only compare with others as your benchmark. You may stagnate.

There are many more tips/shortcuts that the author gave that are useful but I would suggest reading it to find out more. I really enjoyed the book and would recommend reading it whether you are new to Scrum or been around the block for years.

If you read the book and had any takeaways that resonated that I didn’t cover, feel free to add them to the comment section. Thanks for reading.

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