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March 09, 2010
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Use scrum methodology to fuel your success

What is "Scrum methodology" and how can it help LEOs?

By Joshua Brown

teamwork (n.) - work done by several associates with each doing a part but all subordinating personal prominence to the efficiency of the whole.

Merriam-Webster's got it right for the most part, but sometimes a generic definition just won't cut it. What does teamwork really mean to those involved? What does it consist of? Who's responsible for what tasks? Why is it important for people to come together to accomplish a common goal rather than just asking people to play to their specific individual strengths? These are questions no dictionary can answer because they're subjective; they depend on elements like the situation, the team goals, and the personalities, strengths, and weaknesses of those involved.

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What is the Scrum methodology?

Teamwork and the idea of different parts working together in harmony to make up a whole are attributes valued by all companies. Because of that universally held ideology, Scrum was created. Scrum is a very general, flexible working methodology, with the ability to be molded and sculpted to fit the needs of different teams, projects, and deliverable goals. Scrum is loosely definable, adaptable best at an organization where goals are changing constantly and customers' needs greatly influence how the organization distributes tasks. In a nutshell, the Scrum methodology adapts to the ever-changing needs of customers and business, and that methodology is yours to do with what you wish.

Scrum breaks projects down into chunks called stories, allowing the development team to tackle each story as an independent project. The team works on these stories in set time increments, called sprints. For example, a team may be given a two-week sprint to work on a specific story, and a one-month sprint to work on the next, more challenging story. One of the larger stories could be something like developing a new module for users to quickly find out which policies tie into which accreditation standard(s). A story with a smaller sprint could be something very simple, like having to correct a typo in a field title.

Every team needs a leader, and Scrum is no exception. With the Scrum methodology, a Product Owner leads the pack, and is responsible for writing stories and setting priorities. The Product Owner creates storyboards with more detailed specs on a project. He or she also sets priorities on what order the team tackles stories in, as well as assigns specific story tasks to each team member.

Just like in sports, a development team thrives under encouragement and support. This is where the Scrum Master comes in. The Scrum Master is the equivalent of a sports-team coach. He or she is part of the team, but also cheers its members on, helping the team deliver sprints on time and encouraging everyone to do their very best. The Scrum Master is also responsible for holding meetings to ensure the best quality work in the most efficient time bracket.

Why Scrum?

The Scrum methodology is used for many reasons. As mentioned previously, Scrum is flexible enough to be implemented within any organization and adaptable enough to fit any customer base, business needs, and the personalities, strengths, and project requirements of any development team. As a result, the Scrum methodology makes a project completely developer-owned, allowing the team to take complete ownership and responsibility for all accomplishments and shortcomings. This alleviates the sense of blending into the background that many employees may sometimes feel when working as a small fish in a big pond; with Scrum, this is impossible, because each developer has a specific task and everyone is working together to accomplish a solid common goal.

The Scrum methodology also helps alleviate stress in the workplace, because it breaks larger projects up into the aforementioned smaller, more manageable stories. It allows the Product Owner to create a project backlog easily, and ensures team members are on the same page. The stories also allow for a large amount of flexibility. For instance, if a customer has a problem with a specific portion of the product, team members can easily begin work on a new story that applies directly to the customer's issue instead of having to worry about many aspects of the project at once.

One of the best things about the Scrum methodology is that it doesn't apply only to software development - it is flexible and nimble enough to be used for any kind of task or project. For example, if you have to clean your house for a holiday party, your different rooms could be the project's stories. As the parental figure, you'd be the product owner, writing and divvying up the different stories. The Scrum master (perhaps the eldest child) would be there helping with the current story (i.e. cleaning the kitchen), while at the same time encouraging his or her younger siblings to complete their sections of the story sprint on time (i.e. by the end of the afternoon).

Proud Scrumbuckets

The fact that there's an increasingly popular working methodology to make it simpler for companies to reach their customers makes it that much easier to uphold a family atmosphere and ensure clients are receiving the best quality service possible. Companies grow and become better because of the Scrum methodology and passing on that knowledge with others will continue to encourage healthy team environments.



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