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Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time

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In the future, historians may look back on human progress and draw a sharp line designating “before Scrum” and “after Scrum.” Scrum is that ground-breaking. It already drives most of the world’s top technology companies. And now it’s starting to spread to every domain where leaders wrestle with complex projects.

If you’ve ever been startled by how fast the world is changing, Scrum is one of the reasons why. Productivity gains of as much as 1200% have been recorded, and there’s no more lucid – or compelling – explainer of Scrum and its bright promise than Jeff Sutherland, the man who put together the first Scrum team more than twenty years ago.

The thorny problem Jeff began tackling back then boils down to this: people are spectacularly bad at doing things with agility and efficiency. Best laid plans go up in smoke. Teams often work at cross purposes to each other. And when the pressure rises, unhappiness soars. Drawing on his experience as a West Point-educated fighter pilot, biometrics expert, early innovator of ATM technology, and V.P. of engineering or CTO at eleven different technology companies, Jeff began challenging those dysfunctional realities, looking for solutions that would have global impact.

In this book you’ll journey to Scrum’s front lines where Jeff’s system of deep accountability, team interaction, and constant iterative improvement is, among other feats, bringing the FBI into the 21st century, perfecting the design of an affordable 140 mile per hour/100 mile per gallon car, helping NPR report fast-moving action in the Middle East, changing the way pharmacists interact with patients, reducing poverty in the Third World, and even helping people plan their weddings and accomplish weekend chores.

Woven with insights from martial arts, judicial decision making, advanced aerial combat, robotics, and many other disciplines, Scrum is consistently riveting. But the most important reason to read this book is that it may just help you achieve what others consider unachievable – whether it be inventing a trailblazing technology, devising a new system of education, pioneering a way to feed the hungry, or, closer to home, a building a foundation for your family to thrive and prosper.

237 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2014

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About the author

Jeff Sutherland

24 books421 followers
Sutherland is a Graduate of the United States Military Academy, a Top Gun of his USAF RF-4C Aircraft Commander class[citation needed]. He flew more than one hundred missions over North Vietnam[citation needed]. After 11 years in the military, he became a doctor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine[citation needed]. Here he got involved in data collection and IT systems development.

Dr. Jeff Sutherland is one of the inventors of the Scrum software development process. Together with Ken Schwaber, he created Scrum as a formal process at OOPSLA'95. Sutherland helped to write the Agile Manifesto in 2001. He is the writer of The Scrum Guide.

by https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_Su...

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,427 reviews
Profile Image for Romantical Skeptic.
186 reviews17 followers
January 21, 2018
Once I got over the extremely self-aggrandizing tone of the author, I found some of the points quite useful. Basically this is a way of operationalizing the 80/20 rule. Here are the things I took away from it:

1. Good team size. 4-6 is optimal, 20 is way too many.
2. Multitasking is a myth - people who think they’re good at it, actually are the worst. The truth is people are serial processing, not parallel, and it takes the brain longer to switch gears so all you’re doing is slowing yourself down.
3. Prioritize based on how much the action will affect your goal (whether that goal is $ or something else)
4. Don’t be a D*ck: Managers need to have zero tolerance for incivility, disrespect, or abuse in the workplace – it actually sucks energy and makes everyone ineffective
5. Don’t waste your time looking for Evil People, look instead for Evil Systems
6. Construct your to do list as follows: To Do, Doing and Done
7. Don’t create Master Plans. Create Micro plans which you can do in time-limited sprints and then iterate.

Things I found a bit weird
- Given that what we’re essentially talking about are “human systems” and anything human, by definition, is messy and non-standard, I find it hard to believe that this method applies to EVERY BUSINESS EVER. This is what the author seems to suggest (and modestly, he also suggests that if it didn’t work for a business they weren’t doing it right). Hmmm…

- The author also fails to mention any examples of where scrum failed even when applied “properly” – I would have liked a few real world examples to have been less “awesome” and go through what the iteration and tweaking process looks like while a company or organization is veering off the path

- The author also fails to talk about the negative aspects of scrum – destabilizing to have plans change so often, difficult to redeploy assets to the right place. It would have made for a much more fair read to get the negative along with the positive so that leaders can make a fully informed decision when they choose to adopt scrum.
Profile Image for Tim.
537 reviews
April 1, 2015
I was trying to decide what to give this book as a rating. It wasn't what I was hoping for. I really don't want to hear how smart the creator is or how much better what he is doing is compared to other methodologies - what I want to hear is the nuts and bolts of how to make this idea work and what separates it from the rest of the herd. Frankly, nothing presented showed me any of what I was looking for. So it was going to be either a 3 (more or less neutral) or just pass by not giving any rating at all. Until... the first review I see is a five - by the author. Now THAT made an impression on me. Note how I mentioned how smart the creator of scrum is trying to convince me he is? I am unimpressed by his creation at least as presented in this book (everything he is using can be found elsewhere - there is nothing new under the sun apparently), and then I am a bit put off by his hubris. I can only hope that a 1 can help the author find some humility because he seems to need some. And the rest of you passing out the free 5's... wow.
Profile Image for Jeff Sutherland.
Author 24 books421 followers
June 23, 2014
After Ken Schwaber and I wrote "Software in 30 Days" I felt we didn't have enough stories about Scrum outside of software development. This book is for the general business reader in any domain. It also tells the personal story of how my 11 years as a fighter pilot and another 11 years as a medical school professor affected the development of Scrum and the writing of the Agile Manifesto.
Profile Image for Ali.
8 reviews5 followers
January 5, 2015
If you are interested in the historical context of scrum and want to read "around and about" it, this looks like a good book for you. But if you want to learn scrum this is not the book for you.
Profile Image for Dennis.
659 reviews269 followers
November 7, 2021
No heroics. If you need a hero to get things done, you have a problem. Heroic effort should be viewed as a failure of planning.

While this is a good (and entertaining) book, I’m not quite sure who to recommend it to. I got this as study material after I had booked a Scrum course. But it was actually more a companion book. Our coach told us on the first day that we don’t need to read it to bolster our chances of passing the assessment. I would go a little further and recommend not to read it shortly before the assessment because it occasionally contains contradictory information to the current Scrum Guide. But that’s not a knock on the book. It has been published in 2014, and Scrum, being so much about adapting, has itself adapted since then.

Is this book outdated then? No, not at all. You see, this isn’t a textbook. It is a firsthand account of how Scrum came to be. Or more precisely, about the ideas and the philosophy behind Scrum and how they drove the development of it. It is told by one of its inventors, using real life examples of when and how Scrum helped to get projects over the line. A broad range of them, from the FBI’s work on a program that was supposed to prevent another 9/11 to a friend of the author using Scrum to organize his wedding.

Sutherland tells the story of his baby in an entertaining, often funny, and sometimes a little self-congratulatory voice. He clearly doesn’t think much of traditional project management and makes his contempt for Waterfall known at various points in the book. He’s a captivating storyteller, though.

On the first day of the course our coach asked us why we were here. I said something like, “You know, I’ve been working on a couple of projects and they turned out fine, but I don’t really know what I’m doing. It’s time I start filling my toolbox.” He started laughing. “Dennis, to that I can only tell you this: Forget about the tools. This is the course of common sense.”
And this is where this book wildly succeeds. There are many moments where you think, Of course. Why are we not doing this? It’s so much easier that way.

So, who to recommend this to? I can’t answer that. I will answer the “when”, though. Read this before you start your Scrum course. I promise, it will make you excited about the whole thing.

And remember, it’s not just in business that time is important. Time makes up your life, so wasting it is actually a slow form of suicide.
Profile Image for Katarina.
860 reviews23 followers
July 13, 2014
I had high expectations for this book, but it left me feeling kinda blah about it.

Maybe I have business self-help book overload, I just wasn't blown away by this.

The majority of the book got skimmed as I wasn't sucked into reading each word and looking for the gold nuggets, the magic bullet.
Profile Image for Sherry.
224 reviews1 follower
March 27, 2015
Although there are kernels of wisdom and good advice on how to be productive, I found it difficult and tedious to wade through the author's biographical background and the data supporting his theory. This would have made a really good magazine article; a book wasn't necessary.
Profile Image for Amir Tesla.
161 reviews669 followers
November 7, 2019
This is the original book on Scrum-way of project management.
It was amazing.
All the components of the scrum framework are deeply rooted in well-established productivity principles e.g. feedback loop, focusing on one thing, the one thing has to bring the most value, accountability, etc.
Profile Image for Jose Papo.
260 reviews133 followers
January 15, 2015
The book is basic for someone who already studies and practices Agile Methodologies for a long time. But the book deserves five stars because goes on the Why of Scrum, Why Scrum works and how it is adapted to the new realities of work in the 21st century.

Some of the interesting topics: The origins of Scrum, Team principles, Waste management, The importance of priorities and time management and how this fits with 'estimation' and how to begin implementing Scrum in your team or org.

So it's strongly recommended to beginner and intermediate users of Scrum. The book already have a Portuguese translation.
Profile Image for Hannah Moerman.
291 reviews34 followers
January 18, 2022
"it's so bad i want to give you a zero. but i can't so i give you... a one."

was it that i didn't meet a named woman until page 153ish of a 230 page book? maybe.
was it that it a repeated refrain was "find the smartest guy in the room" (as though the word "people" is not available to you?) possible!
was it the fact that certain roles were always referred to as male roles! could be!
but probably most of all, it was that i walked away knowing a lot about Jeff Sutherland and his passions and work experience, and left with only one, maybe two takeaways for my real life job.

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Stephen.
Author 7 books12 followers
October 15, 2014
This isn't a guide to Scrum per-se. Which is probably good, since there are lots of guides to scrum at the practices at varying levels of details. What this book does is talk help you understand the value of scrum through stories. There is an appendix of scrum practices at the end. The book is full of war stories (both literally and figuratively), and Sutherland is clearly proud of how he, his family, and organizations he has worked with, have applied scrum. Reading this book will help energize you to use Scrum to help your team succeed. This is not the only book on Scum you need. But if you want motivation to explore more about Scrum, or if you have been practicing Scrum for a while and are looking for inspiration, give this book a read.
Profile Image for Lukasz Nalepa.
134 reviews13 followers
October 7, 2017
This is one of the worst book I've read lately. It is packed full of my personal most hated characteristic: self-righteousness. It is also poorly translated, and it presents the Scrum as the best thing that happened since the decalog... I hate this narration, and I am sick of reading how Jeff single handedly invented Scrum, MVP and probably entire IT industry. Seriously, I can't recall any occurrence of Ken Schwaber in the entire book. Seriously, after reading this book I would be convinced that he invented it all by himself (IT industry included).
I have been a Scrum Master for 5 years now, and when I see a book that presents the Scrum not only as THE silver bullet, but also as the one and only truth (bow down blasphemers!) I want to put this bullet into my own head. Did I also mentioned the poor translations already? One more "zespół wskroś funkcjonalny" and I will throw up my last month's breakfast. There was even wrong form of Alfred Nobel's name ("z Nagrody Nobela").
Ok, emotions aside - there are three reasons why this book is rated by me as two stars (barely), and not one:
- I save one star for the books I am not able to finish (it was a close miss)
- This book mentioned eduScrum
- If you have absolutely no idea at all, what Scrum is, you may try it
Otherwise I recommend that you stay away and do something more productive instead. Count the grains of salt in your kitchen, check how long you can run in circles, or check how many times Gandalf nods his head in the Gandalf Europop Nod video on famous video portal.
Profile Image for Jakub Dovcik.
126 reviews20 followers
December 27, 2021
While most of the principles of Scrum are definitely sensible, especially its emphasis on whole-project-capable teams working collaboratively in an egalitarian manner, encouragement of work-life balance, or planning of work based on actual performance, I could not stop feeling like this is a New Age white-collar Taylorism, engraving moralistic neoliberal social norms into the minds of common workers.

The book itself is pretty well written - for a popular "science" management book, with some cool stories and examples, although with a lot of simplistic orientalisation of management practices in Japan and martial arts (well, it is a product of the 90s) that are largely taken out of the context.

Sutherland is a very interesting person and Scum was created for software development, where it makes a lot of sense. But a lot of the premises it is based on -and the motivational language it veils them into - are painful to read. For a lot of people, work is just working and that is just okay - not everyone strives to change the world every day, especially if they go into a field where an emphasis on social value is really just self-deceit.

The discouragement of overtime and work-life balance sounds great (or one could see them as convenient for firms as they are trying to avoid having to pay for overtime), but the whole concept of Scrum is created to drain every single second of employee's energy for ticking a box that has been created to demonstrate activity. Sure, many or probably most of the teams will work on projects/tasks/'stories' that make sense and are substantive, but the whole concept of "velocity" turns a thinking and living organism into a high-performing cock within a machine.

On the other hand, the whole ideology of its short-termness and avoidance of multitasking discourages complex and exploratory thinking, developing skills within a team that do not fit into the immediate need for the next release at the end of the current sprint. When you aggregate this thinking and the whole 'lean' ideology, you get the present-day global economy, with its extreme fragility of supply chains, slow productivity growth, and lack of long-term investment. I definitely do not blame Scrum for it, but it is a clear symptom of a larger crisis we live in.

From my own experiences with scrum, the benefits it provides can outweigh its costs, if one manages to somehow avoid death by a thousand meetings.
Profile Image for Marta.
997 reviews101 followers
May 24, 2017
This is not a Scrum how-to book. Rather, the story of its making and its philosophy. The concepts are highly adaptable to not just software, business, but everyday life as well. He talks of how to increase productivity of teams by improving communication, eliminating waste, and continuous improvement. I especially liked the idea is that team happiness is the greatest predictor of success. I enjoyed the conversational style and the positive, inclusive attitude.
Profile Image for Maksym Lysak.
11 reviews11 followers
August 30, 2017
A must read for people and teams who cares about their productivity. Key takeaways for me:
1. Great teams are: transcendent (alignment with a higher purpose), cross-functional (have all skills to complete the project), autonomous (influence planning and decision-making process, freedom to decide "how" to deliver). Optimal size 7 (+-2)
2. Iterate fast. Plan => Do => Check => Act. Week or two for each iteration (Sprint). At the end of the iteration have some version of the product/feature that you can give to your customers to play with and interact.
3. Productivity:
Multitasking makes everybody slower. Half-done things create a lot of waste. Avoid to have a lot "in process tasks". Working too hard/long hours makes you less productive in a long run. Focus is a key (switching cost between projects is very high)
4. Scrum Process:
- don't plan a lot. Just have a vision (picture where you're heading)
- create a list of everything that needs to be done on the project. Prioritize it (start with highest value and the lowest effort tasks)
- create a plan to keep your team busy for the next iteration/Sprint (plan it together with team).
- visualize. have a board with: Priorities (Backlog/user stories), to do, doing, done columns.
- work is a Story: think who you're doing it for, what is it, why the need it.
- estimate tasks (stories) complexity relatively (not absolutely), groupdecide on that, track team's velocity and set ambitious goals;
- meet every day for 15 min at the same time to update a) what each member done yesterday and b) going to do today to successfully complete the Sprint, c) are there any obstacles?
- finish each Sprint with demo (involve stakeholders, customers)
- make a Sprint retrospective (what went right, what could have gone better, how to improve the process and make everybody happier during the next Sprint (kaizen))
- transparency in everything
Profile Image for Femina Ernest.
19 reviews6 followers
September 7, 2015
I can say , this is a "Myth & Rule Breaker" book. It is a revolution-creating , trend setting , thought-provoking , boldly truth spreading , Modern SDLC patterned , long - awaited successful-system-for-work telling Book. Jeff's metaphor for Scrum " Careful alignment, unity of purpose, and clarity of goal come together" proves that, he really spent worth-time to interrogate , analyse our present organisational system by "looking at how people ACTUALLY work, rather than how they SAY they work" :) I agree with some of his well defined strategies for win-win state , like Happiness Metric , Make Everything Visible ( Transparency , Delivering happiness , Inspect and adapt , Sprint Style of working etc. If you really let me to review and speak about this book , I can say on and on and on.... But , some books we have tot REALLY read , chew , swallow and follow ;). This is one among them... Great Book!
Profile Image for Shaw.
32 reviews9 followers
June 8, 2015
Five enthusiastic stars for Scrum. I wish I had read this book a long time ago. While a large part of this book is the "why" of Scrum, there is enough "how" in here to get you started, even though it does just scratch the surface. I dare you to read this book and not want to look for more resources online to help you implement Scrum. Whether you are managing a team of engineers, writing a book, or planning a wedding, Scrum can have a profound impact on your ability to complete a project on time as well as allow you to harness the power of your team's talent. This book and the Scrum methodology represents a real world example of the principals discussed in Multipliers.
43 reviews1 follower
June 28, 2018
Most valuable book in a long time! Besides that it is an easy and quick read. Don't see any reason not to read it ;)
Profile Image for Klinta.
334 reviews158 followers
May 15, 2023
This book was annoying, the author is the best human who has ever walked this planet, and everything he touches turns to gold. This was singing glory for his methods with weak pointers towards implementing Scrum.

I tolerated the book, but at one point, the author suggested that losing to the Lithuanian national team in basketball was a disgrace; I was done with it. Lithuanians are ranked in the top 10 teams in the world. Perhaps it's worth looking beyond America before dissing skilful sportspeople. And before you at me - no, I'm not Lithuanian. :D

Don't think that it's a useless book. It presents the background for how Scrum was introduced and gives some understanding and tips on the method; however, it isn't something you can use to implement in your company or daily life without looking up other books, research and articles.

I do have to say that this book made me question Scrum. The author was so obsessed with doing more, better, and quicker, but I felt like the team and people behind the work took a background role. Unfortunately, burnout, impact on mental health and turnover rates were not considered in this book, nor having an agile mindset before committing to Scrum - it would have been interesting to see these points from the author.
Profile Image for Michael Burnam-Fink.
1,489 reviews221 followers
January 6, 2020
Good management is good management. Cargo cult gibberish is cargo cult gibberish. And the intersection of the two is Scrum, a management philosophy that promises orders of magnitude improvements everywhere.

Some parts of scrum are obvious. Spend time doing things that are valuable to the customer. Delivery that value quickly and incrementally. Don't get bogged down in monumental efforts tied to thousands of pages of documentation that no one has actually read, or actually understands. The basic unit of action is a small, 5-7 person, cross-functional team, capable of moving a project from conception to done. Happy is contagious, and happy teams are effective teams.

But the cargo cult elements of scrum are in the jargon, which obscure the hard points of writing code. Story points, daily-stand ups, and sprint cycles are all well and good, but if you haven't figured out what you're doing and why, it doesn't matter. Small teams can self-organize, but what about coordinating big organizations and big projects? And while cross-functionality seems very important, most conventional businesses are organized in top-down, 'disciplinary' silos (sales, IT, development, finance, etc), so how do product owners and scrum masters interact with the conventional management hierarchy. And of course the big questions remain largely unanswered. How does a team figure out what objectives and capabilities are important, and how do you do a proper sprint retrospective to capture what went right?

And finally, some of the examples Sutherland uses are not quite right. There's a lot of pointing to Boyd's OODA loop, which Sutherland says he learned as a RF-4 pilot in Vietnam, except John Boyd only developed the OODA loop after his stint as Commander of 56th Combat Support Group in 1973. And Sutherland points to Valve as a company which has successfully implemented scrum, which may be true, except that despite sitting on a literal neverending pile of money in the form the Steam store, Valve hasn't released a significant game of its own since 2013. Rich Geldritch, a disgruntled former manager, alleges Valve is a morass of abusive management and inefficiency.

This book is enthusiastic, but cheering 'hip hip hooray being great!' is a far cry from actually being great.
Profile Image for Alex Fürstenau.
172 reviews7 followers
November 10, 2014
Well, a book about Scrum from the father of Scrum.

It is not a book for beginners and it is not a book for experts (are there any books for experts at all?)

If you are in the HA state of using/implementing agile, you or team members tend to ask things like "Can we skip this?" or "Can we change this to that?".

This book explains the answer to these questions by stating why something is defined like it it is now.

All in all a great and amusing audio book which I highly recommend.
Profile Image for Romans Karpelcevs.
179 reviews47 followers
January 13, 2018
I already knew quite a lot about Scrum, but it was an interesting short read nonetheless. I forgot some things I learned years ago, and this book served both as reminder and gave me a few new ideas to try. I was surprised to learn Scrum was inspired by Lean, including waste elimination, reducing WIP, all that.
The book is a bit overpromising, though, and doesn't mention challenges or overcoming them. It's mostly about selling the idea than about any advanced implementation.
Profile Image for Nada Majdy.
240 reviews341 followers
September 24, 2020
very useful, it's about planning and continuously changing and adapting your plan to the new variables and problems you face as you go along instead of planning and working in a linear way and sticking to the same solution no matter how the different variables may change, the former way is probably our best option and offers a life that's more organic and coherent.
Profile Image for Robert.
33 reviews1 follower
January 31, 2019
I was familiar with the basics of SCRUM and some of the terminology but to read about the origins and the ideas behind it is very impressive. I'm definitely going to use the theory in my daily life!
Profile Image for Francisca Painhas.
19 reviews26 followers
February 10, 2019
One of the most useful books I read, it explores the foundations and principles that make scrum work so successfully, and how it applies not only to the purpose it was created but to most fields.
Profile Image for Macayla Fryc.
272 reviews17 followers
July 22, 2020
Eh, at best. The useful tool that is Scrum was overshadowed by self-touting, or at least what appeared to be. Too much big name dropping and not enough practical How To, which is why I picked up the book in the first place. In fact, the How To was actually limited to the appendix. While there were valuable moments, on the whole, I didn't enjoy the book. Apparently the phrase is, "Eat the hay and spit out the sticks." Which is the opposite of "Throwing the baby out with the bathwater."

While there were occasionally interesting stories, which may have been used with good intention, it was a turn off so that by the end, I skipped stories just to finish the book. 
Self-promotion language was overly common: 
So and so "Contacted me because they heard I was the leading expert in the area of their newest technology." 
And, "They made me a lucrative offer to be vice president of advanced systems." 
And, "When I returned from the Vietnam War, I pursued a master's degree from Stanford in statistics and spent as much time as possible at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. From there I became a professor of mathematics at the Air Force Academy, where I embarked on a PhD program and biometrics at the university of Colorado medical school. There I asked my advisor, X, one of the most distinguished researchers in medicine and statistics..." 
And, "Ron was a brilliant and creative CEO who trusted my work." 
And,"Nowadays just about anywhere you go in the country, you can find an ATM machine. And all those machines know exactly how much money you have. My team had a lot to do with it. And, yes, you’re welcome." 
And, "I'm often amazed that a process I pioneered in 1993 to aid software development has proven itself universally applicable."

All in all, instead of an instruction manual, which I and I'm sure many others believed it to be, Scrum was more along the lines of a glorified sales pitch for Scrum and it's creator.
Profile Image for Jay Hennessey.
87 reviews23 followers
February 1, 2019
Get ‘er Done!

I LOVED THIS BOOK! Once again, I did the audio / kindle split. However, this time, I utilized Overdrive, the free online public library app - it is AMAZING. I signed up for 3 local libraries online; got my library cards and was off to the races. If you have not tried Overdrive, check it out.

There were so many take aways in this book that I absolutely loved. I should probably go back through the book before writing this, but historically, if I do not write now, it won’t get done.

By far, my favorite chapter was chapter 3 Teaming. On so many levels, this chapter hit so many points that I really believe.

Overall, in reading this book, it made me reflect on the organizations where I have worked - at our best, we had similar “business practices” - transparency, KNOWN priorities, a cadence to re-address work that needed to be done, etc. This book provides a framework to systemized this, or not leave it to chance.

I do intend to go back through the book and draft my notes to operationalize the concepts. I believe this book could be a GAME-CHANGER for any organizations.

**Almost forgot, I really loved chapter 9 and the stories of how teachers in Denmark are using Scrum as a teach tool - or said differently, a co-creative / collaborative teaching environment where EVERYONE is involved in the Teaching.

Whoever is doing the most talking, is also doing the most learning.

I recommend this book to leaders and practitioners at EVERY level.

Enjoy - Share - Learn

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