November 21, 2017

How I Use Scrum To Run My Business

When I started as a Professional Scrum Trainer with Scrum.org and TheScrumMaster.co.uk in 2012, it seemed only natural to use Scrum to operate my new business. Starting a new company was a complex undertaking and I suspected Scrum would be a perfect fit for this.

At a recent course, one of my students asked me to share what Scrum “looked like” for me at TheScrumMaster.co.uk. This post is my response to that question. This describes my current process which has evolved via inspection and adaptation over 5 years.

Sprint Duration

I use Sprints with a duration of 1 week. I tested out other Sprint durations and found 1 week to work the best for me. The natural cadence of working weeks followed by work free weekends felt the most natural and logical. It’s the pattern the rest of the world, including my family and friends follow, so it made sense for me to swim with the tide.

I also found the target of a relaxing and work free weekend to be a big motivator for me to reach a Sprint Goal.

I start and end my Sprints on a Friday afternoon. I used to do the standard start on a Monday and finish on a Friday, but I found that I was more relaxed at weekends if I did Sprint Planning before. I could then start Monday morning with some simple tasks to ease me into the working week.

Scrum Events

I hold a Sprint Review and Sprint Retrospective late on a Friday afternoon. I review what I achieved (and didn’t achieve) against my Sprint Goal and Sprint Backlog. I look at what I have learned and how I can leverage that for greater value in future.

I have a series of questions I use to help me inspect the right things. The questions change over time as my focus and goals shift.

The final activity each week is Sprint Planning, where I set a Sprint Goal and create a Sprint Backlog (or plan) for the next week. I can then relax over the weekend, safe in the knowledge that everything is planned and ready to go next week.

At the end of each working day, I carry out a Daily Scrum where I re-plan my activities for the next day and inspect my progress towards achieving my Sprint Goal.

Each of these events usually takes between 5 and 30 minutes. The timing of events will shift if they fall on days when I am teaching, but I always do them even if I spend less time on busier weeks.

Product Backlog Refinement

I typically revisit my Product Backlog a few times each week and refine it as needed. Refinement can include any and all of the following:

  • Addition of new Product Backlog Items – This can and does happen at any time
  • Assessment of risk, dependencies, deadlines and other important dates
  • Assessment of value – Does the Product Backlog Item move me towards a goal on my Roadmap. I assign a 1-10 score for value
  • Estimate of effort/complexity – I spend very little time on this. An indication of relative size is all I need for my planning. I assign a score of 1-10 for the estimate
  • Pre-planning – For high ordered items I may start to think about how I will work on them in upcoming Sprints
  • Re-ordering – The above considerations will lead me to re-order items so the most important and valuable work is at the top of my Product Backlog

Tools

Physical Sprint Boards are all well and good, but not very practical when you travel as much as I do.

I use Trello to maintain my Product Backlog and Sprint Backlog. Its free, simple, available on all devices and I can’t imagine how I used to manage without it.

Product Backlog

I have a Trello board for my Product Backlog. On the board I have a number of lists where I store the following:

  • Product Backlog – The list of desirements and upcoming work for TheScrumMaster.co.uk
  • Product Roadmap + Goals – Where I want to go and what I want to do and achieve in the medium to long-term
  • Ideas – Ideas that are undefined and so not ready to go into my Product Backlog just yet.
  • Product Vision – What I do and why I do it. It helps me to keep this visible
  • Business Model – Key details for my business.

Sprint Backlog

I use another Trello board for my Sprint Backlog. This gets archived at the end of each Sprint and replaced with a new board with sequential numbering. My Sprint Backlog boards include the following lists:

  • To Do – An ordered list of work for the week. Each item may have a checklist for sub tasks
  • Today – An ordered list of work for the current day. This is updated regularly and filled during the Daily Scrum. I split it into (target) AM & PM sessions so I can better spread my workload and structure my day
  • In Progress – I aim to limit my work in progress to 1, but sometimes this is impossible so I can see what is currently underway here
  • On Hold – A list of work that is waiting for something or someone. I assign reminder dates so things don’t sit here for too long
  • Done – Complete items end up here to be examined at the Sprint Review
  • Sprint Goal – A short list that summarises the big things I am aiming to achieve this week. Typically 1-3 items

Does It Work?

Yes! I am in Sprint 268 and going strong. I have developed TheScrumMaster.co.uk to be a preferred supplier of Agile & Scrum training for organisations including Google, NASA, the United Nations and The UK Government.

I have run courses in over 30 countries, for hundreds of organisations and have taught thousands of people. I love what I do and continue to work every day to further my mission to spread knowledge and awareness of Scrum far and wide.

I need be Agile with a capital “A”, both in thought and deed. Scrum gives me just enough structure and process to do this. It keeps me organised, motivated and focused. Most importantly it keeps me aimed at continuous improvement for myself and continuous value delivery to my wonderful customers.

If you have questions or want help understanding more about Scrum, please contact me. I am always here and am happy to help.