Taking scrum into my private life

After two days with Jeff Sutherland, one of the inventors of Scrum, I was rewarded with this celebrity picture taken in Amsterdam. Even though he was teaching me the fine art of Scrum Mastery and product ownership  in software projects, it was obvious that Jeff was nearly more interested in scrum on the enterprise level than in projects alone, something I can fully understand.

Jeff Sutherland and Michiel Klønhammer in Amsterdam

One of the arguments against spending much time with Scrum in some companies, is that the amazing results of scrum for a development team are really not very important within the context of an ineffective enterprise. A wonderful example was given to me by Jeff in the form of a case study of a Swedish game company.

A game took 18 months to produce but after analysis it turns out that only 1 or 2 months were actually development. So what’s the point of reducing development time if it has so little influence on the total product life cycle (which includes concepting, selection, production, user testing etc)? No… you need to Scrum the whole organisation. And if you do, you can reduce the product life cycle by a year or so. Now that’s impressive and worth some thought for just about every company.

I spent the weekend thinking about this and as a little experiment I tried to use Scrum in my personal life.

1. The Name Game. Scrum to make my daughter Maria totally effective.

Scrum is about focus. Very serious focus. Focus that can speed projects up to 10 times a fast.
And one of the funnest ways to prove that focus works is the name game (which I learnt from Jeff). Try this: Let one person write letters down on a piece of paper  which a group of other people say out loud, so that you end out with their names. Each person says one letter of his or her name and then the next person says one letter. This will take something like 80 seconds. In this example you would write M – M – L , then a -i-a  etc.


Then let the five people just quickly spell their names one by one. This takes about 8 seconds. Get the point?
So I played this game with my daughter Maria (15) who I might say is one of the most  best organised people I know as it is. But she has so many activities (Piano, Street dance, Volleyball, Model United Nations, editing a website, running, a lot of homework etc etc )  that it all gets a bit busy, sometimes too busy. Alle these activities need to  be combined with keeping up with Facebook, twitter and other social things… you can imajine she just runs out of time. So even for a teenager it’s pretty important to know that you can be 10 times as effective by NOT multitasking.  Ah… you say… but this is life not a software project. Well fine… we could settle for 2 times as effective 🙂

2. Limit communication time with loved ones.

An important ceremony in scrum, is the daily stand-up or scrum. It’s a short meeting with a specific structure. I don’t really believe the chosen structure is so important (though Jeff would argue otherwise) but I do believe that the limiting of time of a (regular) meeting is very important.
So after a needlessly long and irritated discussion with a loved one, you might think about this (I did this weekend).  Most couples know how it goes: something has been irritating you both for a while and then you both try and solve it with a veeery long discussion. You get tired, confuse feelings and there you go, a perfectly fine day has been spoilt while you could have avoided this so easily.

Now don’t worry, I’m not going to have a daily scrum with my love (though I’ve heard of families adopting Scrum), but I did suggest a change based directly on Jeff’s teachings: less but more focused communication. I admit it made her laugh (which is a good thing), but it did make me realize scrum is indeed a wise approach for more than software development.


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