“What does the game of rugby and modern management techniques have in common?” one may ask! If you are into ‘Agile Project Management’ and use ‘Scrum,’ you already know the answer. It is interesting to see, how rugby has inspired one of the most time-effective and cost-efficient management techniques of the day. Agile Project Management, is a specialized area of project management. Here, the resources and budgets are fixed variables; however, it is a more open ended approach compared to regular project management. It enables managers to optimally utilize resources and create products and services, which meet customer requirements, more satisfactorily and profitably.
A Brief History
First conceptualized in 1986, by Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka, Agile Project Management, is based on the approach rugby players’ use. Just like rugby players constantly assess and reassess situations, altering their strategies and responses at different points of time during a game, to score against the opponent team; likewise, managers through this highly collaborative method – use repetitive deliveries and customer feedback at different stages of a project, to reassess and rework on ‘a product or service being developed.’ The process is repeated until the product is improved, refined and becomes completely market ready.
‘Scrum,’ a software development framework, is used in Agile Project Management, to manage projects where software related products or applications are being designed. It allows the formation of self-organizing teams by enabling co-location of all team members, and promotes verbal communication across team members and disciplines in a project. The term ‘Scrum’ again owes its origin to the game of rugby, in which, it is the shorter version of the word –‘scrummage;’ and refers to the manner of restarting play in rugby football. It is popular especially in the IT industry, where the nature of projects or ‘products being developed’ – is comparatively newer, more innovative and highly complex. Since these are too difficult to comprehend before being tested out, they are allowed to evolve gradually.
There exists in Agile Project Management, an interdependence of a sequence of activities, where one set of activities is affected by the other. The final product is the outcome of a series of repetitive deliveries with short deadlines. Delivery cycles are referred to in ‘Scrum’ lingo, as ‘sprints’ and each ‘sprint’ varies from a week to a month, though usually a fortnight is its normal duration. “…reviewing each sprint before moving to the next means that testing is conducted throughout the process, which allows teams to change the scope or direction of the project at any point,” states Daria Kelly Uhlig, emphasizing on the advantage of using this technique.
Peculiar as it sounds, the different levels of project stakeholders in Agile Project Management using Scrum, are referred to as –‘pigs’ and ‘chickens!’ Here ‘pigs’ represent the ‘Scrum team’ who perform core functions like producing the product. The Scrum team generally has a Product Owner, a Development team and a Scrum Master. On the other hand ‘chickens’ represent the ‘Supplementary team,’ whose roles are not that important but are never the less, necessary.
The usage of both these terms is derived from ‘The Chicken and the Pig’ fable, in which different levels of commitment are shown, through the examples of a pig and a chicken. “When producing a dish made of ham and eggs, the pig provides the ham which requires his sacrifice and the chicken provides the eggs which are not difficult to produce. Thus the pig is really committed in that dish while the chicken is only involved, yet both are needed to produce the dish,” the Wikipedia page on the story, notes.
Agile Project Management with Scrum, is a more flexible approach to project management. It uses open, instant and regular communication and focuses on greater team involvement and client participation. Here, having a knack for problem solving, negotiation and communication is necessary and precedence is given to common sense over written policy. “Scrum is designed to optimize team satisfaction and productivity, product quality, responsiveness to customers, and transparency for stakeholders. The key practices that enable these benefits include de-emphasizing work on non-deliverable items, implementing and finishing each Story in a Sprint Backlog in rank order, working in short Sprints of 2-4 weeks, and making past, present, and future project information available to all stakeholders,” concludes Kevin Thompson on cPrime.com.
This article was written by Hugh Swift a management expert and corporate trainer, who conducts workshops on Agile Project Management.