Wednesday, May 11, 2011

"Scrum is Like Chess"

One of my favorite Scrum quotes is “Scrum is like chess.”  

Like chess, the “rules” for Scrum are fairly straight forward. But also like chess, Scrum practitioners require continued practice and ongoing learning to be come good.

So why do it?  If it is hard to master, why change our development process?

Ken Schwaber, a co-author of the Scrum Guide, sums it up best:  “Those who play both games and keep practicing may become very good at playing the games. In the case of chess, they may become Grand Masters. In the case of Scrum, they may become outstanding development organizations, cherished by their customers, loved by their users, and feared by their competitors.”

Being loved by users and feared by competitors would mean that we’re delivering highly desired software products which are generating significant sales growth and, ultimately, more corporate value.  This is the state we, as a company, want to achieve, and it is one of the drivers for our transition from Waterfall to Agile.

So what can you do to become better at Scrum?   

Being part of a Scrum team and new to Scrum, you are likely devoted near-full time on learning new ways of working as well as actually delivering potentially shippable product every Sprint.  But this shouldn’t stop you from allocating some time to digging further into the nuances of Agile software development practices, communication and organizational behavior.

There’s a wealth of information, as well as tons of opinions from many of the great Agile industry experts, on two public Internet groups.  The first, and older, is the Yahoo! Group, Scrum Development (  The second, a Google Group called Agile Leaders ( was recently created and also features some lively discussions, often by the same cross-section of folks on the Scrum Development list.  By just becoming an observer to these lists you can glean many useful tidbits of information on all aspects of Scrum as well as Agile software development. While these are great resources for every Scrum team member, aspiring ScrumMasters and Product Owners should take particular note of these two valuable resources.

There’s also numerous blogs and webinars that can give you insight to different facets of Scrum.  I’d start there before buying too many books (Amazon lists over 300 books for “Scrum” and over 1300 for “Agile”).  There are many formal and informal Agile and Scrum gatherings, such as Agile New England ( that regularly host events and meet ups.  

And finally, as with any discipline, nothing beats practice coupled with an ongoing desire to learn.

Enjoy the journey!

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