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Explaining Scrum to Your Boss

February 3, 2013

One of the first challenges in Scrum adoption is to explain to your boss with a waterfall project management background what Scrum is all about.

He is probably not at all interested in what it is. He just needs his metrics.

Project management has deteriorated to a point where we manage the metrics rather than the project. Furthermore, the typical practices of waterfall projects like senselessly adding more people, compromising quality, change request process crippling product functionality makes the situation worse.

I still believe though that true project management is about the art of balancing the resource triangle variables (schedule, cost, scope, quality). The Scrum rules has “simplified” the balancing act by letting you adjust a single variable – scope. Time or schedule is fixed (a sprint is time boxed max. 4 weeks), cost is fixed (the development team size is fixed within the sprint), quality is not to be compromised.

In other words, Scrum just defines a framework where you set the cost, schedule, quality to a fixed value at the start of an iteration leaving the scope variable as the focal point of adjustment.

I suggest the following approach explaining what Scrum is to your (waterfall PM) boss:
1. Make sure your boss understands the resource triangle. Give hints before the actual discussion so he can research/recall what the art of project management is all about. You wouldn’t want to lecture him on this.
2. Explain Scrum as a framework that allows one only to tweak the scope variable.
3. Hopefully this gives him enough context to enable him to understand Scrum as you detail out the rules of Scrum.

References:
1. Resource Triangle/Project Management Triangle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_triangle)
2. Scrum guide http://www.scrum.org/Portals/0/Documents/Scrum%20Guides/Scrum_Guide.pdf

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One Comment
  1. sma permalink

    Good tips here! 🙂 In the general topic on “management”, the point here about never losing focus on “managing the project” is spot on. Metrics and process/methods/frameworks (including Scrum!) is a means to an end. Project managers should be good at delivering projects. Being good at metrics/process/methods/quality is very important indeed… but is always a secondary skill to the core work you do! If you are in the medical field, you should be a good doctor… if you are doing IT work, you should be good at technology… and so on. Scrum simplifies “management” by bringing focus on (1) having the right people, (2) timely communication/collaboration, and (3) delivering the product/software.

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