What do you mean you don’t know Scrum and Agile? Wicked problems, Birkenstock and dishevelled, unsocial, brilliant geeks

At The 3am Group we are constantly scavenging for approaches to wicked problems. One of us likes to hang out in Silicon Valley and she always returns with a gem. Here is one:

Developing large-scale software is a wicked problem – and often results in massive budget over runs, disgruntled customers and huge delays, not to mention embarrassment. Remember healthcare.gov?

Scrum and Agile are software development methodologies which are used to run such wicked projects with great success. Indeed, some software developers are running their entire companies on the same principles. Take salesforce.com whose success is physically reflected in the construction of three skyscrapers being built simultaneously in down-town San Francisco. Its CEO, Marc Benioff was named the most valuable CEO by Forbes.

Now why would we, the 3am Group talk about software development? Because  Scrum and Agile are also highly relevant to addressing wicked problems in general.

Consider the summary of their principles by Steve Denning in Forbes ( 4/29/2011)

  • Organize work in short cycles
  • The management doesn’t interruptthe team during a work cycle
  • The team reports tothe client, not the manager
  • The team estimates how much timework will take
  • The team decides how muchwork it can do in an iteration
  • The team decideshow to do the work in the iteration
  • The  team measures its own performance
  • Define work goals beforeeach cycle starts
  • Define work goals through user stories
  • Systematically remove impediments

The pieces aren’t new. The “New” is in the linking of these elements and the rigorous follow-through.

Can’t believe this works? Consider the following:

“Teams using  [Scrum] have been unexpectedly productive. These were not just improvements where the teams were just slightly better than the norm. The best teams routinely obtain productivity increases of 200 to 400 percent, changes that are potentially industry-disruptive improvements” (Steve Denning (see link below)

Maybe Patricia needs to spend even more time in Silicon Valley.





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