Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time

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9780385346450: Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time

For those who believe that there must be a more agile and efficient way for people to get things done, here is a brilliantly discursive, thought-provoking book about the leadership and management process that is changing the way we live.
 
In the future, historians may look back on human progress and draw a sharp line designating “before Scrum” and “after Scrum.” Scrum is that ground-breaking.  It already drives most of the world’s top technology companies. And now it’s starting to spread to every domain where leaders wrestle with complex projects.
 
If you’ve ever been startled by how fast the world is changing, Scrum is one of the reasons why. Productivity gains of as much as 1200% have been recorded, and there’s no more lucid – or compelling – explainer of Scrum and its bright promise than Jeff Sutherland, the man who put together the first Scrum team more than twenty years ago.
 
The thorny problem Jeff began tackling back then boils down to this: people are spectacularly bad at doing things with agility and efficiency. Best laid plans go up in smoke. Teams often work at cross purposes to each other. And when the pressure rises, unhappiness soars. Drawing on his experience as a West Point-educated fighter pilot, biometrics expert, early innovator of ATM technology, and V.P. of engineering or CTO at eleven different technology companies, Jeff began challenging those dysfunctional realities, looking  for solutions that would have global impact.
 
In this book you’ll journey to Scrum’s front lines where Jeff’s system of deep accountability, team interaction, and constant iterative improvement is, among other feats, bringing the FBI into the 21st century, perfecting the design of an affordable 140 mile per hour/100 mile per gallon car, helping NPR report fast-moving action in the Middle East, changing the way pharmacists interact with patients, reducing poverty in the Third World, and even helping people plan their weddings and accomplish weekend chores. 
 
Woven with insights from martial arts, judicial decision making, advanced aerial combat, robotics, and many other disciplines, Scrum is consistently riveting. But the most important reason to read this book is that it may just help you achieve what others consider unachievable – whether it be inventing a trailblazing technology, devising a new system of education, pioneering a way to feed the hungry, or, closer to home, a building a foundation for your family to thrive and prosper.

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About the Author:

Jeff Sutherland is currently the CEO of Scrum, Inc. and Senior Adviser to OpenView Venture Partners where he coaches venture-funded companies.  One of the original signers of the Agile Manifesto and a father of the Scrum movement, he travels the world conducting training and speaking.  You can find him at www.scruminc.com.

J.J. Sutherland spent most of his career covering wars, conflicts, revolutions, disasters and terrorist attacks for NPR. More recently, he has been writing, teaching, and consulting with corporations and non-profits on how to use Scrum. His work has been recognized with Peabody, DuPont, Overseas Press Club, Associated Press and Edward R. Murrow awards.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

CHAPTER ONE

The Way the World Works Is Broken

Jeff Johnson was pretty sure it wasn’t going to be a good day. On March 3, 2010, the Federal Bureau of Investigation killed its biggest and most ambitious modernization project--the one that was supposed to prevent another 9/11 but that had devolved into one of the biggest software debacles of all time. For more than a decade the FBI had been trying to update its computer system, and it looked as if they would fail. Again. And now it was his baby.

He’d shown up at the FBI seven months earlier, lured there by the new Chief Information Officer, Chad Fulgham, whom he’d worked with at Lehman Brothers. Jeff was Assistant Director of the IT Engineering Division. He had an office on the top floor of the J. Edgar Hoover Building in downtown Washington, D.C. It was a big office. It even had a view of the Washington Monument. Little did Jeff know he’d end up in a windowless cinder-block office in the basement for much of the next two years, trying to fix something that everyone believed to be unfixable.

“It was not an easy decision,” Jeff says. He and his boss had decided to declare defeat and kill a program that had already taken nearly a decade and cost hundreds of millions of dollars. By that point, it made more sense to bring the project in-house and do it themselves. “But it needed to be done and done well.”

The project was the long-awaited computer system that would bring the FBI into the modern age. In 2010--the era of Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and Google--the FBI was still filing most of its reports on paper. The system the Bureau used was called the Automated Case Support system. It ran on gigantic mainframe computers that had been state of the art sometime in the eighties. Many special agents didn’t even use it. It was just too cumbersome and too slow in an era of terror attacks and swift-moving criminals.

When an FBI agent wanted to do something--anything, really--from paying an informant to pursuing a terrorist to filing a report on a bank robber, the process wasn’t that different from what it had been thirty years earlier. Johnson describes it this way: “You would write up a document in a word processor and print out three copies. One would be sent up the approval chain. One would be stored locally in case that one got lost. And with the third you’d take a red pen--I’m not kidding, a red pen--and circle the key words for input into the database. You’d index your own report.”

When a request was approved, that paper copy would drift down from upstairs with a number on it. A number written on a piece of paper is how the FBI kept track of all its case files. This method was so antiquated and porous that it was blamed in part for the Bureau’s failure to “connect the dots” that showed various Al Qaeda activists entering the country in the weeks and months before 9/11. One office was suspicious of one person. Another wondered why so many suspicious foreigners were getting flight training. Another had someone on a watch list but never told anyone else. No one in the Bureau ever put it all together.

The 9/11 Commission drilled down after the attack and tried to discover the core reason it was allowed to happen. Analysts, said the Commission, couldn’t get access to the very information they were supposed to analyze. “The poor state of the FBI’s information systems,” reads the report, “meant that such access depended in large part on an analyst’s personal relationships with individuals in the operational units or squads where the information resided.”

Before 9/11, the FBI had never completed an assessment of the overall terrorism threat to the United States. There were a lot of reasons for this, from focus on career advancement to a lack of information sharing. But the report singled out lack of technological sophistication as perhaps the key reason the Bureau failed so dramatically in the days leading up to 9/11. “The FBI’s information systems were woefully inadequate,” the Commission’s report concludes. “The FBI lacked the ability to know what it knew: there was no effective mechanism for capturing or sharing its institutional knowledge.”

When senators started asking the Bureau some uncomfortable questions, the FBI basically said, “Don’t worry, we have a modernization plan already in the works.” The plan was called the Virtual Case File (VCF) system, and it was supposed to change everything. Not letting any crisis go to waste, officials said they only needed another $70 million on top of the $100 million already budgeted for the plan. If you go back and read press reports on VCF at the time, you’ll notice that the words revolutionary and transformation are used liberally.

Three years later, the program was killed. It didn’t work. Not even a little bit. The FBI had spent $170 million in taxpayer money to buy a computer system that would never be used--not a single line of code, or application, or mouse click. The whole thing was an unmitigated disaster. And this wasn’t simply IBM or Microsoft making a mistake. People’s lives were, quite literally, on the line. As Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, then the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, told the Washington Post at the time:
We had information that could have stopped 9/11. It was sitting there and was not acted upon. . . . I haven’t seen them correct the problems. . . . We might be in the 22nd century before we get the 21st-century technology.1
It is rather telling that many of the people who were at the FBI when the Virtual Case File disaster happened aren’t there anymore.

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