/PL interviews Jeff Sutherland, one of the inventors of scrum
lean agile sutherland scrum

PL interviews Jeff Sutherland, one of the inventors of scrum

lean agile sutherland scrum

VIDEO INTERVIEW – Planet Lean speaks with Jeff Sutherland, one of the inventors of scrum software development, about the evolution of this Agile framework and its relationship with lean.

Interviewee: Jeff Sutherland, CEO, Scrum Inc.

Planet Lean: What has lean brought to Agile software development?

Jeff Sutherland: Lean tremendously affected the evolution of scrum. The capstone of scrum is the work of Takeuchi and Nonaka, who were studying companies like Honda and Toyota. They were looking at lean production development teams, and the closeness of their working together reminded them of the game of rugby. That’s why they called it scum project management.

PL: Conversely, what can scrum and other agile methodologies bring to lean thinking?

JS: Because of all the software experience we have, we are starting to do more and more work in hardware development using scrum and we are finding that having the right component architectures and interfaces allows us to iterate on hardware components weekly. We can take a car and update any component any week and the car still runs, just like your software.

Also the involvement of the customer directly in the product creation takes lean to the next level. It is still lean underneath, but it adds this additional tooling.

PL: People often wonder about the relationship between kanban and scrum – what is your take on the matter?

JS: Kanban is about making the work visible, measuring cycle time, and minimizing work in progress – and a good scrum team does all of that. What scrum adds is a team, a sprint, a product owner and scrum master. If you look at kanban, it is slow when they don’t have a team but work in silos. They say that the value of kanban is that you don’t have to change your organization, but if you don’t change your organization things don’t go any faster. You just see where the bottleneck is.

In order to make kanban fast, all of sudden people are working as a team, they are having a daily meeting, and someone is managing the flow of the backlog. All of a sudden, it starts to look like scrum.

The same thing happened on the scrum side. One of the major goals ten years ago was to deliver to production at every sprint. Today we are beyond that, delivering to production every day. Now stuff flows into a sprint one piece at a time. It looks like kanban, as the release is de-coupled from the sprint.

The best kanban teams will look like scrum teams, and the best scrum teams will look like kanban teams.

PL: From software development, scrum has expanded to other industries. You have the example of an application in education. Can you share it with us?

JS: Scrum is good for anything, from engineering to marketing and finance. Now it is expanding into hardware, law firms, and so on. As it happens, the people working in schools in both the US and Europe started to adopt it too.

The leading innovation we are seeing is an experiment in the Netherlands. Two classes are spent teaching the kids what scrum is, how it works, how to do the estimation, and how to break down all their learning objectives into small pieces. Then the teams start using the scrum process: their grades go up 20 to 40%, they finish their semester weeks early, and the kids have a lot more fun. People working in this area believe this is the future of education.

PL: In your talk at the Lean IT Summit in Paris, you said that scrum means “hacking leadership.” What do you mean by that?

JS: It comes from a video shown at TEDx in Aix-en-Provence, which showed that scrum is all about “hacking leadership.” It is true. Scrum is about breaking down the work, timing and teams. As soon as you start to maximize production in such an environment, the management structure needs to reconfigure itself. Many management teams don’t understand this.

Jeff spoke at this year’s Lean IT Summit in Paris. To access the presentations from the event, click here.


Jeff Sutherland photograph

Jeff Sutherland is the inventor and co-creator of Scrum. He is a West Point graduate, former fighter pilot and cancer researcher, as well as CTO or head of engineering of eleven different software companies from small startups to enterprises with thousands of developers. He launched the first scrum team in 1993 and has shephereded the methodology’s explosive growth across the planet and into almost every industry: finance, healthcare, higher education and telecom. His most recent book is Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time.