Friday, October 19, 2012

How Scrum Manages Risk

There are 457,889 Scrum job openings today in the United States, up from only 20,000 earlier in the year. The top companies hiring are:
As a result, I am working with a lot of traditional project managers and they keep on asking me, "How does Scrum manage risk."

A lot of what is in Scrum is based on my experience as a fighter pilot, particularly my 100 missions over North Vietnam. Everything about Scrum is risk management.

When I flew into Udorn airbase in northeast Thailand in 1967, my RF4-C squadron was replacing two RF-101 squadrons which had 45 aircraft shot down during the last year. Of the five that remained, all had so many bullet holes they were not flyable.

My strategy was to enter into an evasive maneuver crossing the North Vietnamese border and never stop evading until returning back into Laos. You could not see the tracer bullets in the daylight.

When I joined a large banking company in 1983, I notice that every day there were bad things happening to projects and the failure rate of larger projects was over 80%. Not quite as bad as the RF-101 squadrons but almost.

The solution was to implement short sprints, inspect and adapt every day, and do a major retrospective at the end of every sprint. Failing fast and learning for the next sprint provides huge risk avoidance benefit and it lays the groundwork for innovation. Proper execution causes incremental improvement with increased quality that accelerates velocity.

This gives the Scrum team the ability to operate like a small entrepreneurial company even when embedded in a large enterprise. The right attitude for the team is exempified in this video on entrepreneurship. Start small and execute one sprint at a time. You will fail early and often which will, counterintuitively, radically reduce the risk of the total effort. The ability to dodge bullets will surprise you!

1 comment:

eddieosh said...

"Risk management is project management for adults", Tim Lister. I wish more project managers (and their managers) understood this; we'd have a much better chance of introducing agile practices and making them stick if they did.