In 2001, Sutherland, Schwaber, and fifteen colleagues got together in Snowbird, Colorado, and drafted the Agile Manifesto, which became a clarion call to software developers around the globe to pursue this radically different type of management.

Since then, Sutherland, Schwaber, and their colleagues have gone on to generate thousands of high-performance teams in hundreds of companies all around the world under the labels of Scrum and Agile.

SCRUM COACH Mike Cohn reports in his classic book, Succeeding with Agile :

“During the first year of making the switch, released 94 percent more features, delivered 38 percent more features per developer, and delivered over 500 percent more value to their customers compared to the previous year. . . . Fifteen months after adopting Scrum, surveyed its employees and found that 86 percent were having a ‘good time’ or the ‘best time’ working at the company. Prior to adopting Scrum, only 40 percent said the same thing. Further, 92 percent of employees said they would recommend an agile approach to others.”

Scrum is modelled and designed for Hyper-productive teams and high quality work, these teams operate at the rate of 5-10 times the velocity and very high quality than that of waterfall teams. Scrum is modelled so that it can scaled across the globe to any size.

High performance and productive is directly depends on the self-organizing capability of teams, Understanding this self-organizing capability and continuously improving on it is a challenge.

The huge forte of complex adaptive systems to be adapting new system and environments helps us to follow certain rules namely

  • Shock Therapy.
  • Choice uncertainty principle.
  • Punctuated Equilibrium.

There are teams who follow waterfall but use terms and jargon of “Agile”, thinking that is enough to be an agile team. Then there are teams who follow few SCRUM principles and not every person in the team and management follow completely SCRUM, these teams are known as “SCRUMBUTT”.

It is believed that majority of the teams are not SCRUM teams only 20% -25% are pure SCRUM teams capable of working above than the performance of Waterfall team.


The best way to check if the scrum team is truly following the practices of SCRUM and Agile principles is to ask the scrum team members to undertake NOKIA Test.
Following are the questions asked during NOKIA test:
– Do you know who the product owner is?
– Is there a product backlog prioritized by business value that has estimates created by the team?
– Does the team generate burndown charts and know their velocity?
– You cannot have project managers (or anyone else) disrupting the work of the team.
– Only 10% of teams worldwide meet this criteria.
If the average score of the team is more than 6, then the scrum is properly followed otherwise it is SCRUMBUTT team.


Another way of checking if the organization is implement very good scrum and have hyper productive scrum teams is by measuring if their revenue or return of investment of the organization per annum.
There are very few exceptional top performing scrum teams who had successfully meet the specified commitment and since the outcome was overwhelming. The management and sales & marketing team were so overwhelmed that were unable to share the pace of the output and had find excuses and drop the idea of marketing to the client. Few of the examples given by Jeff Sutherland are below:

  • The most productive team ever recorded at Borland produced a failed product.
  • The most productive distributed team (SirsiDynix) had quality problems, management problems, and internal company conflicts that caused the product to be killed.
  • The second most productive team in the world (Motorola – David Anderson data) was overwhelmed with bureaucracy, completely demotivated, their product was killed, and the team died a painful death


There are very few exceptional top performing scrum teams who had successfully meet the specified commitment and since the outcome was overwhelming. The management and sales & marketing team were so overwhelmed that were unable to share the pace of the output and had find excuses and drop the idea of marketing to the client. Few of the examples given by Jeff Sutherland are below:

  • The most productive team ever recorded at Borland produced a failed product.
  • The most productive distributed team (SirsiDynix) had quality problems, management problems, and internal company conflicts that caused the product to be killed.
  • The second most productive team in the world (Motorola – David Anderson data) was overwhelmed with bureaucracy, completely demotivated, their product was killed, and the team died a painful death

The best way to understand the scrum is by studying failed scrum projects which performing exceptionally well but were killed due to the other factors of the organization. It is similar to the analogy of Thomas Alva Edison who failed 10000 times to final invent a modern light bulb. So we need to study the failed projects and understand the impediments and try to overcome them in our scrum project.

The Toyota Way

One of the best way and well established process of hyperproductive teams is the “Toyota Way”. The development and manufacture process of No. 1 Car Maker of the World. The following are the guidelines implemented by Toyota

  • There are many things one doesn’t understand, and therefore we ask them why don’t you just go ahead and take action; try to do something? Agile Principle #3 #11
  • You realize how little you know and you face your own failures and redo it again and at the second trial you realize another mistake…so you can redo it once again. Agile Principle #11#12
  • So by constant improvement…one can rise to the higher level of practice and knowledge. Agile Principle #3
Toyota Fights Back!!

In 2007, Toyota had very bad week, they had to face lot of criticism and feedback from the owners of Toyota cars. Since Toyota follows very strict quality and agile policy they recalled all the defect cars from Japan. Later Toyota strived and worked hard to rectify the defects and improved the cars to greater extent and got their market leader share. Earlier that week their market share less than their competitors almost down to fourth or fifth place but regained it back very soon to 1st place in the market.

Invention of SCRUM

A well-known technologist “Alan Kay” who invented Personal workstation, Mouse, Ethernet, Windows Interface, Laser Printer and Small Talk has followed a strategy of selecting the data points for research and innovation.

Alan Kay’s Innovation Strategy

Every time Alan Kay followed extreme data points of the IT & Technology Field for inventing something in that domain. He never used to look for data points which were incremental to already existing products in the IT field, he never looked for Cross Discipline products for innovation. By following this kind of strategy Alan has been successful in inventing very successful and high impact products.

Similarly Jeff and Ken followed the extreme data points for identifying the projects for inventing scrum, They choose IBM Surgical team, Takeuchi & Nonaka research paper on high productive quality teams and Borland Quattro Project as research data or extreme data for inventing scrum.

Anyone who is planning to use scrum and be an industry leader has to high motivated person first, this motivation helps the team perform better. So if you are planning on scrum you need to be motivated and ready to strive for greater goals like being Industry leader and revenue of the project is skyrocketing. Anyone can aspire to be great and that aspiration can be your starting point for scrum implementation.

Are you practicing SCRUM?

Once you have planned for scrum and start using scrum, how to verify you are doing it rightly. For that there is Nokia test. You and your team need to undergo Nokia test and make sure you have the scoring of more than 6. IF your team score is less than 6 then you are not doing SCRUM.

Two Sibiling of Agile : Scrum and XP

The core and forte of a successful SCRUM has been utilizing the best practices of engineering and good communication. IF you see the first scrum at Easel Corporation implemented by Jeff Sutherland, it incorporated all the activities of extreme programming’s engineering practices. All the Most high performance teams use Scrum and XP together. It is hard to get a Scrum with extreme velocity without XP engineering practices. You cannot scale XP without Scrum.

Example 1: Anatomy of a failed project – SirsiDynix – ScrumButt

Example 2: Xebia ProRail project – Pretty Good Scrum

Learn from venture capital investments

As agile became popular both in Japan, US and slowly spread around the globe. VC start preferring companies which invest their process & practices in agile. Some VC have start using SCRUM and agile methodologies in their own management and their portfolio started to have SCRUM and XP practiced companies. All the VC felt that having clients in their portfolio are agile companies they felt it has double safe. So VC have started the following:

  • – Invest only in Agile projects
    • ! hyperproductive company out of 10 is good enough to meet investment goals
    • Invest in Scrum training could get 2 hyperproductive
  • – Invest only in market leading, industry standard processes – this means Scrum and XP
  • – Ensure teams implement basic Scrum practices
    • Everyone must pass Nokia test
    • Management held accountable at Board level for impediments

First Non Software Company Strategy : OpenView Venture Partners Strategy

OpenView Venture Partners strategy is invest in Software company which practiced SCRUM: They also incorporated SCRUM in their company. They were the first non-software company to:

  • Investment partners practice Scrum
  • Invest only in Agile projects
    • Use only market leading, Industry standard process – this means Scrum and XP
    • Ensure teams implement best Scrum practices
  • Drive Scrum implementation at Board level. Ensure management is totally involved and understands Lean Product Development
  • Many portfolio companies run senior management team, sales, marketing, client services, and support with Scrum.

What Investors know about Companies?

All the investors start searching for the secret ingredient for their portfolio recipe and start asking
What is the secret recipe for building hyperproductive teams? They started summarizing what Jeff had advised to Open View, i.e.

  • – What is the secret recipe for building hyperproductive teams?
  • – First step is implementing basic Scrum practices and passing Nokia test.
  • – Second, management needs to get totally involved, understand team velocity, and remove impediments.
  • – Third, basic XP engineering practices need to be implemented, namely: o Test first development (may be pair programming, TDD);Continuous integration
  • – Then they are ready for the fun stuff

To be a Hyper Productive Team

According to Scrum, Hyperproductivity is defined as at least Toyota level of performance, it used to require at least two years for a non-agile company to reach 200 to 240% improvement. Now the scrum company requires only 300% improvement in 3 two weeks sprints. The only challenge is to keep the consistency of the teams to that optimum level very quickly and then remain in the hyper productive state. This is the main truth of self-organized teams to remain in hyper productive state

(Courtesy InfoQ)

Courtesy (Jeff Sutherland Agile Seminar)

How can an agile coach achieve Hyperproductivity in typical company?

Following are the successful examples of Shock Therapy are
1. MySpace in Beverly Hills.
2. JayWay in Sweden.
3. Pivotal Labs in San Francisco.


MySpace has been very good example of successful agile projects in most of the studies done in Agile.
MySpace has several hundred developers
– About 1/3 waterfall
– About 1/3 Scrum Butt with Project Managers
– About 1/3 pure Scrum

Scott Downey (Owner at Rapid Scrum LLC), when he was coaching MySpace the Agile practices and scrum training, he reportedly taken teams to high production state in a few weeks

It has been recorded that Average time to 240% of the velocity of a waterfall team is 2.9 days per team member where the team includes the Scrum Master and the Product Owner.

Establishing a Scrum Team

When a new team is sent for scrum training at MySpace, Scott Downey has a very strict and rigour training. Also Scott Downey sets all the rules of effectively running the scrum training and the projects. The rules are: My rules remain in effect until the team has met three criteria:

  • They are Hyper-Productive(>240% higher targeted value contribution)
  • They have completed three successful Sprints consecutively
  • They have identified a good business reason to change the rule

– The rules are roughly these:

  • Everyone on the team will attend scrum training session. I conduct an extremely condensed Scrum at MySpace course in about four hours, and the entire team comes together to a session. Until everyone has been trained, we won’t begin our first Sprint.
  • Sprints will be one week long.

The biggest and crucial point of defining a successful product from SCRUM Development team is the commitment to definition of DONE:

MySpace uses Jeff Definition of “DONE”

Definition of “Done” is this:

o 1. Feature Complete

o 2. Code Complete

o 3. No known defects

o 4. Approved by the Product Owner

o 5. Production Ready

Initially Scrum Master guides and helps the new team to do Daily SCRUM Meeting, He guides each and every move of the SCRUM team till the new team has become familiar with the best practices of SCRUM team.

Initially Scrum Master guides and monitors the Estimation and discussions in Sprint Planning meeting, as the team matures they start handling the activities of sprint planning into unique meetings. The Product Owner participates as visitor and advisor to the meeting, Scrum master guides development team in creating user stories. Stories are made to comply the INVEST principles. In the Sprint Backlog meeting Commitment of the team of Product Backlog is read aloud and taken consent of team again after explaining clearly the team what “Commit” does and does not mean so there is no ambiguity about the product requirements and definition of DONE. Once the team commits to the sprint work, the meeting ends.

The work should be completed in right order and with regression testing with no defects. A lot of emphasis is placed on priority order than multi-tasking, this helps in completing the commitments early rather than having incomplete items on the list. Every member of the scrum team follows the standard layouts for all the artifacts of SCRUM namely Sprint Planning Boards, User Stories, Story Cards, Burndown Charts and Velocity tracking.

Once the Master Scrum master feels that he has team matured enough, he moves on to another new team and new Scrum master is assigned to monitor the team’s scrum development process. The main aim is to make the team a hyperproductive team.

facilitating self-organization

As the team becomes matured and completely self-organized, the team member starts correcting each other and evokes lot of positive energy in the team. Soon the team becomes very agile, active and focused.

Cosmic Stopping Problem

The Cosmic Stopping Problem, otherwise known as the choice uncertainty principle.

Jeff Sutherland in one of his paper “AGILE DEVELOPMENT:LESSONS LEARNED FROM THE FIRST SCRUM” suggest that, The most interesting effect of Scrum on Easel’s development environment was an observed “punctuated equilibrium” effect. This occurs in biological evolution when a species is stable for long periods of time and then undergoes a sudden jump in capability During the long period of apparent stability, many internal changes in the organism are reconfigured that cannot be observed externally. When all pieces are in place to allow a significant jump in functionality, external change occurs suddenly. A fully integrated component design environment leads to unexpected, rapid evolution of a software system with emergent, adaptive properties resembling the process of punctuated equilibrium observed in biological species. Sudden leaps in functionality resulted in earlier than expected delivery of software in the first Scrum.

A punctuated equilibrium – the equilibrium being the “Safety Zone” of working in a stable system for a while (e.g. during a Scrum Sprint when the Sprint Backlog does not shift within the sprint) punctuated by events that allow the chaos/shifting world outside to affect the system, and then return to the “Safety Zone” to have an opportunity for behavior that fits the new reality to emerge. This has been observed in nature as well as contributing to effective evolution.

This punctuated equilibrium is accompanied by Choice Uncertainty Principle also known as “Cosmic Problem”. It is found everywhere, at every level of the world. A very good Scrum master is able to handle this at every step of development, a good scrum does the following to avoid Cosmic Problem:

  • o Don’t accept backlog that is not ready
  • o Minimize work in progress
  • o Stop the line when bad things happen and fix it so it can never happen again
  • o If it is not “Done” put it back on the product backlog

Another major factor why Scrum is better than waterfall, is that collocation factor affects velocity which affects the cost of the project. In a study done at PatientKeeper a project from Scrum development moved to Waterfall team, the company had expenses instead of savings of 30%, so $2M of Scrum development at PatientKeeper company costs $6M when outsourced to waterfall teams. So never outsourced to waterfall teams, only outsource to Scrum teams.

The Road to Hyper-Productivity

A success path to Hyperproductivity is based on the Complex Adaptive System theory.

The essential architectural design concept that encourages refactoring at granularity level with regression testing and rigours system testing to build a product with zero defects. Team develops the software components in the right hierarchical order with optimization of speed of displaying the new features of the product. Working on only the well-defined stories and removing the requirements that are not ready which otherwise led to cosmic Stopping Problem, minimizing work in progress, avoiding obstacles through self-organization and finally applying the Shock therapy that decreases the Sprints count.

Finally SCRUM recommends, those who can do ‘Pretty Good Scrum then should do Great SCRUM’
There are 3 types of companies namely,

  • – Doesn’t want to see or hear impediments. Suppress Scrum master. Prevents the process implementation. These companies always suffer and lose out.
  • – Talk about impediments, but doesn’t fix impediments, internal struggle goes on. These companies suffer for a long time to be better.
  • – Look for Impediments and fix it immediately. Avoid internal Conflicts. These companies are successful companies.

The Success of SCRUM driven work and its positive impact on the employees has forced almost all the non-software firms also to move to SCRUM, as clearly stated in Forbes

“The success of software development at firms like [CRM], along similar customer-driven iterative methods in auto manufacture at firms like Toyota, has led to the spread of this different way of managing to related fields.

  • • The Quality Software Engineering group at IBM [IBM] is responsible for software development processes and practices across the company. As part of the effort to promulgate Scrum in developing software, an iterative process of working was adopted for doing change management.
  • • At the Chicago software firm Total Attorneys, iterative work patterns were so successful that they spread to the staff of call centers: small cross-functional teams work in cycles of three weeks.
  • • At the Danish software firm, Systematic, iterative methods have been spreading from software development to other parts of the firm.
  • • At the Swedish software firm Trifork, iterative methods have spread from software development to conference management.
  • • And OpenView Venture Partners, a Boston-based venture capital firm, has expanded client-driven iterations into consulting and finance.”

The Power of SCRUM is now enthusing other firms to join the main stream of new methodology of management of work.

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