Scrum Teams -- Do you feel the rhythm?

Hi, I’m Terri Merenkov a member of the Global Methods team at Oracle. This month I celebrate my 18th year with Oracle. You might be surprised by that, but many in the Global Methods team have more tenure than I do. This is part of what makes my job so interesting. If I don’t know the answer to something about Oracle Implementation projects of a certain type, I don’t have to go far to find someone who does. Even though some concepts have been around for a while, there is always something new coming so we are constantly adapting and changing.

We have many things to learn about, today, even though they may have been around for a while, for example Scrum. Scrum was created in 1993 by Jeff Sutherland. The term “scrum” is borrowed from an analogy used in the 1986 study by Takeuchi and Nonaka (Takeuchi), published in the Harvard Business Review. In the study, the authors equated high-performance, cross-functional teams to the packs formed by Rugby teams.

Here we are nearly two decades later actually applying Scrum in our software development projects. Yet some people think that Scrum is new,maybe it is coming into the mainstream perhaps because we realize that often taking something large and breaking it down helps support a successful software implementation.  It is only now that we're seeing teams celebrate success using Scrum.  Of course, not everyone is successful. Scrum seems so simple, it's often the human factor that really determines how well things go.

In the 80’s I was very into music, I started in University as a music education major. My major was percussion as well as piano, with a minor in French. At the time, I had no idea what a computer was, however, I was playing electric keyboards “synthesizers” with built-in percussion instruments of course I was enamored with the Mellotron and Moog synthesizers that were being used by some of the progressive rock bands. Once I discovered that music was being cut from the curriculum of many schools, I decided to re-think my major. A software “recruiter” lived across the street from me. She suggested that I try taking some computer courses, since often people who are good at music and language happen to excel in using computers. I began taking classes in computer science, and the more I learned, the more I wanted to know!

I find it interesting at this point in my life, I’m being reminded of good things that I learned about when I was younger, that are actually useful in my adult life – today.

Just the other day, I was working on some updates to the Scrum View in OUM and I came across the word “Cadence”. Oh, I thought, I know about Cadence! Any good drummer knows that a cadence is needed to get the marching band to stay in step when marching across the football field or in a parade.  Of course the percussionists are experts in various percussion instruments,

The percussionists in a marching band have a natural rhythm, in fact when the band is marching in between songs, the percussionists are keeping a cadence that allows everyone to step together, as part of a group, each individual takes nice even steps until we’re in place to play the next song.  This rhythm can me a steady tapping on the drum "rims" or use of the full percussion instrument.

So think about a Scrum team, just the way you would think about a group of musicians in a band. Good Scrum teams “feel the rhythm” they have a cadence that allows the team to work together easily, almost naturally. With each Sprint retrospective, they examine what worked and what didn’t. Over the course of several Sprints, a true cadence is achieved by the team. A sustainable team cadence leads us to another term used in the Scrum approach; velocity.

When I think of velocity, I think of speed, but in a software development effort, speed isn’t always our main focus. In Scrum, velocity is obtained by calculating the number of units of work that can be completed by the team during a specific timeframe (Sprint). Velocity refers to the speed at which a team can implement and test use cases (user stories) and change requests (that is, how much of the product backlog the team can complete). This is reflected in the Burndown Charts by showing the progress made so far versus the planned/estimated progress. Of course with each Scrum Sprint, the team becomes more experienced, and can determine velocity based on how many units of work they have completed during previous Sprints.


Contrary to what some may say, even though Scrum uses the word Sprint, we aren’t necessarily only focused on going as fast as we can until we burn out the team. Rather, we work on building teams that can develop, test and integrate working software in a collaborative, yet agile fashion.  This results in a sustained rhythm. So I ask you - can YOU feel the rhythm? What experiences have you had in building expert teams that work well together?  Have you used Scrum successfully and why?  Listen... do you feel it?


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