6 electric ideas changing the way we manage: Part 5

21 July 2016 -


The fifth in our series looks at how Scrum can help you get the most out of your organisation’s processes

Matt Scott

On 11 September 2001, the world changed forever when Al-Qaeda terrorists flew passenger planes into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon building in Virginia.

In total, 2,996 people lost their lives after the hijacking of four aeroplanes, the fourth of which crashed into a field in Pennsylvania after passengers tried to overcome the hijackers.

The FBI, which has responsibility for domestic security in the US, had information related to the 9/11 terror attacks, but an antiquated computer system had left the bureau unable to connect the dots and fully analyse the intelligence at its fingertips, leaving it unable to prevent the atrocity.

The FBI did have a modernisation programme in progress, but the project was already behind deadline, over budget and doomed to fail.

It was eventually mothballed, wasting millions of dollars and man hours and achieving nothing. In the wake of 9/11, the FBI brought the modernisation programme in-house, reducing the need for contract negotiations every time the brief changed in the project implementation process. The change also reduced the number of staff needed from hundreds to just 50, and an even smaller core team.

Critically, the project implemented ‘scrum’-like principles, moving away from antiquated Gantt charts that had been a large reason for the failure of the original project. The fundamental element of scrum, as described by Jeff Sutherland, author of Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, is the idea of the ‘inspect and adapt’ cycle.

This involves small teams working on a specific section of the project for a fixed period of time – usually one or two weeks. Once this ‘sprint’ has started, the whole team works autonomously to deliver their own particular objectives.

From this point, there can be no change to the brief, otherwise the work would be delayed or the project scope expanded, creating even more work.

At the end of the sprint, deliverables are reviewed and the process is analysed to see where further improvements can be made. This cycle is then repeated for each new development of the product.

Using scrum, the best-performing teams consistently deliver results 800% better than non-scrum teams.

Scrum has been widely used in the software industry for years and, in future, says Sutherland, will inevitably be used in the delivery of any complex project.

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