The Essence of Scrum: An Interview with Ken Rubin and Matthew Heusser

InformIT Not too long ago, I had the honor of being interviewed by Matthew Heusser for InformIT. Matt and I started out talking about Essential Scrum and the Visual AGILExicon® (VAL). We ended up in an in-depth conversation about whether Scrum teams need technical practices, why knowing and understanding agile principles is essential for sustained success with Scrum, the issues I’ve seen facing Scrum teams, and my answer to critics of iterative development and Scrum.

A few of the highlights are listed below, but I encourage you to read the entire transcript on the Inform IT site.

Why higher-level planning in a book about Scrum?

“Many of the problems in organizations start at the highest levels of planning—such as portfolio-level planning. When these higher levels of planning are poorly aligned with agile principles, you can be certain that the misalignment will manifest itself in an ever-increasing snowball of problems that roll downhill toward the development teams. For example, working on way too many products/projects at one time is a classic problem at the portfolio level, experienced by pretty much every company I see. People at the team level are pulled in so many different directions that they have a hard time staying focused and getting the job done. The concept of managing work in process (WIP) applies as much at the portfolio level as it does at the team level, and I wanted to make this alignment clear.

“Remember, my goal was to have a single book that provided essential Scrum knowledge, so I had to address these topics (such as the full gambit of planning topics) if I wanted to tell people in good faith that my book covered what was truly essential to be successful with Scrum.”

Why does Essential Scrum discuss agile principles beyond the agile manifesto?

“I think the principles in the Agile Manifesto are important, but other principles aren't mentioned specifically or are only implied by the Agile Manifesto, and those other principles really are needed to lay a solid foundation for the application of agile. I'm not concerned with labels, such as what is or isn't agile. My goal was to lay out the principles that I considered to be essential if you want to be successful in applying Scrum. I go on in subsequent chapters of the book to show how these core principles are applied.

“So what's the short answer to why I cast a net wider than the Agile Manifesto? Because I needed to.”

What Are The Key Ingredients for Success with Agile or Scrum?

“First, the organization needs to face the sometimes brutal reality of its impediments and deal with them head-on. … Second, there must be significant buy-in from senior management if the organization is to be successful with Scrum. …Finally, organizations that successfully apply Scrum learn fast. In other words, they cycle efficiently through the learning loop of assume, build, feedback, inspect, and adapt.”


I hope you will take the time to read the full interview. My thanks to Matt Heusser and the team at Inform IT for making this possible.