Scrum is a kind of Agile project management methodology that focuses on execution, speed and pivots.

If you’re plugged into the startup community, you’ve probably heard about the Lean method, Scrum teams and Agile. There’s a lot of noise out there and today, I want to cut through all of that and focus on something that kind absolutely change how you run your teams, your companies, or even your own life:


Scrum.

Scrum is a kind of Agile project management methodology that focuses on execution, speed and pivots. There is some planning involved in the initial stages, but the majority of time spent on a Agile project is in delivery and execution, whether it be writing code, creating prototypes or building tangible deliverables.

In his book Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, Jeff Sutherland puts it best:

Scrum embraces uncertainty and creativity. It places a structure around the learning process, enabling teams to assess both what they’ve created and, just as important, how they created it. The Scrum framework harnesses how teams actually work and gives them the scrum tools for startups to self-organize and rapidly improve both speed and quality of work.

Scrum for Startups – Roles

Scrum for Startups - Team Roles

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There are only three roles in a Scrum team: the product owner, the Scrum master and the Scrum team.

Product Owner

The product owner is someone who has deep knowledge of the user. They understand the client’s vision and what they want to accomplish with the product.

He or she also works closely with the key stakeholders to create user stories. User stories are product requirements in the form of:

As a [role] I want to [function] so that [reason].

The Product Owner steers the agile team ship. They make sure that the team is heading in the right direction by managing and prioritizing items in the Product Backlog, which we’ll talk about in the Scrum Artifacts section.

Some companies may also have more than one Product Owner – these individuals function more like a product committee. Your company’s product owner might be your CMO, your growth team and your customer service reps.

Scrum Master

If the Product Owner is in charge of the what, the Scrum Master is in charge of the how. But unlike in traditional organizational structures, Scrum Masters aren’t “The Boss” of everyone else on their team.

Rather, Scrum espouses servant leadership and the Scrum Master’s primary responsibility is getting rid of obstacles that stand in the Scrum Team’s way.

One of the biggest limiters a Scrum team or project will have is time. And Scrum Masters help maximize this by systematically getting rid of obstacles and guiding the team towards more efficient workflows.

The Scrum Master also facilitates the Daily Stand-Ups. Stand-ups take about 15 minutes and each team member answers these three questions:

  • What did you work on yesterday?
  • What will you be working on today?
  • What’s obstacles are slowing you down?

These are key to give everyone a chance to pitch in and help their teammates, while also getting a high-level overview of the project’s status.

Team Member

They make up the core of the Scrum team! These teams are ideally made up of 5-9 individuals who are collaborative, self-organizing and, ideally, cross-functional.

And although the product owner decides the direction of the project and the Scrum Master supports the team, ultimately, it is the Agile team members who will decide exactly how to do the work: They get to decide which scrum tools for startups to use, what approach to take, what they want to work on and what they think they can finish for that specific sprint.

Finally, a Scrum team member is not simply responsible for their portion of the project. They are also expected to help their team members cut through roadblocks and help the team deliver a shippable product at the end of every sprint.

As Chris Sims and Hillary Louise Johnson put it, “What we are describing is a mindset change from ‘doing my job’ to ‘doing the job’.”

Scrum for Startups – Artifacts

Scrum Artifacts

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So now that you know who you need to form your startup scrum team, here is what you need day-to-day:

The Product Backlog

The product backlog contains absolutely everything the team needs to do for a particular project. It contains the user stories, and is also managed by the product owner.

This list is also ordered by importance, with the most important items at the top of the list.

The Sprint Backlog

A sprint is a period of work, with a set starting time and ending time. This can be as short as one week and as long as one month.

The sprint backlog is similar to the product backlog in that it contains all the stories the team has decided to deliver for a  particular sprint. The team decides on which stories a sprint backlog will have during the weekly Sprint Planning Meeting, usually held on Mondays.

Burndown Charts

This is another thing the product owner takes charge of. A burndown chart essential shows how many stories or tasks the team has left to do and compares it to time.

When the team is working well, the burndown chart should show an ever decreasing line, all the way to the x-axis.

The Scrum Task Board

The Scrum Board is divided into three columns: To-Do, Doing and Done.

This is great because you get to see where your team is at any given point in time. It also shows how much each team is working on so you can re-level resources accordingly!

Definition of Done

I like how the book Scrum: A Breathtakingly Brief and Agile Manifesto puts the definition of done:

A programmer might call something done when the code has been written. The tester might think that done means it’s been loaded onto the production servers. A business person may think that done means we can now sell it to customers, and it’s ready for them to use.

Print your own FREE User Story Checklist

In Conclusion

There is quite a bit more to running a successful Scrum team in your startup than these, but hopefully, you’ve gotten a sense of how you can implement Scrum for Startups into your workflow, as well as how it can help you.

Whether you’re a startup founder who’s trying to ship as quickly as you can or you’re a more established entrepreneur who wants to find a way to make sense of all the projects you’re juggling, Scrum for Startups can help!

At Brainhub we employ Scrum to as we work with you (not for you!) to create websites and mobile app design and develop applications that speak directly to your ideal customer while being responsive, mobile-friendly and just plain gorgeous.

Check out our website to learn more!

Top Resources:

Scrum: A Breathtakingly Brief and Agile Introduction by Chris Sims & Hillary Louise Johnson

[Video] Scrum: The Art of Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland

[Video] Scrum Training Series: Free Scrum Master Training from Seattle

Mateusz Warcholinski

Mateusz Warcholinski is the COO of Brainhub (a software house building awesome node.js web and mobile apps) who loves to build startups and play guitar.

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