By TGG | October 22, 2021

Over the past year, TGG consultant Josh Bathon has provided book reviews for The Project Management Institute of Portland. Throughout the coming months we will periodically share some of the reviews that previously appeared in the PMI-PDX newsletter.  

Book: Scrum by Jeff Sutherland

Agile project management is not a fad. Over the past 20 years it has become the dominant organizational system for software development, and has also started to flourish in other industries as well. You have most likely come across either an agile tool or an agile team, such as Scrum, Kanban, or SAFe. You might even have an agile certification; PMI offers the PMI-ACP (Agile Certified Practitioner) and agile theory is included in the PMP and CAPM.

Regarding agile, there are thousands of books and tens of thousands of articles online. Everyone has an opinion. So if you want to learn more, where should you start? Why not learn from the founder of Scrum, the most popular agile methodology out there?

In his book, Scrum, The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, Jeff Sutherland is a master teacher. He slowly unravels the various parts of Scrum, illustrating with examples from his clients over the years. The goal of his book is to make Scrum usable for people who don’t work in software. And he succeeds. 

Transitioning to agile can seem like a paradigm shift for many people but Sutherland demonstrates how this change doesn’t have to be dramatic. Throughout the book, he works through various aspects of Scrum, breaking them down into digestible chunks that could be used by anyone, anywhere, anytime.

Take for example a venture capital company which decided to embrace Scrum in their daily operations. Investors, management, researchers, and administrative staff all started to use Scrum to organize their work. Sprint planning, daily standups and team retrospectives resulted in transparency: everyone could see what was currently being worked on, major blockers were identified early and the team regularly reviewed the way they worked. These small changes had large benefits: the average work week at the company dropped from over 60 hours to less than 40, and the team started completing almost twice as much work.

A key problem with agile project management is the army of purists that help implement it. They advocate for strict adoption and rigorous adherence to an entire system. But this dramatic, one-size-fits-all approach fails because businesses come in all shapes and sizes. This book is different. Sutherland provides practical advice for adopting agile, using real world examples of success. 

This is a must-read for project managers, even for seasoned agile professionals. I have 2 scrum certifications and have worked in several agile environments, and I still found Sutherland’s book to be a valuable exploration of how and why to use agile. In my experience, it’s hard to do agile without understanding why it works. Level-up your skills with this quick read, straight from the founder of Scrum himself.