What’s the scrum?
Scrum’s focus is “on the business needs of projects when developing products and services”1. As a technology company, LISNR has embraced the need to produce deliverables. This is not particularly surprising that scrum became the approach for this, as it is common at other organizations of similar age and personnel size. So the point of this manifest is to explain the proximity between the scrum methodologies and the United States (US) Army’s reconnaissance planning methodologies when working with small, distributed teams.
Scrum is an agile methodology, meaning it is meant to be flexible. Although it is not the first methodology to attempt to encapsulate flexibility, it is one that has some principles that are perfect for producing products rapidly and in an iterative way. Tom Poppendieck (2003), the author of The Agile Customer’s Toolkit, expressed this as the following seven principles2:
1. Eliminate waste – add value not inventory
2. Amplify learning – as a repetitive process
3. Manufacturing postponement – delay decisions until the last second (when necessary)
4. Deliver as fast as possible – Iterative timeframes
5. Empower team members – training, trusting, and leading
6. Build integrity – perception versus reality
7. Avoid sub-optimizing – understand the whole business need
(List paraphrased from Scrum Project Management, 2003)
The seven principles fit the needs LISNR had in order to solidify the product and the go-to-market strategy in the most disruptive way possible. These principles were explained better to me than what is written in FM 3-20.98 (Reconnaissance and Scout Platoon) by Major Ryan T. Kranc while he served as the Commander of L Troop, 2/16th Cavalry Regiment. He explained these principles as “focus, tempo, engagement, disengagement, and displacement criteria” (personal conversation, 2008). He also wrote at length about these concepts in 2008 in the November – December issue of Armor Magazine3.
Let’s correlate the scrum out of US Army doctrine.
Every one of the Poppendieck principles has a focus, tempo, engagement, disengagement, and displacement criteria. That is what makes it flexible during concurrent projects and that is why scrum is extremely flexible despite being somewhat standardized in its loose constructs.
Here is the step through of the principles and their correlation. Each phase needs a focus that meets the intent of the business model. Without understanding the intent, then each phase is misguided in the type of goals to be planned and produced. The idea is to narrow the scope of the information needed to the minimal amount necessary to complete the task for the level of the personnel involved. Not all levels of participants need to know the whole picture in order to attain a productive focus to complete the project. This is all based around information relevancy for the level of personnel involved.
Each phase requires a tempo. Tempo is the amount of speed and detailed effort to establish a given phase. The eliminate waste phase is a deliberate process, meaning that the tempo is slower due to careful detailed analysis of the requirements of the phase. The inverse is the delivery phase, which is rapid and forceful since the requirements should already be specified upon reaching this phase in order for execution to take place effectively. Other phases may be one of these two options or anywhere in between in the amount of speed and detail to be consumed.
Engagement criteria in scrum phases boils down to the rules around a task. Just as a Cavalry Scout has to sometimes let opposition go past their position in order to canalize them before letting them be crushed by the main effort, so must a Software Engineer sometimes let minor bugs slip past in order to eliminate other issues that can derail the project as a whole. These minor problems are still reported and annotated for future projects as specified in the engagement criteria.
A disengagement criterion is a set of rules of when to stop working on an objective for a Software Engineer participating in scrum. An example is when a 2-point story with a mal specification becomes a 5-point or an 8-point story. In this example, the Engineer should cease-fire or continues to over-watch on the objective/ story and report the issue to the Scrum Master for follow-on guidance. Such guidance may be to continue to work on the objective, come back to the objective later, request support for the objective (pair programming), and/ or to follow the displacement criteria. There are rules to how to disengage from a task in scrum as well. The teams, in order to breed integrity and empowerment, define the engagement, disengagement, and displacement criteria for each sprint during the sprint planning meetings.
In scrum, the story may be pulled from the sprint just as a Scout may be pulled from an objective and reorganized for a follow-on assignment. Often when a story becomes too much or is later determined as non-critical to the business needs then it can be displaced from. The displacement criteria are the rules in how the displacement occurs. Does the developer log the issue, results, and/ or findings somewhere? Or is it an open abandonment, such as “won’t fix” requirement added to the story? Again, to breed integrity and empowerment, the employees are given the focus to make these decisions in consensus, while also being in accordance with the business model’s intent.
Scrum is a fancy word.
As displayed by this extrapolation between reconnaissance planning criterion and scrum, it can be noted that scrum concepts are nothing new. But since this is the newer word to decorate these methods for Software Engineers, Project Managers, and the like in a way that is applicable to their work flows for lean success, I believe scrum is perfect for any organization.
We mos def scrum.
Scrum has been proven to be effective for LISNR. LISNR has been able to maintain focus despite being small, often distributed, and made us completely disruptive to our industry. This clear focus of intent to be THE Smart Tonetm provider for all content delivery services has helped us create the tools to provide that service in an iterative way. As we continue to improve our technology in this way, we do so with the appropriate tempo over a 10-day sprint with clearly defined criterion for each story as to what the engagement, disengagement, and displacement criteria is. Major Ryan T. Kranc has not only made this concept intuitive for the US Army, but also allowed this current civilian to apply and recognize these principles within my own workflows and that of other Software Engineer’s workflows for the betterment of LISNR’s innovations. We are mos def scrum.
1Pries, K. & Quigley, J. (2011). Scrum Project Management. Boca Raton, FL: Auerbach Publications.
2Poppendieck, T. (2003). The Agile Customer’s Toolkit. Poppendieck.LLC.
3Kranc, R. (2008). Fort Knox, KY: Armor Magazine, Retrieve from https://www.benning.army.mil/training/eArmor/2008/NOV_DEC/ArmorNovemberDecember2008web.pdf.
LISNR is a high frequency, inaudible technology; a new communication protocol that sends data over audio. As the leaders of the Internet of Sound, we use inaudible sound waves called SmartTones™, to transmit information. LISNR essentially transmits customizable packets of data every second that enable proximity data transmission, second-screen functionality, authentication and low-fi device to deviceconnectivity on any LISNR enabled device. We enable this functionality better and more efficiently than bluetooth (proximity), ACR (2nd Screen), and NFC/RFID (authentication). As an integrated software partner, LISNR can power devices to connect with world around better than ever before.