Scrum - Accelerating Team Performance

Updated: Jan 20

Scrum Team

When implementing Scrum into our workflow we don’t often think about the meaning of the word Scrum. Where did it come from? What does it stand for? Most people seem to think it’s an acronym for something. Jeff Sutherland created the framework in 1993 and he borrowed the term “Scrum” from professors Takeuchi and Nonaka’s publication in the Harvard Business Review “The New New Product Development Game” wherein they compared high performing teams to a rugby team.

“In today’s fast-paced, fiercely competitive world of commercial new product development, speed and flexibility are essential. Companies are increasingly realizing that the old, sequential approach to developing new products simply won’t get the job done. Instead, companies in Japan and the United States are using a holistic method—as in rugby, the ball gets passed within the team as it moves as a unit up the field.” (Nonaka, 1986)

In case you aren’t familiar with Rugby, a scrum is generally used to restart play in an organized fashion. It shares some similarities with a jump-ball in basketball in that in some cases it can be used to restart play, while at the same time deciding ball possession when there is some doubt. There are additional complexities involved which I won’t get in to, but suffice it to say that both teams come together to resume play in formation, they all work together to regain control of the ball so they can move it down the field to score a goal. The team works together to push into the opposition to achieve the common goal of recovering possession of the ball. A scrum can generate as much as 3000 lbs of force, which would be like giving a large rhinoceros a piggy back ride.

When teams work together, greatness can be achieved. In his book Scrum, The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, Jeff Sutherland describes transcendent, autonomous, cross-functional teams that can do great things. A scrum in Rugby is just a group of people all pushing towards a common goal. In Scrum, we strive to do the same thing and focus on improving team performance to increase our velocity and achieve greatness.

But why focus