Bird’s Eye View of Scrum


The word “Scrum” has been used quite extensively within the Epicor Development department for the past year. Surprisingly, it is not an acronym that stands for something. Instead, it is something.
Scrum is a word whose origin starts with a game that was unknown to me until last fall, when I went to my first rugby game to help cheer on some friends who were very passionate about the sport. The only thing I knew about rugby was that it looked like American football but they didn’t wear any of the protective equipment like shoulder pads or helmets. Seemed crazy for a full-contact sport, but I was excited to see what it was all about.
It didn’t take long after the kick-off for me to become lost in the plays. Without knowing the rules of the game, I only saw chaos on the field. I couldn’t tell the forwards from the backs, I was never sure where the ball was supposed to be, and couldn’t figure out why a seemingly dead ball could be scooped up and flicked to an advancing team member.
Instead of getting frustrated with not understanding what was going on, I kept noticing the beauty of the flowing formation on the field. From way up in the stands, my “bird’s eye view” of the entire field allowed me to see the strategy of the plays and therefore start to understand them. The team who controlled the ball positioned their players into a diagonal line, starting from the center of the field and stretching backwards so that the end person was standing near the sidelines.

And then when they got the ball, it looked like pure magic. The center would toss the ball to the player on his side and that person would run up the field as far as he could go, and at the same time, the whole line moved up, synchronized with the player carrying the ball. They travelled in a line, progressing forward, yard-by-yard, and as one player approached a block, he tossed the ball to another who was close by and then the line continued to advance diagonally behind the player with the ball.

The progression up the field, towards the end zone, was gained in a constant, team-driven effort. It was systematic. It was methodical. To someone unknowing, it may have looked like chaos. But to the players, it was well-planned and executed. Each player was simply performing the job that was expected of him.

And when the play stops, and the ball is declared “dead,” a scrum is needed to restart the play. A Scrum forms as the players huddle tight in a pack, interlocking themselves into several rows. The Scrum team has a single vision … to regain possession of the ball. Each player uses his best strengths to help his team gain control and achieve success. And after a team gains control, the ball is passed and the beautiful formations are again progressing down the field.
This is rugby and this is also Epicor Development.
In the book “The Elements of Scrum”, written by Chris Sims and Hillary Louise Johnson, it says that the term “scrum” was first used in the 1986 Harvard Business Review article by Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka. The article titled “The New New Product Development Game” used scrum as a metaphor for a new kind of teamwork. It described an approach where the team tries to advance as a unit, passing the ball back and forth.

In Epicor Development, each Scrum team has a vision that is defined by the team as a whole. The vision might be to add enhancements, fix existing issues, or create new deliverables. Whatever the vision, each scrum team member takes seriously the responsibility to perform at his or her best to keep the team moving swiftly forward. Within each team, the players progress down the field, passing the ball back and forth. Together, they sprint down the field towards the end of the Epicor product release.

I have the privilege of being the ScrumMaster of the Epicor University Scrum team. As ScrumMaster, it’s my responsibility to facilitate the daily scrum meetings and to monitor our team’s progress. My main job is to remove any obstacles or blocks so that each team member can make forward progress each day.

As the Epicor University Scrum Team, we line up with our teammates at our sides in what is called a “sprint”. When one is given a task (passed the ball), the rest of the team runs forward synchronized with that player. Someone helps set up an environment, another assists with testing, and yet another performs a peer review. With each sprint, we gain confidence from the knowledge that we are surrounded by people who have the same vision, the same goals that we all agreed to before the sprint started. It’s definitely an all-for-one, one-for-all team dynamic.
If you ever have the chance to attend a rugby game, try to sit up as high as you can in the stands. And even if you don’t know the difference between the fly-half and a flanker, or a hooker and a prop, don’t fret. Just watch the beauty of the game as the diagonal formations start to flow up and down the field. Watch as players give it their all for the successful forward-motion of the team.
Watching rugby and scrum development can be quite mesmerizing. And very inspiring.
Posted by Linda Robinson, Senior Manager, Epicor University


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