The base concepts of Scrum are empiricism and teams. With empiricism in Scrum, decisions are made based on information we continuously collect, observe, and/or experience. With teams in Scrum, we believe that working closely and in tandem with our teammates from all the various disciplines collects the best information to make empiricism work.

Classic Project Management Falls Short in Product Development

In classic (or waterfall) project management, empiricism and teamwork are foreign concepts; inspections of the working results happen late in the project and people from different disciplines are separated by stage-gates.

A Stage Gate Workflow

In classic project management, projects begin with detailed, upfront planning. Designs are handled by one group of people and weeks or months later specifications are handed off to the next group who has to take care to get the designs into a product, only to be handed off to another for supply chain completions or back to the first because of detected problems. These series of handoffs result in very late feedback and the people are separated into silos. By silos I mean, one group could take care of design, another the electronics or mechanical work, another the supply chain group. I’ve worked with clients who are stuck in this sequence for years: some don’t get products out to the market for seven years or more. A new car model is about seven years in the making. It takes seven months to change specs in a simple product, like a whiteboard marker.

Agile Delivers Faster Results in Product Development

Enter Scrum: every two weeks a working version of the product is ready, and all the people work together to achieve this. The designers, the developers and the testers (to fit the same story as above), are meeting daily, discussing the project, working through issues together.

The new revolution is to apply Scrum beyond software. We are successfully applying Scrum to product development: and we mean industrial product development.

Now product development is discovering the benefits of empiricism and teams. With empiricism, designers, engineers, supply chain people and manufacturing people, learn together in short cycles what works in their design and what does not. Results show that this level of collaboration gives big productivity benefits, which far outweigh the perceived cost of not bundling work per function. Changes are required in the development process in order to produce inspect-able results every few weeks: different suppliers and, most of all, different thinking about what a product increment is. Combine the two and you achieve our slogan: Twice the product in half the time!™

(Fifteen years ago, when I started to work with Scrum, the practice of empiricism and teams were foreign to software people. Remarks like, “that is brilliant, but it won’t work with our big system,” were common. Fast forward to 2017 and all possible software development projects are running with the Scrum framework. No surprise as we bring Scrum to product development: product developers are using exactly the same arguments as software developers a decennium ago! They argue: they don’t have a need to bring mechanical and electrical engineers into the same development team; an increment is too slow and too expensive to build in two weeks; they can’t inspect and adapt when the entire product isn’t finished. It’s familiar to me and I know we’ll get there.)

Industry Benefits From Scrum

My colleague, Peter Borsella, and I have developed classes in which the above concept is explained and practiced. As we teach Scrum, our attendees actually build a product (a full size car) during class using the Scrum framework. The effects are far beyond our wildest dreams! One of our clients brought in their product teams from all over the world to our training headquarters in Colorado. As as a direct result of the class, they saved a year’s worth of time and $100,000 of investment developing a new product! (We are working on a full case study to share with you). The client is now developing products using empiricism and teams. They are also sent more product teams to us for training and coaching in February.

If you can kick it, you can scrum it mottoIn Summary, what worked so well for software development is working for product development. If you’re designing and developing something – a phone, a car, a plane, a bike, a tool – you can use Scrum and you will save time and money. It takes a minimum of three years to design a car. It’s a complex project with many members and stakeholders and multiple compliance issues. However, designing a car – or any product – using waterfall project management is cumbersome and it does not produce timely results. Scrum is designed for complex projects with multiple stakeholders. The practice of empiricism and focus on healthy teams results in dynamic work.