"Take no prisoners, how a VC group does Scrum" was a chance to see Jeff Sutherland talk. Last time I saw him in London, he'd mentioned OpenView, the VC Group he was involved with who were using Scrum and insisting that all their investments used it, to up performance. This was a more detailed talk from Jeff and Igor Altman (who works at OpenView) on their experiences adopting.

Very interesting to hear that even a Scrum team so close to the originator of the method has gone through so many familiar stages and pitfalls...

  • Organisations get refactored, just life software does. OpenView has "refactored its Scrum implementation" 5 times so far;
  • VC groups have highly trained, silo'd specialists;
  • The Maxwell Curve indicates that optimal working hours for a waterfall team are 60h/week. For a Scrum team it's 35h/week. VCs want to see their portfolio companies being optimal :)
  • OpenView has a strategy of adding value to their investments by providing best practice, helping with execution in all areas of the business, running forums and workshops, doing on-site coaching and training. They and their portfolio companies were all full-Scrum by 2008;
  • They do this to bring operational efficiencies to all their companies and maximise ROI. They've had 2 rounds of $100m investment, employ 22 staff and have 10 portfolio companies, including VersionOne;
  • The VC ran 4-person teams on 1-week sprints, tracking in hours not story points (they couldn't get their heads around SPs); initially they adopted the trappings of Scrum but not much more;
  • The team became self-managing, communications got better, they noticed themselves aggressively eliminating low-value work with stress reduced and impediments around clarity and communication;
  • Quote: "If you're working long hours, you aren't doing scrum" - particularly surprising to hear that from a VC;
  • Challenges they still had were overrunning meetings and some people uncomfortable with it all;
  • In January 08 their planning took 1d (for a week sprint), with standups at 45m. But August planning was half a day and standups 15m;
  • They noticed themselves oscillating between concentrating on quality and velocity; some team members were missing the big picture; and too many projects were dragging out whilst they were all being done in parallel;
  • By November 08 they were running 2 teams of 4 staff, focusing on initiatives (epics) to give more "big picture", fewer simultaneous projects, and knowledge sharing through learning-lunch type things;
  • They found they needed to balance direction, speed, quality and sustainability quite actively;
  • Removing impediments without addressing the root causes usually led to those impediments returning later on - so they do RCA regularly now;