The Nuts and Bolts of Agile and Scrum

By J. LeRoy Ward,  PMP, PgMP, PfMP, CSM, GWCPM, SCPM | Executive Vice President – Enterprise Solutions, IIL

Agile and Scrum: What’s the difference?

It seems like almost every company, regardless of their industry, is practicing Agile and Scrum in some way and at some level of proficiency. If you’re new to Agile and Scrum, you may be scratching your head wondering first, what are they? And, second, what’s the difference between the two?

What is Agile?

First and foremost, Agile is a philosophy, an approach to work (think producing software or some other product) that says we will have more satisfied customers if we break up our project into iterations than try to do the whole thing at once. As we complete each iteration we have a workable increment of the product. The customer will examine it and provide feedback that we can use for the next iteration. We continue with this iterative, incremental approach until the customer is completely satisfied. An Agile approach significantly reduces the risk of customer dissatisfaction.

This is markedly different from the Waterfall approach where requirements are collected at the outset and then the team, with very little customer interaction, builds the entire product which is then delivered to the customer for acceptance. The Waterfall approach, while useful for certain projects, has proven completely unsatisfactory for projects where a high level of customer interaction is required because of the uncertainty inherent in the end product.

The Agile philosophy is best described in the Agile Manifesto, written in 2001.

Because Agile is a philosophy, it can be implemented in many different ways. One of those is Scrum. Let’s take a look

What is Scrum?

Scrum is the world’s most popular way to implement Agile. It’s not a methodology; rather it’s a framework, but with some very specific “rules of the road,” which you can find in The Scrum Guide, written by Sutherland and Schwaber. Here’s how Scrum works.

The Scrum Team is comprised of a Scrum Master, Product Owner, and the Development Team. (Note: there are no Project Managers in Scrum!) The Scrum Master is a servant leader who makes sure the Development Team follows the Scrum process. The Scrum Master also provides interference for the Scrum Team from outsiders. One important point: the Scrum Master is not the boss!

The Product Owner (PO) is responsible for maximizing the value of the product the Development Team is producing. The PO works very closely with the Development Team, helping them understand what’s important by managing the Product Backlog which is a rank-ordered list of all features, functions, requirements, enhancements, and/or fixes related to a specific product.

The Development Team does the work! They are self-organizing and make all the decisions regarding how to do the work and define what “Done” means. Each backlog item is accomplished in a series of Sprints, or iterations, which last no longer than 4 weeks. A Sprint Review is held at the end of a Sprint where the PO reviews the results.

Each day of the Sprint, the Scrum Team meets for fifteen minutes in a “daily standup,” where they answer three questions:

  1. What did you do yesterday?
  2. What will you do today?
  3. What obstacles are in your way?

The Team is not briefing the PO or Scrum Master. They are briefing each other.

Scrum is very easy to understand but is difficult to master because of the organizational change that needs to occur to implement it. Thousands of companies are using Scrum with very impressive results. Yours may find it helpful as well.

About the Author
J. LeRoy Ward is a highly respected consultant and adviser to Global Fortune 500 Corporations and government agencies in the areas of project, program and portfolio management. With more than 38 years of government and private sector experience, LeRoy specializes in working with senior executives to understand their role in project and program sponsorship, governance, portfolio management and the strategic execution of projects and programs.

How to achieve the Agile Transformation — Part 2

As mentioned in the previous article, Agile involves moving to a new way of working on projects; therefore, it brings its own set of issues that must be dealt with. Here are a few of the more common ones:

  1. Organizational Culture

Organizations are typically top-down in nature, meaning there is a clear chain of command, a clear hierarchy. This manifests itself in projects to the extent that the project manager is in charge of running the project and team members report to him or her, even if only for that project.

Agile turns this paradigm on its head. For starters, there is no project manager as such. It is commonly believed that the Scrum Master is just a renamed PM. But that is not true as the Scrum Master’s job is to facilitate, to remove impediments. It is not his or her job to tell the team what to do and when to do it.

So who does that? Well, this is the second issue that traditional organizations have to deal with in the Agile Transformation – teams are self-organizing and responsible for their own work.

So you can see that this creates problems for (at least) three entities

  • The Project Manager who may now be a Scrum Master and is used to giving orders.
  • The team who is used to being told what to do.
  • The product owner who may not be entirely comfortable with this brave new project world.

One possible solution to this is education. By education, I don’t necessarily mean that everyone on all teams must go to class. But on-the-job training and informal sessions, preferably run by an Agile coach, that consist of executive briefings and team training.

  1. Resistance to change

“it’s how we always did business” or something like that that was viral 1-2 years ago.

As touched upon in the first post, organizations (and people) tend to be resistant to change. If it isn’t broke, they will tell you, don’t fix it. The problem is that “it” is often broken and they still don’t want to fix it.

Numerous studies along with anecdotal evidence over the years have demonstrated that people resist change for any number of reasons – comfort with the status quo; fear of what will happen to their job; concern about whether the change is really necessary or will do any good.

It will take a deep behavioral research to analyze the reasons behind the reluctance to change, but some of the most common questions heard include: What does this mean for me and/or my job?

  • Every time we have a change, it just means more paperwork
  • There’s always a new flavor-of-the-month we have to learn. Agile will fall by the wayside too

So the reaction to change isn’t just because people don’t like it, there’s also an emotional component. According to one study, “directed change is driven from the top of the organization, relies on authority and compliance, and focuses on coping with people’s emotional reactions to change.1

  1. Misunderstanding or subverting the process

I went to an Agile networking session a short while back. It was clear to me that a lot of people in the room were new to Agile and were trying to get their arms around it.

As part of an exercise we were asked to do, I discussed the challenges of implementing Agile with a gentleman from a manufacturing company. When he told me they were having trouble establishing the backlog of requirements, I asked him who the product owner was. He shrugged and said, “I guess I am.”

And that to me signifies much of the problem with Agile implementations that are currently ongoing. Someone either decides to use Agile or is directed to use it. But they learn a few key terms, maybe time-bound their work in sprints, never get any real training and then dive right in.

Agile is meant to be nimble, not chaotic. The fact that it’s not as process-driven as waterfall does not mean anarchy should be the order of the day. It has certain rules, guidelines, and precepts. Scrum has a 17-page document of rules and guidelines which, based on anecdotal evidence alone, not too many people are aware of, much less have read.2

By subverting the process, we mean that organizations try to bring command-and-control techniques to a process that does not work well with them. Asking Jen to become a Scrum Master because she “really knows how to crack the whip” is not what is called for. What Agile needs is a good facilitator who listens to people, knows how to remove impediments and can coach teams.

So if you’re planning an Agile implementation, here are some ideas:

  • Realize that it’s all about change and bring in change agents to guide you through the process
  • Get an executive briefing and bring in an Agile coach to train the team
  • Run a pilot project of 4-6 months. Don’t make it a “bet the farm” project but be sure it has at least some importance to the company
  • Put a mixture of enthusiasts and even naysayers on the team. You are going to want to roll this out to the larger organization or enterprise and you need a laboratory of sorts to simulate what it’s like

The Agile Transformation is not something to be taken lightly. Like all new methods or processes, you can introduce it methodically and respect its guidelines or do so haphazardly and hope for the best. As someone wiser than me once said, hope is not a strategy.

  1. Rethinking Organizational Change: Reframing the Challenge of Change Management. Kenneth Kerber, Anthony F. Buono. Organizational Development Journal. Fall 2005.
  2. The Scrum Guide. Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland.

Jim Stewart PMP, CSM  has over twenty years’ experience in managing projects in IT, financial services and pharmaceutical. A PMP since 2001 and Certified Scrum Master since 2013, he frequently helps organizations increase their project maturity by incorporating best practices.

How to achieve the Agile Transformation — Part 1

By: Jim Stewart PMP, CSM

What pushes organizations to embrace Agile and what projects waterfall won’t serve.

Organizations that run projects are increasingly looking at transforming the company toward using the Agile methodology. For one example, GE – who is heavily involved in the “Internet of Things” – is having not only developers but also managers trained in . But before we can define exactly what the Agile transformation is, a little background is in order.

For years and years, companies that run projects have done so using the classic ‘waterfall’ methodology, so-called because the phases cascade down from one to the other like a waterfall.

But increasingly, organizations are looking for ways to demonstrate business value faster, to adapt to changing requirements and to deploy teams that are more nimble and self-organizing.

In short, they are considering the Agile methodology. There are several variants of Agile including Lean, Scrum, Extreme Programming, etc. But most Agile adopters are considering using the Scrum methodology.

There are certain types of projects for which Agile is especially well-suited. (And not always software projects. IIL’s sales team and marketing department use Agile to manage their workload and have daily stand-ups for their regular meetings.)

Good options for going Agile include projects where:

  • Requirements are not well-understood or cannot be articulated
  • There is a high degree of complexity and uniqueness
  • There is a high degree of uncertainty
  • The greatest potential benefit is for complex work involving knowledge creation and collaboration, e.g., new product development

Scrum has certain tenets or guidelines that must be met for the project to even be considered Agile. It must:

  • Use time boxes sprints, typically of 2 – 4 week duration
  • Have short daily meetings (scrums)
  • Use a Scrum Master who facilitates rather than a project manager
  • Employ self-organizing teams who decide what to work on and how to do it
  • Be guided by a concept called servant leadership

The concept of servant leadership was developed by a management expert Robert K. Greenleaf. Having spent many years at AT&T, he felt that the authoritarian methods of managing in organizations were not meeting the needs of either management or workers.

Greenleaf discusses the “need for a better approach to leadership, one that puts serving others — including employees, customers, and community — as the number-one priority. Servant leadership emphasizes increased service to others, a holistic approach to work, promoting a sense of community, and the sharing of power in decision making.” (Italics mine.)

Greenleaf’s characteristics of the servant leader include listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people, building community.”1

And so those companies that are looking to ‘Go Agile’ are looking at what has come to be known as an Agile Transformation. (The scope of this article concerns itself largely with companies that are making a wholesale shift. Some companies are adopting Agile only in departments, not at the enterprise level.)

So what do we mean when we say Agile Transformation? This definition is as good as any:

“The Agile transformation definition is an act of transforming an organization’s form or nature gradually to one that is able to embrace and thrive in a flexible, collaborative, self-organizing, fast changing environment. The Agile Manifesto2 values and principles can be taught and exercised throughout any type of organization as it does not just apply to development teams.

The entire organization needs to understand the definition of an agile transformation and the value of it in order to benefit from the rewards of achieving true, healthy agility. The complete cultural and organizational mindset must change to one that embraces a culture of self-organization and collaboration.”3

Note that the definition of Agile Transformation does not say something like “project teams will learn to be self-organizing using Scrum Masters” or “there will be daily Scrums and time boxes called Sprints.” Sure, as noted above, those are true.

But note the last sentence of the definition. It speaks of a “complete cultural and organizational mindset change.” It should be obvious to anyone who has spent more than five minutes working for an organization that effecting change is one of the most difficult things you can do.

But like it or not, the hallmark of any Agile transformation is change. Unless companies that are considering doing transformations are open to the idea of change, the effort is doomed to failure and they might just as well stay with traditional project management techniques.

So it seems to me that the first prerequisite to any Agile Transformation within companies is for its leaders to be open to a new way of doing business.

In the next post, we’ll talk about the challenges inherent in an Agile transformation and how to deal with them.

  1. The Art And Science Of Servant Leader In Agile Scrum World. Sreedhar Khoganti. PM Times.
  2. The Agile Manifesto. A formal proclamation of four key values and 12 principles to guide an iterative and people-centric approach to software development.
  3. Agile Transformation: Understanding What it Means to be Agile. Cast

Jim Stewart PMP, CSM  has over twenty years’ experience in managing projects in IT, financial services and pharmaceutical. A PMP since 2001 and Certified Scrum Master since 2013, he frequently helps organizations increase their project maturity by incorporating best practices.

How to Improve CRM and Tap Your Audience

By Sofia Zafeiri, Social Media Coordinator at IIL

A lot has been written and said over the past six years about the Agile methodology–from a tech methodology to the next best thing that quickly resolves challenges.

The truth, however, has different sides to it depending on how your company chooses to implement Agile. Nevertheless, surveys and stats have repeatedly shown that Agile offers specific benefits to the teams adopting it. So, Agile started expanding to more departments outside IT.

One of the key benefits of this method against the old and traditional ones is that it helps teams in a variety of ways to create and produce high-quality services that are focused on improving the customer experience.

According to a survey conducted by Econsultancy, by 2020, customer experience is expected to be more significant for companies than content marketing. Consumers’ behavior is changing rapidly, and the Internet is the leading reason for this shift.

As consumers continued researching their future purchases using reviewing apps and websites (whose growth has multiplied since 2000) they began to realize not only their purchasing power but also that:

• They were not interested in ads.
68% of Millennials trust online reviews as opposed to 34% who trust TV advertising.

• They have more trust in the opinion of their peers and influencers they follow.
53% of Millennials surveyed said that user-generated content has an influence on their purchasing decisions, compared to 44% for traditional media and 23% for banner ads. 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

• They wanted companies to see them as individuals and co-creators of value rather than recipients of products.
Personalized CTAs resulted in a 42% higher conversion rate than generic CTAs.

Major changes in consumer habits happen over time and from one generation to another. Millennials struck a deafening, “Not for me,” to the market dynamic as we knew it 8 or 10 years ago. Inevitably, corporations had to play along to survive. Companies started shifting their primary focus from massively advertising their products to astutely tapping their audience.

According to Walker, even companies have 60 to 70 percent of their buying decision made before a sales representative even walks through the door. The traditional “sales pitch” will be obsolete by 2020, since buyers will do their homework.

But, how does that affect the employees of a company? Trends and markets change rapidly in a short period. Sometimes before the end of a project, the objectives and tactics need to change, as they don’t respond to any real-life challenge anymore – they are not current.

This is where Agile comes in.

The three most significant benefits of adopting Agile are:

  1. The ability to manage to changing priorities
  2. Increased team productivity
  3. Improved project visibility

Although Agile began as a method for software development, its benefits were discovered to be relevant and much needed in more departments.

To learn more stats about how and why Agile is the answer to your team challenges, watch the video below:

Find more stats about the current state of Agile and Scrum in the infographic.



To learn more about the Agile and Scrum Conference visit here.

Don’t forget to use code SOCIAL for an additional $10 discount.












  • online/millennials-said-to-be-highly-trusting-of-user-generated-content-41276/

About the Author

Sofia Zafeiri is the Social Media Coordinator at IIL. She graduated from NYU with an Ms in Public Relations and Corporate Communications. Before moving to New York City, she worked for a variety of organizations in Europe.


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Tech Startups and Agile – A Perfect Fit

by Jim Stewart

To begin, let’s differentiate large traditional organizations from tech startups by identifying some of their typical attributes.

Large established organizations tend to be more risk-averse and have detailed processes in place. Usually, they apply the classic “waterfall” methodology to manage projects. While this method is well-understood, it involves very specific steps, long timelines, and lots of paperwork.

Conversely, tech startups tend to be risk takers  -they have to be- They’re usually creating a “disruptive”product or service in a highly competitive market—something innovative that’s never been produced before.

How startups emerge

According to a US Chamber of Commerce study1, in 2011, millennials launched almost 160,000 startups per month. Twenty-nine percent of all entrepreneurs were 20 to 34 years old.

The US Chamber of Commerce defines millennials as those born between 1980 and 1999, which means they are currently between the ages of 18 and 27. At more than 80M people, millennials have overtaken the baby boomer generation, which was previously the largest generation.

All of this entrepreneurialism helps to drive the economy. According to statistics from the Small Business Administration:2

  • Between 1993 and 2011, small firms accounted for 64% of the net new jobs created (or 11.8 million of the 18.5 million net new jobs).
  • Since the last recession (mid-2009 to 2011), small firms, led by the larger ones in the category (20-499 employees), accounted for 67% of the net new jobs.

Millennials have already started to impact society and will continue to for many years. As a group, they are more diverse and more socially conscious than their predecessors.  As the first generation to grow up with home computers literally at their fingertips, they are both familiar with and comfortable using all types of technology. They are truly “wired.”

The generation Y, how they are also called, believe email and voicemail are for older generations. I’ve frequently seen my millennial kids carry on entire text conversations without ever calling the people they’re “talking” to. They often text and expect a quick response. Unlike their predecessor, Gen Y, prefer quick communication and are intolerant of bureaucracy.

Clearly, not all millennials work for startups or have the desire to found or fund one. However, even those who work in large traditional organizations exhibit much more of an entrepreneurial spirit than previous generations. This entrepreneurial – not to mention independent – spirit is seen not only in their desire to create startups, but is evident in the evolution and expansion of what has become called the “gig economy.”

How is Agile Different than Traditional Project Management?

Briefly, Agile—or the Scrum variant—uses time-boxes (sprints), which are typically two-to-four weeks in duration. At the end of the sprint, the self-governing project team has what is considered a potentially shippable product. This is the terminology used but typically the team runs as many scrum sessions are as necessary to complete the entire product.

This contrasts with the timeline and results of a traditional project plan. After three months of work on a traditional project, you may still be gathering the requirements for a product. After three months of work on an Agile project, you may have run as many as six sprints, iteratively creating a product, refining it, and making changes along the way.

Why is Agile the Best Fit for Tech Startups?

As mentioned, tech startups are often run by and/or staffed with millennials. (Employees in startups tend to work round-the-clock hours.) Agile’s quick return on business value appeals to millennials. They not only want to be able to “turn on a dime,” they want to see the results of their work as quickly as possible with as little overhead as possible. Additionally, since Agile cultivates a much stronger team environment, it’s clear why this group-oriented generation would take to it so readily.

However, this doesn’t mean that Agile appeals exclusively to millennials—it was started by baby boomers—or that it must be applied in a tech startup environment. Nor is traditional waterfall project management going away. Both are valuable methodologies, and both will continue to be used in organizations for the foreseeable future.

But, for tech startups in a millennial age, the smart money is on an increased adoption of Agile as the preferred methodology.

More insights await at the virtual Agile and Scrum conference, going live on May 4th. 5 keynotes and 20 sessions to choose from, plus networking and PDUs/SEU®s.

Ready to move forward with agile adoption? IIL can help. Request a free consultation today.

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About the Author

Jim Stewart has over twenty years’ experience in managing projects in IT, financial services and pharmaceutical. A PMP since 2001 and Certified Scrum Master since 2013, he frequently helps organizations increase their project maturity by incorporating best practices.



  1. The Millennial Generation Research Review, U.S Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
  2. Frequently Asked Questions, Small Business Administration.
  3. Gig Economy,

The Benefits of Agile and Scrum

By John Carrington, AgilePM® Practitioner and Trainer, CSM, PRINCE2®, LSSBB 

Today, many organisations are experiencing the benefits of an Agile approach. But why all the fuss? What is Agile actually offering to the teams using it?

Let’s start with how and why Agile came about. In 2001, 17 Software Developers met in Snowbird, Utah. They recognized that the way being used to deliver software in projects was not working and software developers typically burnt out in their careers.

Teams would be working all hours to deliver on commitments given at the beginning of the project, which could no longer be met due to changes encountered along the way, like the customer changing their mind or things coming to light that hadn’t been planned for. The pressure of delivering using traditional methods meant that life as a software developer in the 80s and 90s simply could not be sustained. They needed to find a way that people could work and deliver software at a sustainable pace and keep going in their chosen careers, past the age of 40! The Agile Manifesto was born.

According to the 2016 VersionOne State of Agile™ Survey:

  • 87% of respondents reported being better able to manage changing priorities after implementing Agile.
  • 85% said they had increased team productivity.
  • 84% reported improved project visibility.

So let us not forget the reason Agile came about in the first place: to improve the daily lives of the team.

Agile helps teams adopt and continue habits which produce regular, consistent results at a sustainable pace of delivery.

One of the benefits of doing that, over the long term, is the longevity of team members’ careers.

Businesses are often attracted by the better, faster, cheaper benefits — and the teams delivering software benefit by becoming self-organized, high performing teams.

In traditional approaches to managing projects, the time when commitments are made and milestones are confirmed is at the beginning of the project in the planning phase. At that point, delivery dates are far enough away for everyone to be comfortable in their commitments.

The problem with this approach is that the beginning of the project is the time when the development team knows the least about the solutions the team is building, but it is also the time when plans are formed, dates are committed to, and deadlines are set. So they don’t know at this stage which problems may surface and what investigation work will need performing. In other words, they don’t know what they don’t know.

Scrum is one of a number of Agile frameworks that encourages ceremonies or events at various points in the sprint which is the time allocated to development work. These ceremonies enable the team to adopt working practices, like regularly reviewing the work with the customer, and retrospectively looking back at how the team performed in respect of the framework, which facilitate iterative and incremental development.

For example, the 15-minute Daily Scrum is a meeting for the team to update each other on progress, to ensure they are on target to meet their commitment of the Sprint Goal and to ensure there are no blockers.

You don’t need more than 15 minutes to do this, but new teams tend to overrun, which means people stop attending because they take too much time up and it becomes “Anti-Scrum.” This is a clear example of where “doing Scrum” because the guide says we need a daily meeting and “being Agile” are in direct contrast, as approaches.

Scrum can help teams to adopt Agile ways of working by providing enough rigour and discipline in the form of ceremonies/events, roles and responsibilities and artefacts for those teams to develop strong habits of working with Agile practices.

By sticking to the somewhat rigorous Scrum Framework, Agile teams learn good habits and develop a sustainable pace, working to their own commitments rather than to a schedule defined and managed by someone else.

Agilists are generalising specialists… Scrum teams are the “Special Forces” versions of software development teams because they are multi-skilled and cross-functional – small enough to have all of the skills they will need but not too large so they remain agile.

In fact, the special forces analogy continues because in Agile, we talk about “T-shaped” teams where team members have more than one skill, just like in special forces patrols. If one team member of a special forces patrol becomes unavailable, then the idea is that the whole team is not compromised.

In Agile teams, whilst the situation is less “life and death” (although it does not feel like it sometimes!) team members are cross functional so that we limit the amount of times we need to go outside of the team to get the work done. The other benefit is that we continuously learn and improve from each other and as a team.

It’s a Brave New (Agile) World

As we look at the job market over the coming months, we are likely to see more permanent and contract roles specifying Agile skills and there is certainly great opportunity to be realized with those with Agile and Scrum qualifications. That being said, many traditional roles are not, at first glance, part of the Agile vision, so Project Managers, Business Analysts and others are naturally wondering where they fit in.

Many larger organizations are experiencing transformations at the moment and businesses of all sizes are trying to figure out how Agile works at scale. We are seeing job postings for hybrid roles such as Scrum Master/Project Manager and Agile Business Analyst, Agile Delivery Manager, and Agile Coach/Scrum Master as the job market struggles to understand the roles and the differentiated responsibilities within an Agile environment.

Part of this momentum will be a natural restructuring of hierarchy, a necessary re-organizing of roles (both in title and responsibility) and recruitment campaigns that bridge the gap between the hybrid approaches of the early Agile adoptions and take the job market through to the required level of understanding of permanent and contract roles.

Until both organisations and recruitment agencies truly understand what it means to be Agile, we are likely to see more of these “hybrid” roles until organisations catch up with their own transformations. The job market is likely to see lots of changes in the near future whilst the changes that large organisations are making by transforming to Agile approaches filter through to their talent acquisition efforts.

Take this opportunity to ensure you have the key Agile skills that these businesses are going to need to give yourself the optimal chance of getting that next position!

More insights await at the virtual Agile and Scrum conference, going live on May 4th. 5 keynotes and 20 sessions to choose from, plus networking and PDUs/SEU®s.

Ready to improve your Agile skills? IIL can help. Browse our Agile and Scrum courses. If you have a team to train, request a free consultation.

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About the Author

John Carrington (AgilePM® Practitioner and Trainer, CSM, PRINCE2®, LSSBB) is an experienced consultant, well versed in all aspects of the Agile project lifecycle and program management, with over 20 years of experience in corporate businesses. John has been involved global software implementations, business transformations, and change projects. John is an excellent communicator with strong influencing skills and a passion to deliver the highest quality outcomes, on time and within budget.[/trx_infobox]