Road trips: a metaphor for Scrum

Here’s a clumsy metaphor for explaining Scrum to someone:

Scrum team

  • Development Team: the driver
  • Product Owner: the navigator (the person mapping out the path)
  • Scrum Master: the chill police officer who makes sure the rules are being followed and genuinely wants to help the community, combined with the person who buys snacks for the ride
  • Stakeholders: the passengers in the back seat

Scrum events

  • The Sprint: a day’s worth of driving
  • Sprint Planning: mapping out the path for the day
    • Sprint Goal: landmarks to visit and/or the hotel to stay in that night
  • Daily Scrum: adjusting the driving plan as needed based on what you can see with your own eyes on the road in front of you (detours, traffic jams, etc.)
  • Sprint Review: how far did you go that day compared to how far you planned to go, and what was the quality of the journey (e.g., did you get to sight-see at all, or was it all boring highway miles)?
  • Sprint Retrospective: what kept you from driving farther or from enjoying the drive more, and how can you change that?

Scrum artifacts

  • Sprint Backlog: the driving path you have mapped out for that day
  • Product Backlog: the driving path you have mapped out from after that day is done until you get to the final destination
  • Increment: the total progress you make in a given day

It’s not perfect because in Scrum, a lot of the complexity comes from deciding what to do next. Road trips are more linear; you can’t do the Colorado leg one day and the Tennessee leg the next day. And you certainly can’t do them both on the same day. But the metaphor can still help a Scrum newbie wrap their brain around the big pieces.

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