The Scrum is Not Just for Rugby

The bedrock of a good team performance in any game of rugby is the scrum. The scrum is a means of restarting play after a minor infringement such as a forward pass or knock on. The scrum serves to bring all the forwards and the scrum halves in one place on the field, creating an opportunity for attack using the space created elsewhere.

President of OTA Mike Richardson says, “the scrum is a messy, somewhat structured, somewhat not, kind of a process, and it is pivotal to the game of rugby.”


But the scrum is not just a rugby term. In the world of Agile, scrum is an agile framework for managing work. Team members get together for a daily or weekly meeting. Workload is broken down into actions, and then completed within timeboxed iterations called sprints.

The term scrum surfaced when Agile began to emerge back in the early 2000s. “In fact, the words scrum and Agile are largely interchangeable at a conceptual level,” says Mike. “When you do Agile, the word scrum also has a very day-to-day practical meaning, where you often do a daily scrum meeting, or in our case, a weekly scrum meeting.”

“The scrum is a meeting that’s not highly structured, but it’s not unstructured either. It’s often stand up, fast-paced, and focused. You start right on time and always follow the same flow,”

In a scrum meeting, each team or department takes their turn and answers questions, such as, what did you accomplish last week? What are you planning to accomplish this week? What are your impediments? For example, what is getting in the way, holding you back, or slowing you down? What are the brick walls, barriers, hurdles, oil slicks, friction, or wheel spins, in which wheels may be spinning, but you can’t get traction?

Additional questions include, what critical paths are you on? And what timeline are you following? Teams may be working together towards a new launch, for instance, and it is critical that they are all in-sync.

Those who cannot be at the meeting in person, dial-in. Each department takes a turn. The goal is to stay on task and never finish late. “We allow everybody to check in at 11:00 am, take inventory of what’s on their plate, and finish at 11:30 am sharp,” says Mike.

When you want to be agile as an enterprise, there’s a lot to do. But the real center of it all is a weekly scrum meeting. It is the hub. The central cog in the wheel. It helps people see the bigger picture. It helps people to join the dots. It helps people understand the pressures that their colleagues are under, and where they can weigh in a little bit and help. It helps people “de-conflict”. And it enables serendipity to occur, or at the very least, it enables everyone to see each other on a regular basis.

“The world is moving so fast,” explains Mike. “Our industry and our markets are moving fast. Things are changing every day. The scrum allows OTA to keep up with this change.”

The scrum meeting is beginning to cascade through OTA. As you walk through the hallways, you will see more and more teams doing stand-up daily, while the wall space becomes a place to keep track of everything on our plate. It is an exciting time here at OTA, and like the scrum in rugby, it is pivotal to Agile and staying ahead of the game, as the world continues to change.