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Marrying Scrum methodology with XP and other advice from Agile expert Mitch Lacey

Author and Agile expert Mitch Lacey discusses his new book, “The Scrum Field Guide - Practical Advice for Your First Year.” Lacey fields questions about mixing Scrum methodology, team size and types of projects that can benefit most from the use of Scrum.

“I’m all for using XP and Scrum together but I don’t recommend trying to learn too many new things at once,” says Mitch Lacey, author of the new book, The Scrum Field Guide - Practical Advice for Your First Year. In this second of a two-part interview, Lacey talks more about mastering Scrum and gives advice about mixing Scrum with XP, Kanban or other tools. Managers who are working with teams in transition will benefit from his advice on when to use Scrum and how teams can work together to continually improve.

SSQ: In the section “Scrum Requires a Shift in Mindset,” you warn strongly against combining Scrum with other tools. Obviously, other tools – compilers, change control tools and other standard software development tools must be used.  And you talk later about using Extreme Programming (XP) engineering practices to augment Scrum methodology. So can you explain more about the type of tools you are referring to with this warning?

Lacey: Yes. First, tools like compilers and change control systems are essential to getting the job done. By all means, use them. The tools I’m referring to are different methods—XP, Kanban and such. It’s about timing. I’m all for using XP and Scrum together but I don’t recommend trying to learn too many new things at once. Scrum is hard enough to do well without trying to pile on other new methods too. It’s overwhelming. Plus tinkering with something before you fully understand it is a recipe for disaster.

SSQ: In the section “Scrum Should Marry,” you recommend introducing XP engineering practices, once you have a solid Scrum foundation.  However, what do you think about an Agile adoption effort that first introduces XP engineering practices and then moves to Scrum? All of the engineering practices you recommend, sustainable pace, collective code ownership, pair programming and TDD, continuous integration, coding standards and refactoring, can be done with either a traditional framework such as Waterfall or with an Agile framework such as Scrum. Why not incorporate Agile engineering practices before switching to Scrum?

Lacey: I love XP. I also find most teams and companies (and people) are very afraid of XP, mainly because of the engineering practices, and pair programming. Scrum methodology is like a gateway drug. People try it, love it and then want more, and that is where XP comes in. But, to answer your question, yes, absolutely implement Agile engineering practices before switching to Scrum. It will make life that much easier.

SSQ: I hear about many organizations are mixing Scrum and Kanban. What do you think of this?

Lacey: I’m not a zealot who will say you can’t mix peanut butter with chocolate. I think people should be smart, use their brains and figure out what works for them.

SSQ: In “Scrum Unearths Issues,” a section in the first chapter, you mention the difficulty with compensation when traditionally individuals are rewarded by things such as productivity or quality. In Scrum the entire team is responsible. Do you recommend the performance review process and compensation be changed for Scrum teams? If so, how?

Lacey: The short answer is yes, I recommend companies change compensation and reviews to team-based models. The how part is a chapter in the next book.

SSQ: In the section, “When is Scrum Right for Me?” you suggest that it might be overkill for simple projects that don’t change much. However, might the simple projects be the best to start with so that teams can become familiar with the framework first in an environment that is not experiencing the issues associated with a complex project?

Lacey: That could be, however, the challenge I see is that in simple projects, you won’t have a lot of change. Scrum and XP were designed to handle large amounts of change, so I’m not sure what people would learn other than the basic mechanics. The hard part, the real part, is when change is introduced.

SSQ: Finally, what do you think is the biggest take away from your book?

Lacey: The biggest takeaway is that my friend Jim Newkirk (of nUnit fame) took the cover picture and it’s awesome. Joking aside, I think people will walk away with the fact that they now have a reference point on how to address some of the issues that are common in our companies today, and ideas on how to fix them. The things in the book are my experience. I hope people will read the book and it will spark an idea where they are able to take something I wrote about and make it better. At some point we won’t need to call it Scrum or XP or Agile – it will just “be” how we work every day.

This Q&A is based on the book, The Scrum Field Guide: Practical Advice for Your First Year, authored by Mitch Lacey, published by Pearson/Addison-Wesley Professional, March 2012, ISBN 0321554159. For more info, please visit the publisher site:

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