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Touch, Pause, Engage – adopting Scrum

The term 'scrum' comes from the game of Rugby. In Rugby, a scrum refers to a tight-packed formation of players with their heads down who attempt to gain possession of the ball. Gaining possession of the ball is the goal of the scrum.  However the main goal in rugby is to control the ball passing it between players before reaching the goal line and hopefully scoring a try. The former is for short term gain while the latter is for long term reward - perhaps analogous to a sprint outcome and the successful delivery of a minimum viable product.

It’s appropriate that one of the main agile software development methodologies should share its name with a feature of rugby. In both cases – IT development and sport – “players” are striving to assert control, and ultimately get across the line, in a highly fluid, sometimes unpredictable situation.

In Rugby, before a scrum is formed, the referee prompts the teams to Touch, Pause, Engage. This is done to help prevent injury to the front row of the forwards binding in the scrum.  I think this translates nicely into the adoption of Scrum as an Agile framework. Adapting the Touch, Pause, Engage prompt I like to use Vision, Educate, Commit. These steps are equally as important in making sure Scrum is the right framework for the job and that the client is fully on board with Scrum can mean to them.

Let’s look at each step in turn.


This first step before adopting Scrum is extremely important. We need to establish a shared vision of the software being developed. The Product Owner and the Scrum Team must understand and agree, at a high level, what the end game looks like. What is the minimum viable product that will define success and do we understand which outcomes are more important than others?


Assume nothing. Make sure sufficient time is built into your engagement to educate all stakeholders on the subtleties of Scrum – even those who are familiar with it. This may take a few sessions or meeting if the client has not been exposed to Scrum before. Because Scrum is a process-based Agile framework, new stakeholders can find reassurance in its defined roles, ceremonies, and artefacts, making acceptance easier than you might think.


With acceptance comes responsibility. It is the responsibility of the Scrum team to follow the Scrum process and do all they can to deliver on the outcomes they commit to. It is the responsibility of the Product Owner and stakeholders to fully support the Scrum team, trust the Scrum process, and accept the uncertainty that can come with it.

Sounds simple – and it is. But it would be a mistake to assume that makes it easy. Everyone involved in the Scrum framework must be carefully guided into the engagement with their eyes wide open. This will mitigate any unrealistic expectations, reducing the chance of the one outcome that everyone hates – having to reset the Scrum and start all over again!

Posted by: Lee Herd, Architect, Architecture Services | 08 June 2015

Tags: Agile, Development, Frameworks, Scrum

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