Scrum Can Help Your Projects Take Flight

ScrumWith founders who began their careers as professional pilots, the history and culture of Leaseweb have close ties to the principles of Aviation. So when deciding on a development methodology, Scrum became the natural choice because it fits well with these principles.

In Jeff Sutherland’s book Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, he explains the origins of Scrum. I recently recognized the strong correlation between some of these principles and the one’s held by Leaseweb while attending a management training day that included a flight simulator experience.

Jeff Sutherland describes the following model:

  • Observe the target area and find the past path into and out of the hot zone.
  • Orient yourself in the face of unexpected events.
  • Decide instinctively.
  • Act decisively based on instincts and hard wiring.


The following principles were presented during the recent training session:

  • Judgment – Consider a holistic approach toward the situation I am in. Reflect on why I am reacting the way I am.
  • Effective Communication – Make sure you react to the real reality and not just a perceived reality.
  • Make a decision based on the facts.

There is definitely overlap between these two models. Consider what you are doing and why, make the right decision at the right time, and do this every time you are faced with the next difficult decision, for example when a plane is in trouble. When sitting in a flight simulator (and I assume in an actual fighter plane as well) this needs to happen instinctively. You need to be agile to immediately and accurately respond or it could be the last decision you ever make.

Although software development projects are not quite a matter of life or death, the quicker we can react to change, the better. There is where Scrum enters. Scrum provides a framework that enable us to get inside the loop of the project. It enables us to always have the inside track and optimum transparency into what we are doing and what to do next. Over time, the framework becomes an intrinsic set of values that we instinctively call on when making decisions.

Of course, people make mistakes. This truth is something that we always need to account for and be prepared for, so that we can be empowered to mitigate these mistakes. The world of aviation as well as Scrum addresses this in three ways:

  • Tools – We make sure we have what we need to solve the problem. It might be a F16 or it might be a conferencing tool, but always have what you need to be the best at what you do.
  • People/relationships – We trust our team! To really be the best at what you do, you need to become ‘one’ with your copilot. You should be able to react instinctively together.
  • Processes – In aviation, there is a Briefing before the flight, Constant communication during the flight and finally a debriefing. Scrum makes use of planning meetings, daily catch-ups, reviews and retrospectives. The point is, communication is key.

There are also important human factors that need to be taken into account. There is a combination of self responsibility and cooperation that evolves over time. When flying, the pilot and copilot need to learn to work in absolute synergy. Each role needs to know what to focus on and when. In Scrum, the same principle applies. Scrum defines a few specific roles namely the Product Owner, Development team, and Scrum master. The moment these roles start to overlap, the metaphorical plane hits some serious turbulence. That’s why it’s important to focus on your role, your team, and what needs to happens next.

Scrum may not help you fly a plane, and being an ace in the sky may not help you develop a product, but the methodology of one can help you succeed in the other.

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