In my previous articles about using Scrum for writing, I’ve described the Scrum cycle of events. Taken as a whole, those events are a great way to monitor your progress and adapt to emergent ideas. But Scrum is more than a series of events. It originated as a way to help teams work together, with three distinct roles. When you’re using Scrum as a solo practitioner, the you’re fulfilling all three of them. I find it helpful to be aware of what each role does so that I can balance all three accountabilities.
A Scrum team has three roles:
• The Product Owner, who articulates the vision for the product and manages the Product Backlog,
• one or more Developers, who build the product,
• and a Scrum Master, who helps everyone understand how to use Scrum well and removes impediments to the team’s progress.
Let’s look at how each of these roles informs your thinking throughout the Sprint and in relevant events.
Thinking like a Product Owner
Thinking like a Product Owner means paying attention to the direction of your story. It means reminding yourself of the spine of your story — especially if, like me, you often think of cool new ideas that don’t always mesh with the goal.
During Sprint Review, look at what you produced during the Sprint. Was it valuable? Was it a step in the right direction? This is the time when you should evaluate those crazy, seemingly unrelated ideas that came to you during the Sprint. Should you add them to the Product Backlog? Should you save them for a future story? Should you discard them? I am biased toward discarding ideas. Compelling ideas always re-emerge.
Another question to consider in Sprint Review is whether your goal is still worth pursuing. Last year, I wrote about a quarter of a novel when it turned into a slog. During a Sprint Review, I recognized that I’d lost interest in the story’s theme. I decided to set it aside and work on a new story that was more interesting to me.
Thinking like a Developer
Most of your time in a Sprint will be spent writing and editing your story. Thinking like a Developer means keeping a constant eye on your Sprint Goal and limiting activities that don’t get you closer to it.
During Sprint Planning, ask, “What can I do this Sprint?” and, “How much can I do?” The Product Owner mindset can drive you to bite off more than you can chew. As a Developer, think about how much you normally accomplish each week and plan accordingly.
During the Daily Scrum, focus on what you need to do today to move closer to the Sprint Goal. What tasks do you need to do? How far have you gotten right now? Do you need to remove something from the scope of the Sprint Backlog? Do you need to cancel plans for this evening so you can catch up?
During Retrospective, think about the process of writing. How can you improve your quality? How can you improve your productivity? Don’t forget to think about how you might make writing more enjoyable, too!
Thinking like a Scrum Master
The Scrum Master is all about using Scrum effectively. You should remind yourself of the purpose of each event before you start it, so you’ll stay focused. Throughout the Sprint, be alert for anything that’s keeping you from putting words on the page. Figure out what you can do to remove that impediment.
The Sprint Retrospective is where the Scrum Master’s mindset plays a large role. What hinders your effectiveness? What can you do about it? For me, work obligations often threaten to crowd out writing. An important question is, “How do I protect my writing time?”
You don’t have to develop a multiple-personality disorder to practice Scrum as an individual. You do need to remember the three roles and be aware of which mindset is most useful at any given time. Do you need to be thinking about the value of your work? Think like a Product Owner. Do you need to think about the work itself? Think like a Developer. Do you need to think about sustaining momentum? Think like a Scrum Master.