The New New Product Development Game and the Roots of Scrum

I was recently doing some research on prospective agile governance models for a company in the throes of understanding how to manage the entropy of a large number of newly energized and empowered agile teams. For perspective on the problem, I returned to the following article for guidance: The New New Product Development Game. This article was published in the Harvard Business Review in 1986 and provides a perspective on the “Toyota Way” of concurrent engineering in the automotive business.

I read this article back in the late 1980s and considered it incredibly relevant to the product development work I was doing then. More recently, I was reminded of this article from a talk Jeff Sutherland gave in 2006 or so entitled the “Roots of Scrum” and it provided some excellent background for Scaling Software Agility.

I am always amazed by the seminal, agile principles that are surfaced so well in this article. I consider this to be essential reading for anyone trying to better understand the core philosophies and principles behind Scrum (and agile). Here’s a teaser:

“This new emphasis on speed and flexibility calls for a different approach for managing new product development. The traditional sequential or “relay race” approach to product development – (editors note: i.e. “waterfall” ) … – may conflict with the goals of maximum speed and flexibility. Instead, a holistic or “rugby” approach – where a team tries to go the distance as a unit, passing the ball back and forth – may better serve today’s competitive requirements.”

And since they were building automobiles with this approach, it “scales” too! I bet you’ll agree if you take the time to read it.


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