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Keith: Scrum Presents Self-Management Hurdles

Agile development expert Clinton Keith tells Gamasutra why self-organization is vital to Scrum success, saying "painful childhood memories of not being chosen
Scrum tutor and author of new book 'Agile Game Development With Scrum' Clinton Keith discusses how to make agile development work with different types of teams, and its pitfalls and process, in a brand-new excerpt from his book presented today on Gamasutra. "Great teams are one of the most influential factors for creating a successful game. Great teams are also the most difficult teams to foster," writes Keith. "They cannot be created through the application of rules or practices alone. Studio and project leadership are required to facilitate them." However, while Scrum can offer tremendous boosts to productivity, it's not without some pitfalls, as Keith explains in his section on self-management. "Scrum addresses the problems of communication on large teams not by adding management layers but by dividing the project staff into small teams... Teams take on an increasing level of self-management," he writes. However, "Team self-organization is the most challenging practice for teams trying to achieve self-management," he warns. "When people first hear about self-organization, they are skeptical. It reminds them of painful childhood memories of not being chosen for a sports team. Inexperienced teams treat this practice as a popularity contest." Keith believes that this approach, no matter how painful, will pay dividends in the end. He writes, "By allowing teams to take ownership and authority over some of the daily aspects of their life, they are more likely to take responsibility for their work. This doesn't happen overnight. It takes years in many cases and will create head-on collisions with studio leadership culture. The results are worth the effort." The full excerpt from Keith's book, 'Agile Game Development With Scrum', goes into much more depth on the right ways to organize teams -- including such important topics as preserving the flow of information in many directions without overwhelming the team, and shares a success story from EVE Online developer CCP.

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