Scrum Book Review: Reception and Critical Analysis

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Scrum" by Jeff Sutherland. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Are you looking for a Scrum book review? Is Jeff Sutherland’s Scrum method all it’s cracked up to be?

According to software developer and management expert Jeff Sutherland, most companies’ methods to build products are misguided and lead to inefficiencies. That’s why he created the Scrum method, which focuses on flexibility and productivity.

Here’s our Scrum book review, including background on the book, critical reception, and analysis.

Scrum Overview

Our Scrum book review begins with a brief overview of the book. The way the business world operates, according to Jeff Sutherland, is fundamentally flawed. In Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, Jeff Sutherland explains the Scrum framework, a better management system than the traditional top-down approach. By using the carefully structured yet open-ended Scrum framework, a company, or any project team, can become much more efficient and productive.

About the Author

Jeff Sutherland is a software developer who co-created Scrum alongside fellow software developer Ken Schwaber. A former fighter pilot and Assistant Professor at the University of Colorado Medical School, Sutherland has since helped dozens of businesses implement Scrum into their development process. He has been a CTO or CEO for eleven software companies, during which he developed Scrum into what it is today.

Connect with [Jeff Sutherland]:

The Book’s Publication

Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time was published by Currency, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, in 2014. Before Scrum, Jeff Sutherland co-wrote Software in 30 Days: How Agile Managers Beat the Odds, Delight Their Customers, and Leave Competitors in the Dust alongside Ken Schwaber. More recently, Sutherland released another book on the subject, A Scrum Book: The Spirit of the Game, which he co-wrote with James Coplien.

Historical Context

Sutherland wrote Scrum to explain and spread the ideas of Scrum to businesses outside the world of technology. Sutherland developed Scrum in the early 1990s with the help of Ken Schwaber and others. It was designed as a more effective way to develop software than traditional methods. Sutherland and Schwaber first presented Scrum at a research conference in 1995, and it has gained popularity ever since, especially in the technology industry. Tech giants such as Apple, Google, Facebook, Airbnb, Spotify, and Adobe use the Scrum framework in some capacity. Recently, the Scrum method has made its way into other industries, including education, construction, marketing, and finance. 

Intellectual Context

Written well into Sutherland’s career as a product management expert, Scrum explains the Scrum framework, a subset of the agile business model, to the masses. Agile methodology is a system for product development that focuses on incremental progress and close collaboration. Sutherland, with sixteen others, released the Agile Manifesto for software development in 2001 and it has since exploded in popularity. There are hundreds of books and guides about the agile business model and how to implement it. 

The Book’s Impact

Although Scrum didn’t sell particularly well, the ideas presented in the book have had a significant impact in the areas of business management and leadership and have influenced many more books on the subject. Another book, The Elements of Scrum, which was based on Sutherland’s ideas, is taught at colleges and universities across the United States. Since the publication of Scrum in 2014, the Scrum framework has garnered attention from business and leadership experts around the world.   

Critical Reception

Scrum was well-received among business experts but failed to gain enough attention to attract well-known book reviewers. Editorial reviews praise the book for its engaging and persuasive anecdotes and its easy-to-read explanations of the Scrum framework. Scrum book reviews, while generally agreeing that Scrum is helpful, seem to have more negative opinions on the overwhelming use of personal anecdotes. The stories, mostly taken from Sutherland’s experience creating and using Scrum, give readers a sense of the writer’s perceived self-importance, with one reviewer even accusing Sutherland of megalomania.

Commentary on the Book’s Approach

As the user reviews suggest, Scrum is highly anecdote-driven. The stories are often about failed businesses or companies Sutherland helped save with the Scrum framework. Within the stories, Sutherland does provide meaningful research backing up his ideas. Most of the research is based on psychology/sociology, or data-driven studies that exemplify the effectiveness of certain practices.

Commentary on the Book’s Organization

Scrum can be a bit redundant at times, as it goes over the same topics in slightly different ways. Also, readers would have benefited if the book had laid out what Scrum actually is much earlier. Instead, readers piece it together gradually as Sutherland jumps from story to idea to story. 

Sutherland separates the book into nine chapters, each one tackling a different aspect of the Scrum framework. The first two chapters delve into the origins of Scrum and how traditional project management methods fail. The next few chapters contain the crux of his argument. They explain why Scrum works, with a small amount of information on how to use it dispersed throughout. The last few chapters look more deeply into how Scrum works, how it leads to happiness, and how it can change the world. Finally, the book ends with an appendix, which gives a brief description of the Scrum process and how to implement it.

Scrum Book Review: Reception and Critical Analysis

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Jeff Sutherland's "Scrum" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Scrum summary:

  • Why the "Waterfall Method" leads to inefficiency and wasted money
  • An explanation of the Scrum method and details on how to implement it
  • How to use Sprints to get more work done

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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