Scrum and the Theory of Constraints – part 1

One of the tenants of scrum is that the group has all the people and resources they need to complete their stories within the designated timebox. You won’t start a scrum unless you have available all the people and resources needed to complete it. In the Theory of Constraints this is called the “complete kit“.

In the real world (especially in large organizations) many times the resources needed are constrained – people get snatched to other tasks, skills are not always available when needed or planned, machines aren’t available or are broken etc. Which means that the “complete kit”assumption of scrum doesn’t hold.

Standard scrum methodology doesn’t address this issue at all, which is one the reasons it is difficult to apply agile to organisations that have teams that support multiple productsservices with conflicting needs.

The way to handle this at scrum zero (and keep it updated as part of the backlog refinement for every sprint)

1. The team must define the “complete kit” for each user story selected from the backlog (e.g. availability of environments, business experts).

2. It is the responsibility of the scrum master is to subordinate user stories assignment to available resources, and plan ahead to assign user stories to future sprints to account for anticipated resource availability.

This is a critical responsibility since if not handled correctly the project will be “starved“. In part 2 we will describe how the scrum master can do this.

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