Rugby Scrum Compared to Agile Scrum – Four Important Similarities

Ethel Gonzales

A software development team using the agile development approach relies heavily on the methodology of scrum in order to complete a project as efficiently as possible. Agile scrum describes an approach in the software development world where a product development team completes tasks throughout the project in incremental and iterative stages, often referred to as “sprints.” When using the agile scrum approach, a team works as a close-knit unit that strives toward a common goal and empowers each other by enabling strong communication lines among all members of the group.

In the game of rugby, a scrum refers to the method of re-starting the match after a minor infringement of the rules. During a scrum in a rugby match, players pack closely together with their heads down and attempt to gain possession of the ball (and ultimately, to win the match). Much like the agile scrum approach to software development, in order to be successful or gain possession, a strong rugby team with self-managed roles works together for a common goal. Much like agile scrum software development, a rugby scrum relies heavily on strong communication among all players, and each player fulfilling a specific role to the best of their abilities.

4 Important Similarities between Agile Scrum and Rugby Scrum

Software developers using the agile approach are well aware that the scrum methodology gains its roots from the sport of rugby and many of the principles of the framework are fundamental to the game. Much like rugby scrum, agile scrum uses many essential techniques in order to make their team as successful as possible. Follow along to learn four important similarities between agile and rugby scrum:

  1. Teamwork – In the sport of rugby, the team must move down the field by passing the ball many times in order to advance towards the goal. It’s not possible for one single player, no matter how skilled they may be, to score without help from the rest of the team. In agile scrum, there is no one member of the team that works alone without any help from other team members during sprints. A good agile scrum team must be organized and able to pass work along from one team member to the next with as much ease as possible.
  2. Multiple Skill Sets – Each position on a rugby team requires a specific skill set and a certain body type that must blend with the other players on the team in order to further the team goal. Agile scrum is very similar in the fact that teams are comprised of cross functional groups that use self-managed roles. Each member of the team brings forth their unique skill-set in order to complete specified tasks of the project.
  3. Adaptability – Working as a cohesive unit, a rugby team must use sound judgment during the fast pace of the game. Each play is vastly different and the team must be flexible in determining the cost of taking a risk for a chance to out maneuver their opponent. In agile scrum, the backlog can and most likely will be re-prioritized during each phase of the project. The product development team must remain flexible in order to adapt to each change made to the backlog by stakeholders in order to move forward as efficiently as possible.
  4. Culture – In rugby, there is a strong code of conduct that each player adheres to both on and off the field. The culture of the sport is held with a high level of respect between each player which unites players from across the game as a strong and bonded group. As with the sport of rugby, agile scrum promotes a strong set of values that each team member must adhere to in order to shape the behaviors of the scrum team. In Agile scrum, important values include: commitment, focus, openness, courage and respect. Adhering to these values enables a development team to operate effectively as a self-managed cross functional team that develops the best product possible.

The agile scrum development approach has many traces of rugby scrum in its origins. Given this, there are many resemblances in how each team approaches a game or a project. With inspiration and guidance from the sport of rugby, the field of software engineering has made important advances in product development through the agile scrum approach.

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