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  • Writer's pictureBrian Cathcart

Going Solo: How to Successfully Run Your Own Scrum Project

Updated: Mar 14, 2023

Scrum is a popular project management framework used to manage complex projects, particularly in software development, but it can be used in everyday tasks. I was inspired to write this guide in response to J.J. Sutherland's recent project on the redaction of the 10th-anniversary edition of Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time. Jeff Sutherland and J.J. Sutherland are the masterminds of Scrum and saw the potential of using Scrum in nearly every application of our daily lives and how it will change the world. Scrum can tackle complex projects in the most complex environments, from taking on any size project to running a business and even a country. The general rule of thumb for a Scrum team is no more than ten people, but is it possible to do it with a team of one? While it is typically used by teams, running a Scrum project by yourself is possible. Here are some steps to help you get started.

1. Understand Scrum

Before you can run a Scrum project by yourself, you need to understand the basics of Scrum. This includes understanding the roles of the Scrum framework, the ceremonies, and the artifacts. You can find a lot of resources online to learn about Scrum, including books, videos, and online courses.

2. Define your project goals

As a solo Scrum practitioner, you need to define the goals of your project. This includes understanding what you want to achieve and why you want to achieve it. Once you clearly understand your goals, you can start breaking them down into smaller tasks that you can work on.

3. Create a product backlog

The product backlog is a list of all the tasks that need to be completed for your project. These tasks should be ordered by priority, with the most important tasks at the top. As you work on your project, you can add, remove, or update tasks as needed.

4. Planning Poker

To estimate the amount of work, give a value to each backlog item using the Fibonacci sequence (1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34 . . .), giving higher values to items that require more work (not time) to complete. At the end of the sprint, add the values of all tasks completed; the final value is used to measure the velocity of the project's progress. As humans, we are inherently terrible with estimations; if we were to rate something on a scale of 1-10, we would find it difficult to differentiate the amount of work of a six compared to a seven, resulting in bad estimations. Traditionally, this is a team activity, called Planning Poker, but you can skip these formalities and just value your tasks and make adjustments as you go through them.

Credit: JJ Sutherland, CEO of Scrum, Inc. (Feb. 28, 2023) via LinkedIn.

5. Plan your sprints

Sprints are time-boxed periods during which you work on specific tasks. As a solo Scrum practitioner, you can plan your sprints based on the amount of time you have available and the number of tasks you want to complete. For example, you might plan a one-week sprint during which you will work on five tasks. At the end of the sprint, calculate the amount of work you finished, and use this information to plan your next sprint; by measuring your progress, you can calculate the velocity of your progress and can better plan future sprints and estimations when the entire project will be completed.

6. Hold a daily stand-up

The daily stand-up is a short meeting during which team members share updates on what they have been working on and what they plan to work on next. As a solo Scrum practitioner, you can hold a daily stand-up by yourself. Simply take a few minutes each day (no more than 15 minutes) to reflect on what you have accomplished, what you plan to work on next, and identify any impediments preventing your progress.

7. Hold a sprint review

At the end of each sprint, it's important to review your progress and evaluate the tasks you completed. As a solo Scrum practitioner, you can hold a sprint review by yourself. Take some time to reflect on what you accomplished during the sprint and what you learned. Use this information to plan your next sprint.

8. Hold a sprint retrospective

The sprint retrospective is a meeting during which team members reflect on the sprint and identify ways to improve. You can hold a sprint retrospective by yourself as a solo Scrum practitioner. Take some time to reflect on what went well during the sprint and what could be improved. Use this information to make adjustments to your process for the next sprint.

9. Continuously improve

Scrum is all about continuous improvement. As you work on your project, be open to feedback and look for ways to improve your process. Make adjustments as needed and continue to iterate on your process.

Running a Scrum project by yourself can be a challenging but rewarding experience. By following these steps, you can successfully manage your project and achieve your goals. Remember to be flexible, open to feedback, and focused on continuous improvement.

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