Three Things Scrum and GTD Have in Common

By Magnus Nord

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Scrum and Getting Things Done (GTD) are two frameworks developed with one common goal: Increase productivity.

Scrum and GTD have very different premises: Scrum is a project management framework, while GTD is a “work-life management system”. Scrum is all about the team. GTD is based around the individual.

Despite the apparent differences, Scrum and GTD have much in common. They base their success on some fundamental observations on how to become productive.

1. Eliminate Procrastination

Elimination of procrastination, or student syndrome, is key to become productive; both as an individual and as a team.

Scrum accomplishes this by involving the whole team in the planning process. The team commits to the work that needs to be done, and progress is reviewed daily. The progress is also made visible to everyone, and impediments are actively and continuously removed.

GTD eliminates procrastination by breaking items down into “next actions”, small tasks that can be done directly without dependencies on external stuff (in that case those dependencies would be the next action, wouldn’t they?). Actually, Scrum also acknowledges this: The work a team commits to during an iteration should be things they can finish within the team, and features are broken down into manageable bits during planning.

2. Plan and Review Regularly

Planning and reviewing work regularly lets you evaluate progress, and the process itself, continuously. It gives you a receipt that you are on track, and if you start to slip you will know it sooner rather than later.

In Scrum, you work in short iterations (typically 2-4 weeks) called sprints. Sprints are divided further into daily standups.

GTD also promotes daily reviews of what to do next. A key ingredient of GTD is the weekly review where you recap last week’s work and prioritize work ahead, identifying next actions and so on.

3. Ability to Respond to Change

The previous point, plan and review regularly, is also important to become flexible: being able to respond to change.

This is something that is stressed by both methodologies. We live in an ever changing world where prerequisites and priorities are moving targets.

In software development, where Scrum is most often employed, requirements and needs change over the course of a project. Trying to specify everything at the start often leads to missed deadlines and budgets, not to mention tons of change requests.

Working life is also becoming more volatile: as you interact with colleagues and managers, you have to cope with unplanned work and new company policies. Having a system you can trust to keep track of all your obligations becomes more and more important.

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