Friday, October 14, 2011

The Car that Scrum Built

You have heard the objections: "Scrum is great for software, but we're doing hardware." Or, "we're doing embedded. Scrum won't work here." Or, "Would you really build a bridge with Scrum?"

Well maybe not a bridge, but how about a car?

Remember the Ansari X PRIZE? The winner N328KF by Burt Rutan and Paul Allen is now the basis for Virgin Galactic's space tourism venture. In 2008, the Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize competition put out a 10 Million Dollar prize for the first/best company to to produce a car that:
  1. you could actually drive on the street
  2. would achieve the equivalent of 100 mpg (2.35ltr/100km) and 200g/km well to road CO2 emmissions
  3. has a reasonably convincing plan for going into production by 2014.
Joe Justice, a soft-spoken Agilist, nerd and black belt kung-fu expert, was intrigued and, somewhat inadvertently, launched a Linux or Wikipedia-like project to create an entry in the class 'mainstream' (i.e. it should look like a car you would actually want to drive).

Three months later they had an entry. They didn't win, but they were number 10 (in a field that had declined from 136 entrants to 43 in the face of changing requirements). What was unique about this approach?
  1. Brilliant, knowledgeable people did this for fun in their spare time! Much like open source.
  2. They used Scrum as the management framework
  3. They used Pairing, Test Driven Development, Object Orientation, Refactoring and other XP practices to actually do the design and build the car.

I am not sure I can do justice to his talk in the scope of a blog article. I don't believe Joe's Scrum Gathering talk was filmed, but here is a similar talk he gave to the to the American Council of Engineering Companies Leadership Seminar in Cle Elum, WA. You can feel the next chapter of 'The Machine the Changed the World' being written as we watch:



Anonymous said...

They hardly used any Scrum practice in wikispeed. The title of blog is very misleading.

Peter said...

Joe's talk at the Scrum Gathering is now online. This talk describes more how they use Scrum.

You can find the videos on their video channel or jump directly to part 1 or part 2 of his talk.

Joe Justice said...

Thanks for commenting Anonymous! We build our cars using a product owner, a scrum master, a prioritized backlog, weekly sprints, a stand up meeting, demos, and sprint planning. Come check us out at: