Scrum Story Time | Whiteboard

Insights is a collection of resources created and curated by Whiteboard.

Insight 23 | February 23, 2017

Scrum Story Time

by Lauren Cutrell
In the past, we’ve had conflicts: over budgets, pressured deadlines, and over-extended projects pushing back other projects beginnings. We’ve experienced content strategists working alone, designers designing without developer input, and developers not having the time or process to collaborate on feature solutions together. Most definitely, we’ve shared frustration with clients when what they expected and what we delivered were off. All of these realities ultimately detract from our main job: to produce valuable work, to design the world that ought to be, one small piece of work at a time. So… We’re shifting the way we do things to solve a whole slew of issues like these.

As a mother-in-the-making, I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone, and practice my book-reading skills. My Dad gave me The Scrum Princess, by Kyle and Demi Aretae, to read to our son-on-the-way, Liam Quinn.

For a little background on why he chose this book for me and our child, my Dad has been working with agile since the early 90s, and has had a chance to implement and coach this framework as a ScrumMaster at companies like Sprint and at NASA on the Mars Rover project. In his early career, he worked on mainframes at the Pentagon. How cool, right?

Dad has seen this agile philosophy work so well that he has applied the professional principles of agile to his own life, sending me things like articles about how to use agile to better our wedding planning process, and how to have an agile pregnancy, as we prepare for Liam’s arrival.

Key Messages


Snake oil?

It may sound like snake oil at first, but once you understand the underlying ideas, like limiting work in progress and prioritizing by value, hopefully you’ll understand why he and others are so bought-in.

I want to be totally real with all of you. I know at Whiteboard, we’ve picked up a bunch of different tools, and we’ve changed processes a few more times than we can count on one hand. I am also aware that I and other leaders can tend to come across as overly positive, and sound more like a cheerleader than a human being on occasion.

So, after story time, instead of me talking about how excited I am to see this change in our work, I have invited your teammates who have already started working in this flow to talk about it from their perspective.

As you follow along with the video as we read this together, let’s metaphorically connect that of the:

Princess – to our Clients

Wizard – to our Project Leaders & Eng. Strategists

Painter, Lumberjack, Tailor & Miner – to our Designers & Developers

Kingdom – to our Projects

Fence, Castle, Carriage – to our features & tasks


A Fairytale Recap

We all know the princess all too well, don’t we? We’ve experienced our clients in precisely the same ways.

We all know we aren’t perfect, either; we aren’t working like this “fairytale” book is describing quite perfectly every day. We have interruptions, and sometimes we have confusion. At times, things fall through the cracks, and people are unsure what they should be working on, or what they could be learning. And yeah, sometimes we get delayed.

In the past, we’ve had conflict over budget. We have had pressured deadlines and over-extended projects pushing back other projects beginning. We’ve had bad experiences from content strategists working alone, designers designing without developers months before development, and developers not having time or process to collaborate on the feature solutions together. Most definitely, we’ve encountered frustration from clients that what they expected and what we delivered were off.

All of these realities, factors and happenstances ultimately detract from our main job: to produce valuable work, to create the world that ought to be, one small piece of work at a time.

So… We’re shifting the way we do things to solve a whole slew of issues like these.

We’ve already piloted these ideas on multiple projects, and we’re taking our time, but the results have been significant —specifically it has been solving problems that each of you have been experiencing (including our clients) in the current and past ways in which we’ve worked.

Each of you that I have asked to participate and share today have worked on the projects you are now, that were in the past not conducted within this framework.

As you recall the pain-points from the old way of working, to the new today… Would you share a problem that this framework is actively fixing for you?


Scrum with Lindsey Gaff

“This framework has been incredibly useful for establishing expectations at the beginning of a week—for both our team and the client. Oftentimes in the past, we’ve been asked to produce something, have made that high-quality delivery on time, and were then asked after the fact to justify its value. Within this framework, the shared priority list translates to a shared understanding of value, which is both encouraging and motivating.”


Scrum with Stephen Van Gorp

“There are three clear benefits from my perspective:

  1. It Dignifies the Producer – Built within this system is the reality that the producers are the experts. They know their craft better than anyone else. So, instead of having a representative try to say how long a person ought to complete a task, it gives them control and a place at the table to add strategic insight regarding their discipline – asking the necessary questions and taking note of the particular nuances of the projects goals and objectives.
  2. It Prioritizes the Work – not time – Instead of thinking about the “billable hours” you have to accomplish this week, you instead focus on what you areas of value you are going to add to the client through your deliverables. No longer are you worrying about a quota or perceived time-bucket to fill. Instead, you are focused and incentivized to compete with your own ability to execute tasks with the highest amount of quality.
  3. It allows you to set expectations regarding your craft – Just like Babe Ruth pointed to the grand-stand when walking up to the plate, this method allows the producer to call the shot as to where and what specific value they are going to add to the client. They get to not only say, “I will complete ‘X’ feature”, but they also get to say what it means to complete the feature, the value it will provide, and what it takes to show that it’s done. The process leads with expectations and frees both the client and the producer to move through the week with confidence. There is no question if the work is valuable because you agreed that it was at the beginning of the week.”


Scrum with Chad Mills

“The Scrum process is great at shifting any uncertainties surrounding priority of tasks to the owner / stakeholder of the project. This keeps the development team from making any unnecessary decisions regarding priority of tasks, even in the best interested of the stakeholder, and allows the stakeholder to see the big picture so that they may make the most informed decisions for their product.”


Scrum with Nick Blackmon

“As someone who excels at their job more when needed ‘head-space’ is left for thinking well on behalf of our clients and their customers, sprints have been amazing thus far because they have freed up that space, eliminating the questions of, “Is this priority?”, “What should I be working on?”, “Will this add value?” etc. by providing extreme clarity and a space to ask thoughtful questions before and after a sprint. I am actually able to be excited again about the work I am doing because I have the energy to do so.”


Scrum with Thomas Hollar

“Before establishing the Scrum process, our team would receive multiple requests to fix minor errors and non-critical bugs while at the same time trying to stay the course on a deadline for the day to day project. This process helped to drastically minimize those occasions and created block times which enabled everyone to focus on the main task at hand. It’s helped when managing time, decisions, expectations and projecting a more accurate scope for new projects.”


Scrum with Jonathan Cutrell

“The dedicated team-week style sprint has been super effective. This is the way we need to be working. In just one week’s time, it was successful. It has also been one of the more focused weeks I’ve experienced in my 6 years at Whiteboard. My time was well spent delivering real value for the product. The system for collaboration versus spontaneous collaboration— is as valuable as the product itself.”


Scrum with Nick Morrison

“I have spent the last year or so working on a singular project and for the majority of the year we operated on a sprint week schedule and sprint two-week schedule. These have been immensely helpful with the planning and organization of my time. The biggest takeaway for me is having an outline of what is to get accomplished in the next week and knowing that we will have a review on it immediately once the week is complete. This helps create a clear expectation of output and puts everyone on the same page as far as deliverables. It is also useful that the team is either working collaboratively on the same task or something related all at the same time. This means that when you run into an issue with your prescribed task, someone is available to collaborate with and design a solution.”

Final Thoughts

Wouldn’t you love to make the princess happy, while allowing the townspeople to join together as a team and make the kingdom a truly magical place to be in a feasible amount of time, with only the most valuable things built, fixed, and sparkling first?

The foundation of this philosophy, and why I believe it is so successful for thriving teams, happy clients and project outcomes, is based on it’s grounding in servant-leadership. The key is in serving others, communicating and facilitating well as a group of individuals, removing others’ obstacles, and helping us all get the job done!

As the fathers of the Agile Manifesto have charged, let’s value: “Individuals and interactions – over processes and tools. Working software – over comprehensive documentation. Customer collaboration – over contract negotiation. Responding to change – over following a plan.”

Director of Interactive

The Scrum Princess
Kyle and Demi Aretae

Special thanks to Kyle and Demi for allowing us to share this incredible resource with our team and the world! Our work and process is better for it, and everyone should grab a copy!

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