Larry Weeks


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Making things visible has power, especially in today’s world. A lot of the work we do in any sort of knowledge work, it’s invisible. We don’t know where it is, what is the state, how close is it to done? Are you stuck? – J.J.Sutherland 

This is a podcast about results; how to move past uncertainty and get things done. 

Whether you’re an individual trying to make a career change or you lead a company’s efforts to innovate new products, challenge and fear are relative. But the principles of making a change and getting work done is the same. 

How’s this for a challenge: You head up a team that has to design and manufacture a new multi-role fighter jet, delivering it on time and under budget. 

Punchline – the new Saab JAS39E Gripen Fighter Plane, done via Scrum. 

Now, what was that project you cant get done again?

In this episode, I talk with J.J. Sutherland. J.J. is the CEO of Scrum Inc a consulting firm that global companies of all types hire for their secret sauce to getting stuff done, and done fast. He is also the co-author of Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, written with his father, Jeff Sutherland, the co-creator of Scrum. His newest book The Scrum Fieldbook, A Master Class on Accelerating Performance, Getting Results, and Defining the Future, is the topic of the show.

You’ve likely seen some version of this inside rooms as you walk the hallways at work.  

A scrum board in a scene from HBO’s Silicon Valley. Image HBO

If so it’s probably a Scrum team or hybrid of some sort whether it’s called that or not.  

At tech companies I’ve worked for including Google, you’ll see groups of 5 or 6 people clustered in stand up meetings all over the place. Whiteboards or entire walls with sticky notes were ubiquitous.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term Scrum, it’s a project framework originally used for faster, more effective ways to create software in the tech industry. Scrum is now being used very successfully in general business practice – outside of just software –  all over the world.

So this chat is in part a discovery process as to why that is.

On this podcast, JJ breaks down what inspired the book and reveals some crucial points to not only how people and teams can get more work done more efficiently, but also how to know you’re working on the right things. We talk about what I’ll call “feasible forecasting”, when can a project get to done. 

  …part of what scrum is, is looking for continuous improvement, not only of the product but of the process. How is this team working together? Can we work together better? Can we get faster? – J.J. Sutherland 

I really enjoyed the book and J.J. translates to audio, he is very articulate and has an easy way of discussing what can be a nerdy topic.

If you only have 5 minutes J.J. has a great story about his time in Libya (Bengazi) and what led to his big career transition. Check it out here 

Some great advice here; insights on teamwork, why projects fail and how to turn them around. A bit of work psychology regarding mindset and what people and teams need to push through (fear, failure, etc,)  and why he calls Scrum “the art of the possible”. 

In fact, J.J. describes Scrum as the art of changing the possible and I think after listening to this episode, you will join him in that belief.

Some highlights (but it’s all good)

Bullets in Bengazi  [8:29]

Defining Scrum [12:52 ] 

The true origin of Scrum; marching cadets [14:51]

Fighter pilot casualty rates – the problem with fixed plans [17:14] 

The key to getting things done [16:21]

How teamwork “happens” [22:29]

How to prioritize [23:13] 

On innovating new products [33:36] 

How and why projects fail  [42:39 ] 

The importance of embracing failure [ 50:00 ]

On fear [52:37]

Resource links


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