Do you Know Rock Bands were the first scrum teams?


Quite recently I got a chance to meet an old college buddy who dropped out to start his own “Rock Band”. As I was ardently listening to his adventurous success story I suddenly realized that his team had a lot of basic elements similar to a scrum team.

So, here are a few key characteristics of a scrum team & how they happen to be in rock bands too.

  1. Team members share the same norms and rules: Rock teams establish some ground rules like:
    1. Time & location of daily meeting – Daily Scrum
    2. Definition of Done (DoD) used to decide if work is finished
    3. Scale & theme of the song- Coding guidelines
    4. Instruments to be used. – Tools
  2. The Scrum team as a whole is accountable for the delivery: All the members of a band are responsible for the song completion in time and with the defined quality. No good results are attributed to a single team member.
  3. The Scrum Team is empowered: Rock bands themselves define :
    1. End result of every iteration
    2. Breaking down the song into tasks
    3. Who will perform which task
    4. Order in which the tasks are performed
  4. The skills within the Scrum team are balanced: Individuals within a band most certainly have specialized skills and focus. However to achieve best possible performance it would be optimal to have a balanced set of skills.
    On one hand this means that a band is multidisciplinary (lead guitarist, bass guitarist, percussionist, keyboardist etc) right from the beginning. On the other hand this also means that each team member should learn a little bit of each other’s specialization, e.g. if required a guitarist should also be able to sing well.
    Just like scrum, they all share the same title “Band Member” even if the primary skill is not to sing.
  5. A Scrum Team is small and has no sub-teams: Rock Bands are small. If there are more people the communication overhead gets too large and the band should be split into multiple groups.
  6. People are collocated: To minimize unnecessary communication overhead each Rock Band is collocated.
  7. It is working as autonomous as it is possible: Rock Bands seldom appreciate any interference and work autonomously, which may only not be true for boy bands aggregated by a production house.
  8. The Scrum Team is self organizing: In Rock bands coordination arises out of the interpersonal interactions at the team level spontaneously, and may not be influenced by any external agents.
  9. The people within the Scrum Team work full time in the team: Band members dedicate themselves to the band and stay with it full time in almost all cases, till the band officially splits.
  10. Scrum Team collectively takes part in all activities: Band members stay involved in all activities required to deliver the song be it writing, recording or performing.

Not only the scrum team characteristics display a parallelism with rock bands; there is a striking similarity in their processes as well.

  • Scrum starts with a set of user stories and a band starts with a set of real life stories
  • Stories are broken down into modules or verses in a song
  • Verses are prepared one by one with continuous improvements and iterations
  • Even though the verses are unique they maintain the essence of the song individually as well in conjunction; similar to individually working modules
  • Finally, the verses are integrated into a song which is then iteratively improved for a final shippable version

You would agree that scrum may not have been coined by a rock band but they have proved that it is a useful approach, and that not only corresponds to software delivery but other facets of development too.

Hope you’ve enjoyed reading this. Please share your views on it. Also, if you would like to draw any more analogies like this, share your idea.

Stay Agile!

Sep, 22, 2016