Scrum, the popular Agile framework widely used in software development, follows a life cycle that is by nature satisfying to work through because of its structure. If you’re wondering why it’s more satisfying than other pure frameworks for project management, it’s because you have been trained from childhood to love a good story. The Sprint cycle, the time-boxed period during which the team works to deliver a potentially releasable product increment, follows a similar structure to one of the most satisfying literary frameworks – the hero’s journey.
The hero’s journey, a narrative structure that was first identified by Joseph Campbell in his book “The Hero with a Thousand Faces,” describes the common story arc that many myths, legends, and epic tales have followed throughout history. The hero’s journey consists of several stages, including the call to adventure, the road of trials, the meeting with the mentor, and the return to the ordinary world. If you don’t already see where I’m going with this, allow me to continue.
Sprint Planning – The Call to Adventure
The call to adventure is the first stage of the hero’s journey, and it represents the moment when the hero is called to embark on a journey of self-discovery. In Scrum, this stage corresponds to the Sprint planning meeting, where the team comes together to plan the upcoming Sprint. During this meeting, the team members are called to work together to deliver a product increment. They discuss the goal of the Sprint and the work that needs to be done to achieve it. The team members also identify any obstacles or challenges that they may face during the Sprint, and they plan how to overcome them.
The Sprint – The Road of Trials
The road of trials is the second stage of the hero’s journey, and it represents the journey that the hero must undertake to achieve their goal. In Scrum, this stage corresponds to the actual execution of the Sprint. The team works together to complete the tasks and deliver the product increment. They face challenges and obstacles along the way, but they work together to overcome them. The team members are tested and pushed to their limits, but they emerge stronger and more capable as a result.
Sprint Review & Retrospective – The Meeting with the Mentor
The meeting with the mentor is the third stage of the hero’s journey, and it represents the moment when the hero receives guidance and wisdom from a mentor figure. In Scrum, this stage corresponds to the Sprint review and retrospective meetings. During the Sprint review, the team presents the product increment to the stakeholders and receives feedback. This feedback serves as guidance for the team, helping them to improve and grow. During the retrospective, the team members reflect on their work and identify areas for improvement. They discuss what went well and what didn’t, and they plan how to improve in the next Sprint.
End of the Sprint Cycle – Return to the Ordinary World
The return to the ordinary world is the final stage of the hero’s journey, and it represents the hero’s return to their normal life, having completed their journey. In Scrum, this stage corresponds to the end of the Sprint cycle, when the team delivers the product increment and begins planning for the next Sprint. The team members return to their normal work, having completed their journey, but they are changed and improved as a result of their experience.
End of the Story
There you have it. A Scrum Team can follow the framework of the literary hero’s journey in every Sprint cycle. The Sprint planning meeting corresponds to the call to adventure, the actual execution of the Sprint corresponds to the road of trials, the Sprint review and retrospective meetings correspond to the meeting with the mentor, and the end of the Sprint cycle corresponds to the return to the ordinary world.
While it could be argued that other software development life cycles also could be compared to the Hero’s Journey, Scrum is a better fit to that story structure in today’s world. If Waterfall and other traditional project management life cycles are longer forms of the Hero’s Journey like movies or epic novels, Scrum is more aligned with television programs in form – shorter episodes (increments), and a fresh chance to tell a good story every week (or two weeks, or four weeks, etc.). The Scrum Team is the hero and the Sprint is their journey. Now that’s good storytelling.