Agile Writing: A Project Management Approach to Learning

Agile Writing: A Project Management Approach to Learning

Joseph Moses (University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/IJSKD.2015040101
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Scrum methodologies that support cross-functional writing teams to develop polished increments of writing instead of lengthy drafts of documents stand to improve productivity and learning within organizations. Scrum methodologies may be deployed in higher education as well as in nonacademic settings to achieve purposeful knowledge transfer across disciplines and across academic/industry borders. Key to scrum is an emphasis on productivity within fixed time frames, with productivity facilitated by learning that emerges in cross-functional teams. Higher education is similarly a domain in which productivity in fixed time frames takes the measure of student learning. Across the disciplines, scrum methodologies show promise for improving the quality of collaborative problem-solving in writing projects in college and at work.
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Scrum Principles In Review

Scrum methodologies take complex adaptive systems (CAS) as their theoretical foundation. Articulated in the work of John Holland (1995), Murray Gell-Mann (1994), and others, and adapted to the purposes of agile project management by practitioners in software development, the theory of complex adaptive systems describes ways in which agents (organisms, people, business firms) within systems survive, succumb, or adapt to diverse stimuli and aggregations (Sutherland and van den Heuvel, 2002, p. 60). Holland’s example of a CAS is New York City (1995, p. 41), where self-organizing agents aggregate to form advertising firms, cab companies, delis and the produce distribution companies that stock them. Complex adaptive systems are characterized by an ability to maintain coherence in spite of the presence of chaos. New York City maintains coherence in spite of lost advertising accounts, striking cabbies, and recalls of tainted produce. Scrum teams similarly self-organize to develop products designed to function within the systems of which they are a part. Students and teachers within courses within departments within majors and disciplines within colleges within universities within systems of accreditation also comprise complex adaptive systems.

The basic unit of any CAS is an agent whose efforts alone or in aggregate impact and are impacted by the larger system (Holland 1995, p. 6). A typical scrum development project consists of agents in roles such as product owner, cross-functional development team members, and scrum master who focus together on creating small parts, or increments, of a product (Schwaber & Sutherland, 2013, p. 4). Teams create, test, rework, and complete fully operational project increments before moving on together to the next increment of features to develop in the next work cycle. The focus on increments and short but frequent discussions about productivity helps teams clarify goals and priorities and make changes as needed throughout the product-development cycle.

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