Scrum Shortcuts without Cutting Corners

Ilan Goldstein  
Total pages
July 2013
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Scrum Shortcuts without Cutting Corners
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In Scrum Shortcuts without Cutting Corners, Scrum expert Ilan Goldstein helps the reader translate the Scrum framework into reality to meet the Scrum challenges formal training never warned about. Drawing on his extensive agile experience in a wide range of projects and environments, Goldstein presents thirty proven, flexible shortcuts for optimizing Scrum processes, actions, and outcomes. Each shortcut walks the reader through applying a Scrum approach to achieve a tangible output. These easy-to-digest, actionable patterns address a broad range of topics including getting started, quality and metrics, team members and roles, managing stakeholders, estimation, continuous improvement and much more.


  • 50 practical and proven techniques for taking Scrum skills to the next level
  • Links Scrum theory to action with concise, actionable, step-by-step Scrum techniques for improving process, action, and outcome
  • Walks the reader through real-world, in-the-trenches techniques for solving the problems formal Scrum training never mentioned
  • Covers project warm-ups, kick-offs, roles, role models, sustainable Scrum environments, product(ive) backlogs, estimating, planning, proving, quality, retros, reviews, and more

Table of Contents

Foreword    xvii

Preface    xix

Acknowledgments    xxiii

About the Author    xxv


Chapter 1: Scrum Startup    1

Shortcut 1: Scrum on the Pitch  1

Shortcut 2: Fragile Agile  5

Shortcut 3: Creative Comfort  11

Wrap Up  15


Chapter 2: Attitudes and Abilities 17

Shortcut 4: Masterful ScrumMaster  17

Shortcut 5: Rock Stars or Studio Musicians?  21

Shortcut 6: Picking Your Team Line-Up  25

Wrap Up   31


Chapter 3: Planning and Protecting    33

Shortcut 7: Setting the Scrum Stage  33

Shortcut 8: Plan the Sprint, Sprint the Plan  37

Shortcut 9: Incriminating Impediments  42

Wrap Up  45


Chapter 4: Requirement Refinement 47

Shortcut 10: Structuring Stories  47

Shortcut 11: Developing the Definition of Done  51

Shortcut 12: Progressive Revelations  57

Wrap Up  61


Chapter 5: Establishing Estimates    63

Shortcut 13: Relating to Estimating  63

Shortcut 14: Planning Poker at Pace  69

Shortcut 15: Transitioning Relatively  75

Wrap Up  81


Chapter 6: Questioning Quality 83

Shortcut 16: Bah! Scrum Bug!  83

Shortcut 17: We Still Love the Testers!  87

Shortcut 18: Automation Nation   91

Wrap Up   98


Chapter 7: Monitoring and Metrics    99

Shortcut 19: Metrics That Matter  99

Shortcut 20: Outstanding Stand-Ups  107

Shortcut 21: Taming the Task Board 111

Wrap Up 115


Chapter 8: Retros, Reviews, and Risks 117

Shortcut 22: To-Dos for Your Sprint Reviews  117

Shortcut 23: Retrospective Irrespective   122

Shortcut 24: Risk Takers and Mistake Makers   129

Wrap Up   133


Chapter 9 Managing the Managers    135

Shortcut 25: Perception Is Reality   135

Shortcut 26: Our Lords and Masters   140

Shortcut 27: Morphing Managers in the Matrix   145

Wrap Up 152


Chapter 10: Larger Lessons    153

Shortcut 28: Scrum Rollout Reckoning   153

Shortcut 29: Eyes on the Prize   158

Shortcut 30: Shortcut to the Final Level   162

Final Wrap Up   165


References   167


Index   171



Ilan Goldstein is a globally recognized Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) with extensive experience working with start-ups, market leaders, government agencies, and public companies, helping them to improve their agility through the implementation of Scrum. He is a regular conference speaker, guest university lecturer, and founder of both AxisAgile–a leading provider of agile training and consulting services–and Scrum Australia–a national not-for-profit organization focused on growing and enriching the Scrum community.


Reader Review(s)

“Great books give you advice you can follow, and Scrum Shortcuts without Cutting Corners most definitely does. Written to suit newcomers or experienced practitioners who have a healthy interest in Scrum, the knowledge contained in this book can be game changing. Ilan Goldstein shares his extensive global experience to produce a well written and valuable insight into practicing and sustaining effective agile practices.”

–Kevin Austin, Agile coach and transition lead, Fortune 50 investment bank


 “A software team succeeds because it has the right people who are allowed to do their best work. Understanding the patterns and anti-patterns (my favorite anti-pattern–‘test sprint’) in this guidebook will help you know who the right people are and how to help them work well. These shortcuts focus on people, and that’s why they work. Get your team (and the rest of your company) reading and discussing this today.”

–Lisa Crispin, coauthor with Janet Gregory, of Agile Testing: A Practical Guide for Testers and Agile Teams


“Ilan Goldstein has earned a loyal following in the Agile community for his no nonsense advice and practical solutions that deliver real results for teams. I’m thrilled that he’s been able to distill this expertise into a book that’s rich with insights and also very readable. I can’t wait to use all his best ideas in my own practice!”

–Pete Deemer, CEO of Stormglass and author of The Scrum Primer


“This book is an outstanding reference for anyone using Scrum to build software. Whether you are an experienced practitioner or a beginner just starting out, you’ll find something worthy in here that you can learn and apply right away. Ilan’s casual and engaging writing style describes perfectly the real-world challenges that you may face when using Scrum, and gives you practical guidance for working through them.”

–Ryan Dorrell, CTO, AgileThought


“I especially like the essay style. It invites me to skip around to find topics of interest, and makes it easy to find what Ilan thinks about things. Ilan takes us over ground we’ve covered before, but he gives us a fresh look at things. Very valuable!”

–Ron Jeffries, coauthor of The Agile Manifesto and founder of


“Scrum is not a solution. Your solution will only become clear through a journey of inspection and adaptation. The journey is not straightforward, and you will make some mistakes as you try to customize Scrum to your organization. Ilan’s work for me is a Hitch Hiker’s Guide to Scrum, giving you insights, tools, approaches, and belief to support you. I really appreciate the openness in Ilan’s stories and how he shares his experiences. I don’t have to agree with every technique or idea, as Ilan is not trying to instruct. He is asking you to think; to challenge your assumptions and help you on your way.”

–Martin Kearns, Scrum trainer and national Agile and innovation lead at SMS Management & Technology


“Most books about Scrum are on theory and speak from a distant third-person perspective. They are hard to read. Ilan has created the opposite. He has created a book that feels like a conversation. I kept nodding in recognition at all the real-world problems he identifies and laughing at the pragmatic, humorous, and spot-on wisdom he shares. His writing flows smoothly and draws you in to the point where you will hate to put this book down at the end.”

–Clinton Keith, Scrum trainer and author of Agile Game Development with Scrum


“With Scrum Shortcuts without Cutting Corners, Ilan Goldstein has delivered the must-have text for Scrum teams. The fact that Scrum is a framework is often used to justify tinkering with its fundamental mechanisms–to the extent that what was once Scrum becomes something altogether different and less effective. Goldstein clearly identifies the delineation between those mechanisms that can be tailored and those that must remain true to ensure success.”

–Arik Kogan, business intelligence manager at Cougar Software


“A refreshing perspective on Scrum. Ilan will take you beyond the theory and share his real-world experiences, offering practical advice for successful Scrum adoption and maturity within your organization. His insights and philosophical views on the subject will keep you one move ahead in the game.”

–John Madden, program manager at HotelsCombined


“Ilan has done some great work here. This book is an insightful look at what it takes to grow as a Scrum Master, and provides practical real-world experience to guide you on the journey. It’s part practical advice and part story-telling woven together to make a book that is useful and enjoyable to read at the same time. I enjoyed the book and look forward to having a copy on my bookshelf. Ilan has done a wonderful job.”

–Kane Mar, Scrum trainer; cofounder and president of


“Scrum is deceptively simple, but as someone said, it is easy to do this in a mediocre way. I have fallen into many of the traps myself. In his book, Ilan shows you how to succeed with Scrum. The book makes it easy to find the information that is most helpful to you right now. Each of the many short chapters is to the point and a pleasure to read. I couldn’t recommend it more.”

–Jens Meydam, head of development, Zahn™rztekasse AG


“Ilan’s book isn’t the usual cookbook on how to use Scrum in the workplace, but rather a toolkit of practical advice that covers every aspect of setting up self-organizing, high-performing teams using Scrum. It is a highly engaging, enjoyable and meaningful read for all Scrum practitioners.”

–Michael Rembach, applications development manager, Transport for New South Wales


“Ilan’s valuable tactics, tools, and tips for applying Scrum clearly illustrate his own hard-fought, on-the-job experience. This is not a theoretical book about Scrum, but instead a practitioner-focused, get-your-hands-dirty guide to getting the job done with Scrum. It is a delightful read with topics presented concisely and in an easily digestible way. Scrum Shortcuts without Cutting Corners is a critical addition to the body of Scrum literature, and a perfect follow-on to my Essential Scrum book!”

–Kenny Rubin, managing principal, Innolution, LLC and author of Essential Scrum: A Practical Guide to the Most Popular Agile Process


“If Scrum and Agile were easy, everybody would be doing it! Now that so many are, this book is the virtual Agile coach I wish I had when I was on the early steps of my Scrum journey. Ilan is a world-class coach, and he has packed this book full of ideas and approaches to all of the common questions and issues that are bound to come up as you transform your world of work to Scrum.”

–Craig Smith, Agile coach and editor at InfoQ


“If The Scrum Guide is the rule book, then Scrum Shortcuts without Cutting Corners is the experts’ guide to playing the game. Ilan Goldstein reveals all the little secrets that every team should know to be effective in adopting Scrum. From sprint lengths, to splitting down work, to relative estimation, Ilan tackles the gray zones in Scrum, offering sage advice in a world of ‘it depends.’”

–Renee Troughton, Agile coach and author of Agile Forest


“Sharing what he has learned implementing Scrum over many years with many teams, Ilan goes beneath the surface and gives practical tips to help you raise your Scrum teams to the next level. With humor, trivia, and stories from personal experience, Scrum Shortcuts without Cutting Corners is an accessible and adaptable Scrum recipe book ScrumMasters can use in any environment. Whether you have a few months or many years of experience with Scrum, this book will give you new ideas on how to approach whatever challenges are facing your team.”

–Liza Wood, ScrumMaster and blogger at Sockets and Lightbulbs