Art of Relay Sprinting: A Sprinter's Philosophy on Scrum

Kevin CrossChief Technology Officer
Father, husband and general problem solver who loves coding SQL, C#, Salesforce Apex or whatever.

Art of Relay Sprinting:
A Sprinter's Philosophy on Scrum

If Agile is the quarter-mile race to value, Scrum is the art of the mile relay — taking a baton from a business partner and combining sprints to achieve team success. Consequently, the keys of an effective relay team are to assemble the "right" Sprinters, to sequence for success, and to execute. Agile software development with Scrum is no different. Therefore, the subject of this article is my personal philosophy about Scrum based on my understanding of agile software development as a Sprinter.

On Your Mark—Assemble the "Right" Team Members.
Every Runner is not a quarter-mile Sprinter. Therefore, selecting the "right" people is important. Second to this is good leadership. An interesting observation by Scott Downey is a good sprinter may not understand how to organize other good sprinters to make the most effective team. Scott's realization is the "Scrum Teams are the customers of the Scrum Master." The Scrum Master is the Coach, who helps the Sprint team to train for agility and organize quickly before the race begins.

What Scrum is.
According to Ron Jeffries, Scrum is: "Scrum is a framework, a way for people to work, a style, you might say, for building products. I think of it as a beginning, a good starting point for building something. If a team will start with Scrum, and pay attention, they’ll see the things that are in their way and be in a position to improve. Naturally, some of the things that are in a team’s way are outside their direct control, and in those cases, management and the organization have to be responsible for removing what Scrum calls the ‘impediments’ that are in the way." There are three roles are within Scrum: the product owner, the sprinters, and the Scrum Master — the coach.
In 1993, Scrum was designed to enable teams to transform their way of work and it is now used by over 75% of Agile teams worldwide. ~ Jeff Sutherland
What Scrum is not.
Scrum is not the only framework for Agile, but is the only in the scope of this article. Others such as Extreme Programming, Test-Driven Development, et cetera should be researched further through the resources sited here or elsewhere. Although, please do remember that the best way to start learning how to run is to put on track shoes.

Get Set—Sequence for Success.
Again, every runner does not possess 400-meter-dash strategy; therefore, a good leader will ensure to plan the pace and sequence, correctly. For example, certain resources are better at starting off whereas others are better suited to anchor. This is probably more evident in the shorter 100-meter relays. Those stronger at attacking the curves would run first and third; those able to execute after some momentum is built, second and fourth. If planned correctly, execution is simple.

GO—Execute, Execute, Execute.
As I review of my "3 Tips For Quarter Milers," the keys to execution are: attack the curves, maintain speed through the straight-aways, and finish strong.

Attack the curves. Build momentum and stick to release schedule; others involved are eagerly awaiting the baton.

Maintain speed through the straight-aways. Build a cushion on the simple tasks in case there are any emergencies at hand-over points.
Finish strong—Do not drop the baton. Release. The team is depending on each individual to deliver.

Building Muscle Memory.
Similar to a relay team's coach, Scrum Masters keep Scrum teams on task, during their race to finish.
During the Sprint, the Coach needs a singular focus on adherence to the Scrum Framework and Default Profile rules. It is best that s/he not be distracted by feelings of ownership over either the Product or the code. S/He must prevent multi-tasking, enforce working in priority order, encourage collaboration on the highest priority, and maintain the Scrum Board until the Team takes these things over, which usually happens naturally in the first several Sprints. ~ Sutherland, et al.
After a while, a sprinter has a natural feel for what to do when. Therefore, the Scrum Master is not tied to any one team or project. A coach trains and moves on.

Conclusion—Cool Down.
When the race is done, the team should rest and prepare to start again. It is important to rebound quickly as there are many rounds to becoming a champion relay team. The same is true for Agile software development. Three of the principles of the 2001 Agile Manifesto are maintaining a constant pace indefinitely, maximizing on simplicity, and reflecting regularly on effectiveness.

These concepts resonate with the runner in me; I hope they help you.

Best regards and happy coding,

Kevin C. Cross, Sr. (mwvisa1)

Modified 28 Feb 2012 to separate out the "3 Tips For Quarter Milers: A Sprinter's Understanding of Agile Software Development" content.


Downey, S. (2012). Scrum "Shock Therapy" How To Change Teams FAST. Retrieved from
Jeffries, R. (2011). Kate Oneal: What is Scrum?. Retrieved from
Sutherland, J., Downey, S., & Granvik, B. (2009). Shock Therapy: A Bootstrap for Hyper-Productive Scrum. Retrieved from

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Kevin CrossChief Technology Officer
Father, husband and general problem solver who loves coding SQL, C#, Salesforce Apex or whatever.

Comments (3)

Kevin CrossChief Technology Officer
Most Valuable Expert 2011


For all my software development and project management enthusiasts, new article — "5 Tips For Long Jumpers: A Sprinter's Approach" — ENJOY!
It will definitely ease your work of handling a big project. As a project manager I use scrum in my projects. One of my friends referred me to use the Guide to Scrum Body of Knowledge by I like the concepts of sprints, daily standup meetings, etc. the SBOK Helped me alot in Understanding how <a href="">Agile Project Management</a> works.
After thinking over for quite a while about whether to go for PMP or SCRUM certification, I opted for a <a href="">PMP prep course</a> , Instructer was too good and I passed with relative ease. Looking forwards to apply what I learned in <a href="">PMP classes</a> in my company.

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