Personal Scrum

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I have been using an adaptation of Scrum for a one-person team to manage my graduate project. I (and others) call this “Personal Scrum.” The semester-long experience was very positive. The Personal Scrum methodology was an excellent tool to get the work done.

Personal Scrum Definition:

Personal Scrum is an Agile methodology that adapts and applies Scrum practices to one-person projects. It promotes personal productivity through observation, adaptation, progressive elaboration, prioritizing and sizing work, and time-boxing.

Personal Scrum vs. Scrum:

Let’s compare aspects of Scrum as defined by the Scrum Alliance to those of Personal Scrum.

Scrum’s 3 Roles:

A Scrum team has three roles: Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Team Member. The Product Owner is responsible for the business value of the product and decides what is built. The Scrum Master is primarily a facilitator and enforcer of the Scrum rules. The Team is self-organizing and cross-functional. The Team decides how to build what the Product Owner wants and goes about doing it.

Obviously, since Personal Scrum is a methodology for one-person teams, one person must fulfill all three Scrum roles. This is not as difficult as it may sound, because Scrum’s ceremonies typically focus on one role’s responsibilities at a time.

Scrum’s 4 Ceremonies:

The Scrum Alliance lists four ceremonies (think “group activities”) used in Scrum: Sprint Planning, Daily Scrums, Sprint Reviews, and Sprint Retrospectives. Mysteriously missing from this list is Release Planning, perhaps because it is typically not a regularly scheduled event. Exactly what these ceremonies entails is beyond the scope of this blog post, but each of these ceremonies are reflected in some way in the Personal Scrum methodology. I used blog postings for sprint planning, sprint reviews, and sprint retrospective. I tracked my daily work and release plans in Excel. It is important to observe and delineate these activities.

Scrum’s 3 Artifacts:

The Scrum Alliance lists three artifacts used in Scrum: Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog, and Burndown Chart. Each of these artifacts are used in exactly the same manner in Personal Scrum.

My Experience:

  • Initially, I thought I could accomplish way more in one semester than I was actually able to undertake. The Personal Scrum techniques helped me to focus on the most important work first. Velocity tracking and release planning helped me to identify early on that I was unlikely to finish all that I had started out to do. I was able to revise my goals and plan accordingly.
  • I found that estimating work in terms of time is exceptionally hard, especially when you have no team members to help and few of your tasks are similar. I learned to expect my time estimates to be wrong.
  • Estimating in story points is easy and effective.
  • I tried one-week and two-week sprints. For me, one-week sprints were much more effective. One-week sprints have smaller scope. The shorter-term deadlines made the goals and tasks more salient. I found myself to be more diligent on the one-week sprints. The downside to one-week sprints is that you spend a greater percentage of your available time on planning and reporting; less time is available for actually doing the work.
  • Burndown charts have to be done in terms of estimated hours of work accomplished rather than story points. One person is unlikely to finish more than a couple of user stories per one-week sprint. Burn down hours only when a task has been fully finished (“done done”).
  • Use story points to track velocity. Use velocity to do release planning. Release planning is a great way to project what you are likely to be able to accomplish by a certain date (the end of a semester for instance).
  • Committing to posting your sprint plans, demonstrations, retrospectives, and burndown charts online is a great way to keep motivated and accountable. I found this to be an even greater source of motivation than having a faculty advisor. If you know your work is going to be visible in a very public way, you will be more likely to do your best work.

My Work:

The entire project has been chronicled in the materials below. To my knowledge, this is the first fully documented instance of a Personal Scrum project, and it is certainly the most open. My code has been released under the MIT License, and the Excel workbooks and blog posts are released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

6 Comments on “Personal Scrum”

  1. [...] Interested in my experience with Personal Scrum? Check out this post. [...]

  2. Shane says:


    Do you think you will continue to use personal scrum to manage other projects you undertake? How about to manage your time at work, even if the project is not using agile? I like the fact that you were able to quickly see when time was getting away from you using these techniques.

    • John Pruitt says:

      I have used prioritized backlogs at work for my own work and small teams, but I have not yet used sprints at work. The sprints are necessary to measure the velocity and project trajectory, which gives you the planning capability. I intend to start using sprints at work for this very reason.

      I have been considering using personal scrum to manage household chores, errands, etc. I will definitely use personal scrum again if I have a major project or hobby at home to do.

  3. [...] a mini-marathon. There is a line of thinking about using a version of Scrum for individuals (Personal Scrum). Essentially, that is what my training plan will be. Each week, I will have a certain amount of [...]

  4. Hi John, thanks for sharing a good article on Personal Scrum. I currently started doing a one man Scrum implementation as well and I find it easy to use Scrum since I’m used to it. My experiment also aims to get the rest of the team interested enough ti maybe implement some Scrum to the whole team..=)

    Peter Westlund (@bastlund)

  5. [...] John Pruitt schreibt über Personal Scrum [...]

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