Best of Both Worlds: Double Productivity with GTD and Scrum
Read time: 9 minutes
The software development team at Function Point has recently adopted the Scrum framework for managing product development. Embracing the Scrum methodology means that FP has the flexibility to shift with its clients’ emerging business realities. Greater responsiveness to client feedback and more frequent delivery of new features are just two of the benefits this new system will deliver.
Together with Scrum, Getting Things Done (GTD) is another well-known methodology trusted in various fields. While GTD focuses on personal productivity and organization, Scrum is widely adopted for managing team projects. By combining the strengths of both approaches, your agency team can level up your productivity and accomplish tasks more efficiently.
What is Scrum?
The infallible Wikipedia defines Scrum as “an iterative and incremental agile software development framework for managing product development.”
It provides a structured approach that boosts collaboration, adaptability, and continuous improvement within a team.
In Scrum, there are 3 key roles:
- Product Owner: Represents the stakeholders and ensures the deliverables meet customers’ requirements and bring value to the end-user. Responsible for prioritizing the Product Backlog and making decisions about what gets built.
- Scrum Master: Facilitates the Scrum process and aligns the team with the Scrum principles and practices. This person helps remove obstacles and simplify workflow for the team’s success.
- Development Team: This is the team of professionals who collaborate to deliver a product increment. Often cross-functional, the team is responsible for turning the Product Backlog items into a functional product.
To support transparency and prioritization, Scrum employs several artifacts:
- Product Backlog: A list of all expected features and requirements for the product.
- Sprint Backlog: A subset of the Product Backlog, comprising tasks selected for a specific iteration called a Sprint.
- Increment: The sum of all completed and “Done” tasks at the end of each Sprint, which creates a tangible result.
Scrum events provide opportunities for collaboration and feedback:
- Sprint Planning: Start each Sprint by deciding which tasks will be tackled and how to accomplish them.
- Daily Stand-ups: Short daily meetings where team members share progress, discuss challenges, and plan the day ahead.
- Sprint Review: At the end of each Sprint, the team gathers to assess the Increment, exchange feedback, and present the completed work to stakeholders.
- Sprint Retrospective: Also held at the end of each Sprint, this is a dedicated time for the team to reflect on their process and identify improvements for future Sprints.
In Scrum, you can continuously evaluate progress and make adjustments based on inspection and adaptation. The framework encourages teams to self-organize, coordinate, and deliver value iteratively. This way, your team can achieve greater transparency, adapt to changing requirements, and improve their productivity and effectiveness.
What is GTD?
GTD (Getting Things Done), is a methodology that assists busy people like you and me with gaining control and perspective over all activities they would like to accomplish.
Developed by David Allen, its purpose is to help individuals reduce stress, increase focus, and complete jobs more efficiently. At its core, GTD revolves around:
- Capturing: This is the first step of GTD, where you collect and centralize all incoming tasks, ideas, and commitments. By doing so, you keep all important tasks in one place and avoid the stress of trying to remember everything.
- Clarifying: Next, review and categorize your tasks, and break them down into actionable next steps. Make sure you clearly understand what needs to be done.
- Organizing: Organize tasks into lists based on context or location. This helps you focus on specific tasks while seeing the big picture.
- Reflecting: Regular review of your tasks and goals to assess progress, determine priorities, and make necessary modifications. It keeps you on track and helps prevent overwhelm.
- Engaging: Now it’s time to execute one by one task based on your priorities. This helps you increase productivity and achieve a sense of accomplishment.
The way I think of it, GTD is the equivalent of implementing a Scrum process that is time boxed to sprints of one week. I’ve been practicing GTD for quite a few years, but I only started to dive into Agile and Scrum very recently. The analogy between the two systems occurred to me when I first started to look at Scrum.
The Scrum-GTD Connection
Let’s take a closer look at the 5 GTD building blocks, and explore their connection to the Scrum workflow:
This is where you build your backlog. At this point you act as the product owner. You build the backlog by either visualizing where you want to take the product (you and the things you are responsible for), as well as anything that requires you to respond to external forces.
Think of this as the product backlog grooming session that happens on a daily basis. First, you identify what needs to get done for everything in your inbox similar to how you build the backlog in the previous step. Next, check feasibility and try to assess the effort or each item. For this step you act as the Scrum master, the development team and the product owner. In other words, you are responsible for facilitating the “meeting”, defining the next step, planning what needs to get done and clarifying what the requirements are, what success would look like, and defining the acceptance criteria.
Getting things done starts with a solid definition of ‘done’
Think of this as planning your releases. You act as the product owner. Based on what you’ve discovered while processing, you identify the priority of the items based on your personal values, the next steps involved and when things need to get done by. You add due dates if required, add events to your calendar, build projects, and you define the context that is required to perform the work. In general, you tentatively plan when the work will get done, or when you need to be reminded about it.
This step is where you’re managing all your hats at once. It’s a combination of the sprint retrospective and sprint planning. Start by looking back at the week to record things to learn, and how to improve your processes based on mistakes you made during the week. Refine your product backlog, and plan for the future – look at the events coming up and plan what things you want to make priorities. At the same time you do some house keeping – get rid of anything that doesn’t make sense anymore, is completed but not marked as such, or is missing project information. This is like a big reset before you begin your next ‘sprint’.
At this stage you are the development team, you take things off the backlog either from this ‘sprint,’ or even the ‘product backlog, and you complete them.
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Benefits of Combining GTD and Scrum
Combining GTD and Scrum creates multiple benefits for you and your team:
- Streamlined Productivity: By integrating GTD’s personal productivity principles with Scrum’s team collaboration framework, you can create a seamless and efficient productivity system.
- Clear Prioritization: The combination of GTD and Scrum ensures that tasks and goals are well-defined and aligned with project objectives. Thus, you can prioritize them effectively to enable focused and impactful work.
- Enhanced Adaptability: The reflective nature of GTD and the iterative approach of Scrum promote continuous improvement and adaptability. This allows you to promptly respond to changing circumstances and evolving requirements.
- Improved Accountability: Integrating personal GTD practices within the Scrum approach encourages individual accountability. As team members take ownership of their tasks and commitments, it leads to increased responsibility and reliable outcomes.
- Effective Time Management: The combination of GTD’s task capture and organization principles with Scrum’s time-boxed sprints promotes time management for teams to stay on track and deliver within timelines.
- Boosted Collaboration: By leveraging GTD and Scrum together, you can improve transparency, communication, and coordination, which enhances overall team productivity and synergy.
Leverage Technology to Enhance Productivity
Utilizing Project Management Software that aligns with Scrum and GTD principles can significantly enhance your productivity. It lets you capture, organize, and assign tasks to sprints, set deadlines, track their progress, and collaborate with teammates. Here’s how.
- Visualizations and Metrics: Visual tools and charts in the project management software help visualize Scrum artifacts and GTD lists. Features like burndown charts, kanban boards, and Gantt charts provide a visual representation of tasks, deadlines, and milestones. This helps monitor progress and productivity, identify bottlenecks, and make data-driven decisions.
- Automation: Explore integrations and automation to streamline repetitive tasks, such as automatically creating jobs from emails or setting up recurring reminders.
- Notifications and Reminders: Set up automated notifications and reminders to ensure you won’t miss any important tasks, sprint deadlines, meetings, or events. Notifications and reminders serve as helpful nudges to keep everyone on track and prevent tasks from being overlooked.
- Collaboration Tools: Use collaboration platforms that support Scrum and facilitate team communication. This allows you to hold efficient daily stand-ups, sprint planning, sprint reviews, and retrospectives.
- Portability: Make sure your project management software work on mobile devices. This allows you to access and update tasks, checklists, and progress on the go, which increases flexibility and productivity for you to manage your team anywhere, anytime.
To Wrap Up
By combining the power of GTD and Scrum, you and your team can create a harmonious productivity ecosystem that maximizes efficiency and goal achievement. GTD principles enable you to gain clarity, organization, and focus, while Scrum practices foster collaboration, accountability, and adaptive planning.
Remember to customize the approach to fit your specific needs, leverage the right technologies, and be open to continuous improvement. With this powerful integration, you can conquer your tasks, enhance productivity, and achieve remarkable results.
I welcome your feedback and any insights into this topic that you may have. Feel free to leave a comment in the box below.
Please note: I am not licensed, certified, approved, or endorsed by or otherwise affiliated with David Allen or the David Allen Company which is the creator of the Getting Things Done® system for personal productivity. GTD® and Getting Things Done® are registered trademarks of the David Allen Company.
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Brand & Product Coordinator
Marissa was raised on a steady diet of mountain and ocean activities. She’s a product marketer by day, reader by night, and human being by day and night.