While their Agile implementation so far has been fairly informal ("Agile-inspired would be a good way to describe it," says Nuzum), they plan to use a more structured approach this fall when they start another round of experiments. So far the results are good: in addition to time and costs savings, Nuzum says they've iterated and changed the shows constantly to incorporate listener and station feedback. "We've had a tremendous amount of success," he says.
Eric Nuzum, vice president of programming at NPR
The idea of using Agile -- in particular, the Scrum methodology (a particular implementation of Agile) -- for non-software development isn't so surprising, considering where it came from in the first place, says Jeff Sutherland one of the founders of Scrum. The idea for Scrum was first hatched by two Japanese business professors observing traditional manufacturing companies (Honda, Toyota, 3M) using lean methods. In the mid-1990s, Sutherland and his colleagues at Easel Corporation formalized the process for software development and gave it the name Scrum.
"Scrum is designed to build a backlog of stuff to get done and to get it done fast," says Sutherland.
Outside the tech world, he sees Scrum being adopted by, among others, venture capitalists; he's a senior adviser at OpenView Venture Partners, where Scrum is used by all partner companies, and not just by developers, but also marketing, sales, and all the way up to senior management. "Unless management really understands Scrum, it's hard to get the real benefit," he says.
Other areas where he sees Scrum being applied widely now -- or where he expects it to be soon -- are in marketing, construction ("Managing the construction of a building is similar to managing the construction of software," says Sutherland.), hardware manufacturing ("There's a lot of pressure on hardware manufacturers to catch up the gains being made by software," he says), education, content production (see NPR above), manufacturing (for example, developing a car that gets 100 MPG), wedding planning....
Hang on. Wedding planning?
"Lots of people use it to plan weddings," says Sutherland.
For example, there's Hemant Naidu, whose wedding was saved by Scrum.
During the planning for his wedding in 2009, he had raised the idea of using Scrum to manage the process. His fiancée Michelle, a high school teacher with no previous Agile experience, rebuffed this particular request -- until there was less than two weeks left until the wedding and there was still a pile of unfinished tasks.