scrum software development and rugby: one and the same

As a rugby player and enthusiast, as well as a former high-level judoka, I like to use a lot of sports metaphors, drawing heavily on my athletic experience to talk about team performance and cohesion. I’m thrilled whenever I have a chance to coach fellow rugby fans because they get what I’m talking about right away. To mention just a few examples:

no scrum, no win

In rugby, the scrum is a method of restarting play, during which a team needs complete cohesion by all. It’s the epicenter of the battle, and the pack needs to move as one to win possession of the ball, and the respect of the opposing pack. In fact, the scrum is the heart and soul of rugby.

It’s the same in Scrum! Scrum, the Agile software development framework, brings the IT team together every morning to talk everything over so that it can move forward as one, put all obstacles aside and make sure each individual is personally tied to the project’s success.

forwards determine who wins and backs by how much

Once a team dominates in the scrum and in rucks, the game flows more smoothly, which opens up doors and creates new pathways. It’s up to the backs to take advantage of these pathways and “turn on the jets” to “score a try”! In short, to capitalize on the pack’s efforts.

So the backs must either finish the job started by the forwards, reaping all the satisfaction that entails. Or, they drop the ball after an opportunity in the scrum, experiencing the frustration that follows in tow.

It’s the same in Scrum! The production team lays down all the technical groundwork. The better it masters the groundwork, the more efficient the project will be. If the product owners or the user representatives aren’t up to the challenge, the inputs or outputs won’t be efficient and frustration will pile up.


In Rugby, the half-backs (9 and 10) include what are called the fly-half and scrum-half. They’re responsible for directing play between forwards and backs, as well as capitalizing on attacks. The scrum-half comes into play every time the ball comes out, and also directs the forwards during scrums and rucks.

The fly-half has a broad overview of the game and the opposing defense. He or she can open up play to the three-quarters, change sides or kick the ball past the defense.

Half-backs direct play and lead the team. They need to understand each other with a simple glance and find each other without searching. Most of all, these players need to be quick and agile, with good situational intelligence so they can react quickly to the flow of play.

It’s the same in Scrum! You will have already guessed that the fly-half is the product owner and the scrum-half is the scrum master. A project’s success will depend on strong communication between product owners who know what they want and scrum masters who can provide it.

your turn!

So these were just a few analogies I’ve discovered through my time on rugby fields, tatami mats and projects. They come in handy so that whenever I have the ball, grab hold of my opponent’s kimono or have to work on a project, I know what to do to score points, or figure out why I lost.

Now it’s your turn to watch the upcoming Six Nations Championship and the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England to see what similarities you can uncover between your project and the matches, and answer this question: who would be the coach and who would be the bench players on your project?


Photo: © burak çakmak -

Benjamin Cabanne

Penser le changement plutôt que changer le pansement ! Ça pourrait être ma devise au quotidien. Coach agile IT&L@bs chez Orange Business Service, j’ai travaillé auparavant plus de 10 ans sur des projets de développement spécifique de système d’informations dans l’automobile, l’aéronautique ou en tant que directeur de projet dans une société de service. Curieux de tout, facilitateur agile et toujours à la recherche de valeur ajouté, je pratique aussi le judo, le rugby et la plongée.