Talking to ... Jeff Sutherland

Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time

Looking at many contemporary institutions, we can't help thinking Modernity's secret goal lies in its organizational irresponsibility. In the shadows, however, a revolution has occurred where the individual doesn’t have to function as a cog in the Wheelwork of a Machine. Instead, they’re given the freedom to work in small, highly agile groups responsible for the efficiency and quality of their product. Inspired by the novel Toyota Production System of Teamwork (TPS) that Japanese engineer Taiichi Ohno developed on the car manufacturer's factory floors, this movement found its spirtitus rector in Jeff Sutherland - a thinker whose Agile Manifesto (co-authored with Ken Schwaber in 2001) has promulgated this project management’s style in all areas of life. And if you consider Sutherland is advocating a method without methodology that’s essentially a staged form of chaos, you immediately sense a highly unconventional spirit at work here.

As a West Point graduate, Jeff Sutherland was deployed flying reconnaissance over enemy territory in the Vietnam War – missions that often cost his fellow pilots their lives. Then, as a young statistician in Radiology, he was asked to apply his knowledge in cancer cell research, where his expertise unexpectedly catapulted the Stanford assistant professor into the financial industry. Here he experienced the problems of a strictly top-down, hierarchical management style and developed his idea of Scrum. That is small groups of people who, like a deeply attuned Rugby team, work out their interactions with each another - and in the form of blind agreement – develop a step-by-step efficiency that puts to shame everything designed to date. In this respect, it’s no coincidence this idea has found its way into the modern working world after becoming the startup world's undisputed paradigm. And that’s precisely what an energetic 82-year-old Jeff Sutherland tells us in his interview with Ex nihilo - the story of a revolution set on a permanent course.

Life is What Happens To You While You’re Busy Making Other Plans (John Lennon)


Scrum, Random House

In German:

Ex nihilo - Martin Burckhardt
Ex nihilo - Martin Burckhardt
Martin Burckhardt
Hopkins Stanley