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Scrum For Warfighters
by U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kelcey Seymour
October 24, 2019

The Marine Corps continues to look at new ways to adapt to an ever-changing environment through problem-solving.

Marines recently completed the first iteration of Scrum for Warfighters course on Camp Johnson, North Carolina on August 16, 2019.

"Scrum for Warfighters course is our best effort to change the way we adapt to tough problems," said U.S. Navy Cmdr. Jon Haase, the lead instructor for the course. "We solve the things that matter most and enable Sailors and Marines closest to problems to have the biggest impact."

Haase implemented Scrum while he was in command at Explosive Ordinance Disposal Mobile Unit 2, in Norfolk, Virginia.

August 16, 2019 - U.S. Marine Capt. Jon Margolick, the Playbooks Lead for NavalX, tells the participants how mission fits into the Scrum Warfighters Course at Camp Johnson, North Carolin. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Kelcey Seymour)
August 16, 2019 - U.S. Marine Capt. Jon Margolick, the Playbooks Lead for NavalX, tells the participants how mission fits into the Scrum Warfighters Course at Camp Johnson, North Carolin. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Kelcey Seymour)

“Scrum” is a process of identifying goals or problems and working as a team with a singular end state in mind. Transparency and open communication keep everyone on track with what they are doing and why. This allows members of the team to assess the effectiveness of their actions and adjust constantly to improve.

"If you're running a civilian company, you have your users to keep you honest," said Capt. Jon Margolick, the Playbooks Lead at NavalX, in the office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition. "If you are spending time on things that don't matter to them, you're going to find out quickly. When Marines are in theater, we have opposing forces to keep us honest. If we aren't doing things that matter, or if we're not executing well, we find out about it really quickly. At home, we need other ways to constantly assess what’s working and what isn’t. Scrum is one example.”

The process was developed in the early ‘90s for software and computer development but has since evolved to encompass problem-solving techniques in areas such as schools, marketing, autonomous vehicles and much more. Pockets of the Department of Defense have adapted Scrum for U.S. Forces due to the effective and sustainable results in work productivity it has produced, according to Haase.

"Scrum is an agile methodology," said Margolick. "It's agile due to having to constantly assess and react to changes in your environment. Some of that is, how do my actions affect the world? What opportunities, threats, and barriers is the universe throwing at me that I need to be aware of to be good at what I do?"

Students can expect to learn in an unpredictable environment on an equal playing field, leaving their military ranks outside the classroom. Scrum breaks away from traditional problem-solving tools and offers exercises that demand action. The real test will come when they return to their respective units: Units successfully implementing Scrum can expect to do twice the work in half the time, with metrics to prove it.

August 16, 2019 - U.S. Marines work together to create a plan for one of the projects in a Scrum Warfighters Course at Camp Johnson, North Carolina. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Kelcey Seymour)
August 16, 2019 - U.S. Marines work together to create a plan for one of the projects in a Scrum Warfighters Course at Camp Johnson, North Carolina. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Kelcey Seymour)

In his planning guidance, Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger says, "For the Marine Corps, meaningful innovation is not just having great thoughts and concepts. Rather, it is about translating great thoughts and concepts into action."
The Scrum for Warfighters course is the second course in a set of three offered by the Center for Adaptive Warfighting. Scrum is a course offered once a month with 20 seats per class. This course is recommended for leadership, staff and officers, but will be available to non-commissioned officers nominated by their command. br>
"Innovation is figuring out how to solve problems that matter to somebody," said Margolick. "How do we find out what makes a difference? How do we find things that aren't working as well as they can? We need tools to do those things and Scrum is an answer."

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