Get certified - Transform your world of work today


John Duncan


Head of development, Mad Mobile

Location: Tampa


Certified ScrumMaster



John Duncan works with and leads creative people doing difficult work. His career started in news, with the Guardian newspaper in London where he became general manager of the Observer newspaper in 1999. His approach even then was showing hints of an agile style, running 10-minute project meetings that became notorious in the company for actually getting stuff done. After moving to the United States John consulted with news organizations around the world on processes for the digital newsroom, acting as a process coach to restructure newsrooms who were having to rethink how they operated in a new digital era. Now with the agile manifesto in his back pocket, John introduced newly consoidated newsrooms to new ways of making and keeping committments to each other in multiple workflows in what were effectively daily sprints. After winning a Knight Fellowship to work at Stanford in the D School and Computer Science departments for a year, John took his newly updated vision of agile development to a news startup before landing at Mad Mobile in Tampa. At Mad, John reorganized a talented but failing development team and built a scrum process into the company's DNA. As a vendor selling to and producing for multiple clients, the challenges to a workable scrum environment were significant. But through multiple iterations and experiments the company soon became recognized in mobile web development as one of the best software implementers in the business. In the process of implementing scrum at Mad, John has coached multiple external client teams on how to interact with a scrum framework and has coached developers and project managers on how to build a workable scrum process within their own business. 

Work experience

Mad Mobile, VP, development (scrummaster in chief)
November 2011 - Present, Tampa, Fl, United States
I joined Mad with the brief to implement scrum immediately in a crisis situation for the company - too many projects, no structure, no projects ever finishing. Four months later we had one team/one project, daily scrums with clients, a daily ruck where the full dev staff talk about what they are doing, backlogs, sprints, estimates, user stories. We are about 50% of where we need to be. But we will ship six products this week and three next week. That would have taken nine months a year ago. A big part of my job has been to coach client companies in how to interact with a functioning scrum team. Many have heard of scrum but don't really understand what it is and how it helps. I offer each of them a crash course in scrum and a longer coaching on how to be a product owner. Several clients (Office Depot was the biggest) have come on site for training and to see how we do what we do. The biggest innovation was holding all ur scrum meetings on a conference call. That allowed clients to listen in and hear progress and immediately consult with the scrummaster if they heard anything that concerned them. Clients are told that they may not talk while the standup is going on and must hold their thoughts for communication with the scrummaster. It has been very effective in aiding the transparency of our process., Founder, CEO
October 2010 - September 2011, San Francisco, CA, United States
A news startup I got going with some friends from Stanford. We got some funding but not enough. I learned a lot about sustained agile in a small startup here - very different from some of the bureaucratic obstacles to efficient scrum I faced in previous work. The main challenge here was distance. I was still based in Tampa while the development team were in California. That posed a very specific set of challenges. It was also the first time I had had to undertake the role of product owner and scrummaster simultaneously, a setup which is far from ideal but which is a fact of life for many companies trying to get scrum going. I gained a lot of insight on the dos and don't of that.

Stanford University, Knight Fellow
August 2009 - June 2010, Palo Alto, Ca, United States
I was Knight Fellow in the Communications,Computer Science and Human Computer Interaction departments. I was a funded student engaged by the Knight Foundation to study ways of improving the ways news was presented. While at Stanford I worked a great deal out of the D School where I learned about Design Thinking and lean prototyping of products. I coached many of my colleagues here (there was a cohort of 20 Knight Fellows each year) on agile philosophies and Scrum as they related to the news business.

Garcia Media, Head of PreDesign and Implementation
November 2006 - June 2009, Tampa, Fl, United States
My job was to work with the world's leading news design consultancy with a global client list to assess their capability to implement a new design (both print and web) and then implement the processes required for the project to succeed. I took what I knew about agile and scrum to put some agile structure and terminology around what the teams were actually doing. Think about it - news orgs are the original agile teams - a blank sheet of paper every day, "releasable software" at the end of every day. The best part was that teams were generally very open-minded at the time of a redesign to doing things differently and I was able to get a number of scrum elements implemented in some unlikely places (the Gulf News in Dubai implemented scrum style standups in the newsroom without ever using the word scrum, Hospodarsky Noviny in Prague are now using a form of task estimation and burndown to manage their print and web release schedules. The less interesting side came when we had to implement new CMSs as part of a design and came up against various IT dept scrumbut implementations. But it was still a useful learning experience around how to phase an implementation of scrum that I'm using today in some ways.


Newsletter Sign-Up