Scrum is Not the Point. Agile is!

9 October 2007

Geir Amsjo
Axio

This article is partly a comment to Chris Spagnuolos' article, “Scrum is so easy! Why don't they get it?” The simplicity of Scrum is both its strength and its weakness. Busy managers are looking for easy, quick, practical answers for their complicated questions. Scrum seems to be exactly that, which is pitfall number one.

Let me explain. Lately, I have been evaluating and discussing Scrum with some Norwegian companies who are interested in introducing it in their organizations. Many of them have a very simplistic view of Scrum. By simplistic view I mean that they think of Scrum as a recipe—if they follow it exactly, in a couple of sprints they will have cooked up higher throughput, better quality, and increased customer satisfaction. No wonder they get disappointed!
Over and over I find myself advocating that Scrum is not a magic bullet. Scrum is only one of many toolboxes (the best though, I should say :-)) well suited for reaching the overall goal, which should be to turn the company into an agile organization. To achieve this goal, companies must have a deep understanding of the agile manifesto. They must determine the difference between today's values and practices and their desired values and practices. They must then decide how best to address these differences.

I now have started to insist that every company I work with conduct Agile workshops for their management groups. In these workshops, participants go through the eleven Agile principles one by one and dive very concretely into the impact of every one of them for their particular organization. They commit to attack every one of them! I ensure that the Scrum practices and values are suggested. I communicate these actions and have the whole organization engage in discussing them.

The seven lean software development principles defined by Mary and Tom Poppendieck (www.poppendieck.com) are also well suited for increasing understanding of what it takes to improve. Lean and agile fit very well together, but lean often is easier to use for managers and marketing people in large organizations. If lean is the best answer for your organization, conduct similar workshops, where the management group digs deep into their organization, exploring values and practices for all of the seven principles. Again, Scrum provides answers and good solutions to most of them!

Achieving a true understanding of agile (or lean) principles better equips any organization for creating a robust and successful end-to-end value stream for their product development.

 

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