Get certified - Transform your world of work today


Organic Scrum

An unsystematic view of Scrum

5 January 2011

This article proposes to introduce an unsystematic view of Scrum, called Organic Scrum. A trivial overview of the Scrum famework generally focuses on process, ceremonies and roles being either successively or abruptly introduced to a company’s environment [1]. Though this approach is perfectly sound to most of company’s realities, the concept of Organic Scrum is based on the fact that most people choose to learn by trial and error and goes deeply in the roots of any possible failure in a Scrum adoption.

The consequences of an empirical process

Having the characteristics of an empirical process, Scrum leads people to failure, not intentionally but surfacing imperfections in their processes and values. People get hooked to this kind of learning process since when conditioned to pain or other types of stimuli we decrease undesired behavior [2] as long as the stimulus has a clear effect. Moreover, with the simplicity of its process, Scrum surfaces very precisely people values be them either positive or negative.

Surfacing pain

Organic Scrum understands that only a memory of pain to individuals suffices to make them learn and behave accordingly. We understand that this learning process cannot be described as habituation per se  as humans might go through a more complex learning process than animals [3]. Nevertheless, the main point is that the fastest way to change a regular person’s behavior is not through facts, but through pain. This works for humans in general and we can cause changes in behavior in organization using Pain-Driven Facilitation.

Pain-Driven Facilitation is a term used to describe the process a ScrumMaster makes a Scrum Team go through in order to surface pain. By the process of feeling pain people react more profoundly since they learn faster. This is due to the fact that surfacing pain takes people deep into their feelings, tending to change their perceptions and consequently their behavior from the roots, i.e., from the inside out.

The Organic Scrum Tree

Planting the seed that carries the Scrum Spirit in the beginning of a Scrum implementation in a company and irrigating this seed using Pain-Drive Facilitation is a ScrumMaster’s job as a coach of his or her Scrum Team. As time goes on, the team finds out itself its own way to implement Scrum.

The core concept of Organic Scrum lies on the fact that a Scrum Team produces incremental amounts of products at the end of each Sprint. This means the project might not have produced the final expected product yet but iteration after iteration but during each Sprint Review a reliable and vivid product is central to this collaboration with the client or Product Owner. 

Analogously we can compare to an oak tree. We plant a seed with all the necessary care of a gardener. Let’s consider the Sprint length being a year. How long would it take for the oak tree fully grow? They vary wildly and much depends on the acorn's ability to set down a deep tap root. There are no oaks that grow to fully grown (60-100 feet) in five sprints. An average moderate rate of growth is just over two feet a sprint, and that would take 10-15 years to get a nice sized tree. At the end of each Sprint we don’t have a fully grown tree, but we still have a tree.



[1] Mike Cohn. Succeeding with Agile. Addison-Wesley Professional. 1 edition, 2009.

[2] Konrad Lorenz. Die Rückseite des Spiegels. Versuch einer Naturgeschichte menschlichen Erkennens

[3] David V. Halbeisen. Learning Made Simple. Published at

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

Article Rating

Current rating: 0 (0 ratings)


Be the first to add a comment...

You must Login or Signup to comment.

The community welcomes feedback that is constructive and supportive, in the spirit of better understanding and implementation of Scrum.


Newsletter Sign-Up