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Scrum, Agile, and the Trout of Avigliana

Adopting Scrum is not about using cool terminology

21 July 2016

Avigliana is a town in Italy with two small lakes in proximity to each other. The story goes that there once was a monastery in Avigliana where undisciplined monks lived. During Lent, they weren't allowed to eat meat, but these bad monks hung steaks from the hooks of the fishing rods, dipped the rods in the lake, and after some time, they pulled out the rods, shouting, "Oh, what a beautiful trout I've caught!"

"Trout of Avigliana" is a metaphor for doing things in a formal way but with a bit of cheating. I think that the world of software development is full of "trout of Avigliana" with regard to Scrum and Agile adoption, now that these two words are becoming so cool.

I am currently looking for work by using specialized job search engines and entering "Scrum" and "Agile" (and "Italy") as keywords. Very often I read about job offers with detailed job descriptions, including " . . . you will be part of a Scrum team." But aren't Scrum teams cross-functional teams? I realize there is no omniscient team member. However, it would be worthwhile to determine whether the advertiser is asking for specialized expertise to disseminate within the team or, more probably, finding a "fractal Waterfall" in the sprint. And in Scrum, management does not assign the tasks, so are we sure that this will be the case with such a detailed request? What will be the collective code ownership? Is it in the usual management way — "We are all in this together!" — or is it an effective collaboration?

If you like Scrum, hire a Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM®) and agree to be led by him or her. The way is to not change the terms; for example, use "iteration" or "sprint" instead of "time until the next milestone," "product backlog" instead of "requirement list," and so on.

But there is something worse related to this behavior: a cherry-picking approach to Scrum (and Agile), as I experienced in my last disastrous work experience (I don't specify it in my Linkedin profile, for now).

The boss was impressed by the words self-organized teams. He liked this "flatus vocis," but I didn't, not in that context! Self-organization is good, but only if the goal of the team is aligned with the goal of the whole organization. (Aren't tumor cells self-organized cells? The Mafia is also self-organized.)

So he interpreted self-organized teams as:
  • Developers who are free from the company's quality assurance (Working software "over" comprehensive documentation).
  • What is the primary rule of our self-organization? I'm the boss; I'm always right.
  • The goal of our self-organization is to demonstrate to our big bosses (CEO, CTO) that we are working productively and efficiently and that the customer isn't smart enough to appreciate us.
And what about frequent releases? Every release was a nightmare! (However, I won't delve into this topic now. It will be the topic of my next contribution, because this matter raises questions about the Scrum review.)

The moral of my article is to start from the nucleus, or from the inner to the outer, as in the following list:
  • "Agile is a mindset, not a methodology," Steve Denning wrote in Forbes "HBR's Embrace of Agile."
  • The goal is to release value to the customer. These two points are akin to "I am the Lord your God" from the Tables of the Law brought down by Moses. Follow the principles in the Agile Manifesto.
  • While following all the values of the Agile Manifesto, remember that "over" does not mean "versus."
  • Follow the 12 principles of the Agile Manifesto.
  • Adopt Scrum to manage the development process.
  • Pay attention to the Definition of Done, and remember that Scrum is for transparency, not for sweeping the dirt under the rug.
  • If you want, adopt a few eXtreme programming practices.
  • If you like Scrum, hire a CSM and agree to let him or her take the lead with the team.

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.

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