Scrum. Period.

I observe a revived interest in Scrum. I observe how people, teams and organizations re-discover Scrum. Scrum has the simplicity they grasp for. They see the value Scrum brings. Simple and valuable, not easy. In a forward-looking observation I described it as the third Scrum wave that is rising.

Scrum is simple indeed, yet has so many aspects to be discovered by so many organizations. Scrum serves a journey of product discovery. Adopting Scrum is a journey of discovery in itself.

Scrum is a simple, yet sufficient framework for complex product delivery, for managing complex challenges. There is a high cohesion in the minimalist set of rules and advised activities of Scrum. There is no such thing as individual Scrum practices. Scrum lays down essential boundaries within which people self-organize, within which people devise a way of working tuned to their own context. Scrum can wrap many practices. When applied well, the integral result is still… Scrum.

The themes of the recent past of Scrum were ‘scale’ (volume) and ‘divergence’ (different names and movements). Distractions. People, teams and organizations realize that it did not result in the agility they need in their complex context. I observe a revived interest in the cohesion of Scrum, the framework as a whole. People, teams and organizations learn that over-focusing on isolated elements of Scrum has not helped them tackle their complex challenges and humanize their workplace.

While rediscovering Scrum, as a whole, people, teams and organizations discover that Scrum still leaves plenty of room for their context-specific needs. Scrum is designed to holistically support people, teams and organizations to create, maintain and sustain complex products. Scrum does not replace people’s intelligence and creativity, rather provides a frame for people to operate within and create valuable results. Scrum is intentionally low prescriptive. Scrum offers a limited set of mandatory prescriptions, which in turn allow many variations to apply the rules.

Scrum most often does not fit the existing, rigid structures of many organizations, the hidden impediment to achieve true agility. Stick with Scrum. Consider the core framework to be immutable. Period. Start small. Through practice all people involved will ingrain new behavior, enact the Scrum Values and grow a new working culture, a more humanized workplace.

Twisting Scrum, hacking into the basics of the framework breaks its cohesion, covering up dysfunctions rather than revealing them, probably disregarding the principles and foundations upon which Scrum is founded, rather than promoting great behavior. Such versions and implementations are possible. Isolated use of Scrum’s terminology or individual elements is possible. They might look like fun. They might work. They lack cohesion. They are not Scrum.

The 3rd Scrum wave is rising. Will you sink? Will you swim? Be a laggard of the second wave? Or will you surf?

On a personal note I want to add that I am delighted to see a shift from ‘Agile Coach’ to… Scrum Master. A good sign. A sign also that the need is real to have someone working with the teams and with the organization in fostering a healthy environment, an environment where innovation and creativity can emerge, where people can demonstrate traditionally unsafe behavior.

The future of Agile (is in the small)

Where Agile is synonymous to ‘adaptive’, organizational adaptiveness comes through small, networked communities and ecosystems collaborating.

This will happen inside organizations, and across organizations. For many organizations the challenge is how to adopt such organizational setup. It is a critical challenge because it is the only way to wake up from the latent coma caused by size, cash and rigid structures. Many large organizations, in their current state, are dead already.

In 2013 I created the book “Scrum – A Pocket Guide (A smart travel companion)“, helping people restore, update or confirm their understanding of Scrum. I am currently working on a new book on the current state and the future value of ‘Agile’.

Find my thoughts on how the future of Agile is actually in the small in a short movie. It takes less than 2 minutes of your time. Enjoy!

Traces of my presence at events (Selected Recordings 2012-2017)

I go to speak at events without commercial or monetary intentions. I primarily go to meet people and share ideas and connect with the Agile communities and Scrum practitioners. On my YouTube channel I have uploaded all recordings of my sessions that are available.

Following is a selection (so far):

2012 – Entering the public domain

In March 2012, at a Scrum.org trainer event, Ken Schwaber checked with me on the possibility of a yearly event about Scrum in the Netherlands. We moved it forward and the first Scrum Day Europe event happened on 11 July of that same year in Amsterdam. My session, “The emergence of the Customer-Oriented Enterprise”, wasn’t recorded, but you can check out my rehearsal of the presentation at the mentioned March trainer event.

Find the presentation at Slideshare.

Note: At the heart of the concepts presented (2012) is the belief I expressed in my book “Scrum – A Pocket Guide” (2013) and the ideas I am building on again in my “re-vers-ify” narrative (2017).

2013 – Scrum for the enterprise

At Capgemini I had already  worked with Ken Schwaber on Agile transformation ideas and Scrum at the enterprise level. As I entered Scrum.org as director for the Professional Series in June 2013, that was our first priority to elaborate on. We presented a first set of ideas at the second edition of the Scrum Day Europe event on 4 July 2013 in Amsterdam.

2014 – Evidence-Based Management

We started focusing more on the inspection part of “Agility Path”. We separated it into “Evidence-Based Management (of software)”. The plan was to present it jointly as the opening keynote of Scrum Day Europe 2014. However, as Ken had visum troubles, I presented it alone.

I had already written a paper about the core ideas of the concept presented. As ideas keep evolving, I started using the term ‘Empirical Management’ and am tending towards using ‘Exploratory Management’ nowadays.

2015 – Scaled Professional Scrum with Nexus

Our focus shifted from organizational transformations back to helping people and teams to employ Scrum. A lot of concerns existed around employing Scrum in the large. Figuring that ‘Scaled Scrum is still Scrum’ we probably ignored the need for too long. We created the Nexus framework, and described it in the Nexus Guide. I presented our approach to Scaled Professional Scrum with the Nexus framework as the opening keynote at Scrum Day Europe 2015.

2016 – The Future Present of Scrum

Scrum has been around since 1995. In the spring of 2015, Ken and I discussed how “Done” was a much misunderstood and certainly undervalued purpose of Scrum. Having created some blog notes about it, I used the 21st anniversary of Scrum (2016) to make it my core speaking topic, as “The Future Present of Scrum (Are we Done yet?)”.

2017 – re-vers-ify

In 2016 I continued my journey of Scrum as an independent Scrum Caretaker. The opportunity to work with diverse organisations and teams helped me consolidate over a decade of ideas, observations and beliefs of Scrum. I realized that all ideas I had been working on before and -certainly- after 2012 were connected. I created a narrative called “re-vers-ify”, or “re-imagining your Scrum to re-vers-ify your organization”.

Too often still the organisational waste, abuse and impediments, ruthlessly highlighted by Scrum, are ignored. Meanwhile organizations grasp for rhythm, focus and simplicity. Re-vers-ify shows a positive path forward, without falsely predicting the end result.

It became my speaking topic for 2017. I presented it as the opening keynote at the first ever Scrum Day Ukraine event in Kyiv on 11 March 2017.

Since 2003 countless people have told me I limit myself by ‘just’ doing Scrum. After 14 years, still, every day is like my first day of Scrum. Every day again Scrum turns out not a limitation but a gateway to options and possibilities to help people, teams and organizations.

Scrum, a forward looking observation (The 3rd Scrum Wave)

All events organised in Scrum are designed to be forward looking. Adaptation follows inspection. Feedback from observable results is meaningless if not applied. All assessments, evaluations and inspections we undertake in Scrum primarily serve the purpose of working on the most valuable future. Scrum inspires us to shift our perspective from solely judging the past and checking actuals towards planning and innovating for an unknown future. In short, focused iterations we reflectively shape the future while embracing unanticipated surprises.

This is the spirit through which we act. We act on forward looking observations. This is the spirit through which we can consider the future of Scrum. Rather than glorifying the past of Scrum, we anticipate the value ahead. We aim at surfing the wave. We shape the wave.

THE 3RD SCRUM WAVE IS RISING. WILL YOU SINK? BARELY SWIM? OR WILL YOU SURF?

‘Agile’ started crossing the chasm as from 2005-2006, much enabled by the increasing popularity of Scrum. The Agile way of Scrum became an accepted way of creating and delivering products. In the subsequent 1st Scrum wave a growing number of teams discovered the first-level benefits of Scrum, albeit predominantly from an IT perspective. Organisations moved away from endless sequential phases and gateways, and began exploring the advantages of iterative-incremental delivery. The 1st Scrum wave was mainly about adopting Scrum, a first encounter, the start of a journey of discovery.

grafx-technology-adoption-life-cycle

In the slipstream of the 1st Scrum wave, sub-groups and derivative movements took off, new movements and methods were invented, introduced, launched, and often disbanded again. Divergence in itself is great, unless the overall result is dilution and opacity. Rather than into variety, the divergence turned into scattering, even with Scrum being the actual standard, even with the definition of Scrum being formalised by its co-creators in 2010 in the Scrum Guide. A bowling alley of problems to be addressed appeared, a wide range of pins. Some pins appeared to be left unaddressed by common Scrum implementations. Some pins were raised to challenge presumed weak spots of Scrum, challenges presented as unaddressable through Scrum. On top of this slow evolution, 2010-2011 saw a seemingly sudden desire of large organisations to transition to this ‘Agile’ thing, fast. The tone for the 2nd Scrum wave was set, a wave of diverging Scrum. Scaling became a thing. Parts of the Scrum terminology became standard vocabulary, but at the same time the tangible rules and principles underlying the Scrum framework were pushed to the back, their purpose snowed in under resurrected needs for layers, titles, roles and structures, at scale.

2016-2017. It takes time to replace the industrial views on the creative act of product delivery. Rat races continue, Scrum is underused as a way out. Too often still the organisational waste, abuse and impediments, ruthlessly highlighted by Scrum, are ignored. Yet, more people and organisations than ever continue their quest to stop more hamster wheels, to create more room to reflect, to improve, to innovate. The 3rd Scrum wave is fuelled by the desire, the drive for rhythm, focus and simplicity. Agile and Scrum are recognised as two inseparable ingredients for healthier and more humane ecosystems that deliver better products. The awareness keeps growing that it starts and ends with people, not with procedures, tools or games. People embrace the Scrum values as a catalyst to re.imagine their Scrum, to re.vers.ify their organisation. Convergence appears on the horizon, where the rage of scattering, where the tornado starts calming down.

We sow seeds. We fertilise the grounds. We help converge product delivery initiatives in a Scrum Studio. We help the shift from traditional to empirical management. We envision a future, networked structure, a nervous system of product hubs and distributed leadership. The 3rd Scrum wave is about enacting Scrum, discovering how the well-defined and clearly stated framework of Scrum leaves plenty of room for variation, a diversity of strategies to employ Scrum.

re-vers-ify-nervous-system-annotated

In 2016 Scrum turned 21. We have come a long way. We look forward. We walk on. We re-vers-ify. We re-imagine our organisations.

THE 3RD SCRUM WAVE IS RISING. WILL YOU SINK? BARELY SWIM? OR WILL YOU SURF?

Agility, actually (is an organisational state of being)

Agility is an organisation’s state of high responsiveness, speed and adaptiveness. Agility is an organisation’s state of continual adaptation and optimisation, a state in which each status quo is challenged, by our own will or by external turbulence.

Agility is a state that is a natural fit for the unpredictability so common to the work of complex product delivery and to the markets that organisations operate within. However, it requires accepting that the work is unpredictable, a mental barrier to overcome. Agility is why teams and organisations adopt Agile processes. From that adoption agility increases, a new of working emerges, new organisational ways of learning, improving and constant adaptation, and restored respect for people, re-humanisation.

Scrum helps. The distinct rules of Scrum help. Scrum is actionnable. Agile and Scrum, actually, are two inseparable ingredients in a complex product delivery ecosystem. Scrum can be your foundation for agility. Sprints are at the heart of business agility in generating a regular flow of improvements, updates, learnings and various other sources of value. Organisations discover, experiment and deliver on opportunities from an end-to-end perspective in the fastest possible way. People develop new ways of working; through discovery, experimentation-based implementation and collaboration. They enter this new state of being, this state of agility; a state of constant change, evolution and improvement. Re-humanisation takes place. Innovation surfaces again.

The path of increasing agility via Scrum is inevitably bound to be a cobblestone path. It might take some time to accept that agility starts and ends with people, not with procedures or tools. It might take some time to accept that agility takes time, that agility need not be analyzed, designed and planned. It might take some time to accept that agility occurs:

  • Agility can’t be planned;
  • Agility can’t be dictated;
  • Agility has no end-state.

A time-planned way to become (more) agile introduces unfavourable expectations. Introducing Agile methods to increase agility causes significant organisational change. Several existing procedures, departments and functions will be impacted. There is no way of predicting what needs will be encountered at what point in time, how these will be dealt with and what the exact outcome will be in order to control next steps. It is a highly complex and unpredictable journey. There is no way of predicting the pace at which the state of agility will take root and spread.

Scrum and agility are much more about behaviour than about (following) a new process. A decision to adopt Scrum is a decision to leave the old ways behind. It is not only about accepting but about celebrating the fact that agility is living the art of the possible. It requires the courage, honesty and conviction of acting in the moment, acting upon the reality that is exposed by iterative-incremental progress information. Agility is about doing the best possible at every possible moment, constrained by the means we have and facing the constraints. A time-planned way ignores the essence of Scrum and Agile, that of dealing with complexity via well-considered steps of experimentation and learning. Time-plans simply extend the old thinking. In general a plan will even slow down the overall increase of agility, because serious delays and waiting times are incorporated.

Time-plans create the illusion of deadlines and a final end-state. Agility has no end-state.

Living the art of the possible engages people and accelerates a transformation as it shapes the future, thrives upon the future and what the future might bring. It’s a bright future for organizations that have the vision, the determination and the dedication.

These basic truths must be in the hearts and minds of every person managing, guiding, facilitating, hoping or striving for agility. And even then, it takes time for agility to settle in the hearts and minds of the people impacted. After all, people have been instructed in the wrong behavior of the industrial paradigm for 15 to 20 years, or more. Agility starts and ends with people, not with tools, procedures or games.

 

 

The Agile Paradigm (who said it was going to be easy?)

Grafx - Paradigm shift (Industrial)The domination of software development by a paradigm of industrial views and beliefs, a copy-paste of old manufacturing routines and theories, got us in a crisis. The attempts to overcome this crisis by fortifying the industrial approach are without result. The flaws and problems are huge, known and well documented. The crisis largely continues to this day.

Grafx - Agile ParadigmThe seeds of a new world view were already sown in the 1990’s, and resulted in 2001 in the formal naming of ‘Agile’. A turning-point in the history of software development. A new paradigm for the software industry was born; a paradigm that thrives upon heuristics and creativity. A paradigm that restores the respect for the creative nature of software development and the intelligence of its practitioners.

Yet, many say that Agile is too radical. They keep propagating, to this day, a gradual -if any- introduction of Agile practices into existing, traditional processes. Having witnessed several of such attempts, I am extremely skeptical about such a ‘gradual’ evolution, a slow progression to the Agile paradigm. Because:

  1. A gradual evolution only scratches the surface. New names are installed, new terms, tools and techniques imposed, but the fundamental thinking remains the same.
  2. The mentioned paradigms consist of fundamentally different concepts and ideas, and many are mutually exclusive. No meaningful introduction of Agile practices in an industrial paradigm is possible.

A gradual shift is factually a status-quo. The industrial paradigm remains. A permanent crisis is called upon us.

It requires honesty to accept the mismatch of the old ways, and courageous leadership to embrace the new ways.

Abandoning the old thinking will take time. Scrum helps. Its distinct rules help in getting a grip on the new, Agile paradigm. The limited prescriptions allow immediate action. They allow developing new ways of working; through discovery, experimentation-based learning and collaboration. It is worthwhile the giant leap.

I wish you a 2016 of determination and improvement. I congratulate you with the hard work you will have performed in a year from now.

(Note: much of the above was copied, with some editing, from my book “Scrum – A Pocket Guide“, providing context to my description of the Scrum framework, its rules and roles, and their purpose)