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The 3rd Scrum Wave (a forward looking observation)

January 12, 2017

The Scrum framework thrives on empirical process control. The inspection of observable results gives us insights in what might be most valuable next, always acknowledging that the future is unwritten. The Scrum events function best when employed in such forward looking mode. Inspection is pointless if not followed by adaptation. Thus we shape the future in short, focused iterations. 

This is the spirit through which we consider the future state of Scrum. Observing the past Scrum waves, we anticipate the next, the 3rd Scrum wave that is rising. We aim at surfing the wave. We shape the wave.

‘Agile’ started crossing the chasm as from 2005-2006, much enabled by the increasing popularity of Scrum. An Agile way of working through Scrum became an accepted way of creating and delivering products. In the subsequent 1st Scrum wave many across the globe started discovering the benefits of Scrum, albeit predominantly from an IT perspective. Organisations moved away from endless sequential phases and gateways to begin exploring the advantages of iterative-incremental software delivery. The 1st Scrum wave was about adopting Scrum, a first encounter with Scrum, the start of a journey.

Geoffrey moore's Technology Adoption Life Cycle

In the slipstream of this 1st Scrum wave sub-groups, derivative and new movements and methods were invented, presented, launched. And often disbanded again. Overall, scattering ruled, even with Scrum being the actual standard, even with the definition of Scrum being formalised in 2010 in the Scrum Guide. A bowling alley of problems to be addressed were raised, a broad range of pins, including challenges that were presumed to be unaddressed and even to be unaddressable through Scrum. In 2010-2011 we saw a sudden desire of large organisations to transition to this ‘Agile’ thing, quickly. The tone for the 2nd Scrum wave was set, a wave of diverging Scrum.

2016-2017. More people and organisations than ever are putting an end to hamster wheels, gasp for room to reflect, to improve, to innovate. Too often still, however, the organisational waste, abuse and impediments ruthlessly highlighted by Scrum, are ignored. Rat races continue, Scrum is underused as a way out. The 3rd Scrum wave is fuelled by the desire for rhythm, focus and simplicity, the will to further humanise the workplace. Agile and Scrum are recognised as two inseparable ingredients for healthier and more humane ecosystems that deliver better products. The understanding keeps growing that creativity starts and ends with people, not with procedures, tools or games. People living the Scrum values is the catalyst to re.imagine Scrum. Rays of convergence shine through the rage of the tornado. The 3rd Scrum wave is about enacting Scrum, the well-defined and clearly stated framework that leaves plenty of room for variation, room for a diversity of strategies to employ.

We have come a long way. We look forward. We walk on. We sow more seeds. We fertilise the grounds. We employ and re.imagine Scrum to re.vers.ify our organisations.


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