May 20, 2015

I witnessed how Scrum was created

History

In 2012 in one of my Professional Scrum Master classes I met a true gentleman. Much older than the average IT specialist in Poland, jeans and button-up shirt, amazing manners, spotless language and a perfectly kept medium-length black beard with shining strings of white. The kind of a person that is impossible to forget. He was very calm and quiet throughout the whole PSM course, even though his knowledge and experience shone through. He took part in all the exercises and contributed, but something seemed on his mind all the time.
 Finally during our walk to the lunch restaurant we were able to talk freely.
- “What’s on your mind?” – I said – “You seem a little absent. Is there something I can do for you?”
- “Well … you already did …” - he said. I still felt that something was off.
- “Um … could you elaborate a little? It looks like something is bothering you.”
- “Not really bothering. More like taking half of my mind’s processing power.”

Here’s what he told me:
“Twenty years ago, when I started working in IT in some far far away place, I was working with this amazing team. They were all experienced programmers, creating a mainframe-like system. They had worked together for years, knew each other amazingly well. I was added to this team to replace a colleague that had moved to another city. They slowly introduced me to their process.
First and most important we had an expert who understood what this system was designed for. He answered all non-technical questions we might have. We planned our work on a monthly base, making sure that every month we would create some useful new functionality without breaking existing functions. We made sure each month resulted in a tangible outcome, because that made our work more predictable and easier. Since no one but us understood the solution, we had no external interference. And each month we would review the solution, improve our process and make sure we saw clearly everything vital there was to see. Does this in any way sound familiar to you?”
- “Looks like Scrum …”
- “Exactly.”
And he continued:
“But in 1992 Scrum wasn’t created yet. Up until today I thought this was just a coincidence. But much of what I heard today, in this class, made me think: Scrum wasn’t invented. It was observed. Observed at teams that succeeded in delivering a solution. And we did as well. So in a way I created Scrum. Or at least witnessed its creation by the team I was part of.”

Observation

This in turn made me think, as a proponent of Scrum and professional software development. Here was this team that ‘created’ Scrum not knowing it existed, not naming it as such. Their Scrum wasn’t a theoretical concept, but a way of working that emerged from daily practice.
It made me reflect on what triggered or supported this ‘invention’.
It convinced me that a healthy, goal-oriented team, with supporting (as opposed to commanding) management will create a Scrum-like environment. There are other re-enforcing factors (values, culture and pure humanity), but true leadership instead of control is an essential condition.
I did some research on this idea with fellow coaches and we did identify this as a recurring pattern. We concluded that it is likely why the Scrum way of working resonates so well with so many teams and people; many of them, unknowingly using iterative-incremental, helped create Scrum. Smile if you were on one of them!

Expansion

Lately in the software development universe, ‘scaling’ is by far the topic most spoken about. A lot of different scaling approaches emerged – like SAFe, LeSS, SaS. Some have much similarities, some are very different. I have heard about some, worked with others. All implementations that I have witnessed, for me, represent a way of working that has its roots in the past.
But one of them, still in the process of being created and launched, struck me. And not only by its parts and elements, how much sense it makes or how lightweight it seems, but mainly by how people reacted to it. It was at an introduction of the Nexus framework to members of the Scrum.org community of Professional Scrum experts.

Nexus
In April 2015 I took part in a Scaled Professional Scrum class taught by Rob Maher, where scaling was presented as suggested by Ken Schwaber. This framework was called the Nexus. From what I saw at first it was a simple, yet great fractalization of Scrum. The Nexus doesn’t change Scrum, but shows how to implement Scrum one level up, to the level of 3-9 Scrum Teams building one product. It was called an exoskeleton for Scrum.
The Nexus also emerged from observed practice, not from theoretical design sessions. It gives a name to proven concepts on scaling Scrum and provides tangible practices. And, above all, it makes a lot of sense.

Interested? You can read a little more here: https://www.scrum.org/Resources/Nexus

Reprise

I feel really good about the Nexus. I have seen similar approaches work. They were just named “Nexus”. So at an Agile Coach Camp Poland, I decided to spread the news.
In the morning I put up an hourly slot in the ACCPL unconference to talk about the Nexus. Lots of people started asking for a re-run, because they wanted to attend another session. Soon, the whole room wanted to attend. So I promised to set a session for tomorrow as well.
About 45 people showed up. For a 70-people event, that was quite a crowd. I started with an exercise upon the question “What is integration?”. The group was amazing in its considerations and answers, nailing down about 30 highly relevant and important aspects. Then I presented the Nexus briefly.
- “Um, Kate, a short comment,” - said a man in a maroon polo shirt – “We’re already doing that and it works.”
- “Yes!” – said a lady in blue – “The same here! But we didn’t know it was called Nexus!”
- “Us as well!” – another voice was audible from the outer ring of chairs.
And then it struck me. It took me back to my PSM class of 2012. I am witnessing how Nexus is being created. Just like Scrum has been 25 years ago. I am in between all those teams that do Scrum well at scale and understand that Nexus is what they’re doing. They all independently created the Nexus, They inspected and adapted until they reached a fractal with a Nexus Integration Team to bring them together. Some said they had a one-man army as the Nexus Integration Team, some said they had an actual full-time team. It all works, all those teams delivered a remarkable product using their own application of the Nexus, even before it was created. So they all created the Nexus a little. Smile if you are one of them!

You Create

Before the session ended I asked people to share their stories about Nexus and how they already have it. It looks like a few will share theirs. One is already posted, three others are being written. I will be adding them to this blog post as they come.
Good luck to you all in creating Nexus. I know why this will be the next big thing. Do you?

If you have a story like this, please send me a message, I’ll gladly add it below! The language doesn’t matter :)

Here is one of the companies doing Nexus:
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/white-board-magic-marcin-wydrzy%C5%84ski

This article is still a Work In Progress, so check it out often. It shows the whole way a company is working for people not familiar with the subject. Lots of Nexus here as well!
http://it.esky.pl/how-we-work/

 

Update 30.07.2015

An updated presentation and an article from eSky! 

http://www.slideshare.net/itesky/scaling-scrum-esky?ref=http://it.esky.pl/how-we-work/

http://it.esky.pl/2015/07/27/we-have-invented-nexus/