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Its Just Scrum

September 3, 2014

The simple cycle of trying, inspecting, and adapting must be as old as mankind. Can’t you just picture Homo Erectus learning to control fire? I bet scorched fingers and cold nights were fairly common for a millennia or so while we refined the art of spark and tinder.

Homo Erectus probably didn’t stop to consider the act of learning as he was going through it. That strikes me as slightly too meta for the stone age. Despite not being present to field study our emerging arsonist ancestors, I am confident a learning loop was in motion as the (don’t call him a cave man) Homo Erectus learned with steps like these:

Think > Try > Watch > Repeat

Given how core this little mantra is to our humanity, I was surprised to fail in identifying a single definitive term that represents it. I couldn’t find a simple term for the act of learning via an empirically-driven loop. Instead, we know this idea by many, many names. Here are some.

  • Empiricism

  • The scientific method

  • Build, Measure, Learn

  • eXtreme Programming

  • OODA - Observe Orient Decide Act

  • A.D. de Groot's empirical cycle - Observation, Induction, Deduction, Testing, Evaluation

  • Single Loop Learning and Double Loop Learning

  • Scrum


All of these models smack of quantifying the core learning loop through decomposition and then rebuilding the loop with a little domain-specific flair. This is such a natural way to describe iterative and recursive processes that most models built on this basic loop make intuitive sense to us no matter what words are used to describe them.

Thus, when it involves teams working together and making software, can we just call it Scrum and move on? That’d be great because then I’d never have to hear again: Is that good Scrum?

The best time to start using Scrum is the moment when you know the least about it. Now. Don’t worry about the names of roles, artifacts, and events. Especially don’t worry if you are “doing it right.” Look at what you are producing and see how that’s turning out. Your team’s output is your measure of “doing it right.” 

Lastly, in the true spirit of nerdy semantics: 
In a self-organized system, the team itself is an output of the team! 

So, are you using an iterative learning loop to guide decisions while making software with a team?

If yes, then Scrum. And that’s so simple even cavemen did it.

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