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Scrum is the transport not the destination

May 27, 2016


Working with a range of people, it is interesting to observe how many are aiming to “Do Scrum” or “Get Agile”. The issue with this thinking is that people are focussing on the transport, not the destination. The objective is to deliver value to the business faster, Scrum is one of the most effective ways of achieving that, however it is not the only way. It is also not the goal in itself.

An analogy is a holiday. The destination is where you are going for your holiday, the way you get there is the transport. Your transport is determined by your destination and constraints. If Business Agility is your destination, then an Agile framework is a better transport. How you use the transport will affect how smooth the journey is.

Focus on the real goal

Now that Scrum is 20 years old, it has achieved a wide adoption to varying degrees of success. There have been a few blogs posts with a theme of the failure of Scrum and Agile. Reading more deeply the frustrations that are being expressed are around the half-hearted adoption, and lack of organisational engagement.

Change is hard, particularly when it is as radical as moving from the project to the product mindset. As Ken Schwaber has stated “The pain of adopting Scrum has to be less than the pain of not adopting it”

“It takes great effort to follow the rules of a pull system … thus a half-hearted introduction of a pull system brings a hundred harms and not a single gain” – Taiichi Ohno.

The focus of the organisation must be on improving the value of the products and services to their customers. The changes to the organisation need to be implemented in a gradual (in reality an iterative and incremental) way. It is next to impossible to use a predictive plan to enable your organisation to behave in an Agile way – it is too complex to build a fixed plan.

Use Scrum to get Scrum

“Scrum focuses on being agile which may (and should) lead to improving. Kanban focuses on improving, which may lead to being agile.” - Karl Scotland

Scrum: Drink your own champagne!

Scrum: Drink your own champagne!

The Scrum framework is built on Empiricism, and provides many mechanisms for reviewing feedback. Having structured inspection points is a key method of managing risk, which is critical when you are redirecting corporate culture.

Changing the corporate mind-set from

  • Project to Product

  • Reporting to Delivery

  • Managing to Leading

  • Cost to Value

  • Control to empowerment

It is a wholesale pivot in culture, and needs to be undertaken with energy, enthusiasm and compassion. People will be rightfully concerned about what is going to happen to them, and their concerns need to be addressed respectfully.

By using an organisational change backlog, iterating through the changes in an open transparent and engaging manner will allow the organisation to optimise the transition. This is described in more detail in the Agility Guide

Remember, Scrum isn’t the goal, being a more efficient value focussed organisation is!

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