When will scrum die?
Some people would say it’s already dying. There’s so much inauthentic, unprofessional scrum being done in the world, whereas scrum is part of what I call water scrum fall, where it’s put within a predictive deterministic system. We’re predicting when work will be finished when actually we’ve got so much work that where we don’t know what we don’t know, that’s really inauthentic. I see in those situations where the concept of done isn’t even a concept there. They think that done means we met the acceptance criteria when actually it’s almost like the checklist for how we do things around here, the technical standards and the product quality standards, international standards, for example, that we might need to comply with.
I would argue that scrum is dying, but also I’ve been very encouraged by the level of authentic agility that’s growing as well. I’m seeing some very advanced practitioners coming to my PSM two class. For example, I’m really inspired by the people who come and sometimes they feel a bit down because they’re within a system where they’re expected to do things that they should not be doing.
They’re expected to create dashboards. They’re expected to coordinate between teams. They’re expected to manage what’s going on. They’re expected to be delivery managers to come and practice now where you’ve got the delivery manager. Where the scrum masters are actually on the hook for delivery, not just the effectiveness of the scrum team. When they go through the PSM two classes with me, what they notice is that, oh we’re not supposed to be doing these things.
What we’re supposed to be doing is observing. And with permission, coaching, teaching, advising, acting as a change agent, working with the organization, working at all levels, helping the management and executive leaders to cultivate the environment in which agility can really grow. And I send them away from PSM two saying I want you to be ambassadors for what a scrum master should really do so that when people are looking for scrum masters, when they’re hiring them. When they’re wondering what a scrum master should be doing, you’ll be telling them what a scrum master should be doing. And if the scrum master’s on message, it improves the chances that the product owner is a proper product owner, not just a team product owner, which is the typical failure mode that I’ve seen, because there’s only one owner for the product.
You might have product managers within each team, but you wouldn’t have product owners within each team. We’ve been moving away from business analysts acting as product owners. Business analysts are very good professional people, but from a scrum perspective, they are developers. They’re people who do the work cause in scrum ‘developer’ means someone who does the work.
And so what you prefer is that we have a more authentic scrum where there’s more UX, we’re starting to see more UX people in scrum teams working. Along with everybody else in the scrum team where discovery and delivery are part of delivering the work where we’re discovering that maybe 70% of the ideas in our backlog should never be built.
And then we’re finding much better ideas that we should build on. So it’s almost like we’re a heat seeking missile out for value and finding where the real value is. And so the aspects of scrum that I really have hope for or where teams are not just delivering they’re discovering to deliver, they’re discover to delivery teams.
Instead of feature factory teams, just delivering features that people have asked for, where they are goal oriented and so on. So I take a lot of hope from evidence-based management from scrum.org, the professional scrum training that’s taught by scrum.org that’s helping to get the message out there about being more authentic with agility.
All that said agility is now growing beyond software. It has been for the last number of years and so there’s another option coming on the table called Kanplexity which is, Kanban for complexity and is primarily aimed at non-software non-tech teams. Because in that space, it’s very difficult to deliver a product or service or a piece of product or service that’s valuable within a 30 day increment. Tobias Mayer would tell me you can deliver something in 30 days.
And I think Tobias is right. There are cases. However, in non-software where I’ve seen for myself, my own eyes, that it is quite difficult initially to deliver value. Within 30 days, I started with a team in oil, for example, they started with four months of cycle time to deliver real value. And we did get their cycle times down to under a month, and then they had the option to go into scrum.
And that’s where they could really commoditize their agility with scrum. Again, that’s the advantage of scrum by the way that there’s learning out there on what scrum is. There’s also some really inauthentic learning on scrum, but if you go to scrum.org, for example, to learn really professional scrum, that would give me more hope that you’re likely to be on the right track, that you’re likely be doing the right proper scrum and the more as well you have.
Product owners who are important executives in the organization, not just people who have got the time to do the work, but people who actually have the power to do the work that they’re not usually suited for. By the way, you might be an executive who is a product owner and you are with the team all the time.
Cause you’re working on some new innovation, but by and large, what I see is people are assigned a product owner at accountability because they’ve got the time, but they don’t have the power. The more, we see scrum masters who work beyond teams. The more we see product owners or real product owners who really do own the product.
The more we see discovery in teams, the more inspired I will feel about scrum. And I am inspired about scrum. Because I teach scrum with UX. For example, I teach agile leadership. I help advanced Scrum Masters to become much better at their scrum. So I am really committed to scrum and I’m very encouraged by that, but I’m also quite discouraged by the level of inauthentic agility and scrum is in danger of dying. And this is why I’m introducing Kanban for complexity into the market. Because I think in some cases we might need another option. I would prefer people to do something that they believe in that they’re going to be authentic about than pretending they’re doing something like following the scrum values, when maybe their values aren’t actually compatible with scrum.
I love scrum. I think it’s brilliant. I just think we need to give more people more options so that people do what’s right for them as opposed to imposing something that might not be the right strategy for that team.
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