This is a mashup of different thoughts I’ve had over the past few days.
In the five-plus years I have been teaching and promoting Scrum I have rejected the idea that Scrum is a methodology, or a process, and promoted the concept of Scrum as a framework for unearthing organizational dysfunction and empowering individuals towards a new way of thinking about work: Scrum as a force for change. More recently, and it seems to coincide with the rise of Kanban, I have heard increasing talk of both Kanban and Scrum being described as tools, e.g. Scrum vs Kanban, by Henrik Kniberg. [ref] This concerns me.
When I facilitate training courses, or work inside organizations as a Scrum consultant, I often teach people the art of relative estimation, and in the process usually teach Planning Poker. Planning Poker is a tool. The story template [ref] designed by Mike Cohn is a tool. Likewise, a talking stick in a stand up meeting, a timeline in a retrospective, and various other techniques we employ to do our work well can be considered tools of the trade. But Scrum itself is not a tool. Scrum is a way of thinking about how we do our work, it is an state of mind, a journey, an exploration of self and environment [ref]. To reduce it to “a tool” is to completely miss its magic, and to bring us back into a world of best practices and repeatable process. No, this isn’t a big leap. Consider it.
It saddens me to see Henrik Kniberg (and others) reduce Scrum to “just another tool”, along with Kanban and XP. Kanban seems to be a tool for process efficiency and value stream measurement and improvement, and is likely applicable within a Scrum organization in a situation of continuously changing requests. XP is –potentially– a way of being, and not a tool in itself. It has however been reduced by many (most?) to a set of engineering practices and tools (TDD, continuous integration, etc). I believe, that just like Scrum, truly embracing XP is beyond most people’s comfort zone.
The other direction I see Scrum going in is towards a Best Practice. I feel uneasy when I see Jeff Sutherland attempt to align Scrum with CMMi. I am not opposed to this (not yet), and I am hoping to learn more about the direction Jeff is going in, but I feel it is movement towards hyper-productivity, big profits and ultra-efficiency, and thus away from the joy of work. I am a strong believer in business value and profit growing from a sense of love and satisfaction for what we do, from care and passion, not from being streamlined and made hyper or ultra anything. I want to see The People’s Scrum, not the VC’s Scrum or the CEO’s Scrum, or the super-consultant’s Scrum. I believe only The People’s Scrum is sustainable and true.
The People’s Scrum is Scrum created by the people for the people, not Scrum as dictated by a book or a training course or a consultant. The People’s Scrum grows organically through education, practice, failure and reflection. I welcome the mixed messages the various Scrum practitioners send forth, all the disagreements and arguments on the lists and blogs. The knowledge work industry is a quagmire, a tangled mess, and teams working in collaboration and accord need to find their own way through this. People helping people. It will take a while. And we don’t give up.
Scrum is a framework for organizational change and personal freedom. It is not a methodology. It is not a process. It is much more than a tool. Scrum dares us to think about the world in an utterly new and different way. We must learn to stop mapping and to start drawing in wild colors and crazy patterns onto blank sheets of paper. Then we might start to get this.