Scrum, enough already

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Stubborn: Having or showing dogged determination not to change one’s attitude or position on something, esp. in spite of good arguments or reasons to do so. (

Okay, I’m stubborn, or maybe I’m simply a slow learner, or an impractical idealist, but from any angle it’s becoming clear that it’s time to get real, and to recognize a sad, yet blatant truth. Scrum is no longer interesting. The potential of Scrum as a pathway to release and freedom has been irreparably damaged by the certification zealots and its main governing body, the Scrum Alliance where the ideal is effectively held to ransom by profiteers.

The more I engage in conversation about a framework and a set of principles that I find profound and inspiring, the more I realize that in calling it Scrum I repel more people than I attract. It isn’t the ideas that turn people away—not the values, the principles, or even my passion—it is the brand, and what it has come to mean in our community (and beyond), i.e. a coercive, prescriptive, inflexible process governed by hard-core fanatics resistant to change or improvement.

This may or may not be the truth. It doesn’t matter. It is perceived as the truth by a vast and growing body of intelligent practitioners. Scrum has become tainted by its association with certification — and now that it’s about to become encoded by the Scrum Alliance in some sort of ScrumBOK or Scrum Taxonomy document its fate as an artifact of old thinking is sealed. Such a document will become its tombstone.

But the refreshing news is that few outside of the inner Scrum certification circles actually give a damn today. It’s just not on most forward-thinking people’s radar any longer. The world has moved on.

I reckon it was was my trip to LSSC11 in Long Beach, that caused this jolt in my thinking, this awakening. The experience acted as a catalyst, fusing my conflicting perspectives into a cohesive whole. To my delight I spent my two days of (let’s be honest) conference-freeloading engaged with inspired and inspiring groups of people, seeking new ways of thinking about the world, exploring, laughing, leaping paradigms and manifestos, and not wasting time talking about whether Kanban is better than Scrum, or visa-versa — in fact hardly talking about Scrum, or Kanban, or Lean at all… or even systems or software. The conversations were about people, and collaboration, and organizational structures, and complexity, and brain function, and starfish, and exploration, and improvement, and love, and kindness, and compassion… and even supplication.

Formal conference talks have a place, but it is the foyer conversations that herald the future. Judging by the buzz at LSSC11 we are moving on from prescriptions and recipes to embracing new, unknown alchemic concoctions, eschewing the safety of control and coerciveness and risking the danger of release and chaos. There isn’t much of a place for brand names or methodology wars any longer. There are better ways to spend our time now, so rather than continuing to defend and rescue a corrupted brand name I think I’ll spend my time living my values, and engaging others through example.

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