Tuesday, February 12, 2019

What Makes the Scrum framework "Agile?"

[Dear Readers, here is another cross-post from the fun I've been having over at Quora this year!}

What Makes the Scrum Framework "Agile?"

I’m probably going to get flamed here, but the real answer is “nothing.”

Don’t get me wrong - Scrum is an awesome approach for getting work done, and it does spring from the “agile community.” But methods like Scrum, XP, Kanban, etc are not, in and of themselves, “agile.” Although, they are related to it and can support, it.

In order to appreciate this position, consider that Agile isn’t a method or framework at all. It’s a state of being.

Before you click over to another page because of the “warm-and-fuzziness” of that statement, consider that Agile was a reaction to the mechanization, over-processing, and de-personalization of corporate IT, which was going about the business of building software “factories,” and reducing software developers down to the lowest-cost lines of code that could be purchased on the global marketing (jeez, it sounds so evil when I put it that way!).

The result of this was, predictably, terrible software that was not only expensive, but didn’t do what the user wanted. One CIO friend, who knew it was bad but didn’t really quite get the reason for it, lamented “If I’m going to get crap, I want it cheap!” Obviously, not one of our best examples of technology leadership!

“Agile” is a social movement that leans heavily towards the following values: Trust (above all the others), transparency, collaboration, learning, and a positive, safe, and supportive work environment. Sounds great, right?

Well, it can be. But it doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and as it turns out people don’t naturally behave that way. That’s where Scrum comes in.

Scrum is a framework which demonstrates “Values Traceability.”  In other words, all of the ceremonies, techniques, and roles within Scrum are there BECAUSE of the values.

  • How do you promote “Transparency?” Have a daily standup, a scrum board, and sprint retros. 
  • How do you promote “Trust?” Involve you customer in sprint planning and sprint demos so they are part of the process and learn to trust your ability to deliver.
  • How do you collaborate?  Include your customer in backlog grooming, spring planning, and story writing

In other words, Scrum is a framework designed to get work done within the architecture of Agile values. Same for the other lesser used but equally powerful frameworks like XP and Kanban.

But - and this is a big but - there’s a massive hole in the model. The very people that CAUSED the agile movement to start (senior leaders) aren’t necessarily on-board, and there has not, until now, been a framework for them. And without THEM, none of it scales.

That’s where the Agile Performance Holarchy (APH), comes in. You can find out more about that in my book Great Big Agile: An OS for Agile Leaders here: https://amzn.to/2By1VWd

GBA is all about values, objectives, actions, and ceremonies for LEADERS to help them build, sustain, and evaluate agile performance using agile values.  Think of it like Scrum, but for leadership.


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