The Death of Scrum

The Death of Scrum

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SoS! Save our Scrum!

I don’t get infuriated often, I’m a pretty chilled chap, but the latest news about Scrum Alliance suing Scrum Inc over the use of the word ‘Licensed’ being synonymous with its trademarked ‘Certified’ course offering has made me incensed. So I’m going to have a rant.

I don’t have a degree, I don’t have many pieces of paper saying I’m an expert in this or that. To be quite honest, I don’t believe in pieces of paper and I would certainly never hire anyone just because they have a piece of paper saying they are good at something – the paper is theory, I want action and for that you need the right people, not the right paper.

This is what got me into agile in the first place – the fact it’s people centric – when you have engaged, motivated, passionate people who are connected to a purpose that’s when special things happen. It’s a mindset thing.

Which circles me back to the conversation in hand: the Scrum conundrum!

These days, Scrum is the dominant agile framework and many people who have been in the industry for less than 10 years probably believe that Scrum equals Agile. After all, everybody says they are agile these days – they are all doing stand ups! We have arrived at a point where the tail has started to wag the dog.

Scrum, which started as a lightweight iterative and incremental framework to manage work has become a certification-laden minefield: to become a Scrum Master or Product Owner you must undertake an expensive two day course taught by someone who took an even more expensive Scrum Trainer class from one of the competing factions to become “Professional”, “Certified” or “Licensed”. Then you have your piece of paper.

I hold my hand up – I’ve done this, I’ve paid my dues to get my piece of paper and our company run these training classes (amongst other things). I still believe there is value in learning the theory, however the game has just changed with this recent court injunction: Scrum has become a religion with splinter groups now facing off against each other, whose disciples shout from the rooftops as to who is more agile, whose Scrum is the right scrum, whose piece of paper means more.

What has Scrum become?

Scrum has become a ‘Bounded Learning Community’ (Wilson and Ryder, 2004) which can be defined as a community where participation is required in order to obtain the desired end (in our case, a piece of paper). You must commit for a fixed set of time and attend accredited classes and workshops to gain licensing credits. It is intentional learning; you must complete the required activities and perform well on assessments: you must adhere to these boundary markers or you’re out!

The trouble with bounded communities is that they obsess on these markers and lose sight of the original values and goals of the community. Political agendas are attached to the boundaries and ‘factions’ emerge – are you in our alliance? Boundaries are used to justify censorship. Membership of the community is seen as desirable, or even necessary for survival – you’re either certified or you’re not and good luck getting a job as a Scrum Master without one!

Scrum has become so big that certification is now seen as valuable in itself and the more certifications we have the more capable we are perceived to be. The governing bodies are happy to reinforce this belief because it is financially lucrative for them to do so – and yes, I know Scrum Alliance is a ‘non-profit’ but that doesn’t mean the people who sit on the board and are associated with that organisation don’t profit from their certified offering, they absolutely do: many of them offer certified training courses and their affiliation with the governing body lends credibility when they are selling their wares to large enterprises.

It’s all about the money!

Listen, I’m not begrudging these people making money through certification: hiring companies want pieces of paper, they want proof their hires know what they are talking about and that won’t go away. What I do begrudge however is selling people the dream of honesty, courage, openness, commitment and respect and then underhandedly dismissing these values because it doesn’t fit the business model.

That sucks and that isn’t Agile; that’s not practicing what you preach.

Like Agile, Scrum is no one’s property and companies (or associated subsidiaries) who have made millions of dollars from the public content they offer should not be suing anyone else for starting a similar endeavour. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

Anyway, anyone want that piece of paper?

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