Giving Thanks for Scrum

November 26, 2010

The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management by Stephen Denning, is an excellent, well-written book that I found particularly interesting because Stephen talked about his objective being one to discover workplaces “… where work is highly productive, new ideas are embraced, and jobs are deeply satisfying.” Stephen admitted surprise when he noticed that an unusually high proportion of these experiences came from software organizations.

As Stephen looked deeper, he “…discovered a way of managing that was much more productive than traditional management and where the people doing the work were having serious fun.” His results were documented in his book.

And what is the secret? In a word: Scrum.

I managed to finish reading the book the night before I drove from Maine to Waltham, Massachusetts on the day before Thanksgiving to attend a Give Thanks for Scrum event. This event was organized by the Agile Boston user group, and included engaging presentations and discussions by Dan Mezick, Jeff Sutherland, and Ken Schwaber, with some networking time thrown in for good measure. This event and the book really solidified my view that Scrum works.

As I listened and talked to others, it is clear that interest and adoption of Scrum is on the rise, but one concern that was raised was in how some organizations “go agile,” but it doesn’t stick. Jeff and Ken attribute this to changing leadership at the top; particularly C-level executives come and go every three years (or less) in many cases. This underlies an important observation about Scrum: Once people experience Scrum for long enough to see how it improves their work lives, those who are responsible for performing the work don’t want to revert back to the old ways of being managed in the “traditional” way.

That’s right, management can kill a good thing, but there is never a bottom-up movement to get rid of Scrum once its benefits to working professionals become evident. The key to a successful adoption is to stick with it long enough to break old habits and mindsets – not as easy as you might think, particularly if you’ve been in the workforce for a number of years…

This event was a great way to start a long holiday weekend, and those of us involved with implementing, supporting, and championing Scrum should definitely give thanks for Scrum. And despite some uphill battles that we all face, we should also give thanks that we’re on the forefront of a new style of leadership, as Stephen Denning points out. Call it Radical Management, call it Scrum, call it whatever you like. It’s worth the investment in time.