Sunday, September 28, 2014

Is Scrum about spirit?

I hear people talk about Scrum quite a bit.  And I talk about Scrum.  Usually we are talking about the basics of Scrum, which sometimes seem so mundane.  Get a Team, make them a real Team, do the SM role well, do the PO role well, have some better meetings, build some artifacts, etc, etc.

But is Scrum all about these practicalities?  Is Scrum just the roles, the meetings and the artifacts?

I hate to say it, because I know it bothers some people to the point of offending them.  But there is a spirit about Scrum, and if you ignore it, you miss what is most important.

I often talk about Scrum-Butt.  “We do Scrum, but…”   Often this is really about how people can do Scrum and do it so poorly that they only get a 20% improvement (as  though in real life a 20% improvement were not huge).  But by not doing Scrum fully, they reduce the improvement they might get.  And we call this Scrum-Butt, from the phrase ‘we do Scrum, but…[we don’t do a Daily Scrum, etc, etc).’

And I talk about how, to avoid Scrum-Butt, the Team must have the values and principles of lean-agile-scrum embedded in ‘muscle memory.’  And so, I put a focus on the values and principles.

But there is a spirit about Scrum too.

I think Jeff Sutherland is in part talking about spirit when he says that ‘they must be having more fun – it they aren’t having more fun, they aren’t doing Scrum right.’

I think there are many aspects to the ‘spirit’ within Scrum.  In part you can see them through the rules or the values or the principles (and there are many more than just those articulated in the Agile Manifesto and the Agile Principles).

There is something magical and wonderful when a Team of 7 rights itself through self-organization, and becomes a unit that can accomplish great work.  And, without putting too fine a point on it, the spirit of the Team is clear, and one feels it is that energy, above all else, that gives them their power, and their effectiveness.  As a New Englander (which I am in part) does not know quite what to call that camaraderie, that sense of joint ownership, that happiness, but it feels almost as though the spirit of the Team makes itself known in these ways too.  One finds oneself caring about the others in the
Team, one finds greater respect, one allows each member to be more his true self, and yet that does not tear the Team apart, but rather brings them closer together as a Team.  If one were from another culture, one might almost say the team exhibits the characteristics of a higher love for each other, and for their customers.  But love is a word seldom used in New England except in connection with Hallmark cards, and then usually with a chuckle.  And to speak of agape and caritas sounds too much like some philosophy class, about which we must soon joke.

In any case, until you have been inside a really good team, and until you have observed a really good team from outside, I am not sure you can know what I mean.  And, more importantly, I do not think you can really understand Scrum,  until you have felt that spirit.

What is rather interesting about Scrum, I find, is that if one enters it with an open heart, and just does it, even does it only partially, it seems to me that Scrum fills you with its spirit.  And, as one consequence, you naturally care more for your teammates and more for your customers.  Or, so I find.

Your comments are welcome.

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