Nokia Demise: Chapter Two – Agile Debate

Blog - Agile Debate

My last blog article incited a riot among the Scrum purists.. Well, maybe not a riot, but it certainly invoked emotions and passions which I love… but what I don’t love is how the Scrum faithful are increasingly resistant to critical thought and debate… so let me attempt to clarify my motives and objective in writing my last article entitled Nokia Demise: More Proof that Agile and Scrum Are Merely Tools, Not Solutions.”

The stream of comments I received prompts me to reference one of my favorite quotes from  F. Scott Fitzgerald:

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

Unfortunately, some who have posted critical comments may have missed the point of my blog post and, in doing so, have underscored why I wrote this intentionally provocative article.. to make us think, reflect,  and if necessary course correct.

Interestingly, most who were critical demanded “proof” that Scrum is being promoted as a solution for innovation and organizational success.   Proof enough for me is a simple web search… google the words “Scrum and innovation” and navigate the messages our clients are receiving around the implied and explicit promise of Scrum’s influence on innovation, and corporate success.

Some will dismiss my first proof point, ok.. fair enough, then consider this:  our team at Gear Stream has conducted over 300+ in depth technical and behavioral interviews with experienced Agile and Scrum practitioners (averaging 4+ years of active Agile/Scrum adoption experience) during the last year of which, over half the candidates exhibited two or more of the following attitudes and skill deficits:

  • “Scrum guarantee’s that teams will produce better software products and/or solutions… and in doing so the company will enjoy better business results”
  • An Agile / Scrum candidate attitude that promotes the presumption that Scrum is the best “solution” for a client before seeking understanding around the context of how and why Scrum could or should be used by a client organization
  • A resistance to ideas or thought that might place Scrum in a less than a positive light
  • A lack of interest in quantitatively correlating Scrum execution to organizational success… “it’s about people, not process or tools…”
  • A lack of process and organizational design skills.. specifically, the inability to recognize organizational constraints and demonstrate an ability to facilitate designs for introducing new work and organizational models for improving how work happens..   “If all you have is a hammer;  then everything looks like a nail”.

At Gear Stream we assume perfection in human collaboration is elusive and that every new “collaboration model” we design,  however improved,  is merely a constructive step  in a better direction.  We LOVE Scrum and Kanban… we actively use, promote and coach clients through the application of both models (as well as custom process models and hybrids), but NEVER without considering the alternatives and certainly never with a promise that the implementation of these models will automatically improve overall corporate outcomes.

Rather than defending Scrum or challenging trivial facts, why don’t we debate the premise of my argument… Namely that Scrum is merely a tool, NOT a solution and that putting clients and organizational outcomes first  means seeking ways to discover and deploy  models for change that best fit a clients constraints, challenges, and goals and not assume there is one single, monolithic model that serves all equally well.

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