Scrum is about inventing your own rules

Scrum Aug 6, 2020

A framework for rebels to disrupt the status quo

Image by Free-Photos
Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.
— Apple ‘Think Different’ commercial, 1997

When you do Scrum right, you’ll create amazing products. By unlocking the true power of Scrum, you’ll deliver exceptional value to your customers. When you nail Scrum, everyone is engaged and fully immersed to do “Twice the work in half the time”.

Sounds fantastic, right?

Unfortunately, it’s all a lie.

Scrum never delivers any of these results. It’s an illusion that Scrum is the answer to everything. I’ll let you in on a secret: Scrum isn’t enough to build great products. Not by a long shot.

Talking about Scrum is like a painter talking about the material of his canvas. A novelist that concentrates on nitpicking her grammar. A Jazz musician that keeps droning on about the rules of Jazz.

It’s not that Scrum doesn’t matter, but what you do outside of the Scrum process framework is way more important. External to the realm of Scrum, in the real world, is where the magic happens to deliver products of the highest possible value.

An immaculate understanding of grammar is not enough to write an outstanding novel. A flawless canvas doesn’t guarantee a magnificent painting. Profound knowledge of the rules of Jazz doesn’t mean you can produce sublime Jazz music.

Scrum isn’t the point. Scrum provides a scaffolding to discover what you need to deliver products of the highest possible value. When this discovery doesn’t take place, then Scrum is pointless.

If you doubt what I’m saying is true, here’s the relevant part from the Scrum Guide:

Scrum is not a definitive method. Rather, it is a framework within which you can employ various processes and techniques. Scrum makes clear the relative efficacy of your product management and work techniques so that you can continuously improve the product, the team, and the working environment.

Scrum is not definitive, it’s purposefully incomplete, and not enough for you to succeed. It’s up to you to decide, create and employ the processes and techniques you need and want to use to achieve your goals. Scrum makes clear how things are going so you can continuously improve the product, team, and the working environment.

Scrum: a framework for rebels

Scrum is about you, the people that do Scrum. It’s a framework for rebels that want to carve their own path. Scrum is for the individuals who are at the coalface, sweating, and facing the heat. Scrum helps empowering the men and women in the trenches to figure out and devise their best way of working.

Photo by Kateryna Babaieva

Scrum’s role is simple: to show what is going on and put people at the forefront to do something about it. By illuminating areas of improvement, the Scrum Team can figure out how to best solve their own problems

In essence, Scrum is all about inventing your own rules. Yes, I know, Scrum has rules as well. You might be thinking if Scrum has rules, why don’t they trust us to invent all those rules too?

Breaking the rules of Scrum reduces the ability of the team to come up with new, better rules. Transparency, Inspection and Adaptation form the Empirical core of Scrum. It sounds abstract, but it’s quite simple. Empiricism means making decisions based on what is known.

If you can’t trust what is known, how can you make the right decisions? Empiricism boils down to trying to answer: to what extent can we trust what we are observing? And if what we’re observing is true, what changes should we implement?

Reduced Transparency, means you will have inferior information available for making decisions. And in the end, this means you will also come up with worse rules. But because Transparency is reduced, you might not even notice your decisions made things worse. The rules of Scrum are there to prevent fog that may cloud your judgment to come up with better rules.

Image by Free-Photos

The next time somebody says —and I’ve been guilty as charged — you should do it a certain way because the Scrum Guide says so, I hope you’ll remember that Scrum is for rebels.

Scrum isn’t for the lighthearted, infinitely agreeable people who want to uphold the status quo. Scrum is for the troublemakers, misfits, and rebels, who see a different way, and are not scared to shake things up to make that better reality happen.

Stop worrying if you’re doing Scrum right, instead ask the question: is our Scrum disruptive enough? Is it transforming our way of working? And if not, why not? Are we challenging and upending the status quo enough?

Scrum is all about people. The magic of Scrum can only happen when people can rebel and topple the ineffective and bureaucratic status quo together.

In the wise words of George Bernard Shaw:

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

Stop kneeling to rules. Have the courage to shape and mold them to your advantage instead.

Without people that take a stand, Scrum is powerless. Make your own rules that transcend the realm of Scrum to make it possible to deliver products of the highest possible value.