Alan in Wonderland (informal)

January 11, 2009 — Posted by Al Shalloway

I’ve been thinking about writing a blog like today’s for a couple of weeks and then noticed a comment that perhaps the leadership of lean software was perhaps lacking in humility.  Before continuing, let me say what I mean by humility.  Not necessarily being humble, but being respectful, open to other’s ideas, not thinking you are better than others.

I call this blog 'Alan in Wonderland' because I sometimes feel I am in the twilight zone with what people are talking about when Lean and Scrum are involved.  The notion of humility goes a long way towards explaining my feeling.  Warning – rant alert. 

I mean, the Scrum leadership has basically said they are the owners of what Scrum is, have set up a certification program that is meaningless (at least at the CSM level), claim Scrum doesn’t need anything else (the team can figure it all out) and that if you’re not a certified Scrum Master trainer then your Scrum training isn’t as good as others.  I’ve heard comments that are basically – “my way or the highway” and although there is no exam or test for a CSM, when some people disagreed with Ken’s views, they have literally been de-certified (as if they cared).  The Alan in Wonderland part, however, is that when I talk about Lean being useful to extend Scrum I have been accused of being divisive, but when Scrum leaders say you don’t need Lean, that’s … (not sure what it is).  I have long been saying you need Scrum (most of the time) and Lean is always useful (due to its perspectives that go beyond Scrum).

Anyway, let’s do my – “do you have humility test.”  That is, are you open to having conversations with others, do you think you are better than others, and do you respect others.

Open to Having Conversations with Others.

There is a history of people being booted (many non-leaners) from the Scrum Development group, often without warning and usually without notification (so add disrespectful here as well) when the conversations haven’t gone the way the moderator has wanted.    I’ve encouraged conversations on the Lean-Agile-Scrum and Lean-Programming groups I moderate.  

Thinking you are better than others

Some in the Scrum community have inferred or outright claimed that their Scrum training is better than others – and have had the nerve to do this on what was supposed to be a neutral announcement group.   The absurdity of this should be self evident – no evaluations, 15 minute certification test of the trainers, no ongoing evaluation of trainers. What are they basing this on? In fact, the entire CSM thing is ridiculous in my mind.  Two days in a course and you are certified as a Master?  Chutzpa!

I want to be clear that I have never said that “I” am better than anyone else. In fact, I consider myself, and repeatedly state, that I am fourth or fifth best trainer in my own company.  I have said that Lean can be useful and that it isn’t the same as Scrum and that there are things that Scrum doesn’t directly deal with.  I mean, claiming Scrum can do everything because it follows the process of inspect and adapt?  I’m sorry, I want something that has a little more direct help.  I have encountered many people transitioning to Scrum where Lean helped.  I have not said you can’t figure things out without using  Lean.  Just that Scrum doesn’t directly help you do it in many cases (other than say to solve your problem – d'oh, who wouldn’t try to do that!?).

I can't speak to a recent blog about Mary, but I do know that she has told me (more than once) never to believe anything she says just because she says it.

Respectful of Others

Being thrown off discussion groups, for any reason, without being warned and/or notified, is a great form of disrespect.  Not just for me, but for anyone on the board.  I have had many people tell me they are afraid to openly discuss things on the Scrum Development group because they are afraid of being ridiculed.  Doesn’t sound very respectful to me.  I don't know of anyone thrown off the Lean Development, Lean Agile Scrum or Kanban lists for stating their opinions.

In Closing

Let me be very clear, the overwhelming majority of Scrum trainers and coaches that I know, I like, respect and believe match my litmus test of humility.  I am just wondering why if people wonder about what Lean Leaders are doing, they don’t look to see what Scrum leaders are doing.

Anyway, people will disagree.  That’s normal (and good).  I suggest people apply the litmus test of openness, lack of arrogance and respectfulness.  If I do not demonstrate these, I apologize and will try to do better – talk to me offline about it (some of you have and I appreciate the feedback).  But I would assert that forcefully talking about things that help people in the industry, even though doing so may threaten the livelihoods of some who make their living off of Scrum, is not being arrogant but is serving a position of leadership.

Alan Shalloway
CEO, Net Objectives
Achieving Enterprise and Team Agility

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About the author | Al Shalloway

Al Shalloway is the founder and CEO of Net Objectives. With 45 years of experience, Al is an industry thought leader in Lean, Kanban, product portfolio management, Scrum and agile design. He helps companies transition to Lean and Agile methods enterprise-wide as well teaches courses in these areas.


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