Let's be civil. If you don't like my message, discuss the message, not me.

May 27, 2009 — Posted by Al Shalloway

I have been telling a message that people who do Scrum can be more effective supplementing Scrum with Lean-Thinking.  I do not think this is any more being negative than someone telling a newbie driver a regular car does better on the road, or you need an SUV if you want to drive off the road.  As a  person with a mathematical and scientific background, I believe it always makes sense to understand the context within which whatever you do works. To improve anything you have to study it, dissect it and understand why it works.  Engage in conversations with other people.  See where it works, where it fails and ask 'why' in both cases.  This is science. This is being a professional.

I have recently been blogging about what I learned at the Lean Kanban Conference in Miami and how Kanban seems to be an advancement over Scrum.  It also gave me some insights on why Scrum doesn't achieve the success hoped for 75% of the time (as stated by Ken Schwaber, reiterated by Agile University in a mailing, and confirmed by Ron Jeffries on the Lean-Agile board).  This basically led Ron Jeffries to characterize me with the following:

"It seems to be part of man’s history for a couple of people to get a hold of part of the same idea, then try to tear each other down for being wrong."

A ways back I got thrown off of the Scrum Development group by Ken Schwaber along with the following personal attack against me:

"This reminds me of a warning from the SEI/CSMM people over five years ago - that when people followed money more than community, things could get out of hand."

Personally, I wish people would attack my ideas and not me.   

To set things straight, let me point out a few things.  Several years ago I decided to stop doing CSM training with Scrum Alliance trainers after sitting through a CSM training by one of Scrum Alliance's best.  It was a good training.  But throughout the course I recollect telling myself - boy, this would be so much better if we could interject Lean into it. Given I was not a Certified Scrum Trainer, I felt I could do that. Unfortunately, then, and now, few CSTs really get Lean.  A year or so later, Ken offered to make one of our staff a CST.  I declined.  I didn't want to be "under his thumb" so to speak where he could use the threat of pulling our certification away if I didn't do what he wanted (he had made just such a threat years earlier when I had 2 CSTs on staff).

These decisions cost Net Objectives several hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenues since, at the time, CSM training was one of our biggest offerings. So I clearly did not do this 'following the money'.  I do not regret these decisions. At Net Objectives, we offer the best training we know how, regardless of whether there is a market frenzy for something that is not as useful as what is needed.

The bottom line is this.  My message is not very popular for people making a living on Scrum.  I do not apologize for that.  My commitment is to the community - those doing the work - not to those teaching others how to do the work.  If the Scrum Alliance doesn't like my theories, I invite them to attack my theories and not me.  Interestingly enough, in my post Challenging Why (not if) Scrum Fails, I discuss several insights that would be useful to Scrum practitioners.  Ron chose to attack me instead of pointing out how any of these insights may be flawed.

I find it ironic that this is all taking place during a week I am doing the following courses for a large team (70+): Implementing Scrum for Your Team, Lean-Scrum Master Certification (by Net Objectives), and Product Owner Certification (by Net Objectives). It is even more ironic that they have already told me they could not get Scrum-of-Scrums to work - which was the topic of the thread I referred to above where Ken had me thrown off the Scrum Development discussion group.

One should not confuse my attack on what I consider to be flawed thinking as an attack on the person with what I believe is flawed thinking. I would hope I would get the same courtesy.

For anyone interested, this was my last post on the Scrum Development group that got me booted: 

I am curious why you put 'management' in quotes. Were these real
managers involved? I can think of two interpretations - one,
management was done by the team, meaning managers didn't have a
role. Or, real managers were working but we'll call them 'managers'
so as not to confuse them with pointy haired bosses. Both
interpretations I am left with seems disparaging of the role of
management. Please tell me the correct interpretation.

I am glad you were able to solve this with Scurm-of-Scrums. I find it
interesting that it seems every time I post something on this group
that says Lean would be useful I get a response that tells me that
Lean isn't necessary. I have never said you _need_ Lean (or I
shouldn't have). I have been trying to say it gives useful insights
that can extend the usefulness of Scrum.

I was at Ken's keynote in Vancouver a couple of weeks ago and he
eloquently said Scrum is a framework for identifying your
impediments - it creates visibility. Scrum gives some guidelines to
solve them - but in many many cases these guidelines are insufficient
for teams to figure out what to do when what they have is really a
cross-team problem. In these situations, Lean is very useful. Also,
in many situations I've worked with, the problems involved teams that
were outside of the software domain.

Mike, please give me clarification - without breaking the NDA. Would
you say this group was very closely identified with the software of
the company (can be internal)? I ask this question because I thought
I had said this is the one case where I have personally seen Scrum-of-
Scrums work. Also, were there any hardware groups that the software
had to work on? I ask this question because in the companies I have
worked at where there is such a group, this group is typically not
doing Agile and the only way I know to get them enrolled in changing
how they work is to do a value stream map and show them how they are
causing problems.

In any event, sounds like you did a great job there and that the
culture of the company is healthy as well. Was that something that
was present when you started this or was it something that Scrum

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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