I am often asked what is Agile? It is a difficult question to answer. I use the following headline statement: Agile is a different and constantly evolving way of working, using organizational constructs of collective intelligence, with devolved authority and decision making. I then need to explain the nuances of my statement and illustrate Agile practices using examples. I also explain that Agile, although originating with software development, has a much broader application.
Inevitably, at some point, my questioners ask, so is Agile Scrum? I answer: Scrum is one of the frameworks used in Agile. However, increasingly, I am becoming concerned by individuals and organizations thinking that all they need to do to create agility is to use Scrum.
Most enterprises adopt Agile, seeking benefits of faster time to market, lower delivery costs, and improved product quality. These enterprises almost universally are seeking performance improvement of some sort. Most organizations I have worked with use Scrum. In fact, the most frequently Agile framework used worldwide is Scrum. Scrum embodies Agile ways of working and new organizational constructs, but does it consistently deliver the Agile promise of improved performance?
I looked at the popular image of Scrum with the looping back to the beginning, an image that by-the-way, does not appear in the Scrum Guide. I have begun to question if this picture somehow subconsciously infers to Agile teams that they should merely repeat what they did before. In other words, is the Scrum framework itself limiting the Agile Team’s urge to explore and seek new beneficial ways of working? How is Scrum enabling the collective intelligence of the team?
I recently heard that if a team is working in the same way as they did three months ago, they are not learning. Consequently, for a team that only repeats the same pattern, the promise of continuous improvement is lost.
In this paper, I ask the question, is Scrum as valuable to novice Agile Teams as its popularity would suggest? Or is there an alternative that could focus on team effectiveness and more readily produce the performance improvements many enterprises seek?