Reflections on The People’s Scrum

After reading Tobias Mayer’s post ‘The People’s Scrum’, a lot of thoughts popped up in my mind.

When I discovered Scrum in mid 2007, my first thought was “What a great process!”. I immediately jumped right in, trying to get a hang of it. After some reading and the obligatory CSM course, I thought I had it all figured out. Man, was I wrong!

A couple of months later, the other approach on planning really begun to sink in. What were we doing these previous years, making up detailed plans for years to come? Trying to predict the future? We were just fooling ourselves!  Why couldn’t we trust each other and work our way through a list of features, prioritized by the customer on business value?
Once again, I thought I figured it out.

After a while I began to investigate ‘Customer collaboration’. We worked on a basis of trust with our customer, followed the scrum flow, but still could not manage to build what the customer had in its mind. I read some great material about ‘Sofware development as a cooperative game’ by Alistair Cockburn and ‘Programming as theory building’ by Peter Naur where the complexity of getting a team to understand the business problem was placed in the center of focus.
Again I thought, this should be it.

Some time later, I started to get into the depth of self-organization and servant leadership. As you probably know, creative processes (such as software dev) require a different management approach. Command and control style simple doesn’t work in that context. A project manager should act as a servant leader, doing everything in its power to help the team reaching their goals.

This is where I’m at now. Convincing myself that through these values of respect, collaboration and trust, an organization can become so much better. If we let go of the command and control style, and invest in leadership, collaboration and personal growth, retention will be much lower and we would attract much more high potentials. Scrum can be a first step to introduce this, and certainly fits well in the new organizational model.

As sad as it may sound, I think this is much harder to sell than the hyper-productivity case of Jeff Sutherland.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that it takes a lot of time to grasp the full potential of Scrum.  Realizing that it’s more than a tool. I don’t believe Henrik thinks of Scrum as just a tool. He may have chosen some bad words when trying to compare the practical side of Scrum and Kanban.

About Nick Oostvogels

Hi, I'm an independent management consultant. My biggest strengths are located in the fields of teamwork, motivation, leadership and continuous improvement. In the IT industry you find a lot of these values in the agile movement, in which I often act as a project leader, product owner or coach. My interests go a lot further, into other industries where we find these values in lean production. Besides that, I try to broaden my horizon as much as possible, always looking for better ways of doing business.


  1. tobiasmayer

    Thanks for the mention, and I am glad my post sparked off some creative thoughts in you. You describe a journey that many people go through, and are at different stages of right now. Nicely done.

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