“Scrum is dead!” (02 June 2014)

A couple weeks ago I was at a meeting with a potential client (a large organization here in Sweden) that emphatically stated to everyone there, “Scrum is dead.” He felt that the pendulum was swinging back in favor of Lean (Toyota’s version).  My immediate response was, “Really?  The same ‘lean’ that caused the recent scandal for Toyota where they had to, during 2014, recall 6 million vehicles, worldwide?”  Probably not the most gracious response, but I believe the point was made.  There’s nothing magical about Lean, or for that matter, Agile or any project methodology but thinking that Scrum is dead is just flat wrong.

In our opinion, not only is Scrum is NOT dead, it is thriving, growing and gaining acceptance.  For example, a quick scan of simplyhired.com shows that there are now 464,736 agile jobs, as of the time of the writing of this post, just in North America.  For job postings that specifically ask for “Scrum,” there are 465,509 scrum jobs listed.

Since the number of openings that specifically request both Scrum and Agile is only 28,443 jobs, then that would seem to indicate that there may be as many as 901,812 Agile and Scrum openings in North America (after duplicates are eliminated).  Even if you account for multiple postings of the same job by multiple agencies, it is still substantial.  Two years ago, there were only roughly 16,000 jobs, total, posted on the same website for Agile/Scrum.

In comparison, two years ago there were around 650,000 PMP related postings.  As of now, there are 774,156 PMP roles listed.  Obviously, there is still a strong demand and interest for both traditional and Agile leaders.  If Scrum were dead, then no one would be looking to hire people with Agile and/or Scrum experience.

Dr. Jeff Sutherland shared at the Scrum Gathering Las Vegas (SGLAS 2013) that 42% of Agile projects succeed.  That means that 58% of Agile projects/efforts still fail!  So, it is clear that we in the Agile community have a long way to go in order to realize the full potential of Scrum and Agile.  Here’s what we believe needs to happen to achieve its full potential:

1. It may not be intuitively obvious, but ALL project/process/product management is a continuum that looks like this:

Proj Mgt Continuum May 2014

This idea may be tough to accept, especially for individuals that believe that Agile/Scrum is totally new.  As we shared in our Amazon.com National #1 Best Selling book (The Nehemiah Effect), Agile principles were used and recorded in a couple of projects that were successfully completed over 25 – 40 centuries ago.  All project/process/product management simply boils down to People & Tasks.  It’s that simple.  But, simple is NOT easy.  Agile methods and tools are a step in the right simplification direction.

2. There are a lot of frameworks currently in use in the Agile community.  To a degree, all of them, including ours, are probably wrong at some level. Without proper leadership all frameworks eventually break down. Some, however, are very useful guides on a journey to Scaling Agile:

Proj Mgt Cont w UVF Safe and M30

For example, SAFe has positioned itself as an Agile/Lean framework for scaling Agile to the Program Portfolio Management (PPM) level, but it does not address everything in the Enterprise continuum.  Management 3.0 also fills a management gap created by Agile and is a good starting point for the role change that will occur for the middle management layer in an organization.   Both SAFe and M3.0 are team-level tools. Some organizations have found them very useful. Others have had less than stellar experiences. We believe, at least in part, that this is due to both of these frameworks only taking Agile scaling part of the way it needs to go.

The UVF (Unified Vision Framework) takes scaling Agile the rest of the way to the Enterprise-level since it handles the entire continuum as pictured above.  The UVF is the missing piece of the puzzle since it is a simple, light framework that is methodology/process agnostic (i.e. it doesn’t matter how the People & Tasks are organized and it turbocharges any waterfall, lean or agile effort).  The UVF takes a holistic, enterprise view that goes beyond the Agile Manifesto (that limits “Agile” only to software development).  The UVF is Business Agile.

3.  Get to “Aha!” What we realized, many years ago and relatively early on, was that people, teams, projects, programs, portfolios and leadership all need to go through what we call the “Aha!” moment:

Hands-on Hands-off May 2014

Each individual will go through a similar process, at the personal level, on their journey to becoming “Agile.”  Until a person gets to the “Aha!” moment, they will need additional hands-on coaching, mentoring and support.  But from the moment they “get it,” really get it, then they can become an effective member of the team and the coach/mentor can be more “hands-off” in their approach with the team member.

The same thing applies to teams.  As shared above, 58% of the teams doing Agile are to the left the “Aha!” line.  They are not high-performing by any reasonable, business-value metric. They are either just going through the motions or outright failing.  Those teams are going to need a more prescriptive approach to Agile (i.e. hands-on coaching/mentoring) on their journey to the “Aha!”  The 42% of the teams that are succeeding are on the right of the “Aha!” line above and can be led, coached and mentored in a more hands-off approach (i.e. allowed to self-organize, self-govern, etc.).

Hands-on Hands-off Bus Agile Scaling

Frameworks like the UVF, SAFe and M3.0 lend themselves very well to the “hands-on” side of the picture where a more top-down, prescriptive coaching/mentoring is most appropriate for the individuals/teams.  It’s like having training wheels when learning how to ride a bike.  Once you know how to ride a bike, you no longer need “training” wheels.

The right side of the picture (after the “Aha!” moment) is the point in time when a team has matured to the point where they are high-performing. The UVF is the only framework that works as a leadership tool on both the left and right side of the picture which is why we show the UVF above the arc. It is not prescriptive in nature. Rather, the UVF enables & creates a vision-led culture where good people are free to create remarkable results.

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