Monday, February 6, 2017

Scrum should not be a cargo cult.

Scrum should not be a cargo cult.
Blogging about business and scrum opens you up to feedback and criticism.  Confronted by people who challenge your ideas allow you to reflect on your knowledge and beliefs.  A college of mine took offense to me referring to the meetings of a scrum as “rituals” last week.  I would like to address his concerns.

The primary criticism of my article was that I was encouraging a “cargo cult” kind of scrum.  The term comes from a Scientific American article from 1959 which documented primitive tribes in Melanesia coming in contact with missionaries and soldiers.  The connection prompted these indigenous people to create cults to encourage cargo to be delivered to them.  Primitive air strips, airplanes, and shipping terminals cropped up in the hope that actual cargo planes and people would show up.

The pre-modern culture felt if they mimicked the trappings of technology without understanding the principles behind that technology they would receive the prosperity which comes with modernity.  This assumption is wrong.  The tribes created many faux landing strips and cargo depots in the South Pacific.

People in the agile community, use the story of the cargo cult to illustrate the difference between going through the motions of agile and being agile.  In a perfect world, a business would reconfigure itself to follow the word and spirit of the Agile manifesto.  We do not live in a perfect world, so it is up to scrum masters and agile coaches to provide structure for the transition from traditional business to agility.

The events of scrum provide a means to help speed that transition.  Business people and developers are forced to inspect, act and adapt to changing situations.  That is the heart of an agile business.
When I refer to the meetings and events of the scrum as rituals, I mean the meetings should have purpose and significance.  I am not attempting to create a “cargo cult” in an organization.

I am glad someone challenged me on my assertions, and I look forward to more give and take in the future.

Until next time.