Do Scrum and Kool-Aid go together?

Occasionally I hear the complaint, “Oh, you [scrum, agile, lean, x] guys have drunk the Kool-Aid. You don’t care how reality intrudes, you’re just going to propose your [x] solutions.”

What does this person mean?

He or she might mean, “Completely on faith, without any support of reason and facts, you are a strong advocate of a certain set of views.” He or she might also mean that we have let our minds be too be-clouded with too much emotion and too much enthusiasm.

And of course, in the Agile community, there are indeed some people who resemble this remark. His (or her) comments do indeed have some traction. (Maybe I think not very much, but at least some.)

So, what is the right way to play Agile?

First, of all the rigorous approaches to new product development, I find Scrum and Lean to be the most reality based. For example, the principles of Scrum require us to be transparent about the truth, keep an honest velocity and admit in every Sprint the painful truth that we are not (yet?!?!) perfect, and that we must remove one impediment now and get better. And we try to immediately use all the good and bad aspects of the truth, as it minute-by-minute unfolds, to get better.

To be honest, I still lie. But I must say, when I did waterfall, I felt it was helping me lie, because when I do Scrum it puts the mirror up and makes me see how much I still continue to avoid the truth, so that I almost can’t avoid it. (Of course, being a clever guy, I still do avoid it some.)

So, when a Scrum theory or practice hits a hard reality, Scrum allows that the hard reality wins. It also demands that the onlooker examine yet again how he or she is twisting the truth out there in the very process of trying to perceive it, but when we really understand the truth, the truth always wins.

Now, let’s move to emotion.

It is right to say that with any sport, if you play to win, it must be played with intense energy or intention. Some wish to call this emotion, and Scrum is such a team sport. To play any sport at a high level, one must ride one’s emotions, but at the same time control them. All the winners know this, and it is indeed this that is their greatest struggle (I am thinking Roger Federer just now, but many great athletes will tell you this if you have not experienced it yourself).

Being emotional in this way does not mean that the energy is allowed to deceive our good perception of reality. In fact, to play a sport well, one always wants a hyper-perception of reality. They say, “It was as if the ball was moving in slow motion,” as one example.

Junior level athletes forget these great lessons more often, and sometimes have not even become accomplished enough to start to deal with these lessons yet. But do not blame tennis that some people play it terribly. Do not blame Scrum that some people allow their emotions to cloud their judgment. Scrum is only a vehicle to enable them, in the time that God may appoint, to learn to live better in this real world.

If you play Scrum, don’t forget to drink some Gatorade. Your body needs that hydration and the electrolytes. To also help enable the creativity.




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