The Truth: Scrum is Not Easy!

May I tell the truth?

I am a trainer, and people come to my courses.  And often they want an easy answer.  A magic answer that is not disturbing, or bothersome, but is in every way good, easy, friendly and just better.

In other words, they come to change, but they don’t want to change.  Well, maybe that brought a chuckle, but that is a bit unfair.  They want to change, but they don’t want the change to be hard.  We all feel that way sometimes, right?  This is human nature and no one’s fault.  But…

I could say that in a kinder way.  And maybe I should be kinder, but I am blunt.  I am blunt because I do not wish to waste their time (nor mine).  Because life is short. Because they need a kick in the pants.  But mostly, they and the people they serve need to move on to a new and better life.  We need a better life now!

Denying them and their customers a better life because some change is a bit painful…. that is not an acceptable answer.

I am also compassionate. I see the suffering of their current lives, and I cry inside.  I see all the lost talent, and all the pretending, and the dishonesty that their current work requires of them. And I cry inside for that.

But I only have compassion enough to risk anger with a KITP. (Often friends get mad at us a bit when we give them a KITP, but good friends thank us later. At least for caring.)

Let us be fair too: A KITP (as I mean it here) is not an actual kick. “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”  When we say KITP, we mean a serious conversation, we mean bluntness.  I do not mean a brutal conversation, I do not mean breaking someone down into tears in public, and I certainly do not mean anything approaching physical violence.  Of course. These days, someone can complain that you hurt their feelings and it is sometimes treated as a physical felony.  It has gotten a bit crazy. But this issue is not the subject of this post.


So, why is Scrum hard?

Well, the first truth is that Scrum is mostly fun.  It is, net net, more pleasurable, for everyone.  But it is also painful, particularly in changing to it.

1. It requires that we try to see the truth, and the truth is sometimes painful.  Typically, we often want to look away.  The truth often tells us unpleasant things about ourselves.  Scrum requires us to tell the truth.  And, that can be hard.

2. Scrum requires that we change, that we challenge everything, that we become better than we are now.  And it makes us move from our comfort zone to a zone that feels weird, different and dangerous.  Yikes!


Should you talk about the truths in the class? Or ignore them?

I feel there is no option.  I must tell the truth.

But, some say, they are stupid, and you will upset them by telling these truths.  Don’t tell them until they ask or at least until later.

Is that the way you would want me to treat you?  No, I did not think so.  Yes, it is true that some in the class are not ready to make the change.  And, in some sense, if I could identify that and only teach the class to that one person, then I might ‘more carefully tailor the course to the needs of the individual.’  Again, I do not have those options.

So, I do many things in the course to help you appreciate how life in a Team is different.  Things are moving fast. You must interact with all of your teammates.  There is a new speed, a new informality, a directness, and a lack of hierarchy.  A lower ‘formality’.  It is not all gone, but it is substantially changed.  And you want it to change.  Except that many of you, in your hearts, at least partly, do not want it to change.

But, in class, with a thousand small remarks, I force you to feel the change.  People will say blunt things, people will say non-PC things.  The tight lid on all so-called ‘bad words’ is lifted.  For many people, this is not a problem at all, this is good, this is refreshing, liberating even, for men and for women.  But for some people, it is very upsetting.  (If I upset you in a serious way, I am sorry.)

Am I being mean?  Well, honestly, to some it can feel mean.  And if the pain is reasonable, I am ok with that. Life on a NYC street is a rough and tumble business.  We all get a bit bruised.  And whenever I hear it is painful, I back off in some way.  But some people hide their reactions, and what is humorous to one person can be painful to another.  One never knows. In some classes I get some especially sensitive people, and I back off some.  But, for those few, it is too late.

To be fair, some feign sensitivity as a way not to change.  People have many ways to seek their goal indirectly.

But honestly, if they do not experience rough and tumble with me in a ‘safe’ environment, it will go much harder for them in a less safe environment.

It is tricky and hard for me as a trainer to bring them up to speed with Scrum quickly.  I never do it perfectly for everyone in class.  I focus mainly on those who are likely to really ‘get it.’  So, for some I fail or partly fail every time.  I am not happy about that, but it is a price I pay.  Time is short, as many a poet has written.  Later TS Eliot alluded to an earlier English poet, and had Prufrock say “Do I dare to eat a peach?”… a classic description of our current passivity.  We cannot be so passive.  Life is too short, and the opportunity for a better life is too great.

So, Scrum is painful, some.  Bear the pain with dignity.  May it be that I am not the bringer of the pain (to you at least, Reader), that I have prepared you for the pain usefully.  Then may the pain be small. And indeed I have always found the pain to be very small compared to the benefit and the pleasure of doing Scrum with a good team.  Let us bring benefits to the customers, and satisfaction to ourselves for having done something good for someone else, something we may not crow about. But in later years, look back and be proud of.



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