The Scrum methodology of agile software development marks a dramatic departure from waterfall management. In fact, Scrum and other agile processes were inspired by its shortcomings. The Scrum methodology emphasizes communication and collaboration, functioning software, and the flexibility to adapt to emerging business realities — all attributes that suffer in the rigidly ordered waterfall paradigm.
If you’re new to Scrum and agile, or like me a long time Scrummer, there are always insights to gain from talking with experienced practitioners. I had a recent opportunity to talk with Michael James (link to his blog) of Danube Technologies. He clarified something extremely basic for me, but it cemented the relationship between Scrum and agile for me so I thought I’d share it with you all.
Our conversation started with me stating that Scrum was a process that fell under the general umbrella of processes called “agile”. He quickly stopped me right there and pointed out two subtle, but important corrections. First, Michael noted that agile is not a process (or collection of processes) at all; rather, it’s a set of principles summarized by the Agile Manifesto. Scrum, XP, and other methods embody these principles and so are described as “agile”. There is no real parent-child relationship though.
Second, Michael made clear that Scrum was not a process in the technical sense of the word. A process is a prescriptive and linear series of steps taken to repeatably generate the same output. Hmm, that doesn’t sound like Scrum at all! Since we’re constantly inspecting our work and adapting the backlog, there is no repeatability we’re striving for. Instead, Michael suggested we use the term “framework” or “method” to describe Scrum. These terms suggest that we have a skeletal framework within which things happen, but that the innovation and intelligence of the team fills in the
These two subtle corrections really changed the way I think about Scrum. Thanks, Michael!
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