As an author of the Agile Manifesto, a Certified Scrum Trainer (emeritus?) of the Scrum Alliance, and a general fan of Scrum+XP for software development, I observe what goes on with interest, and often a bit of dismay. I’m also one of the few Agile Manifesto authors who haven’t given up on “Agile”. Quite likely I’m a slow learner.

As my friend @vaguery suggested, today I’ll write “a more subjective and/or personal history of the ‘changes’ in the organizational focus of the agile world”.

He went on: “… which, I assume, will involve decay phrased as ‘change’.”

I may also discuss whether the kids should be on my lawn. We’ll see.

Big companies have been trying to get on the Agile Bandwagon. With a charitable outlook, we can see this as a desire to get the benefits of “Agility”, which include Jeff Sutherland’s famous Twice the Work in Half the Time. Who wouldn’t want to have people doing more work? Well, you can read the above article about that, but the bottom line is that I wish he had said twice the value, not twice the work.

Mind you, even half-assed attempts to do Agile tend to deliver some improvements, if you try at all. Of course, they also lead to Dark Scrum, as I have written about rather frequently. We’ll surely revisit some of those ideas here.

I’ve also written about the rise of SAFe, which is RUP with a new wrapper and some lip service to the ideas of Scrum and XP. Here again, if you try SAFe sincerely, you’ll get some benefits. Trying to improve almost always leads to some improvement.

I’m reminded of something that Brian Foote said long ago. We were at an OOPSLA conference, and the keynote speaker was a woman who had topped Everest. We asked Brian what he thought of the keynote and he said he had learned that you can accomplish anything as long as you have enough Sherpas to throw into the crevasse.

This is pretty much how it goes with Dark Scrum, with many attempts to do SAFe, and with most “Agile” transformations in large organizations. You throw a bunch of Sherpa Programmers into the crevasse of imposed “Agile” ideas, and you get some benefit. Often it’s just Twice the Effort All the Time, but you can usually squeeze a little more juice out if you press hard enough.

The Scrum Alliance touts itself as the place to go if you want to learn about Scrum. Its fundamental business model is to offer certifications. The most popular of these is the CSM, Certified ScrumMaster. After two days of attendance at a course, if you pass a test with a higher-than-chance score, you’re a CSM.

Mind you, everyone in the Scrum Alliance will tell you that the CSM is the first small step on a long road of continuous learning. It’s a learner’s permit to start doing, and learning Scrum. Meanwhile, there are nearly half a million CSMs in the world. There are only about 100,000 Certified Scrum Product Owners, which is less than 25 percent of what the numbers would say there should be. There are less than 6000 Certified Scrum Professionals, which leaves about a half a million Certified Scrum non-Professionals. And there are less than five thousand Certified Scrum Developers. We can see that the odds are less than one in a hundred that a given CSM has even one certified developer on her Dev Team.

So what is the Scrum Alliance doing about this, you ask? Well, here are some of the things they’ve done:

  • Fired or lost much of their existing staff who were beginning to understand what Scrum really is;
  • Hired a CEO who didn’t know Scrum or Agile (but was expert in managing amusement parks), and who lasted about a year;
  • Created new programs addressing “Agile Leadership”, which will ensure that at some future date there will be some leaders leading hundreds of thousands of ScrumMasters who are not professional and who have no developers who know how to build software in the style Scrum demands;
  • After long delay, began to bless a competitor framework to SAFe, so as to be able to answer the “demand” for corporate-level Agile training and transformations;
  • Created a new kind of Certified Coach, the Enterprise version, to address the corporate market;
  • Created a list of about a hundred “learning objectives”, which are supposed to be covered in the two days of the Certified ScrumMaster course;
  • Created further learning objectives for advanced levels of CSM training.

I am reminded of a meeting a long time ago, when the “Smalltalk Industry Council” held a meeting to announce that instead of supporting Smalltalk, which was the reason they’d been created, they were going to become the Object-Oriented Industry Council”, supporting all things object-oriented. I am also reminded that Big Dave Thomas pronounced this idea to be, and I quote, “bullshit”.

But I digress. I’m not sure why that came to mind just now.

Something here about Christians who have forgotten Christ, and nations who have forgotten their values, has been deleted.

So, I guess, Agile has moved beyond being applied by people who understood it and liked what it gave them, or who liked what they saw and worked hard to learn to get it, into a world where “decision makers”, who don’t even know what it is, decide that those guys down there need some of that Agile Stuff and impose it – impose something – on their organization.

I don’t like that, and I don’t like the way that the Scrum Alliance has chosen to respond to it. Mind you, an organizational focus is important and you can argue that if you change the minds of enough “leaders”, someday things will be better.

The problem with that thinking, to me, is that if we could inform the minds of enough developers, enough product owners, and enough ScrumMasters, the lives of those around them will be improved, not in a few years, but in a few weeks or months. That shouldn’t be the only thing an organization like the Scrum Alliance should try to do, but it should be a thing. It should be a thing that they try very hard to do. It has results this year instead of years in the future.

Unfortunately, the corporate focus produces revenue, visibility, and members now. No results to speak of, but the numbers will look good.

I got into this to help people. I didn’t get into it to get good numbers. I’m sure I’m not the only one. But I’m feeling more and more like King Canute these days, shouting at the tide of Corporate Agile. And at those damn kids on my lawn.

Meanwhile, those of you in the trenches, let’s talk about what you can do to survive in this world of Dark Scrum and Corporate Agile. See the link below for one way to talk about it.