I’ve had a reply from the Chief Product Owner of the Scrum Alliance.

On June 19th, I wrote to Howard Sublett, CPO of the Scrum Alliance. You can read that email here.

In that email and the related articles, I’ve been asking that the Scrum Alliance do these things. I’ll paraphrase:

  1. Embrace the responsibility that the Scrum Alliance has toward all Scrum team members (even those who are not direct customers), and survey extensively to see how it’s going.
  2. Bear down in communicating that the Increment is of central importance in doing Scrum effectively.
  3. Continue to offer CSD training, while recognizing that it can only reach a fraction of those for whom we should feel responsible.
  4. Provide the ability to earn the CSD entirely via external “Scrum Education Units”, so that we can attract and help even those who cannot afford the higher-priced training.
  5. Actively support independent providers of materials supporting Scrum developers.

Here is Howard’s reply:

Hi @ronjeffries I’ll be brief here.

It looks like you are gaining together some ground swell of community members that are in the trenches doing the work to help effect change in the world. This seems like a good strategy, as these are the people invested in making a difference ( with there clients and with our programs) I’m open for a proposal of the team that might lead this.

We have always been a “ By the community, for the community” type of place. When ideas have enough buy in from a cross section of peers, it makes them far more actionable.

So - you are reaching the right people. Carry on.

If this were a reply to a job application, or a reply from a publisher, I would classify it under the heading of “Polite Brushoff”.

The note does leave one door cracked open, where he says:

I’m open for a proposal of the team that might lead this.

So, possibly, if I could generate enough interest from some group of people, that group could appeal to the Scrum Alliance for … well, for whatever that group wanted to do, I guess … and the Scrum Alliance would be “open” to the proposal.

I guess, until that day, and that day may never come, the answers are:

  1. No, we will not feel responsible for everyone who works on a Scrum team; we will not do a survey.
  2. No, we will not increase our communications to focus on the Increment;
  3. Yes, we’ll continue offering the CSD. (The current state.)
  4. No, we won’t offer CSD solely through external SEUs.
  5. No, we won’t support external providers.

I freely grant that those things were not said. But the reply could have said things like this:

*We do feel responsible for everyone under Scrum, however, we feel that we must focus on our existing and new clients, and on what we are presently able to do.”

And so on. If there were points of agreement, it seems likely that they’d have been mentioned in any professional communication. Perhaps I can be forgiven, then, for accepting this as a polite brushoff with a window left cracked open for a proposal to slip through.

That’s fine. No, it really is. Howard’s job is to decide what the Scrum Alliance will, and will not, work on, and he is correct to consider strongly what his trainers, coaches, and reps want to do, since they are not employees, but are nonetheless the sole means of support for the Scrum Alliance.

Just because I think they should feel responsibility for all the downstream effects of Scrum doesn’t make it true, and it doesn’t automatically make it something they must do.

I would, of course, have preferred a response that was more directly open to the actionable ideas I presented, which, I think, are consistent with the avowed purpose of the Scrum Alliance, to “create workplaces that are joyful, prosperous, and sustainable”. But the CPO gets to decide how they accomplish that, and to what extent.

The Question For Me

The question for me, of course, is what I’ll do next. The answer to that is simple: I’ll keep doing what I’ve been doing, swimming where the krill seem tasty. They don’t seem tasty over by the Scrum Alliance, so I’ll swim away from there for a while. Maybe swim by later, see if things have changed.

I’ve of course been talking with my colleagues about this particular windmill I chose to tilt at, and I can report that zero percent of them gave my effort any chance of success, and zero percent of them expressed any interest in coming together in a fashion that would help Scrum.

Like me, they’re interested in helping people, and, like me, while they are OK with, even mildly in favor of iterative incremental approaches to building software, they do not think that any named process is appropriate. (No, Nigel, not even XP.)

My favorite phrasing for what we all seem to believe comes from GeePaw Hill: Makers, Making the Made.

We are about inclusive teams working together to create the thing, and we believe strongly that each team must create its own process. Most of us probably don’t think that creation should be completely free, and I’m sure we’d agree that the process chosen has to be compatible with the organization in which it is embedded (or the reverse, the organization has to become compatible with the process).

We focus on various aspects of Makers, Making the Made. Some like to focus on how to code, or how to refactor. Some on how people can work well together. Some on how people can decide on what to build. There are many dimensions of value.

But I think we’d all lean away from a process that involved figuring out exactly what the whole product would be, designing every bit of it, then coding it up, and then shipping it.

Similarly, most of us would not approve of a process where you sacrifice a live chicken every day at the Daily Sacrifice, and serve it up at the end of the week at the Chicken Dinner Review. Most of us. Some of us think it depends on how you prepare the chickens.

So, there we are. No one on any side wants to step up and create an alliance between Scrum and software development as we know it.

So we won’t have that. And, I’ll get back to the Dungeon, or to whatever comes next.

See you then!