Won't the Real Scrum Agile Please Stand Up?

Scrum is an Agile Framework that allows for developers to get done twice the work in half the time.

But Agile methodologies allow a lot more than a productivity bump. That by itself is a compelling reason for a company to adopt Agile.

Scrum also dovetails with Lean manufacturing and entrepreneurship. That's pretty good for companies, but it's even better for the company's clients. Instead of months of documentation and contracts and then an endless wait for a product that might not be what they really need and is no longer relevant anyway, clients get exactly the functionality they need, and the ability to make corrections along the way with minimal cost increases.

But Agile methodologies allow more than their namesake of effective change management implies.

Scrum is great at delivering relevant software in half the time, but it is, for the one who experiences it, also a joy. Agile makes you happy. I'm being completely serious. We, as value drivers in the shadow of the 20th century, are so used to toil and hardship equalling "good work", that the idea of an environment that makes you happy immediately makes you think of vacations where nothing is done and money is spent. But we need to disabuse ourselves of that idea.

Work can be a joy. More so, work can be a joy AND productivity can be boosted AND clients can get what they want. An impossible win-win-win? Not with the right framework. Or is it?

I have heard people complain about scrum. They say "Clients are too demanding and privileged to respect a scrum process." or "Scrum is just what the development team does to amuse itself while it's coding the spec." or "We do daily stand-ups, but I don't see the difference between that and the usual pre-shift meeting. Scrum is just another business buzzword we have to pretend to care about."

To be honest, I get where these criticisms are coming from. A wile ago, I went to a not-to-be-named volunteer group that was ostensibly agile. It had a stand-up. It had some pair programming. It had a swarm session around a bug fix. But I couldn't tell the difference between the "Stand-up" and us just introducing ourselves in circle. And pair programming was filled with confusion. And the swarm... The Horror. The Horror. I still get a little nauseous whenever someone mentions a Rake file.

So what happened? Where's the joy I was promised? For that matter, where's the "twice the work in half the time?" All I saw was a mad tea party that wasn't even charmingly eccentric. It was just bad.

This group called itself Agile. It definitely had some Scrum words, and some XP, but it was clearly missing something. Had this been my only experience with Scrum, I'd definitely call it worse names than what my polite imaginary critics called it!

So what's missing?

It wasn't until I had a really fantastic experience pair programming at FullStack LA, and then spent way too much of my personal savings for a scrum certification. (It was actually well worth the money, but it was still very dear for a retail guy.)

In any case, from those positive experiences, I now know the problem with the unnamed volunteer group above is that though they are following an agile framework, their mindset is still locked in a 20th century work paradigm. It was waterfall, but wearing agile longjohns. And without the tailored waterfall suit to go with it, the girth of the process was unflatteringly on display.

Agile is a Mindset. That mindset is the engine of scrum, it is the body that fills the longjohns.

The very first value in the Agile Manifesto really shows what's missing: We value "Individuals and Interactions over Processes and Tools."

Agile uses tools. But Agile is first and foremost about people, and how those people work together. It's about the Magic of Friendship. The group above failed to leverage that when applying scrum and the result wasn't pretty. Likewise, FullStack LA gets this without trying for too many scrum processes. By valuing individuals and interactions, pairing is just plain fun! And the friendships you form, and the stories you come away with (along with working software!) teach so much more effectively than any process or tool out there.