Mastering the Agile Mindset: The Next Ten Years of Scrum

December 1, 20155 min

Over the past ten years I think I have seen maybe a dozen organizations really embrace the Agile mindset.  Most people think Scrum is something that you do rather than a new way of thinking about how to improve your team, organization and business.  I find this to be true regardless of my perspective as a team member, internal change agent, independent consultant or Certified Scrum Trainer®.  Oddly enough, the co-creators of Scrum, Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber, have emphasized the mindset is more important than going through the motions over-and-over again for as long as I can remember.

“Scrum is not a process or a technique for building products; rather, it is a framework within which you can employ various processes and techniques.  Scrum makes clear the relative efficacy of your product management and development practices so that you can improve [emphasis added].”

If you are not improving each Sprint, not dismantling the sacred cows of your organization, not going after the obvious waste the inhibits flow, then you are not doing Scrum right.  When I see this lack of improvement in an organization, it is pretty clear that middle management have missed the Agile mindset which, in part, questions everything about the status quo.  Without the Agile mindset, practices and techniques that are intended to be liberating rapidly become micromanagement Hell.

EmptyShellIn the last decade, I have seen middle managers repurpose this powerful framework for change to preserve and justify the mediocre results of the status quo.  All one needs to do is to take the basic steps of Scrum, apply an industrial, efficiency-driven mindset to the framework and one can pretty quickly suck the life out of the organization.  Soon enough, Scrum becomes this empty, meaningless shell.  Meanwhile, the really good and talented people head for the doors and the rest move into oblivion.  The first step to fixing this situation is helping middle management and business leaders to adopt and use the Agile mindset.

Here are three ways I think the Scrum world is going to change in the next ten years.

  1. Greater emphasis on connecting to business leaders: the Scrum Alliance has recognized that in order for Scrum to have greater success in business, our community needs to speak with senior leaders and decision-makers to help them understand the Agile mindset.  Scrum Alliance Board member, Steve Denning has been leading this work with the establishment of the eleven member Learning Consortium and his monthly webinars.  It is my hope that in the next ten years many of the concepts identified in Radical Management are not considered so radical any more.  I dream that more senior leaders and decision-makers will learn to appreciate, embrace and embody the Agile mindset in order to free up their teams and organization from meaningless work
  2. Recognition of the enterprise as a living organization: earlier this year, I read Frederic Laloux’s excellent book, Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspiring by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness.  In this book, Laloux describes different types of organizations based on different levels of human development and cultural understanding using a color scale beginning with Infrared (the most primitive), Magenta, Red, Amber, Orange, Green and Teal (the most actualized).  Organizations that are Orange tend to see the business as a machine and employees are highly focused on innovation, accountability and meritocracy to achieve success.  Organizations that are considered Green see themselves as families and offer their members empowerment, a values-driven culture coupled with an inspirational purpose plus the inclusion of multiple stakeholder perspectives during decision making.  Teal organizations consider the enterprise to be a living system and focus on providing greater and greater levels of self-management, inviting wholeness into the workplace and defining an evolutionary purpose to guide the living business.  While the predominant paradigm for organizations today is Orange-Achievement, we are seeing the emergence of Green-Pluralistic and Teal-Evolutionary organizations that are disrupting the preeminence of the Orange paradigm.  In the next ten years, I anticipate we will see more Green and Teal organizations thrive as they discover the Agile mindset is congruent with their worldview.
  3. More Scrum applied outside of software: people have always been interested in applying Scrum outside the world of software development.  As early as 2003, Lee Devlin wrote a popular book, Artful Making: What Managers Need to Know About How Artist Work, linking the work of theater companies to the world of Agile software development.   Starting in 2006, Joe Justice founded Team WIKISPEED to apply what he learned from the Agile software development world to making a car that can travel 100 mile per gallon and used that knowledge to promote eXtreme Manufacturing and Scrum in Hardware.  In 2009, Arline Sutherland published a paper describing her efforts of using Scrum in church.  John Miller (@agileschools) has been a leading proponent of bringing Agile concepts to primary and secondary education with Agile Classrooms.  I am hopeful we will witness more of these accomplishments of using Scrum outside of software in the next ten years.
  4. Continuing education beyond the basics: to accelerate Scrum and Agile in the next ten years requires more than a basic CSM or CPO.  To be truly successful, Scrum practitioners will need the advance skills.  Lyssa Adkins has begun this work in the US with her Agile Coaching Institute, Geoff Watts is attacking this problem in the UK with ScrumMastery training and Karen Greaves and Sam Laing are doing this fine work by developing online courses in South Africa.  Next year, I will be introducing CSP Fast Pass to help people become Certified Scrum Professionals to help them do those hard Agile jobs better.

10 years of Scrum articles

Just Be Honest: My First Ten Years of Scrum

Top Ten Articles You Didn’t Read: Best of the Best

That Happened in 2005? Retrospective of the Big Moments of 2005