Decay And Determination

I return to Boston today from New Orleans, a city that simultaneously displays decay and determination. I got to watch the decay of Scrum at Tech Ed. I saw the emergence of methodologists and the culture of command and control management. Of course, all this was tempered and covered by advanced phrases like Lean, Kanban, control boards, and resource pools.

Scrum is for complex product development, where more is unknown than known and where the best answers emerge from many competing ideas. People need uninterrupted time working with others with other points of view to share ideas and emerge – within the crucible of a time-box – with the best possible solution to the problem at hand.

Lean is for managers who accept that waterfall didn’t work, that there are some complexities that need to be addresses when they arise. Just as in waterfall, in lean people are resources on the production line, but the money and responsibility stays with the experts and managers. The experts set up the product line and closely monitor it for flaws. If flaws arise, the experts step in and iron them out. The managers ensure that the resources stay fully occupied and keep the workflow and productivity completely transparent and measured. That way they can ensure top productivity in terms of work hours (not creative products).

I have heard that ScrumBan (a perversion of Scrum and Kanban) is for people for whom Scrum is too much. These people cannot move away from a predictive, production line way of development. However, they need a new set of words to appear that they are not reverting to the proven failure of waterfall. So they flash new words on top of inappropriate processes.

In the past I’ve said that only 20% of those using Scrum will succeed. They will see the cultural difficulties as the necessary change from inappropriate processes to optimized ways of building creative products. The others will change Scrum to fit their current culture. Enter Lean and ScrumBan, new words for the same old thing.
I would despair at those who are failing if not for the pleasure of working with those who have the determination to succeed. They will out-compete and out-perform all the others, and they will be the source of the complex products for our increasingly complex society and world. The others will have new skin and a new silver bullet that will cover their inappropriateness to the software development profession.

3 thoughts on “Decay And Determination

  1. This is sobering. I think it helps explain why so many new products, and so many projects, and so many new businesses fail. Locked-in thinking and bury adaptation under fad-buzz.

    American society needs control-freaks anonymous.

    No other comments here yet, maybe the wave will wash in. I was curious, and I didn’t notice the ‘Notify me’ check-in until after my other comment.

  2. Ken, I think you misrepresent Lean a bit – in a real Lean system the workers are empowered to resolve the flaws they find on their own. Management and experts are there to teach the workers how to use the Lean thinking tools and create the culture for continuous improvement.

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