What Comes After Scrum?

Scrum is not the be-all and end-all process for software and product development. As many of you have noticed, it is barely a process, only a framework. You have to provide all the development, management, product management, and people practices.

So, what does Scrum provide? It provides a labeled- environment within which complex development can be successfully managed (where the unknown is greater than the known). Scrum provides containers that allow teams to focus on one aspect of a complex problem  at a time. The containers are short-time boxes so that risk can be managed.

Scrum can be replaced or superseded by anything that also supports its underlying principles:

1. Self-organization – people doing complex work are much more effective organizing themselves and the work than someone who isn’t doing the work.
2. Bottom-up intelligence – figuring out how to do work is a management activity best performed by the people doing the work, since the work is unpredictable, with many twists and turns.
3. Empiricism – it is hard to plan what you don’t know, so we instead see what has been accomplished, and then figure out what to do next. We do this frequently to control risk and determine the best path to our goal.
4. Transparency – we periodically have to know what is actually happening to make effective empirical decisions.

As stated in bible of process control (“Process Dynamics, Modeling, and Control”, Ogunnaike and Ray, Oxford University Press, 1994) , there is no bad process. However, sometimes processes are applied to inappropriate situations. Scrum is an empirical process built on lean principles. It is most appropriate for optimizing complex work.

I welcome anyone who comes up with the next great process, one that does all of the above even better than Scrum. I’m still waiting.

28 thoughts on “What Comes After Scrum?

  1. Ken,

    Let me be controversial here – we need a framework that covers more than Scrum. Scrum is great, scrum delivers. A meta-wrapper is needed around Scrum that can be applied to any type of project. IT or non-technology projects – such as incremental construction or engineering. We need a meta-framework that provides practical guidance on agile governance processes, operational implementation, and project management together with team-level structures and techniques.

    For example, at the Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) in Queensland, Australia, a hybrid set of governance processes using the PRINCE2 project process standards is a ‘wrapper’ around agile processes. These documents are agreed between a Project Executive who acts as chair of the project board, and is the ‘customer’ representative, and with the manager of the IT department who acts as a ‘supplier’ representative. Three other roles support the Project Executive and form the Project Board to whom the Scrum Master/Team Leader reports progress at the end of every sprint.

    The UK Met Office uses DSDM to ‘wrap-up’ Scrum and XP processes in a mix and match approach.
    The important thing is to have a wrapper that provides just enough governance – not too much…


      • Hmmm… We are opening up the debate about whether “Project Management” should be consigned to the grave, and we should treat all change within a Continuous Improvement Framework (CIF)…

        PRINCE2 and DSDM pre-suppose a step-change in the business that a ‘project’ is intended to make. Many of the ‘lean’ persuasion would disagree, and say that CIF is the way forward.

        I remember talking to Craig Larman in London a few months ago and he was adamant: ‘Project Management’ is, in his view, anti-thetical to Scrum.

        But, we have to convince people in organisations to change approach, and those organisations are highly dependent on the project approach.

        For example: in government (my specialisation) a politician declares a new policy, to be implemented with 12 months. A CIF approach, to my mind, may not be possible – the nearest the poor public servants could get to being incremental would be to phase in the policy over 12 months, and try to pilot the processes. All this would be to de-risk the otherwise almost inevitable (and dangerous) big-bang impementation…

      • Hi Ken, I like the way you have said “Scrum is not the be-all and end-all process”. I think the framework is always a guideline which can be used to the extent possible to see the fruit of it. I do not think anyone will tailored to that extent whereby they can blame the process at the end. When someone follow or create one framework and see that is working then essentially becomes a process. From all the available agile model I see scrum is very powerful and of course when scrum and XP goes together they can do wonders. I think the next better process after scrum would be something where you really follow scrum and call it is ScrumReal which is otherwise a Scrumbut and it would not anyway helpful.

    • @Brian – “…the nearest the poor public servants could get to being incremental would be to phase in the policy over 12 months, and try to pilot the processes”. Seems a reasonable starting point for Scrum if you consider “may not be possible” to be the first impediment to resolve. At least that’s how I have tackled some of my Scrum projects.

      • “A £5bn back-to-work programme will be unveiled after the Cabinet Office minister, Oliver Letwin, admitted the government had held crisis talks before the budget on unemployment. The payment by results scheme … will probably be the single most important public service reform implemented by the government in its first two years.”

        Yup – less than 18 months to completely put in place a nationwide programme involving 180 contracts, and millions of claimants.

        We await the results…

        Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/apr/01/ministers-back-to-work-programme

    • My issue with a meta-wrapper although fundamentally not a bad idea is that this is what starts to create very large frameworks. ITIL, Prince 2 etc. have all grown with more and more content which you have to “learn”. This all accumulates in a large exam process that few people actually know and use. A set of good practices would do if we are beefing up Agile, such as recommending TDD. The closer you get to set process the more of an issue I have with an exam culture. Not that this can’t work but I hope I’m not looking back in ten years on Agile 10.0 with 4 large reference manuals to learn.

      • I agree – we should not have voluminous manuals and correspondingly mind-numbing examinations for their own sake!

        News on PRINCE2: 5% rise in examinations taken globally, with Central Asia having a record 148% increase and larger uptake in Scandinavia. Total annual figure is now over 142,000 examinations.

        BUT: I still recommend “Managing Successful Programmes” (MSP) as having the most value-add for Scrum, as it does not pre-suppose any project methodology and stresses implementation in phases (although small increments of deleivery are not explicitly catered for…

        Employers like exams. Recruiters like exams. They are an inevitable artifact, so let’s try to make them realistic and useful for all concerned.

        Just back in London after “Scrum Gathering Las Vegas 2013”

  2. I feel that the great process you describe is “no process”, or natural process not damaged by overmanagement. I can easily imagine a group of children doing something collectively who support these 4 principles.

  3. Nice post, thanks Ken.

    “What Comes After Scrum?”
    – an answer for defined processes (outside development)?
    – an answer for “daily office” work?
    – admitting that scrum matures project management?
    – defining that the scrum process is an incubator for maturity in organisation that improves Lean?

    You designed scrum according a rugby metaphor at team level. After scrum, there is perhaps place to define an organisation as a rugby team and start a scrum culture? Then, we can start to talk about methodology.

    NB. on the field and at business level (also in P2 environments), Scrum is lived as a powerful and challenging project management methodology improving organisation standards and processes.

    This is your gift.
    Thank you

  4. Hi Ken, thanks for your great post. I was just wondering what is next. I mean, not just in IT with Scrum, but in general. A few days ago at the Agile Tour in Lausanne I have heard a couple of people trying to apply Scrum to other environments. In my humble opinion it was not Scrum, something inspired by, however the great point is that it can work! For me one of the main advantages of a framework like the one you have put up is that transparency helps removing hidden agendas. Everybody knows what is happening and why. Can you imagine if that could be applied to politics or public administration? Before reading your post I had just posted a similar question on a couple of groups on LinkedIn (PSM I and Scrum Practitioners). I hope I get some feedback. In my opinion you guys have opened a new big door, leading to global improvement.

      • It must be government…

        Transparency might be potentially there but not be enacted yet. Turn a light on at night time in a dark room and you will see things that you will not see when the light is switched off. The problem is when you do not know if there are switches and where they are located. Glowing light switches (such as your framework) might prove very helpful.

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  8. I’m not trying to last-word Ken’s blog, first off. Ken – I appreciate what you did for the world by conceiving these processes in such a way that their uptake across the world was accepted. I’m a Project Manager by trade, but have been a Scrum Master for the past 4 years. I think a Scrum Master can benefit from PM training – if increasing velocity is part of the responsibilities of a team, and the SM, then risk removal from long-term projects is essential. If I performed only the “this sprint” activity, and nothing else, then my team would have failed countless times. Sometimes the “stitch in time saves nine” really saves the day.

    I also counter @BrianWernham’s evangelizing of the PRINCE framework – just because the examinations are being taken more often DOES NOT mean the system works better than anything else. My company designed its own Agile/Scrum wrapper, or set of rules, that help our company utilize the framework. There aren’t a pile of rules, just ones created to decrease or alleviate friction between the Agile roles, typically to rein in Product Owners’ demands on their own teams, and protect the development teams from unruly scope or undefined needs. If you need another exam to learn all the rules, that’s not in line with the tenet of “collaboration over documentation.” This sounds like documentation first, collaboration second.

    • Yikes! Did evangelize the PRINCE framework? I just mentioned that Queensland has adopted it as a ‘wrapper’ around Scrum and it worked for them.

      I also mentioned DSDM and “Managing Successful Programmes” (MSP) as having the most value-add for Scrum.

      In a large organisation with big objectives, Scrum without a project framework wrapper is like an engine on its own without a car – it’ll make a lot of noise, but won’t go anywhere…

  9. > Scrum without a project framework wrapper is like an engine on its own without a car
    No, Scrum without a project framework wrapper is like a bird, untethered. It can fly free, and be beautiful.

    If there’s one thing that undermines new attempts at scrum, it is the project mindset. People don’t use projects, or programs, they use products. Until we can create a product-mindset in these organizations scrum will never work well. This is no weakness of scrum, it is a failing of people to change old-thinking to new-thinking. We don’t need more process, we need less process. We need more focus on values and principles in the workplace. We need more focus on people and interactions. I read that somewhere…

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