SCRUM meetings – how agile is that?

November 19, 2010

I have been quite a fan of agile methodologies, I see clearly the benefits of developing products in iterations and taking healthy customer feedback regularly. All in all this really helps you to focus on the product value.

But there is another aspect to these methodologies, which bothers me. Lets take SCRUM for example, and its morning stand up meetings. The more I hear about these, how much pressure they put on team members, how focused they are on making people deliver on their stories ASAP, the less I like them. It feels the main goal here is elevating stress level and pressuring people. The “war room”, the battle culture, everyday. Do you like playing rugby at your workplace? Well, what do you want from a methodology with such a name:

The word “scrummage” is a modification of “scrimmage” (the form of the word previously used in rugby and still used in American and Canadian football), which in turn derives from or is a reflex of “skirmish“. The term was used in the laws of rugby football for a long time before being permanently contracted to just “scrum”.

I can see how this “war room” could be very useful in certain critical short-term situations where you need to focus and deliver something quickly but I suspect that when used all the time this constant pressure will affect productivity negatively. People will get burnt out and start hating their jobs. I hear SCRUM is becoming more popular among all kinds of teams (marketing, sales), not just development. Is this a new way of the corporate management achieving greater productivity? As though I hear them say, “You guys wanted agile, we’ll give you agile. We’re doing SCRUM morning stand-up meeting now!”

To me it smells once again like the old “command-and-control” style of management. Get everyone in one room, make sure they are working on their “sh$t”. And do it everyday as they are so stupid they won’t figure out on their own what needs to be done without this morning “whip”.

I have a feeling this SCRUM thing is killing initiative and creativity in teams. Management in the 21st century is about productivity, but with the focus on productivity of individual knowledge workers, so de-centralization is the word! The workers are smart enough to figure out what and especially how things need to be done. Are these stand-up morning meetings helping them be more productive?

Just hear what Peter Drucker, the guy who invented management, said in 1999:

“The most important, and indeed the truly unique, contribution of management in the 20th Century was the fifty-fold increase in the productivity of the MANUAL WORKER in manufacturing. The most important contribution management needs to make in the 21st Century is similarly to increase the productivity of KNOWLEDGE WORK and the KNOWLEDGE WORKER.”

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