Command Scrum – Productivity at What Cost?

I highly recommend reading two articles about the possibility of imposing Scrum on a team and what the results are of doing so.  The first, an article titled “Shock Therapy” by Jeff Sutherland with an extensive report from Scott Downey of MySpace.  The second article, “Shock Therapy or Compassion” by Tobias Mayer, provides a thought-provoking alternative view.  The only addition I would like to make is just to ask a simple question: is everyone motivated by the same thing?  I suspect that the knee-jerk reaction is a big resounding “no”, but I ask you, my gentle reader, to consider more deeply.  Does anyone really get satisfaction out of purposeless work, no matter the other rewards?  There is a strong case to be made that in fact humans thrive on solving meaningful problems… problems that are meaningful to themselves, their community and to humanity in general.

I would also like to point out some coaching models that often start with short term pain, discomfort and even a strong desire to rebel: a personal trainer at a gym, a business coach, a life coach, an executive coach, etc. etc.  The trick is, of course, that you get into the coaching voluntarily in the first place.  You put yourself in the coach’s hands and trust / suspend disbelief for just a short time while the coach helps you go through the discomfort.

It takes a good coach to make this work.

The benefits are huge.  Anyone who has made it to the other side of that discomfort knows this.  Anyone who hasn’t made it to the other side is going to be understandably skeptical.

So is what Jeff and Scott are describing really “command-and-control” Scrum?  Is it breaking the principles of Self-Organizing teams?  I don’t think so, but how about you?  What do you think?  Do you think you would be better off or worse off with this sort of “help” with starting Scrum?

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2 thoughts on “Command Scrum – Productivity at What Cost?”

  1. It may be more a matter of writing tone or coaching style than substance. I think it’s appropriate for the coach to recommend an initial set of practices since they have much more experience with what works in what context. I’ve been able to persuade most teams I coach to try a core set of practices for at least a few sprints before considering adapting away from them. But it was persuasion, not compulsion.

  2. I think this is a great approach. I don’t think it breaks the self-organizing team aspect of Scrum at all. Let’s face it, some folks need a kick in the can sometimes and I think this approach gets the point across very quickly which helps the team become self-organizing much faster.

    Like you said, you need a great coach to approach it this way and I would add that it takes a certain type of personality to make this work. An external coach would be my choice, I think a Scrum Master trying this approach would burn out pretty quickly.

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