Scrum and the Road to Enlightenment

The koans that I wrote yesterday and the day before were quite cryptic, as koans are supposed to be.
The CEO and the developer became Enlightened, but left us in the dark. Let’s see if we can follow in their footsteps.

A digital art image of a buddhist monk watching the full moon at night
A monk watching the full moon. Image generated with AI by DALL-E.

A Scrum Koan

In A Scrum Koan, the CEO complains to the Master that his team isn’t “finding the bull”.

This is a reference to the Buddhist “Story of the Ten Bulls”, which is mentioned in “A Scrum Book”:

Some of Scrum’s origins lie in Japanese culture and Buddhism. Driving even more deeply, those who view Scrum as a way of work life rather than just as a method are more likely to find fulfillment in their Scrum journey. Zen Buddhists used the story of the Ten Bulls as a metaphor for the Zen journey into one’s self.

So in the koan, the CEO is complaining, in Buddhist terms, that his team isn’t getting past the initial stages of Scrum.

The Master then asks who told the team to find the bull, or in other words, to follow Scrum.

It was the CEO who did, and therein lies the problem.

One important pattern in Scrum is called autonomous teams:

When it comes to policies and procedures, one size does not fit all. Different teams have different people and dynamics unique to themselves. Also, a team with a given responsibility and the expertise necessary to fulfill it knows best how to go about doing it.

In other words, the CEO should allow his team to self-organize, rather than imposing a methodology upon them.

When the Master smiles, the CEO sees his mistake and becomes Enlightened.

A Daily Scrum Koan

A Daily Scrum Koan is about the fallacy of blindly following protocol.

It is what happens in companies that impose Scrum upon employees.

The Daily Scrum is when the development team meets for 15 minutes daily. Usually the team stands during the meeting in order to help it keep short and sweet.

Unfortunately, many practitioners misunderstand the purpose of the Daily Scrum, and believe, incorrectly, that its goal is “to answer the Three Questions”:

As you might notice, these are questions typical of a project status meeting. This way, the meeting becomes a ritual dance with Scrum veneer that completely misses the point.

So what is the goal of the Daily Scrum? “A Scrum Book” says:

Have a short event every day to replan the Sprint, to optimize the chances first of meeting the Sprint Goal and second of completing all Sprint Backlog Items.

Thus, the essence of the Daily Scrum is planning, not merely answering routine questions.

Going back to the koan, what did the Master mean when he said that the developer should ask a Fourth Question?

The developer could simply have asked his team, “Why are we doing this?”, which is the exact question that he came to see the Master for. The Master was simply reflecting the question, just like the pool reflected his image.


So, how do we reach Enlightenment?

For a CEO, allowing teams to self-organize without imposing a methodology is a good start.

For developers, it’s about speaking up and questioning rather than blindly following protocol.

Ideas can be adopted, but not imposed. Whatever idea is imposed will be put into practice without thinking.

Further reading

A Scrum Book, Jeff Sutherland, James O. Coplien e/a, ISBN 978-1680506716

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