Opinion: SCRUM is like "training wheels" for agile, but it's not worth the cost!

November 22nd, 2020


  • Easy

  • Quick win


  • Never want to remove them

  • Become dependent

  • Limiting

  • Don't learn the essence: improve & adapt

  • Can't improve on it



Pro - Easy

It's easy to copy something in it's whole at first.

Imitation is how most learning happens (Model: Shu Ha Ri)


Pro - Quick win

Never underestimate the value of a quick win.

It goes a long way towards convincing people!


Con - Never want to remove them

People think: "It works, why fix it?" or "Don't fix what isn't broken"

We like how easy it is.

That's the allure of things like 'best practices'.

But staying in the 'best practice' mindset, you never learn / evolve / improve.

You stay a novice (Dreyfus model + dreyfus squared)


Con - You become dependent

This is the thing I like most about this metaphor.

If you learn to ride a bicycle with training wheels, you learn some skills:

  • steering

  • pedalling

But you don't learn the most important part:

  • balance

  • how steering influences balance

  • how pedalling influences balance

  • how steering + pedalling influences balance


"The essence of biking is balance, the pedalling part is not big deal."

- Joshua Kerievsky


Con - Limiting

As long as you keep the training wheels on, you won't ever be able to take a sharp turn!

Leaning, while taking a sharp turn, is a core part of balance.

Changing your work processes to adapt the situation, is a core part of agility.

Training wheels don't allow you to lean.

Scrum does not allow you to adapt your work processes, because then it's not scrum anymore.


Con - Don't learn the essence: improve & adapt

You'll hear things like "But that's not how scrum works"

And that's true.

Because scrum defines process very explicitly.

So you need to leave scrum behind to experiment with process.

Which is a good thing!

It's a normal step in the learning process. (Model: Shu Ha Ri / Dreyfus model + dreyfus squared)

But it's scary, because things usually get worse, before they get better.


Con - Can't improve on it

because they do not have the expertise gained from the failures it took to produce the original, they will waste a great deal more time than us as they move to improve

- Kiichiro Toyoda (1894–1952), founder of the Toyota Motor Corporation


See Opinion: Copying processes does not work



When in a team, not yet using scrum, my question is:

Can we learn to improve our processes and skip scrum?


When in a team using scrum, my question is:

When are we going to take the training wheels off, and learn to ride like a mature team?

Yeah, it sounds like two two proverbs mashed together, creating a chimera of a proverb.

But I stand by it! ;-D


(src: Video: Modern Agile - Joshua Kerievsky)



EDIT: I discovered a talk Agile Schizophrenia - Fred George and it is an awesome addition/contrast to this post!


While writing this original post I was having 3 contrasting options in the back of my head:

  1. agile with rigid process, forever (aka scrum)

  2. agile with rigid process, in the beginning to learn only

  3. don't use rigid processes, but build it up from nothing with continuous improvement and agile values & principles in mind


While writing this post, I was trying out the opinion of (3).

This was based on a metaphor of learning how to drive a bycicle from this talk: Video: Modern Agile - Joshua Kerievsky

And how we are not learning to apply continuous improvement to our processes.

And that that is the essence


In Agile Schizophrenia - Fred George, he opines (2)

Check it out: Model: Agile Processes are a temporary tool to break old habits and for new ones

It's really amazing how he lists a bunch of processes and for each

  • purpose

  • technique

  • ceremonies

  • problems / bad things about them

Interesting stuff!