There’s Nothing Wrong with Being Yourself

Does your Organization have Amazon, Spotify, or Capital One envy?

John Clopton
Jul 12 · 4 min read

It’s been a minute. The last piece I wrote for Serious Scrum was back in February, and since then, quite a few topics have been swirling around in my brain hole. Hopefully I can find the time to get them out of my head, and into a post. With that, here’s my latest. So, let’s get into it…

When I was a teenager, I did stupid things to be like my friends. I mean, who didn’t? What adolescent makes good decisions when confusing hormones, and peer pressure rear their ugly heads? Without fail, my parents reacted with statements like, “Would you jump off a bridge if your friends did?” Of course not, that’s silly.

With that in mind, I wanna give a shout out to Willem-Jan Ageling. He recently posted “We replaced the Scrum Master role with the Agile Delivery Lead role” in response to Capital One’s decision to scrub the title of Scrum Master from their job descriptions. At some point, I imagine way-too-many organizations will copy+paste the same idea.

Personally, I don’t agree with Capital One, and their removal of references to the Scrum Master role. From the outside looking in, Agile Delivery Lead feels robotic, which connotes a heavy-emphasis on “delivery” rather than people. It reminds me of how F.W. Taylor viewed workers.

“Now one of the very first requirements for a man who is fit to handle pig iron as a regular occupation is that he shall be so stupid and so phlegmatic that he more nearly resembles in his mental make-up the ox than any other type. The man who is mentally alert and intelligent is for this very reason entirely unsuited to what would, for him, be the grinding monotony of work of this character. Therefore the workman who is best suited to handling pig iron is unable to understand the real science of doing this class of work.” — Principles of Scientific Management (1911) p. 59.

F. W. Taylor was a jerk. Let’s get back on track…

Capital One’s “revelation” wasn’t the first ripple to cause waves in the Agile Community either. Spotify adapted how they applied Scrum, and organizations clamored to adopt this new “Spotify Model.” Jeff Bezos mentioned the 2 Pizza Rule, and guess how many organizations followed suit.

That being said, if you’re Capital One, feel free to rebrand Scrum Masters as Agile Delivery Leads. It’s your prerogative. If you’re Spotify, rename everything to squads, and tribes. I hope it gives you warm, fuzzy feelings. And if you’re Amazon, mandate that if teams can’t be fed by two pizzas, they’re too large. Perfect, not overeating pizza is probably for the best. However, if you’re not Capital One, Spotify, or Amazon… DON’T! There’s no guarantee that adopting their practices will garner the same success. Remember that phrase in statistics about correlation, and causation?

“Ah, I see. You’re saying those things aren’t related…”

We have a tendency to get caught up in being Agile. Organizations wanna quantify their Scrum implementations. “How Agile are we?” is often asked. But How about we change the conversation. Instead of focusing on something that’s not easily quantified, let’s use Scrum (or Kanban, or whatever) as a tool for your organization to accomplish something meaningful. At the end of the day, customers don’t give a sh*t how much of a baller you are at following the Scrum Guide. They only want whatever product, or service you provide.

One of the most potentially damaging things you can do is pick some other company’s framework — no matter how successful they are at it — and force teams to follow along. Figure out what you wanna accomplish first: make a better widget, improve quality, get it in the hands of customers faster so you can get quicker feedback. Whatever. Identify those goals, and what’s currently getting in the way of accomplishing them. Scrum could help you get there; maybe it won’t. But make decisions in your organization’s context, not Amazon’s, or Spotify’s, or Capital One’s.

Don’t be the teenager who does things because other are doing them. It’s OK to be yourself.


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Serious Scrum

Content by and for serious scrum practitioners.

Thanks to Dan Ray, Marty de Jonge, and Maarten Dalmijn

John Clopton

Written by

Certified Sailor. Lover of Bourbon. Recovering Developer turned Agile Coach. Urban legend. I'm not a player, I just Scrum a lot.

Serious Scrum

Content by and for serious scrum practitioners.

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