Dec 072010

The next two years will show a major change in the Agile world: The predominant position of Scrum will suffer from both the inside and the outside. On the inside, the struggles within the community will weaken the thrust effect of the certification program. Right now, we already have two competing certification programs, and, at least in Europe, single trainers are trying to establish their private programs, too. This will lead to several dialects and maybe even more competing certification programs. Though competition generally helps progress a profession, I consider this a sign of increasing weakness for the Scrum Alliance.

The ongoing merger between Scrum and XP – now marketed as “Scrum development practices” – strengthens the capabilities of Scrum teams but may also decrease the attractiveness of Scrum to non-technical decision makers.

From the outside Scrum is being attacked by the Kanban movement. Kanban opens the door to areas which have not been well addressed by the traditional methods, such as maintenance and enterprise-level processes. It extends the agile toolbox significantly, making Kanban a real alternative to Scrum.

So my advice is to observe the Scrum world closely over the next years. Me-too certification programs will vanish as quickly as they spring up, but two or three seriously competitive programs may stay on the scene for longer. If you don’t want to go both ways, you may have to decide. For now, my best advice is go with the program whose coaches you trust.

Concerning Kanban, now is the time to learn more about its options and limitations and to consider first pilot projects. Kanban is in the early-adopter phase, but will moves on fast. Don’t miss opportunities that may be advantageous to your business.

[Editor’s Note: This post is part of the annual “Cutter Predicts …” series, compiled at the Cutter Consortium website.]


Jens Coldewey

Jens Coldewey, based in Munich, Germany, is a Senior Consultant with Cutter's Agile Product & Project Management Practice. He specializes in deploying agile development and object-oriented techniques in large organizations.


  9 Responses to “Scrum Will Suffer; Kanban Will Take Off”

  1. Interesting article, but I’m not fully convinced (yet) that Kanban will take off and is directly attacking Scrum as you put it.
    Kanban is a simple framework. Not too much too it, and doesn’t provide the potential “controls” need that many large enterprise organizations need. There is still a need to augment Kanban in order to reign in the other needed processes that a large organization demands.

  2. avatar

    Certification is a boondoggle. I have seen this a number of times over the years: as soon as an industry starts to “certify” its businesses and professionals, rigor mortis begins to set in.

    Certification standards get set in stone, precluding change. Professionals no longer “need” to keep improving; they have gained their certification.

    The best software companies will never be the fully certified software companies. They will instead be the companies that embrace change and continually improve.

  3. What concerns me these days is the endless stream of never ending “next big things” or silver bullets in our industry. Unfortunately, all in the name of competitive differentiation. Re-package up some practices (and some of their implications – like lowering the water level), slap a new label/brand on it and somehow you have all that is needed – again.
    Re-invention replaces integration – flush all that has come before. Unfortunately, the socio-technical system that we call a software development and the dynamics that it exhibits is far more complicated
    than a 21 page guide or JIT alone. Or worse still is the implication that context (especially culture) does not matter and does not affect the efficiency, stability and robustness of such a system.

    The bottom line is that we need to stop thinking in terms of following methods, and start thinking in terms of instantiating a system. In the words of Peter Senge, “structure influences behavior”; and we know the system’s theory effects of introducing delay into negative feedback control systems – studied quite effectively by the likes of John Sterman
    et. al at MIT Sloan School of Management.

    So this debate about Scrum vs. Kanban is rather foolish of you are able to grasp systems theory beyond just name dropping. You need them both at different parts of the delivery lifecycle as per Adaptive Control Systems theory. You need the suboptimal breadth treatment that iterations yield early in the uncertainty riddled period to time, and then you need a “bumpless transfer” to a more optimum value-flow treatment that pull yields, along with the scale implications of feature crews.

    Just a little about what I have written about recently. Anyways, I hope the endless fads and fashions ends sometime soon.

  4. @Lonny – agree completely.
    @Mark – agree completely. But I am reminded of the old saying “hope in one hand…” 😐

  5. avatar

    @Lonny: My favourite analysis of the certification business is by Tom DeMarco:

    @Mark: You are right, all agile methods are heavily based on systems theory and in theory all you have to do is apply systems theory, you’re right. However, others have done that before, and sometimes it is more helpful in a change process (or just more convenient) to take these results instead of starting from the scratch again – may these results be Scrum, Kanban, or whatever.

    Adoption of Scrum by the Early Majority doesn’t come from its intrinsic qualities (though I respect them!) but was result of its marketing, including the branding and the certification program. It helped way more organizations becoming at least a little bit more agile, than a puristic approach. Systems Thinking for agile is at least Ha level, probably Ri. Scrum (and probably Kanban too) as they’re marketed serve a Shu-audience that has different needs.

  6. Regardless of the flavour in question (agile, scrum, xp, kanban, systems thinking, whatever) until folks being to appreciate the *psychology* of change, any and all of these initiatives are doomed to obscurity at best (statistically speaking). If we truly want to make the world of work a better and more effective place, then I suggest we have to pay much more attention (still) to the role of MINDSET, and the challenges in changing prevailing organisational mindsets. Not too difficult, then :} (irony).

    – Bob

  7. What makes Scrum unique for me is the values and principles that it brings to work places and the way the practices embodies the values and principles,I believe more and more business will be run based on these core values as they are sustainable and suits better in the current business environment.

    About Scrum vrs Kanban,I think business who cannot deal with the challenges exposed by Scrum will look at alternatives, I am not convinced that is good for their business or not. I hope Kanban can expose challenges as Scrum so that organizations can work towards over coming those challenges.

  8. Bachan (and others who refer to businesses who “cannot deal” with difficult change):

    There’s really nothing good about “difficult”. I’d wager that for most of us, we’re good at something … and that it is something we loved, not something we hated.

    If Kanban makes it easier to change–and I believe it does–that could be a very strong argument in its favor.

  9. […] Jens Coldewey recently posted an article about Scrum suffering and that Kanban is growing like hippies in California. These types of posts seem to be the fad of the day, the vogue of our 2010 State of Agile. With articles like Uncle Bob’s (Robert Martin’s) recent article on Scrum certification and his white paper on the end of Agile, it seems like where there is speculation, there are people to write about it. Make no mistake about it, we’ve covered our fair share in the last year, from Scrum needing to evolve, to Tobias Mayer VS. Scrum Alliance, we’ve seen the Agile Manifesto (2.0?) needing (possibly) some updates, to whether the last 10 years of Agile has been effective or not. […]

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