Who cares if you’re doing scrum or not?

Have you ever heard the question: “Are you doing Scrum? I mean, really doing scrum?” Or: “If I take the Scrum textbook practices, but change one or two things to suit my business, software or people, is that still Scrum?”

At the Agile Lean Europe Unconference in Berlin yesterday there was quite a bit of talk about what Scrum is, and what it actually means to ‘do’ scrum. There was an open space on the topic, where one of the participants said, in response to the above questions: “the answer should be, Who cares?”.

There’s a concept borrowed from Japanese Zen practices called ‘Mu‘. Mu is the third possible answer to a binary (yes/no) question.

“Are taxes good or bad?”

The answer is they are neither good nor bad. The real answer is larger than the context of the question that was asked. The answer is ‘Mu’. What Mu is really saying, is, “un-ask the question”.

Another example: think about a single bit in a read-only memory module in your computer. When the power is off, is the state of the bit 1 or 0? The answer is: it is neither. It is in a Mu-state.

Back to the original topic. “If I change this or that from Scrum, is it still Scrum?” The answer is Mu. It doesn’t matter if it is still scrum or not. What matters is if you are delivering high quality software. If you are measuring that software and iterating. If you avoid waste and decrease time-to-production. If your team is happy, self-organising and efficient. Who cares if it’s “scrum”?

* Note: Robert M. Pirsig speaks about Mu in his amazing 1974 book, “Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance“.