Not a process

Alistair Cockburn told us about a research in the UK on Scrum. He pointed out to the student, that Scrum is not a process, but something different. This made me thoughtful and I decided to elaborate some more on the terms and reflect on the other Agile methodologies about it.

Definitions

Methodology A methodology is a set of conventions (or self-inflicting rules) that your team agrees to. (Agile Software Development – The Cooperative Game, page 149)
Process A process is how activities fit together over time, often with pre- and post conditions for the activities. (Agile Software Development – The Cooperative Game, page 151)

Is Scrum a process?

So, is Scrum a process? Scrum defines seven basic practices: Scrum Master, Product Backlog, Scrum Team, Daily Scrum Meetings, Spring Planning Meeting, Spring and the Sprint Review. There is are some rules according how activities are done, but there is no fitting together. The amount of variance included in the pure, raw description of Scrum does not fit to the definition from Cockburn above for a process.

Is Scrum a methodology?

In his Agile Software Development book, Cockburn points out that a methodology needs a process, milestones, activities, etc. Since Scrum is not a process in first place, it does not seem to be a methodology according to Cockburn’s definition, either.

So what’s Scrum?

Scrum is a framework for interactions.

Period. This statement from Cockburn fits into the cycle. There are some activities in the Scrum definition, but it’s mostly about interactions around the Scrum Master, the Product Owner and the Team. Stating that it’s a framework also points out, that it is most likely not to be used as is, but needs some additions, like TDD, Sitting Together or Collective Code-Ownership – the XP practices for instance.

The Bottom Line

The Bottom Line is that the Agile methodologies are ingredients for a methodology meal to cook. About a year ago Cockburn started an article about one-liners describing the methodologies in Crystal is about self-awareness:

  • Agile is about self-managing.
  • Scrum is about self-organization.
  • XP is about self-discipline.
  • Crystal is about self-awareness.

Viewing Scrum in this light, then it becomes a valueable ingredient in your Agile meal. On top, your team needs to be able to manage themselves. Scrum gives the framework for the organizational part, XP with its practices provides the discipline to master and Crystal makes yourself aware of your successes and failures. If you can, you better use insights from all of them when adopting Agile methodologies.

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