Agile or Scrum?

This past weekend, like every weekend, I go to Whole Foods with my wife for our weekly food run. While sampling some of the very good wine, I ran into an old neighbor that I hadn’t seen in years.

We ended up having a long conversation about his company doing this whole “Agile and Scrum thing.” I found myself saying things like the following to help clarify his questions:

  • “Yes, that is Agile.”
  • “No, that’s not a Scrum principle.”
  • “Yes, that’s part of iterative development.”
  • “Well, that isn’t explicitly in Agile…”
  • “Well, Scrum doesn’t prescribe you to do…
  • “No, that would be waterfall…”
  • “Can we… I… get back to drinking free wine?…”

Sometimes it’s best to just get working. Forget what it’s called. Agile, Scrum, a lamp, who cares. Learn about some better practices in software development and get moving. Pick and choose some facets of Agile that make sense. Wash, rinse, repeat. Iterate, take another Agile principle, implement, find the value, go again. Take small steps.

Time is awastin’! Get to it!

Author: peter

Peter Saddington is an Organizational Scientist and Certified Scrum Trainer. You can find him at

20 thoughts on “Agile or Scrum?”

  1. Love it! Kind of like our 1 year old who can stand up and balance just fine, but just isn’t taking that first step yet. In the world of Agile, just be willing to take the first step and all future steps will be easier. Try it, learn from it, grow and soon you will be running and enjoying life.

  2. Love it too. “Let’s build something” is a great answer, a great start.

    Just like in our lives, many answers will come by themselves during the trip.

    Think big, begin small, start now.

  3. I had a very similar experience happen to me when we met some people for dinner. One of them asked what I did. When I offered a 30 second explanation and included Agile, I got a quick “we do that at work” response. I was pleasantly surprised so I asked how exactly they leveraged Agile principles and approaches. Now, I’m no dogmatic Agilist but the follow-up response had me shaking my head. I wasn’t going to outright argue with her but she correlated doing something as fast as possible as being Agile. No collaboration, no planning, monitoring, or adapting. To her, anarchy and Agile were pretty much synonymous.

      1. This is one of the big dangers of agile.

        It all depends on the viewpoint.

        If you are a developer, agile means one thing.

        If you are an executive/manager, agile means another.

        The CEO isn’t buying the self organizing, personal empowerment, etc, aspects (that much).

        What the CEO wants, and what the executives want to see, is faster results.

        That is what they hear. That is what they care about. And that is what they see.

        Whey want faster results, that is why they consider agile (at the higher levels).

        So of course the reality on the ground is that all too many implementations that you relate above.

        They “bought” agile, and the payback they want is “faster results”.

        I have experience on both sides of the fence so I thought I’d share that.


  4. Waterfall is to Agile as baking is to cooking with a wok. All four will produce useful outputs, but the former are focused on “reproducible” results from standard inputs, while the latter are about reliably producing “effective” results from variable or non-standard inputs. Agile and the wok are deceptively easy to learn, but take time to master; Waterfall and baking are more complicated processes, but relatively quick to make productive because you can follow standard recipes.

    Hopefully, this metaphor will annoy practitioners of all four disciplines.

    1. I like the analogy because it ties into Peter’s post suggesting that people pick from a “chinese menu” of practices to start with.

      Many people advocate that one must do a “big bang” complete switch. As Peter mentions it’s not necessary to do that.

      Although there is a danger to the chinese menu approach, if all you do is the fried food that won’t be sufficient nutrition.

      One ultimately has to wind up at a balanced place, but they would have to anyway. May as well start out by taking responsibility for your own actions, as Peter seems to suggest, than just jump into a process and attempt to follow it blindly


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