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Scrum and XP are not what you think

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Scrum and XP are not what you think

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I learned in the last month that I don’t know what XP is.

As it turns out, I don’t really know what Scrum is either.

This is a good thing.

No, I am not on crack. Let me say more.

Putting my foot in my mouth in public

I made the unfortunate choice of selecting this post for submission through the Scrum Alliance: 5 Ways Scrum Creates Safety: Why One CSC Uses Scrum and XP Together to Avoid XP Risks. I have gotten more flak over this than a years worth of blog posts.

For sure, there are some inaccuracies (more on this below)

Also, some people have interpreted it as saying XP bad, Scrum good.

In hindsight, I can see how people may interpret the post this way.


I am truly sorry for offending anyone. This was not my intent.

Scrum and XP are evolving targets

My big learning is that Scrum and XP are evolving and imprecise concepts.

Let’s take and example from Scrum. Retrospectives were not originally part of Scrum. I checked out Ken’s original book and it’s not there. Neither is definition of done. Of course, they were part of CSM as taught by Ken in 2004 when I learned Scrum. Scrum at least has a Scrum Guide (hosted at scrum.org!) to define what Scrum is today.

Let’s consider XP. I have heard the statement that Retrospectives are part of XP and have been since 2001. OK, how would I verify that? Well, how about checking the revised edition of Extreme Programming Explained (2005)? Interestingly, it does not mention retrospectives. Jim Shore’s book does but it’s the Art of Agile, not the Art of XP. AFAIK, there is no definitive source for XP the way there is for Scrum. This makes it really hard to have a conversation about what XP actually is. Based on this, I think it is fair to say that I don’t know what XP is and I probably never did. I’m not even sure how I would find out if I wanted to. (If you know, please let tell me).

This demonstrates how CSM and standardized training has done more to grow the Agile community than anything else. It helps to have a standard language and a common core. So, kudos to Ken Schwaber for this.

Practices vs. Brand

I agree with the comment that what is most important is not the Brand, it is the practices. I totally agree. The practices are more important than what we call them.

On the other hand, the brand is relevant too. It defines where we start with clients, the language we use, and the community we grow with. So for me, brand does matter. And the Scrum brand (for all it’s odour).

Many thanks to Lowell Lindstrom and Adam Sroka for commenting on my article and helping me learn something from this experience.

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