The Tao of Scrum (refactored)

Don’t get set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow, be like water. Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” – Bruce Lee

I recently saw a post by Ron Jeffries on his site talking about how people put together sets of knowledge under labels, and end up fighting to defend their labels instead of defending what works over a dogma.

This reminded me of an earlier post of mine in Portuguese: “O Tao do Scrum” where I talk about the similarities between Bruce Lee’s philosophy and Scrum.

When discussing this similarity with a friend I realized I was not as clear enough on my thoughts in my first post, and became inspired to rewrite it to make my analogies clearer. I promise to write something more earthly in the future, but, right now, let’s talk about the clouds (pun intended).

It seems that whatever activity we undertake as humans there are some natural steps of evolution we cannot avoid. At first we start acting by instinct or as many people say, we do things ad hoc. In time, we start to study and noticing patterns, we start to use these patterns to our advantage.

In the martial arts world, it would be like noticing how to throw a punch or a kick and seeing how efficient that can be.

In a second stage, different observations or knowledge is gathered into “systems” (or clouds). Over time, these clouds start to solidify and people start to follow these techniques. When you compare almost any “methodology” to doing things ad hoc, the methodologies will be on top any day of the week.

It seems to be better doing software with waterfall method (even considering all the shortcomings) than doing ad hoc.

Of course, as natural as rain, people start to compare the different methods. In the martial arts world this raises the need for dispute between schools. (My Kanban is better than your burndown; We use TDD, you don’t; and so on)

At the same time that the schools use the comparison to raise their own level of sophistication, some people start to see value in learning from more than one school. Even new “methods” arise from the contact between schools.

With the clash of “systems”, some talented people start to see that there is value in all of the methods, and just try to use what works in each one. They study a lot and try to put together the ultimate method, the perfect method with pieces from all the knowledge existing on a subject.

To me, it seems that RUP was such an attempt. Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do was explicitly such an attempt.

As much as these also are valuable, and seem to be a clear evolution, the new form is also a “system”, and solidifies knowledge. In that sense, they are also limited because the challenges we face require continuous adaptation.

The last step is going back to the start with a different mind. The Tao is a full circle path. When completing a full circle, you end up realizing that the perfect solution is ad hoc. But not in the same sense as the first ad hoc where you know nothing. It is ad hoc in a state where complete self-knowledge dictates the continuous adaptation. You act with the particular purpose of the situation you are in, and every situation has an unique response.

Methods are important, but must be understood as a step. The objective is always to reach/go back to the initial state where you can be better than any method.

“Because the word ”l” does not exist.
A good fight should be like a small play…but played seriously. When the opponent expands, l contract. When he contracts, l expand. And when there is an opportunity… l do not hit…it hits all by itself (shows his fist).
Any technique, however worthy and desirable, becomes a disease when the mind is obsessed with it.“ – Bruce Lee

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One Response to “The Tao of Scrum (refactored)”

  1. Tobias Mayer Says:

    I enjoyed this post. Always good to see how ideas like Scrum are reflected in the wisdom of years. It reminds us of how natural a way of working this really is.

    “When completing a full circle, you end up realizing that the perfect solution is ad hoc. But not in the same sense as the first ad hoc where you know nothing.”

    I liked the simplicity expressed in that statement, the realization that this is not about seeking perfection, just a better way.

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