Practical Agile over Ideological Agile

When is it OK for Practical Agile to Overrule The Scrum Guide?

In these fast-paced, often unpredictable times, should we change our approach to training and teach more practical agile methods, so our clients are better equipped to manage change? I’ve been reaching out to colleagues and competitors, discussing the state of agile training and consultation. Many of my colleagues still believe that certification in their favorite ideology is the best approach to training.

Certification Teaches Ideology

Certification trainers teach the rules and ideology of their method du jour, mainly The Scrum Guide, Disciplined Agile Toolkit, Scaled Agile Framework or favorite ICAgile topic. Each method has their own idea of what it means to practice agile. That implies there is no one right way to practice. I acknowledge that many students take certification classes to beef up their resume. With high unemployment rates, everyone wants their resume to stand out. 

Good certification trainers reach into their own on-the-job experience to explain how they’ve applied the principles to past projects. However, not all certification trainers have actually worked as scrum masters or product owners on an agile team. Their students learn enough ideology to pass an exam. The reality is that some students may return to work after passing their certification exam unprepared for the challenges ahead.

Practical Agile Increases Adoption of Agile Mindset

I love Scrum and the agile mindset. I am a practicing Certified Scrum Master (CSM) through the Scrum Alliance, I teach practical agile methods based on Scrum, and I spent the last year developing a program for individuals to apply practical agile methods to their personal lives. Our company, GSD Mindset, prides itself on teaching, coaching and practicing our practical agile approach called the GSD Scrum Method

World and business leaders must adopt an agile mindset or their organizations may not survive, given we live in a world with many unknowns. To increase adoption of the agile mindset and therefore increase our client’s chances to succeed, we should add a 13th Practical Agile Principle to the original 12 Agile Principles: Take a practical agile approach over our ideology as written.

Ways to Make Scrum Practical

Since we teach an extension of Scrum, I’ll use Scrum to illustrate my point. Many organizations adopt their own version of Scrum anyway. Sometimes those organizations see productivity and quality improvements, sometimes they don’t. Because we are agile influencers, it is our responsibility to guide the individuals who take our classes to apply a practical agile approach that actually works for their business.

For example, The Scrum Guide assumes you already have a prioritized Backlog. Many who practice Scrum don’t know how to organize and build one. Even though building your first Backlog is not in The Scrum Guide, our primary responsibility should be to provide our clients with tools to start focusing on the right things in a more productive way, and that starts with building a well-written Backlog:

  • How do you decide what to build?
  • How do you define the Minimum Viable Product?
  • How do you prioritize a Backlog? 

Even the authors of The Scrum Guide admit that Scrum is “Difficult to Master.” As coaches and trainers, after we train our clients how to build a Backlog, we need to help them correctly adapt the formal Events of Scrum to work in their unique situations:

  1. Plan without knowing all the answers.
  2. Meet Daily to keep focused on the right things.
  3. Review status and quality of work on a regular basis.
  4. Reflect on what’s working, brainstorm new ideas and learn how to recognize when to pivot. 

The key is to internalize the ideological principles and develop a practical agile approach that you can adapt to any situation.

Are you certified?
How have you changed your approach to agile?
Do share! 

Cynthia Kahn

Cynthia Kahn


Cynthia Kahn







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