Can Scrum Scale Down?

Prompted by a discussion on a LinkedIn group, I was reminded of a presentation deck I put together a couple of years ago to capture what my cohorts and I were doing for project management at the time.

The short answer is: “why yes, yes scrum can most certainly scale down”. How far down? I think with the right frame of mind, it can scale down to a singe individual.

Here are the slides as they stand. They’re a few years old, entitled “The blitZEN Method”.

I’ve seen this process work, in practice, with as few as 2 people. It’s worked with a cross-functional team of 5. I’ve applied the concepts to individual work as well. So, I’d say I’ve proven it can scale down. But is it really Scrum?

When it was written, the only experience I had with Agile development methodologies was on the team from which The blitZEN Method was born. It shows a bit in my terminology, and the simplicity of the overall approach.

Since then, I’ve left UNC and I’ve worked in several different so-called “Agile” shops. I’ve yet to see any as effective as The blitZEN Method was. These were organizations filled with a zeal for core Agile values, who had consultants and coaches and trainers – folks paid unfathomable amounts of money, all for nothing. At best, people would bypass core values just to get work done. At worst, low-quality code would get rushed through to production in spite of it all – ceremony for the sake of ceremony. Not just Scrum – I’ve seen Kanban fail too.

So, maybe everyone is just doing it wrong. Maybe there’s something really special about The blitZEN Method. Maybe the people I worked with at the time were what was really special. It’s a tough call, even in hindsight.

When you’ve seen something evolve into a proven methodology, and you go out in the world that spawned it, and find yourself constantly bombarded with contradictory information from highly dogmatic sources, you start to wonder what happened – is it me, or is it Agile? Are we all kidding ourselves?

Take a look, and let me know what you think. Feedback is greatly appreciated. I’m especially interested in hearing of any applications of the approach – I haven’t been in a position to try myself for several years.

I hope to update these slides soon, I would love to incorporate your insights.

Note: I’m also working on a project to expand on some of the concepts – it’s been on my back burner for a while, but keep an eye on How I Develop Web Apps in my github.

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