I tend to think of Scrum as an MVP of Agile. 20+ years ago we knew Agile worked but we didn’t understand why. A few years later, some of us adopted Lean as the base, some others Theory of Constraints. Today, there are several approaches now based on Flow, Lean, and the Theory of Constraints. While Scrum has acknowledged some value to flow, it is still based on empiricism.

It is important to heed the words of Deming – “Experience teaches nothing. in fact, there is no experience to record without theory… Without theory there is no learning… And that is their downfall. People copy examples and then wonder what is the trouble. They look at examples and without theory, they learn nothing.”

Equally important to understand is how attending to empiricism without theory also constrains us. Edgar Schein alludes to this with his insight that “we do not think and talk about what we see, we see what we think and talk about.” The two of these together somewhat explain why Scrum’s insistence on being “intentionally incomplete” to make it “simple to understand” results in it being “difficult to master.” We don’t have the theory we need and we can’t even see that it’s missing.

Flow, Lean, and the Theory of Constraints add rationalism to the Agile mix. This enables us to better understand what is happening and to create or use practices that fit our situation. Most approaches based on these are also not frameworks. Frameworks, while making it easier to start, tend to constrain the solutions. And, because people tend to focus on the framework, not the work itself, tend to blind their users to what would be useful.

Not basing an approach on a framework often adds some extra work to understand it. But not everyone has to pay this price. When a coach is trained in a Flow, Lean, and Theory of Constraints approach, they can convey what is needed to the team when needed.

Amplio goes a step further by adding the following:

  • A deep set of practices, including both those somewhat unique to Amplio while being able to include any good practices from other sources. The practices are available when needed to avoid overloading teams. We have found some of these practices to be essential but not present in any of the popular frameworks. The most important of these is the Minimum Business Increment which can go a long way toward alleviating product management challenges.
  • A straightforward way to deal with complexity and Black Swan Events. Its factors for effective value streams, based on Goldratt’s Inherent Simplicity, is a very effective tool to see the cause and effect present and explore other factors that are not easily seen.
  • A set of virtual collaboration tools to support participants back in their workplace.
  • A way to do a quick start that is fit for purpose and can be expanded as teams need them to.

It’s useful to see the evolution of Agile methods. And not be left using old methods. Wherever you are on the spectrum you can keep using what you’ve learned while going to the next step.


Associated Workshops

If you want to learn more about this approach, check out these two online, Amplio workshops:

Amplio Community of Practice

In this every other week series Al Shalloway will discuss topics he thinks are important but either overlooked or done poorly. These will include topics like dealing with complexity, the risks of using frameworks, and how the lessons of engineering can be useful in product development. He will also talk about his own approaches to the team, enterprise, SAFe, and being a coach.

Amplio Development Masterclass

This workshop is primarily for coaches who want to go to the next level and transcend particular approaches but instead think for themselves. It is also useful for people in an organization who are responsible for how effective their coaches are.