Scrum Notes 2013-20

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The Law of One Bum ▶️

Daniel Chodowiecki, academic study of a sitting male nude

Most people in the Agile world are familiar with Open Space Technology, and its one law, The Law of Two Feet. Not so many, in fact hardly any are familiar with another law, The Law of One Bum, which isn't surprising as I recently coined the term. Here's why, but firstly...

Homeless Man by Daniel Kramer, © 1996

No, not that kind of bum, this kind of bum, the part of the body you sit on.

The importance of your bottom in Scrum

Scrum has a lot of meetings, which some call ceremonies, and the Scrum Guide now calls events. I prefer the term alignment conversation. This reminds me (and perhaps others) that every time developers get together with one another, or with their users, customers, product visionaries, sales and marketing folk, and other stakeholders they are doing so to ensure alignment towards a goal or vision—or sometimes just a hope, dream or aspiration. This makes every Scrum meeting—refinement, sprint planning, daily scrum, review and retrospective—relevant, important and necessary.

If the scrum events are indeed relevant, important and necessary, then people involved in visioning, making or using the product need to attend, and they need to contribute. Having people opt out, through boredom, being busy, having better things to do, or just not caring is not an option. And having people apply the over-used, and out-of-context law of two feet in the middle of a meeting is unacceptable. Scrum requires commitment. That's encoded, remember? The Scrum events are not optional. They are must-haves. They are essential to the creation of high quality, useful, products that in one way or another will improve the lives of those using the products.

So, if the meeting is boring, purposeless, ineffective, what then? Our default behaviour is to avoid the meeting, to leave half way through, to be present in body only, checked out mentally, or to complain before, during and after the event (usually to the wrong people). Instead, apply the law of one bum, which essentially is this:

If you are not getting value from the meeting, stay there, and figure out what you can contribute to make the meeting valuable. And if you fail, stay there, and try again differently.

I formulated this law at one of the London Scrum Exchange 1 events, which are self-organised, participant-facilitated events, not dissimilar to open space, but actually not the same, for many reasons. Because these exchanges are specifically Scrum exchanges it felt necessary to imbue them with the Scrum values. By staying in the session you chose to attend, and helping to create value for oneself and the other participants, all five Scrum values are at play: commitment, focus, openness, respect, courage. Think about it. And think about how those values may be cast aside as you get up to leave a session (or a meeting) you find boring, or uncomfortable.

The Law of One Bum sounds humorous, and in name it is, certainly. It is also very serious. It asks you to be uncomfortable, to confront your demons of boredom, frustration, judgment and perhaps even fear. It asks you to take responsibility for change, and not leave that up to others. And it demands of you presence and vulnerability. The law of one bum is not for the faint hearted. There is now no escape route, no short cut. You have to go through what it is necessary to go through to discover true improvement.

Are you up for it? Is your bum ready?

1 The Scrum Exchange is held in London twice a year. Click the link to read more.

London, 05/04/2018   comment