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Fact: Scrum was created 15 years before Agile


The Agile Manifesto was published in 2001 by 17 software developers who were already using lightweight software development methodologies regularly. They wanted to move the industry away from using heavyweight, documentation driven software development methodologies. They had found that software development projects were increasingly experiencing very long delivery timelines, which often meant that the solution that was proposed and documented 2-3 years ago, wasn’t the right solution for the market once it was released 2-3 years later. Additionally, these projects were plagued with missed deadlines and/or outright project cancellations halfway through development.  And so, the 17 developers needed a way to refocus the industry on lightweight methodologies by publishing a new set of values that they found led to more successful software development projects; and that’s when the Agile Manifesto, and Agile as we know it today, was born.


But, did you know that Scrum and many of the other Agile Frameworks were created BEFORE Agile? Agile frameworks such as XP, SCRUM, DSDM, ASD, Crystal, Feature-Driven Development, Pragmantic Programming and others were around before the Agile Manifesto was even created.

In fact, Scrum goes as far back to an article published on Harvard Business Review in 1986 by Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka called “The New New Product Development Game“. The article doesn’t yet define Scrum as a process, but only merely references Scrum once as a single heading “Moving the Scrum Downfield” where Hirotaka and Ikujiro carefully explore and analyze then-prominent product development companies and what patterns they found that made for the most successful product development. It makes for a very interesting read because while it is a very small study, it shows that scrum’s roots are from careful analysis and research comparisons of teams that were actually trying to complete software projects effectively.

Takeuchi and Nonaka are not officially recognized as the creators of Scrum today. Thier article was published in 1986, but scrum was being experimented with by Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber in the early 1990s. In 1995, they codified and published scrum in the form of a paper titled “SCRUM Development Process” and presented it in a object-oriented conference in Austin, Texas. If you look at some of the references in this article, they actually reference the same article written in 1986 by Takeuchi and Nonaka. This indicates that the creators of Scrum were influenced by the research findings of Takeuchi and Nonaka. So while Scrum was officially published and codified in 1995, there was almost a decade worth of time between the 1986 article and Scrum’s official codification. In-between this period of time the Scrum framework itself was being practiced and codified!


So if this is the case, and the 1986 article was the basis upon which Scrum was created, then Scrum itself was created upon a foundation of some empirical evidence that showed that successful product development teams have the following attributes.

  • Built-in instability (unknowns that require them to come up with solutions and be able to make autonomous decisions)
  • They are self organized
  • They are cross functional and have overlapping development phases to remove hand over between silo’s.
  • They embrace learning through experimentation (MultiLearning)
  • They get feedback often from customers and management
  • Management avoids controlling them through command, but prefers to control them through influence (Subtle Control)
  • They promote their learning throughout the organization so that others can learn what they’ve already learned.

This is taken right out of Takeuchi and Nonaka’s article in 1986. Note that I’ve paraphrased some of the above points to use some of today’s terminology.

The Agile Manifesto and Scrum are closely aligned and they work to achieve some overlapping values, and principles. The Agile Manifesto was in response to the frustration of failed development projects in order to promote lightweight frameworks like Scrum. Scrum was created from evidence based empirical research for successful product development teams and companies. This suggests a very strong connection between the need for being Agile, the need for lightweight frameworks, and the likelihood that the combination will yield the highest possible probability of success for software development projects

So there you have it. This is why the industry is moving towards using Scrum and Agile development practices, and why Agile loves Scrum.



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