To my Scrum Master: A letter for your continuous improvement

I question neither the manifesto nor the methodologies of Agile, I have certainly benefited from your class and I don’t intend to disregard of your teachings. Nevertheless, I’m not comfortable with the arguments you provided when I pointed out the flaws in your hand-on exercises. And when you pulled that “Appeal to Authority” fallacy card on me, I could no longer take you seriously.

If it was arrogant to think neither age nor experience guarantees infallibility, I would be most arrogant for I firmly believe age and experience earns you only the positive Bayesian bias and you’re more _likely_ to be correct; more likely but not always. For the benefits of us both, and in the name of the transparency in your teaching, the name of continuous improvement and the integrity that is in the company’s culture, I refrained from sharing this memo to you in private and instead I made it public.

Am I being disrespectful? Why no, of course, as I said, I value your teachings for what they are right. I’ll tell you a brief story. Back in 2014, I was involved in a small indie game dev team for a time and I first stumbled upon Scrum and Agile methodology as one of the available development models in Visual Studio Online. So in my young and ignorant excitement, I attempted to apply these sparkling new tools to our project. It was, of course, a mess and for years to come, I have been oblivious to what had gone wrong.

That haunting oblivion of mine ended after your class yesterday and I’m in a retrospective self-inspection (with a deep sense of regret) of what I could have done and how to apply the right way to some of my ongoing projects. And for that you earned a great deal of respect from me, for your capability in the knowledge of Agile development alone.

However, and I’ll be frank here, you’re not at all comfortable to work with. The point of asking you questions is moot if you want to be cynical all the time (and I too am very cynical when you’re cynical while uttering remarks that, upon a sufficient retrospection, have the information density approaching epsilon). Furthermore, you fell into a common pitfall of many seniors. Trust me, you’re not the first person to tell me to “shut up, stop being so damn disagreeable and listen to the elders”. I digress a little: you’re, in fact, the fifth person to say that in my face and the ninth senior I rated highly enough to point out the flaws at all.

Of the four people (excluding you) who pulled the seniority card on me before, only one of them ever earned back my respect. Of the remaining three (again, excluding you), the first managed to accept and change, and the second managed to prove that I was in the wrong, and they both have remarkable quotes written on two pieces of post-it notes now permanently stuck on the whiteboard at home and whose philosophies I adore. And the last person, for whose capability and receptiveness I rate highly, is the reason I’ve ever been here in the first place.

Back on topic, I suppose I should point out what other concerns that led to me writing this in the middle of the night when I would be sleeping normally. The “long stride” factory and the “coin flipping” game were, for whatever they’re worth, blatantly unfair and served only to devalue the point they were supposed to back up via the mean of falsified statistics.

For the first game, you imposed a stupid way to leadership; the worst possible all-talk-no-do kind of boss; and even then you gave the boss-to-worker ratio of 1:1 which effectively halved the number of actual workers. Evidently, we got only _four_ reports compared to _eight_ reports in the second round. Coupled with unclear instructions and metagame that were only made obvious after the first round, there was no way the first round would win even if they both used the same method. In our case, the average still proved the point, to which I naturally agree, but I remain most upset by how badly designed the experiment was.

I propose next time, you run a test round for everyone to get familiar with the game, then you assign one leader, queue the rest of the team behind him and let them march in an orderly manner for the first round.

For the second game, you rejected the “stacking the coins” innovation and broke the pace of the so-called “Waterfall” approach with your game master intervention. It made your conclusion at the end disgustingly hypocritical. I’m not a proponent of Waterfall approach but I know for sure your analogue of Waterfall practice was as wrong as my first Agile attempt. You criticized Waterfall methodology by using a strawman argument, attacking the Waterfall method as though when in each stage of process, only a fraction of the team can work and the rest are on idle. This was untrue! The entire Waterfall team works on the same stage and moves to the next stage at once.

A proper coin flipping comparison would be each person flips one coin 8 times and moves that same coin around the table vs. the assembly-line approach of Agile. This illustrates the entire team doing the entire product backlog items (coins) in the same stage (flipping or moving) in contrast to the entire team doing small backlog items through all stages.

You don’t care about Waterfall, that’s fine. You dislike LGBT people and accept no middle-ground answers, that’s fine as well. But please, please, please! Do not spread misinformation and badly designed experiments. You’re devaluing yourself by using and defending irrational claims!

And pardon me, I prefer English, I also prefer composing long messages because–I’ll be damned–I cannot articulate eloquently, or precisely, in speech as I can in writing.

P/s: Japan going from the rubble of WW2 to an economic power is no proof of Lean thinking’s effectiveness. “Correlation does not equal causation”, as the saying goes and I certainly do not want “100% human death rate is proof of water’s extreme toxicity”.

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fujihita

Self-learner, designer, author and programmer.

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