Project Management

Q&A with Ken Schwaber

From the Scrumptious Blog
Scrum is the most popular framework used within an agile environment to convert complex problems into valuable products and services. In this blog, we will examine all things Scrum to shed light on this wonderful organizational tool that is sweeping the globe. There will be engaging articles, interviews with experts and Q&A's. Are you ready to take the red pill? Then please join me on a fascinating journey down the rabbit hole, and into the world of Scrum.

About this Blog


Recent Posts

The Agile Engine

Scrum at School

Why SAFe may not be safe

Scrum on Mars

Scrum vs Kanban

With Scrum being by far the most influential and pervasive framework for delivering Agile projects, I thought it might be interesting to find out why Scrum has been so successful, any challenges it may face when scaling, and how it might evolve in the future.

To investigate these topics further, who better to ask than the co-founder of Scrum itself. Ken Schwaber, who also founded and chairs, graciously accepted my request to answer the following questions.

1. When you first created the Scrum framework, did you believe it could become as widespread as it has?

No, I didn’t. I knew it worked for me at the organizations and on the projects where I used it. I knew waterfall was draining the life out of software development and angering our customers, so I thought I would share it with others. But, as life is very complex, who can ever predict outcomes (empiricism of Scrum).

2. Why do you believe Scrum is the most popular framework for delivering Agile projects?

It is very simple. Every person adds their interpretations, so they can use it in their context and it becomes pretty universally applicable. It is just really, really hard to use; Scrum makes transparent facts that are contrary to human nature’s desire for good things to happen. Scrum sometimes makes really unpleasant things visible. The choice is to figure out what to do to solve the problems, or to “modify” Scrum so the unpleasantness is again hidden.

3. What do you see as the major challenges to scaling Scrum at the enterprise level?

Enterprise cultures are very different from Scrum’s culture. The Scrum Master has to make Scrum work as well as possible, regardless. For instance, a customer demands that something be done by a certain time. Scrum may disclose that is impossible and trade-offs have to be made. The power structure in a hierarchical organization (only tell me good news) often finds that unacceptable. So the customer is caught between desires and possibility.

4. Should the name Scrum Master be changed to Scrum Coach to adhere more to a servant-leader relationship?

I think that is a bad idea.

5. How can non-development projects benefit from Scrum?

Whenever something changes, that is development. When water acidifies, that is the water developing from one state to another. To understand the greatly needed applicability of Scrum, read Tomas Friedman’s book, “Thank You For Being Late.”  Our world is getting more complex, not less. Scrum is needed more, not less. Scrum is a way of dealing with the significant cultural upheaval that we are going through.

6. Where do you see Scrum 5 years from now?

To deal with greater complexity, we may develop infrastructures that describe how to manage risks and better tolerate R&D. Scrum will be right in the middle as meaningful possibilities emerge.

                                                               * * *

I wish to thank Ken Schwaber for his great insights, and Lindsay Velecina at for her assistance during the Q&A process. The world is a little wiser about Scrum as a result.

Thank you for your interest in the Scrumptious blog. If you have any ideas for Scrum topics, please message me here. Until next time, remember, projects can be Scrumptious!
Sante Vergini Signature


Posted on: February 26, 2018 04:42 PM | Permalink

Comments (28)

Page: 1 2 next>

Please login or join to subscribe to this item
This is very helpful, Sante and thanks for sharing this.

Wow, that is fantastic Sante. Great Job. I am a big fan of - Wealth of Information.

I wish you just asked one more question. Whom do you think I could reach to ask this question:

"To what extent will scrum is or will be applicable in Construction Projects?"

That's awesome, Sante! Really great that you reached out and he graciously responded. Number 4 - lol. I see you snuck that one in there :)

Thanks Sante for sharing, looks like Scrum is getting more popular and one needs to dive in it.

I am going to get my Agile and Scum, you leave me with no options with these nice articles and knowledge.

Thanks Anish, Rami, Andrew and Riyadh.

Rami, yes I'm also a fan of Scrum is a hard one to assess in construction projects, certainly for the actual construction side of it. However for the admin, management, HR etc part of the construction industry, I don't see why it can't be. There was a similar thread recently if you recall regarding Agile/Scrum in construction, and it appears it's more about resistance inside the industry than it not being a suitable fit.

Andrew, I see you picked up on that one lol. Yes I couldn't resist ;-)

Riyadh, it's certainly the dominant framework to use within an Agile environment.

Haha Kevin that's great. You may be interested to know that Rami, Andrew and I went the path, not Scrum Alliance. I try not to pick sides too much because I am authoring this blog about Scrum. However, knowing that we picked certifications I think says a lot about the changing value of Scrum certifications.

I did dig very deep into Nexus / Scaled Scrum and took the certification too. I think, scaled scrum will in a way work on small construction projects and deal with all aspects of the project but that will be a Scaled Scaled Scrum.

I am trying to connect both on so many levels while ensuring Scrum remains intact. I will do this exercise after I finish from the certifications I am studying for but as I said, looking at the Nexus Framework and looking at how construction is run, with a bit of tweaking, it will certainly work.


To add to Sante’s comments, this is the beauty of this community, one encourages the other. Sante and Andrew encouraged me a lot and certainly had a big influence on my decision to chose that path besides Kiron of course who assisted big time in so many ways. Now, we are encouraging you - Start with PSM I.

I am loving the community even more now because I see more and more engagement although the core group who contributes daily is more or less the same but I noticed the interaction of others is much more than last year.

Who knows Rami you may end up working Agile and Scrum into the construction industry and develop a system they (the industry) will adopt more universally. I looked at the scaled scrum certs also, just not sure if I will end up doing SAFe or the SPS like you did, but I am heavily leaning toward SPS for all the same reasons we (and others here) did the PSM.

@Sante: You are right, who knows but this needs so much time to put everything together and brainstorm with myself LOL Id rather do that in a group who share the same interest. Maybe we should join forces with Ken and come up with this inituative :D

@Andrew: This is the truth my friend :-) I would personally vote for SPS.

Thank you Sante for sharing.
I really like Ken's comment " Scrum sometimes makes really unpleasant things visible".
That is the beauty of Scrum.

Hi Sante, well written article and very insightful. I currently have the PMI-ACP and I have always struggled with the idea of getting a scrum certification as Scrum is technically under Agile's umbrella. Is there a key benefit to the scrum certification you got?

Rami, interesting suggestion. I haven't searched through all their articles or forums to see how they tackle the construction industry, but I guess that would be the first step. They (he) I assume would want to see SME's such as yourself research and propose ways to incorporate Scrum into their domains. On another note, I need to get that SPS when I have time ;-)

Najam, it was a cool comment from Ken. The transparency of Scrum goes a long way toward this.

Hi Tayo, I guess the benefit to a Scrum certification would be if you are or will be using Scrum in your organization. It is as you say under the umbrella of Agile, and is the most popular framework used meaning that even if you are not currently using it, you will undoubtedly come across it in your work at some stage and increasingly so.

Resubmitting this post - was accidentally removed ....

Rami - thanks! That meant a lot to me. :)

Sante - SAFe was on my radar. It happened the final push was client motivated. I still plan to keep an eye on SPS and S@S. Also, want to learn more about the differences.

Andrew, it would be great to do SAFe and I'm just weighing up the cost factor. I definitely want to do the SPS at some stage.

My class was 7-800 USD (early registration), though I ended up getting a couple hundred off b/c my originally selected location did not get enough participants, so had to travel 80 miles each way for the closest option. My company paid, though many there were on their own dime. There will also be a yearly fee to maintain it - $100. There is an expected retest when they change versions (full, not incremental). I don't know if a full test or some 'special' version for those already certified.

Andrew: Can you briefly tell us why SAFe is a good certificate and to what extend it is applicable in fields other than the IT ?


Page: 1 2 next>

Please Login/Register to leave a comment.


"A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject."

- Winston Churchill