Some time ago I posted about the commodification of the IT project manager both on this site and my own site. I think many took it negatively, but I also think people are missing out on the positive side of that trend. It is that the field is becoming mature and the process to deliver IT systems and solutions are becoming more repeatable rather than having to do them from scratch. This does make it less unique and the skill sets less in demand, but that’s the cycle of technology, innovation and process control.
This will even effect the new kid on the block, namely Agile project management. I found this interesting post from the Agile @ Adobe blog posted by Peter Green, in which he argues that Scrum is becoming the “Model-T” of Agile:
I started wondering: “Is scrum too much of a sacred cow to evolve?” I’m not sure the answer to that question, but while thinking about it, the idea came to me that Scrum is not a sacred cow as much as it is the Model-T of agile.
Ford didn’t invent the automobile, that honor goes to Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot, Gottlieb Daimler, Carl Benz, or Wilhelm Maybach, depending on the book you’re reading. What Ford did was figure out a way to mass produce the automobile and sell it to the public at an affordable price such that it became an integral part of the lives of nearly everyone on the planet today.
Similarly, Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber didn’t invent agile. The ideas of agile go back to at least the 1950s and probably before that, and are part of a family of new approaches to doing business that also includes movements like Lean, Theory of Constraints, and Six Sigma in manufacturing, Leadership Agility and Radical Management in management theory, and Lean Startup and Innovation Games for learning about customer needs. What Jeff and Ken did was figure out a way to mass produce Agile and sell it to the software industry in a way that has put agile on the map all the way up the C level of nearly every organization where software is important. Gartner famously predicted that by this 2012, 80% of software development will be done with an agile approach. The focusing of agile principles into a broadly applicable framework like scrum was a major innovation, just as the development of the Model-T assembly line was a major innovation in manufacturing
I have to agree with much of this assessment, and the irony is not lost on me that he is comparing Scrum’s evolution in terms of the Model-T assembly line process. Much of Agile’s initiative was a reaction to the top down, waterfall cum assembly line like process of traditional project management, that while innovative and disruptive from its inception, really is now common place and I have to say, becoming a commodity.
With the mass adoption and churning out of Scrum certifications, which even now has been incorporated into the repertoire of PMI’s certification curricula after initially ignoring the movement, it has now become quite the McDonalds of Agile movements.
So I think we can now ask the question posed by Peter Green:
The Ford assembly line was the exact innovation needed in its day. It persisted as the primary innovation in the auto industry until the 1970s when companies like Toyota evolved a newer approach that was more fit to customer’s evolving needs and provided higher quality products. It took decades for Ford to adopt similar approaches to catch up to Toyota. The question for me is this: at 20 years old, will Scrum see the need to evolve, and if so, how?
What will be the next evolution or revolution of Agile?
In general, the spread of standards (PMBOK, Scrum) and certifications that show that individuals have knowledge of those standards (PMP, PMI-ACP, CSM, CSPO, CSP) is good because standards increase job/career mobility for practioners and allow organizations to build teams quickly with an expectations that team members will have a common vocabulary, approach and frame of reference.