Tobias Mayer on Scrum Alliance

| by Dan Mezick Follow 0 Followers on Oct 28, 2010. Estimated reading time: 12 minutes |

Tobias Mayer is arguably one of the most vocal proponents of Scrum in the world. He has a love relationship with Scrum, and what appears to be a love-hate relationship with the Scrum Alliance.

His many blog posts on Scrum have numerous fans and followers; in many blog posts he describes Scrum as a philosophy of mind and a way of being. His career in Scrum includes becoming one of the earliest Certified Scrum Trainers, or "CST”, authorized to grant the Certified Scrum Master credential to students who attend his Scrum courses. His career also includes being both banished from the Scrum Alliance and later reinstated by Ken Schwaber, the co-creator of the Scrum framework.

When Ken Schwaber recently severed ties with the Scrum Alliance, something he helped create, Tobias Mayer became 'Creative Director' of the new organization. After a brief stint in that role, he renounced all his Scrum Alliance certifications and wrote a scathing blog post about the Scrum Alliance, questioning the Scrum knowledge of the leaders, questioning the integrity of the Scrum Alliance board, and asserting that that the Scrum Alliance "has become the epitome of the dysfunctional organization that Scrum practitioners are committed to transforming." See the full "Scrum Compliance" blog post here.

Tobias Mayer is arguably one of the most vocal proponents of Scrum in the world. What gives here? The following interview helps to answer this question.

Tobias, your blog post entitled “The Scrum Compliance” is extremely critical of the Scrum Alliance. You occupied the role the Creative Director of the Scrum Alliance after Ken left. Why did you assume this role?

Well, to be blunt I believe Ken ran the SA in an oppressive manner, not allowing any change or development that was not of his own design. The organization was stagnant in terms of meeting the needs of the community, and with the pending Microsoft CSD partnership seemed to be moving towards being a money-making machine for a select few. After Ken departed I saw an opportunity for change. I saw hope. I imagined the SA could become a truly community-centric organization, existing to serve its membership through the creation of innovative programs and a supportive framework. I wanted to be part of such an organization. I was first asked by Tom Mellor, the newly (self-) appointed chairman to be on the board, but I felt I could influence change more effectively as a staff member, so worked with the temporary managing director, Lowell Lindstrom to create the “Creative Director” role as part of a new staff framework.

You then you repudiated all association with the organization. Formally, you quit right? Or were you fired?

Over time it became apparent to me that Ken had left an indelible mark on the organization - or perhaps to be fair to Ken, it was the organization itself that made itself what it became. Either way, the new leadership (which was mostly the old leadership plus Mike Cohn on the board) continued to run the organization just as Ken had, i.e. in a traditional, opaque, command and control driven way, focusing on certification and profit, very closed to new ideas. It was a frustrating experience. The lack of stability, resulting from the board’s failure to find a permanent MD for almost a year and their own in-fighting, caused a lot of damage, and prevented any useful decisions being made for that whole period. And yes, I quit. But if I hadn’t Tom Mellor had made it clear he would do his best to fire me following a falling out over remarks I made about him and other board members on the internal CST list. It all got very ugly. I had an equal part in that, of course. Dysfunction breeds dysfunction, and all of us were tainted by the in-fighting at the board level, and the instability of the staff group. There was a lot of fear, and lot of dissatisfaction and frustration amongst the staff.

Has the Scrum Alliance fired anyone recently that you know of? Were people fired on a Friday?

As I understand it the whole staff team was recently laid off, with a plan to outsource the staff function to a staffing agency. I don’t know why that decision was made, or what its impact will be. Like everyone else, I am waiting to see how this plays out. I don’t have an opinion on this decision. It would probably have been smart of the SA to have offered a clearer message that this had occurred (if indeed it did occur!) and an explanation as to how this action supports the work of the SA.

What in your view is the current purpose of the Scrum Alliance? The stated purpose per the ByLaws is a nine-part purpose, starting with “transforming the world of work through the use of Scrum processes”.

The SA are not transforming anything. It makes me quite angry that the organization continues to use that phrase. It is phony. As I see it, the purpose of the SA is to grow the SA. I don’t understand to what end. The cynic in me believes it is simply “to beat Ken”. I don’t see that the board or the new MD have articulated the purpose of the SA at all well.

Ken Schwaber's book “Agile Software Development with Scrum” lists 5 Scrum values (Openness, Respect, Courage, Focus and Respect). On a Scrum Alliance web page describing Scrum, these 5 values are not listed. In their place is found the 4 values of the Agile Manifesto. In your view, which values are topmost? Can we list one group without the other? Are the values enumerated by Schwaber authoritative, or does the Agile Manifesto take precedence in your view?

Neither. I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. When I consult with organizations I ask them to embrace Trust, Courage, Integrity, Humility and Service. None of these things (nor Ken’s values) are especially bound to Scrum or Agile. We just want to remind people to be human, to be kind, to be vulnerable.

Is the Scrum Guide by Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber authoritative in your view? If so why so? If not why not?

No. Scrum should not be codified in any way: there is no authoritative Scrum, there is just what we do. Any attempt to nail Scrum down to one definition will be a precursor to its death. The Scrum Guide comes very close to taking the life out of Scrum. The Scrum Alliance-threatened Scrum BOK will kill Scrum, for sure.

Let's get into this blog post. You make some strong assertions, but you do not name names or cite episodes or examples of specific organizational dysfunction. I'm eager to gather some facts here. Is that OK with you?

I’m not sure. Let’s see how your next few questions play out.

You say “there is the failure of the Scrum Alliance itself to rise to the leadership challenge, and live up to its own mission to “Transform the World of Work” . Please explain.

The SA is run on very traditional lines. For example, when I challenged the opacity- I call it secrecy- around the search process for an MD, many board members (the ones who spoke about it) replied that this was just the way it was done. This is the kind of blind adherence to the status quo that makes my head explode when I hear it at client sites. That the supposed Scrum leadership thinks this way is outrageous - basically the attitude is: everyone else does this so it must be the right way. Where is the transformation in that? The SA should be setting new precedents for practices like hiring staff, not complying with old-think. And then there is the degree of control over implementation that the board insist on. With little ability to set vision they default to micro-management techniques, telling staff not just what to do but how to do it. There is little dialog. For example, trying to create a compelling series of international Gatherings became an exercise in frustration and futility, with individual board members insisting on dates and locations without understanding the bigger picture of what we (the staff) were trying to do. The (now disbanded) staff group had a shared vision and a sense of purpose. During my time at the SA the board most certainly did not.

You say “The SA is the archetypical unScrum organization, a big lumbering machine, intent on maintaining its status quo, valuing profit over service, control over trust, and engaging in operating practices that are opaque, undemocratic and lacking in integrity. “. Can you give some specific examples of recent behavior from the SA that points to the alleged values of profit, control, opaqueness, and/or lack of integrity?

I think I answered most of this question in my previous response. As you mention earlier, values like Openness and Respect are touted as essential to Scrum. I rarely saw either of those being exercised. Test it out: go and look at the finances for the SA, look for announcements of recent staff changes, look for personal statements from board members -- heck, find a list of who serves on the board, and why they believe they are qualified for the job. Opacity, not Openness is the value that has been embraced over the years. Rumor has it that the SA has between $1m and $2m in the bank. Why? A prudent reserve is one thing, but this far exceeds prudence. The reason the “Train the Trainers” program that I worked hard on setting up as a service to SA members, was canned because according to the BoD it “wasn’t in the budget” - and this is after the MD approved all expenditure. This was a program designed to give back to the community, so in BoD terms was to be run “at a loss”. It was canned after commitments had been made to both the facilitators of the workshops and the members of the SA community that it was intended to serve. Draw your own conclusions.

You say that “I don’t see where anything is being given back to the community “. Doesn't the Scrum Alliance fund Scrum research, support and foster Scrum-related user groups, and maintain a web site with hundreds of Scrum articles that anyone can use to gain some knowledge of Scrum? I know the Scrum Alliance sponsors user group events and does some other things that tend to support the idea that they give back something to the community.

Yes, that was an extreme statement. I’d rephrase it as “very little is being given back to the community”. A bunch of aging articles on a website is hardly a legacy; one would be better off searching recent blog posts from more established writers and thinkers. A few user group events are sponsored, but it seems to be at the whim of the MD or individual board members. As to the research, I believe Ken funded some research on CMMi or something. I have never seen the results of that. I don’t know if anyone else has, or whether they serve any useful purpose. I tried to start a “WelfareCSM” program, launch the Train the Trainers program, spend more on gatherings to have a higher quality of speaker/workshop facilitator and encountered resistance in all areas. Giving back to the community, is not the SA’s forte.

You say, concerning the SA Board, that “Many were selected by one another, and two came in through a somewhat elitist and undemocratic election process. “ Can you provide some additional supporting detail here?

Tom Mellor (CST) - handpicked by Ken Schwaber, part of the original board. Became chairman because no one else on the board wanted the job after Ken left.

Mike Cohn (CST) - originator of the SA, probably has the most right to be on the board.

Steve Fram - handpicked by Mike Cohn, part of the original board.

Michele Sliger (CST) - handpicked by Mike Cohn.

Dan Hintz - a financier, recommended by Jim Cundiff.

Harvey Wheaton - handpicked by Mike or Ken, part of the original board.

Mitch Lacey (CST) & Scott Dunn - elected.

The election process was in two parts. There was a panel made up of a board member and 3 handpicked assistants from the certified community. This group decided who was eligible to run for the board. The selection criteria they used was not published. Applicants not accepted as candidates only found out when the candidate list was announced, no reason was given for rejection. The wider SA membership was allowed to vote for two of the handpicked candidates.

You’ll notice that four of the eight members are CSTs. The likelihood that the certification program will be reexamined and improved is thus very slim. There is an undeniable financial interest from these members to maintain the existing structure, which delivers a non-trivial portion of their income, to varying degrees.

The SA Board had a meeting in Denver in September 2010 right? Regarding that, you say that “My own hope for the meeting was that the current board would voluntarily resign en masse, and call for a member-wide election to vote seven new members (including a new chairman).” Why is this important in your view?

I’d like to see a Scrum Alliance run by and for its members. If people serving on the board actually care about the community, not just about growing the organization, then the organization stands a chance of doing some good work in the world. If the current board members are the right people to run the SA, let them each prove their worth by writing their manifestoes and standing beside other community members in a fair and truly open election. And if CSTs want to serve on the board I believe they should give up their CSM training work for the duration, and probably for six months after they have served their term. This will avoid any accusations of self-interest . This particular idea was supported by Michele Sliger and Scott Dunn in conversation before the Denver meeting, but between our conversation and the meeting itself they each apparently decided it wasn’t important. Odd, seeing as it was Scott and Michele who actually raised this as an issue. It didn’t come from me, although I was in complete agreement with the idea.

What in your view should Scrum Alliance members expect from the organization?

Love, honor, service, commitment, trust, encouragement, support, mentoring, coaching, training... and in return the SA should expect to see, guess what? A transformed world of work :)


Editors Note: Part 2 of this wide-ranging interview publishes next week. It gets more interesting. Be sure to check in next week for the concluding segment of this interview with Mr. Tobias Mayer.


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Sad story by Michael Dubakov

It is really sad and disappointing to see SA heading wrong direction.
These facts compromise Scrum as a whole and may burry its in future.
It is impossible to build anything valuable without openness, collaboration and passionate community.

Michael Dubakov

Say what? by Chris Chapman

Tobias seems to be missing the point about what Scrum is; one would think that Ken Schwaber, having invented it, would know a little about applying it and understanding why the basic framework is so essential to its success. To say, for example:

"Scrum should not be codified in any way: there is no authoritative Scrum, there is just what we do. Any attempt to nail Scrum down to one definition will be a precursor to its death. The Scrum Guide comes very close to taking the life out of Scrum."

is to totally miss the point in a spectacular way. Ken explains the basic rules of Scrum as an analog to the rules of chess: They aren't there to choke the life out of the game but to ensure the best possible outcomes. Of course we're free to inspect and adapt our processes to fit our organization and needs - but the fundamental practices are there to give the basic structure.

Maybe I'm interpreting Tobias' comments unfairly, but he seems to be arguing for the unlimited ability to fork Scrum in a thousand different directions and still call it Scrum. That seems a bit retarded in my opinion.

Re: Say what? by Tobias Mayer

The problem with the Scrum Guide and other attempts to nail Scrum down is that they end up being prescriptive, not just about the what, but about the how. You may be right that Scrum needs to be thus prescribed, but having practiced Scrum myself for many years I have found more power in limiting the prescriptive aspect and focusing on the principles and values that underlie the process. In the second part of this interview I say "I have come to realize that what I call Scrum is significantly different to what many others are calling Scrum. It is probably wise for me to drop that term". These days I am less interested in whether the organizations I consult with do Scrum, and more interested that they do well. Still, I'd have liked to have seen more of a focus from the Scrum leadership on Scrum as a philosophy rather than a process. As it is I see many people rejecting Scrum as they seek something richer, and altogether more meaningful.

Ray of Hope by Kripanidhi S.M.

Hoping that Mike Cohn, having taken over the driver's seat at SA should be able to bring at least some credibility back to SA by making it a more democratic community driven and a genuine organization that can further the Values of Agile in its true spirit.

I also hope that Mike with all his conviction and tenacity is able to resolve the polarization that we are seeing in the Agile Community, through a larger collaboration endevor, so that we all can feel proud once again that we belong to the Agile Community

Re: Say what? by Indyana Jones

Tobias, first a big compliment on the openness from your side, this is really inspiring for the whole community.
Back to business, your and Chris views on the prescription issue isn't something that can be explained via the "Dreyfus model of skill acquisition" ?
You're on the expert level (you can write the manual but won't follow it) and the novice guy Chris was describing, needs something to "boot" the process before he's confident enough (as a "Advanced beginner" or "Competent") to start the inspect & adapt ?
Or I'm completely off the mark ?

Re: Say what? by Tobias Mayer

Hi Indyana,

No, you are completely on the mark. And I do agree with Chris's (Ken's) chess analogy, and teach the same. But the "rules" of Scrum are minimal, and can be explained in a paragraph or two. Everything else is nuance.

When we talk of three roles and four ceremonies, we can generally agree (even then, Jeff Sutherland has written of 3 meetings, not 4). But what are the artifacts of Scrum? Most active Scrum teams these days use taskboards rather than burndowns, many don't estimate tasks in hours. Does this matter? Is it then NotScrum?

By all means write down the key elements of Scrum, and share that (one page document) with teams new to Scrum. Trying to follow a prescriptive method such as that encoded in the Scrum Guide, the Scrum Primer, and other such manuals generally leads to superficial Scrum. Scrum requires creativity and invention to work effectively. Such things cannot be encoded.

Re: Ray of Hope by Tobias Mayer

Yes, it is interesting to see Mike Cohn step into the chairman role, a leadership role he has fiercely resisted over the past year... yet essentially carried out anyway from the background. Having Mike formally be the chairman lends a congruence to the SA board that was formally lacking. Working in collaboration with new MD, Donna Farmer, it is starting to look hopeful that the SA can move forward with transparency and integrity. Whether they can be a true visionary organization remains to be seen.

at last by James Richardson

Somebody has had the guts to say the obvious. The codification of process helps only the certificators and the salesmen, not the practitioners actually trying to make a difference.
Anybody who failed a scrum course please step forward.

Re: Ray of Hope by Clinton Keith


Just curious: what conditions of satisfaction, if any, would you have in order to decide to return to the SA?


Re: Ray of Hope by Tobias Mayer

Hi Clinton. Interesting question. In short, I don't know. I'm not sure there is any reason to return. My interest lies beyond Scrum, and certainly far from certification. I still consider myself part of the Scrum community; the SA doesn't own that, nor does any formal organization.

I am interested in seeing small, overlapping bite-sized Scrum, and ScrumLike communities being formed, rather than having one or two giant ones -- almost (Mike Sutton: forgive possible misuse of the term) a tribal model. That way we can stay aligned with those closest to us, while also seeking common ground with other tribes, yet not having to take on ideas we don't agree with. That is what causes so much of the infighting at the moment: we want to agree, but we just don't. No one organization can keep all its n,000 members happy.

Keep Agile small. I've been saying that for a while.

Consider the future or what's going on now... by Andreas Wintersteiger

Hello Tobias,

if you take a look at the Scrum Alliance right now, there is a lot of things going on. I am very sorry that you cannot witness it anymore from within. The new MD, Donna Farmer has presented a vision for the future which is embracing the values you say you are missing (or have been). One of the board members stepped back recently (good or bad, I really do not know) and what looks like significant improvement is the fact that the Scrum Alliance has opened the doors of its Board of Directors meeting to the CSTs, CSCs and the entire Scrum Alliance membership community. Openness and transparency is on its way, that was the first step.

In your blogpost and again here you say the Scrum Alliance is archetypal unScrum - I disagree. You maybe right in some parts the public might not see, but for an example if you take a look what the CSC community did in the last two years, you should recognize the great work that has been done there under the leadership of Pete Behrens. The CSC process is the best process the SA has so far. And you for sure also know, that this particular part of the Scrum Alliance is using Scrum to do its job!

You say the SA was giving "very little" back to the community and one of your suggestions was the train the trainer program. Honestly, this would be giving back to the trainers, not the community. WelfareCSM as I understood it is something every CST can do on his own and as I understand, there are more Gatherings now than ever before. If I compare the SA site to what it was one, two or three years ago, I observe a significant and steadily ongoing improvement. I do not agree with you that it is just "a bunch of aging articles". I am with you, that edited, higher quality content and research would be something the SA could sponsor, maybe we will see this soon.

As a CSC and a member of the Scrum Alliance community I do not care too much what happens behind the doors of BoD and/or staff meetings and how it happens. What is the outcome and how the money we, the community put into it gets used is my primary concern for that. I would be happy if some things improve, but I still see the Scrum Alliance as an institution that can transform the world of work. And will if we want it!

I hope you can see some things different, maybe from a larger distance and find out some positive facts you could mention in part 2 of this interview... ;-)

all the best

Unfortunately an one-sided story by Mak Steven

It is rather unfortunate that this is an entirely one-sided story.

Re: Ray of Hope by Nigel Baker

A large community (The big tent model) does give strength against the true.. (I'm not sure "opponents" is the right word, but hey, lets use it!) opponents. Conservative organisations such as the PMI, PRINCE etc. Fracturing the big tent into a variety of smaller fragments. tiny fringe parties, may indeed help sooth ego and build these little fiefdoms, each with their own "Baron" in power - but that is at the cost of weakening the entire movement as a whole. We are already seeing fringe "agile" techniques cosying up to more traditional models and watering down the methods to "better fit" the classic (but broken) developmental models. We already see snake oil salesmen promising to combine traditional methods, Agile into some beautiful pain free soup of silver bullets. We have to fight that thinking and to do so we do need to pull together as a community using Scrum.That is a different conversation to certification. The SA needs to have many strings to it's bow. Certification is just one aspect. The community reach out and support is equally important and valid way of transforming the world of work through Scrum.

I'd like to see this ebbs and flows and currents of behaviour and beliefs, but under the one banner organisation.

Re: Ray of Hope by Alan Cyment

Hi Toby!

Maybe the Scrum Alliance can follow the model the Agile Alliance has (not sure if it's been successful so far, but the vision sounds interesting to me): to provide support to all the agile tribes without asking anything in return. Help is usually provided in financial terms via programs (practitioners' exchange, speakers trips to small conferences, agile open conferences financing, lending their brand in order for a tribe to prove that they have a "serious" backup when dealing with big potential conference sponsors, etc). They neither "own" the community nor say who is agile and who is not. They are mostly about running a big conference and running this programs. Not bad from my perspective. As you once said to the PMI CEO: farewell project management, hello project support.


Re: Unfortunately an one-sided story by Mike Bria

Could you add a little to clarify what side you think to be missing?

Another side of the story - T Mellor by Tom Mellor

Well, thankfully the US elections are over so we are freed of the incessant negative ads that proliferated the airwaves and created annoyances for us all. Alas, we can now turn to dealing with negative things such as what we have in this interview. I will be in Amsterdam at the Scrum Gathering in about 10 days and, interestingly enough, I understant that Tobias is invited to attend as a "guest" of the Scrum Alliance (SA). Perhaps he and I might actually have a "crucial conversation" about many of the things he alleges in this rather tabloid style interview.

Regarding my service on the SA Board, I was invited by Ken Schwaber join it in March 2008. Schwaber was acquainted with my experiences in other not-for-profit organizational governance and he and I had formed a respectful relationship that first emerged in 2004. Contrary to Maier’s commentary, I did not appoint myself Chair when Schwaber left the SA Board (the matter of Schwaber leaving the SA Board and ultimately the Scrum Alliance is a story that would fill an entire chapter of a book and perhaps it shall some day.) The bottom line is that those of us on the SA Board in September 2009 had to continue to govern the organization and I was elected as Chair by the other Board members. It was not, as Maier claims, a matter me being the only one willing to do it; I stepped and offered to do it. That was the crux of the discussion and the other Board members supported by offer. The situation at the time called for immediate attention and action and electing a Chair was stipulated in the SA by-laws in effect at the time. I could have certainly withheld my offer and another member would have been elected. For the record, I have no regrets or second thoughts about that offer.

I asked Mike Cohn and Michele Sliger to join the SA Board – first Mike in late 2009 and then Michele shortly thereafter. Both graciously accepted my invitation after discussions with me. The other SA Board members we supportive of their selection and approved them unanimously (another Board member – Adam Rogers – stepped off the Board for personal reasons near the end of 2009.) All of the Board members in place immediately prior to Cohn and Sliger coming on board (Dan Hintz, Harvey Wheaton, and Steve Fram) had served in various capacities in leadership and governance of other organizations and brought appreciable strengths and experiences with them. In fact, it was likely the strengths and the resilience of the other Board members that enabled the SA to survive a very trying period in its young existence.

Tobias states I would have had him fired if he didn't voluntarily quit. I considered this to be private matter, but since he has taken it public I will offer my side. He had remained a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) while contracted with the Scrum Alliance and therefore had posting rights to the Google group for that community. He effectively "bushwhacked" me and the SA Board in a posting on the list. I had no inkling of his ire prior to the post – he had never conversed with me about it. He was a staff contractor to the SA when he made the comments and they were, in my opinion, totally inappropriate, unsubstantiated (and he didn't offer any substantiation) and insubordinate considering his contracted position. I expressed my complete disapproval to him in a phone conversation where I also told him that I would not insist that his contract be terminated, but if such an instance had occurred in any organization, the offender could expect consequences that would likely include termination. His response to this? "Well, Tom, you knew what you were getting when you brought me on board." So, not only would be own up to his transgression, he actually projected responsibility for his behavior on to me (the ultimate act of avoiding accountability in my opinion.) All I could do was shake my head in dismay.

In the end, rather than exhibiting behavior he advocates and seeking and advocating appropriate ways of improvement in the Scrum Alliance that he desired, Tobias simply took his toys and left in a huff (and walked out with his middle finger in the air.) He has demonstrated none of the values that he allegedly espouses and advocates. He does not eat his own cooking. Trust between us became non-existent (in fact, I highly distrust him.) He appallingly added to an already highly politicized environment in the SA staff. How can any person in the SA organization feel any compassion from him (he calls it “love”) after he ridicules them publicly? His behavior is highly disrespectful, but cunningly so (as when he projected blame for his behavior onto me.) He is always right and others are always wrong it seems. His website is appropriately named: Agile Anarchy. One definition of an anarchist is “a person who seeks to overturn by violence all constituted forms and institutions of society and government, with no purpose of establishing any other system of order in the place of that destroyed.”

I recently stepped off the Scrum Alliance Board. I had served for 2 ½ years and a little over a year as Chair. For me, that was long enough. I left feeling positive about the position of the Scrum Alliance. In my resignation note to the Board, I expressed the following:

“For a number of reasons, organizational, professional and personal, I believe now is the proper time for me to step off of our Board. After our meeting in Denver, I was hopeful and optimistic that momentum would emerge and positive results would immediately appear. This has happened, in my opinion. I sense that you have unity and agreement around many important matters that have recently emerged before us, and Donna’s work [new Scrum Alliance Managing Director Donna Farmer] has produced good results in the first month.

“Much has happened over the last year and I am very pleased to say that I feel that the Scrum Alliance is in a very encouraging and assenting position. Credit for that goes to all of you as the result of your very hard work and dedication. While we have experienced some very trying and even trepid moments along the way, I believe you have all put the organization on a solid track for the future. I have valued my board experience and especially appreciated the opportunity to work with all of you. It has been most satisfying and humbling and I depart contented and at ease…perhaps even a bit tired and relieved.

“For those of you who will be in Amsterdam, I look forward to visiting with you and offering my thanks and support in person. I will remain a Trainer, of course, and continue to support and serve our organization. “

The Scrum Alliance will continue without and despite Tobias Maier. It is much larger than any one person. If it was not, it would deservedly cease to exist.

Tom Mellor
Former Chair of the Board – Scrum Alliance

Re: Another side of the story - T Mellor by Kripanidhi S.M.

Tom Mellor's reply to me looks too legal, bureaucratic and too formal for an Agile Community member to relate to. This kind of culture where communication is very legal and formal is what we loathe in the Agile Community. Communication in our community is always face to face and informal and we expect our conflicts to be creatively constructive based on feedback and not expected to end up in political debates and defensive positions. This keeping our tails clear is so such a corporate game.

In retrospect, I feel that people who run Agile Communities, Agile Groups and Agile Organizations should come from those who are Agile Evangelists or hard core Agile Practitioners first. We do not need corporate competencies to run such organizations lest we end up making Agile...Resume Driven.

Sorry for ranting, but these are my personal feelings and I may be wrong.

Re: Unfortunately an one-sided story by Jesse Fewell

Mike, what is missing would be this response from Bob Hartman:

Re: Another side of the story - T Mellor by Pete Behrens


From my perspective, Tom is a valued and dedicated member of the agile community. He is first and foremost an agile evangelist and practitioner. His response in written form is completely in line with the written post by Tobias. In fact, Tom is suggesting that Tobias move from his rant-based writing to a conversation at the Scrum Gathering in Amsterdam - bringing us back to our agile principles of collaboration.

While you see Tom's response as legal and bureaucratic, I see it as professional and balanced. He is simply stating facts from his perspective. Tom has brought about a very positive mature growth in the Scrum Alliance during a very challenging transition. I am skeptical any of us in the agile community could have done much better given the circumstances.

Finally, I don't appreciate you speaking for the agile community. I don't believe any of us speak for the agile community - rather we speak for ourselves. I don't loathe maturity and corporate growth in the agile community. In fact, I appreciate that this growth has helped provide more exposure, more adoption, more consistency, and more client success with agile methods.

I believe it is the rant-based messages and a loathing of others within our community which are more troublesome. Each of us have our own perspectives which we believe will help build greater success and growth in this community based on our experiences. We should be open to dialog with others who seemingly take the "wrong" approach.

Pete Behrens

Re: Unfortunately an one-sided story by Kripanidhi S.M.

Thanks Jessee for linking Bob's blog. I read his blog with great interest.

Bob's communication is so much in Agile style that it really encourages serious introspection. It sure promotes constructive thinking and demonstrates his values and conviction in helping us see the truth.

Thank's Bob for a wonderful expression of your thoughts and feedback. I loved it.

Re: Another side of the story - T Mellor by Kripanidhi S.M.

Thanks Pete for your feedback. I only conveyed what I felt. I am sure all of us are open to others' point of view. I surely accept your point of view in all its sincerity, and accept your feedback too in full earnest.

Re: Unfortunately an one-sided story by Bob Sarni


Thanks for sharing Bob Hartman's post about this subject. Tobias has his perspective, unfortunately I feel he and others (from both sides) in this article and thread have taken collaboration into a "red zone". Red zone collaboration is characterized as stating your position in the strongest possible terms, continually pointing out the validity of your own position and the incorrectness of the other's position, creating a combative atmosphere or avoidance atmosphere, among many other attributes. Once we move into the collaborative red zone, we force others into this red zone and collaboration is ineffective. We should all be aware of this and see if we can stay focused on adopting open and non-defensive problem solving communication strategies in which we openly listen and communicate honestly with no blame and no deliberate emotional button pushing. Maybe we can do this? It is not easy but let's see if we can move beyond blame and accusing and focus on problem solving. If I were InfoQ, I might have tried to have both sides of the issue represented and tried to set a tone of "green zone" collaboration. I am not blaming, just suggesting :)

Some great books to read about this are "The Argument Culture" by Deborah Tannen and "Radical Collaboration" by Jim Tamm.

Re: Unfortunately an one-sided story by Tobias Mayer

Hi Bob,
Please remember this article is only half of the interview. The other half was published today, here: You may find I am less in the "red zone" than you claim. I am not interested in fighting with the SA, and I am not particularly interested in collaborating with the organization either. Collaboration requires an understood benefit for both parties. There is nothing I want from the SA, and no real value I believe I can offer. I tried (and tried). And I failed. It is time time to move on.

Re: Consider the future or what's going on now... by Tobias Mayer

Hi Andreas,
I still have visibility into what is happening at the SA and am watching with interest. I'll be at the Amsterdam Gathering at the invitation of Donna Farmer -- in fact will be facilitating a Q&A session with Donna.

I'd be very happy to see the Scrum Alliance become the kind of organization it has the potential to be, one that serves the needs of it's members. There is nothing I want from it though. I am learning that communities, like processes, like good products, emerge, they are not created upfront by design. The SA is simply the wrong organization-type for my way of being.

Re: Unfortunately an one-sided story by Tobias Mayer

Mak, I agree. In the second part of this interview I suggest that infoQ talk with Donna Framer. Her perspective would naturally look very different.

Re: Ray of Hope by Tobias Mayer

Hi Alan,
> Maybe the Scrum Alliance can follow the model the Agile Alliance...
These two organizations are utterly different in purpose; the SA was formed specifically to run a certification program, the AA to support the growing community. Each has continued the path it started on. If the AA model is what you seek, then why should there be a second organization that does the same thing? Quit the SA and join the AA, wouldn't that make sense?

Donna Farmer interview by Dan Mezick

Donna Farmer agrees to be interviewed here and welcomes the opportunity.

The Donna Farmer interview is almost ready to publish. Watch for it. The perspective of a new leader, with a new story, that builds on and honors the old story, is a theme in this interview.

We are assembling the interview with Donna (Managing Director of the Scrum Alliance) and of course we need to make sure every 'i' is dotted and every 't' is crossed. Please be patient. I can tell you that Donna comes across as engaging, creative and focused on the phone. The written interview is sure to be a great read; please be patient as we assemble it.

The Tobias Mayer interview is published in the interest of advancing Agile community learning. Likewise for the upcoming interview with Donna Farmer.

There is much new and interesting news in the upcoming, explicit Donna Farmer interview. One thing we discussed was her attending the annual GIVE THANKS FOR SCRUM event featuring sessions from Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber on 11/24/2010 in Boston.


Dan Mezick

Do we need an organization or not? by Bachan Anand

Thanks Tobias for sharing your views.
As I see Scrum Alliance (SA) is just another organization that lives the dysfunctions that we have in society and workplaces across the board. As an organization that is focusing on "Transforming the World of Work" , I consider it unfortunate that SA is not able to operate with the values it wants to see at other workplaces ,however not unlikely, I empathize with Scrum Alliance in this regard. I can understand how difficult it is for SA to operate under the same values that it wants to world to see,however being an observer I am not very sure whether it wants to operate with those values, I think that question is very important , does SA wants to operate with those values and principles?

In my perspective,if Scrum Alliance wants to operate with Transparency,Courage,Collaboration and Trust it will succeed , journey may not be easy, destination will be fun. On the other hand , if it does not want to operate with those values, some other organization or group of individuals will achieve "Transform the World of Work ", then my humble request would be let go the Vision and focus on Scrum Certification , that in itself has some value not enough to achieve the big vision of Transforming the world of work.

Let someone else focus on transforming the world of work.

Thanks Tobias and InfoQ for sharing

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