Scrum Alliance Directors Resign

| by Shane Hastie Follow 28 Followers on Jul 11, 2016. Estimated reading time: 5 minutes |

Steve Denning and Stephen Forte have resigned from the Board of Directors of the Scrum Alliance, citing the change in direction that the current leadership has taken as being "inconsistent with principles of the Agile Manifesto and the Scrum Alliance mission of transforming the world of work".

In a very public move Denning tweeted their action and made their resignation letter publically available

The most pertinant aspect of the resignation letter discusses the "new direction" the current leadership is taking and how it is inconsistent with the principles of agile and Scrum: 

Over the past six to eight months the organization has taken a new direction under the current leadership which we believe is inconsistent with principles of the Agile Manifesto and the Scrum Alliance mission of transforming the world of work. We have tried to course correct but we have been met with consistent resistance.
There have been four resignations from the board in two months, bringing the board of the Scrum Alliance down to six members: Chair Pete Deemer; Assistant Chair Lisa Hershman;  Board Members Eric Engelmann, Rafael Sabbagh and Pete Behrens and Managing Director Manuel Gonzalez.
InfoQ contacted Scrum Alliance Managing Director Manuel Gonzalez for comments and he sent the following statement, signed by board Chair Pete Deemer:

On behalf of the Scrum Alliance Board of Directors, I have accepted the resignations of Steve Denning and Stephen Forte from the Board. The Board earlier this week appointed two independent directors — Dennis McCuistion and Richard LeBlanc — both nationally-recognized experts in good corporate governance and ethics.

The Scrum Alliance remains committed to the highest levels of ethics and integrity in Board operations. Going forward, we are excited to begin a process to identify replacement Board members who share the Alliance's mission to guide and inspire individuals, leaders, and organizations with practices and principles that transform their world of work.   

It is noted that the new board members are nationally recognized experts in good corporate governance and ethics, however nothing is said about their standing in the Scrum community or if they have any experience using Scrum in practice.
InfoQ spoke to Denning about the reasons behind his and Forte's decision, as well as his plans for the future

You’ve been on the board of the Scrum Alliance since 2011 and you were instrumental in setting the strategic direction of the organisation. What has gone so wrong that you needed to resign?

Actually, four directors have resigned from the board of Scrum Alliance in less than two months.

The reasons why Stephen Forte and I resigned are contained in a letter that we released to the public on June 7.

You can see further clues in my article here.

As Todd Little said there: “The first line of the Agile Manifesto is about valuing individuals and interactions ahead of tools and processes. Yet what do we see being sold in the marketplace, but processes and tools? Agile has become way too much about processes and tools, partly as a result of the way the economic engine works. People are looking for, and buying, processes and tools, when it should be about the Agile mindset.”

What is going well with the current Scrum Alliance strategy – what should the organisation focus on keeping?

As we say in the resignation letter, we agree strongly with Scrum Alliance’s mission of transforming the world of work.

 As we also say in the letter: “Exciting initiatives like new approaches at global and regional gatherings, the launch of the Learning Consortium for the Creative Economy and the accompanying webinar series with the world’s leading management thinkers have shown what can be done to realize Scrum Alliance’s mission of transforming the world of work.”

You’ve been one of the leading proponents of agile beyond software and the importance of reengineering the world of work. Will you continue this work? 

I am appearing at several sessions in the Agile 2016 conference at Atlanta.

My work with the Learning Consortium (which is now an independent non-profit corporation) is very exciting. In 2016, we have already had site visits to Microsoft, Ericsson, Riot Games, BMW and Barclays. We will have visits next week to Spotify, CH Robinson and Cerner. The findings of the Learning Consortium will be presented at the Drucker Forum in November 2016 in Vienna Austria. Gary Hamel will be a discussant in our session.

You can see this on the Drucker Forum website (Day 2)

Large-scale Organizational Transformations Enabling Rapid Business Innovation

Organized by the Learning Consortium – a group of corporations, including Microsoft, Ericsson, CHRobinson, Riot Games, Barclays, Cerner, Spotify and Scrum Alliance, focused on discovery and dissemination of innovative management practices.
Moderator: Steve Denning, Member of the Board of Directors of the Learning Consortium, Forbes contributor

·       Panel: two executives from among members of the Learning Consortium (TBD).

·       Discussant: Gary Hamel

Where do you see your role in the broader agile community going forward?

I believe that the Learning Consortium will continue to play a major role in facilitating the ongoing Agile transformation in management. It is showing that Agile management is robust, scalable, able to handle complexity, highly energizing for those doing the work and a better fit with today’s fast-paced marketplace, in which the customer is the boss and continuous innovation is a necessity.

The Learning Consortium is also confirming that even the big old organizations with deeply entrenched bureaucratic management practices are succeeding in becoming Agile. As you know, Harvard Business Review has now embraced Agile. 

In effect, we are learning how to make the whole organization Agile

Peter Stevens of Saat Network posted his thoughts on the Learning Consortium and what is happening with the Scrum Alliance here.  

The latest version of the Scrum Guide was released last week with an emphasis on the Scrum values of Commitment, Courage, Focus, Openness and Respect.  

Editors Note: On 12 July Rafael Sabbagh contacted InfoQ to say he had resigned as Secretary on June 27.  He remains a board member.

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Response to resignation of Denning and Forte by Tom Mellor

I am the former chairman of the Board of the Scrum Alliance and currently a member of the Scrum Alliance. I posted to the Scrum Alliance and Trainer community the following message today:

"This is not the forum for elaboration on recent matters, but I have garnered some thoughts after doing inquiries and speaking with various people.

"1. I didn't reach out to anyone about the recent [Scrum Alliance] Board issues; one of the people involved contacted me. I have not formally been asked to intercede in, mediate, or arbitrate matters in any way. I have no insider knowledge of the issues other than what people involved have told me.

"2. After the person involved contacted me, I reached out to others and sought their perspectives and opinions. People cooperatively engaged me, but as I expected and honored, did not discuss specifics of personal or private details. Admittedly, I do not have all the facts, but I do have perspectives from several people involved. I have not spoken to all immediate past and present Board members and don't feel the need to do so.

"3. I stand by my recent publicly expressed opinions criticizing the behaviors and actions of Forte and Denning in the process of their resignation from the Board. I now feel their behaviors were largely self-serving and reflective of increasingly acrimonious relationships between them and some members of the Board. I have not made any judgments about the underlying issues because I do not know enough to make any judgments.

"4. Some things I have heard concern me in terms of potential personal interest conflicts and potential ethical implications. Other things concern me from the perspective of basic healthy group function. I don't have sufficient information to draw conclusions or offer judgment about those things and so I won't.

"5. I do conclude that the timing and reasons for the 4 people recently leaving the Board of Directors are varied and while Denning and Forte left over contentions within the Board, the other 2 left for reasons unrelated to those expressed by Forte and Denning in their resignation letter. The proximity of the timing of the departures was coincidental, in my opinion.

"6. From my analysis, no evil intent on the part of the Board is lurking in what has transpired recently within the Board. The departures of Forte and Denning occurred because of increasing contentions and acrimony between them and other Board members over differing opinions about matters before the Board. I suspect that when the facts come out, the truth will emerge and some or many might find the truth surprising and contrary to some current beliefs, assumptions, and speculations..

"7. I believe the Board anticipated the departure of Forte and Denning and was prepared to replace them immediately after their resignation and did so. I support that decision and action.

"8. In my opinion, the Scrum Alliance will continue to grow and evolve in positive ways and contribute to ideas behind being agile, and the Board and the broader organization will remain healthy and even likely be healthier moving forward.

"9. I remain confident in the capabilities of Manny [Gonzalez] as CEO and his ability to lead in the operations area. I will continue to publicly support him and the Board, and I am sincere about my support.

"10. I keep my offer of discussion open to anyone [in the Scrum Alliance Trainer and Coaching community] who wants to discuss it. There are some things I will not discuss to honor confidences and to be appropriately discreet. I also request that you support the organization publicly and privately and defer judgment until the facts fully emerge (which I am confident they will) given the appropriate time to do so.

"11. I caution people against rendering judgment or entrenching in a position. I will continue to evolve my conclusions and opinions based upon further learning and information."

Tom Mellor
Scrum Alliance Board Chair 2009 - 2010

Interesting that Denning and Forte didn't state their reasons for resigning by Mark Levison

Shane - its interesting this whole issue feels like shadow boxing. Denning and Forte - who I like and respect, resigned publicly but won't state their real reasons. They just say that the ScrumAlliance is interested in 'profit making' unless they're specific and clear this is such a wide ranging accusation it says nothing. Maybe their claim is justified. Maybe not. We can't tell.


Reasons for Resigning are Clear. Reasons for Division are Unfortunate by Dawna Jones

Steve made the reasons very clear: Agile when viewed as a leadership mindset is in alignment with people over process. When process comes before people(mindset) Agile looses its value in helping the company adapt. Agile's primary leverage is as a leadership mindset. Tools and processes follow and support. The work of the Learning Consortium made the value of mindset abundantly clear in multiple case stories of companies that had applied the manifesto to the leadership role. Manifestos sound lovely in print but when its when the rubber hits the road that meaning and alignment with living the principles is revealed. It is really unfortunate and telling that four board members resigned in two months. It's a high attrition rate and unlikely to be a coincidence. There was, and still is, a huge opportunity for all to work together rather than divide into camps: one being for mindset and the other working at the process level. In my role as someone who converts negative dynamics into constructive and progressive outcomes (pixie dust often required) mindset leads; process supports. Both are needed. The division has less to do with what makes sense in terms of serving member interests and more to do with being aligned with values, principles. When an executive needs to be right... and only one option is available, by definition it is management by fear, not growth. A narrow frame of thinking is not tuned to adapting to emergent surprises. This might be a case where sticking to processes seems to preserve profit (think Kodak) but it will ultimately be at the expense of survival. Without vision and a leadership agile mindset, there is no room for course correction. Forte and Denning could see that clearly. Can the CEO of Scrum Alliance? If so, no resignations were needed to point to the schism.

Re: Reasons for Resigning are Clear. Reasons for Division are Unfortunate by Tom Mellor

Well Dawna, perhaps you have inside information that I don't. But I have spoken directly to people involved, including Steve Denning.

I am reasonably confident that the resignations of Bob Hartman and Gene Bounds do not relate directly to the Learning Consortium or the rather cryptic reasons offered by Forte and Denning for the departure from the SA Board. Having served on this Board previously and followed the organization since 2005, I know that resignations occur and there can be instances of board member disagreements and departures as a result.

If you have direct knowledge, I ask that you share it. Otherwise, I suggest you are merely adding to the hyperbole around it.

For the record, my statements written earlier and this one are not made on behalf of the Scrum Alliance and I have no standing or authority to speak for the organization or any members of its board or operations. These are my personal statements.

Re: Reasons for Resigning are Clear. Reasons for Division are Unfortunate by Dawna Jones

Since I specialize in seeing underneath group dynamics I'm offering my observations. If the details need to be disclosed in order to be not viewed as 'hyperbole' then learning from the whole situation will be limited by definition. This isn't high school... he said.. she said... Patterns are patterns. What lies beneath helps, true. But the reasons stated in the resignation of the two Steve's are clearly stated.

It is a clash between vision - seeing the value of an Agile leadership mindset that underpins decision making supported by the proper processes and tools to fit the context.

Rather than seeing it as either it's mindset or process it could be viewed as an opportunity to insert mindset AND process. If the other board members left for other reasons, that is nice and makes the argument more conveniently pointed to individuals rather than looking at the whole picture. Suggesting my observations add to hyperbole is unhelpful but an easy thing to do. Perhaps it would be more useful to apply insight to shine the light on the good that can come out of it for everyone.

Re: Reasons for Resigning are Clear. Reasons for Division are Unfortunate by Mark Levison

Dawna - if you accept Tom's comments then we know that Denning and Forte left the board for different reasons than the others.

If Denning and Forte's reasons were clear then I could see what specific programs or actions they're troubled by. I could reflect and advocate for change. I'm working with a client right now, they have identified a number of organizational issues and we're articulating a change strategy. Until I know the issues I feel like I'm tilting at windmills.

Mark "Don Quixote" Levison

Re: Reasons for Resigning are Clear. Reasons for Division are Unfortunate by Dawna Jones

Thanks Mark. 4 Board members leaving in two months is a lot for any board. Did the other two leave for different reasons? I don't know. I'm also aware that not everyone will leave a job or a role and honestly state the real reason why. So appearances are appearances. Does knowing matter? No.

The pressure leaders and decision makers are under now is not fixed by getting better at using process or tools. It's much bigger. It's becoming better at being more aware of the underlying pressures and the leverage point for effecting more rapid change. That takes place at the belief level, not the process level unless you use the process to effect a leadership switch. I haven't seen any indication that the tools and processes approach will create agile leaders. That's more of an inner skill set.. that as I've stated.. can be supported by tools and process. But the really profound leap comes from bold leadership - from within. Glad you're aware of all this going into the client situation. 'Don Quixote' will be able to offer much more value to them than without it!

It's not about doing agile but Being agile by Thomas Juli

It's interesting that the Scrum Alliance didn't say a word about Steve's main criticism that the Alliance has fallen into the trap of focusing on policy, tools, certifications, you name it. This is sad and, to me, somewhat surprising. - I have helped successfully introduce the Scrum framework at many companies. Whenever the teams shared the Agile values, i.e., had an Agile mindset, it was smooth sailing. Whenever this was not the case, it was more like an uphill battle. Yes, the Agile framework helped things become more productive but missed out its real potential. If you want to experience Agile Magic, you have to be open-minded and embrace an Agile mindset. Doing Agile - everybody can do this. Being Agile - everybody can be, unfortunately, most traditional managers aren't.
- Thomas Juli,, active member of the 2015 Learning Consortium for the Creative Economy (on behalf of Magna International)

Re: Reasons for Resigning are Clear. Reasons for Division are Unfortunate by Mark Levison

Dawna and Thomas -

1) I know Tom and trust his claim that the other two board members resigned for different reasons until proven otherwise.

2) Steve Denning gave his resignation letter which says little concrete and the an even more obscure tweet. How are we to know specifically what he intended based on that? We can guess but its just a guess. Pretend I took the limited information we had here to a client and made the claims that are being repeated. The client would fire me on the spot for making claims with limited evidence and so they should.

3) If we want to make wild, unsubstantiated claims - equally wild ones could be made about the people who resigned. That would be equally bad.

My point remains until one of the two of them makes specific and clear their reasons this is all guessing. Guessing isn't effective.


Re: Response to resignation of Denning and Forte by Jay Goldstein

@Mellor I find your disparagement of Denning to be inappropriate and ill-advised. Your statements appear to lack openness and curiosity and not forthcoming nor encouraging collaboration for the continuous improvement of of the Scrum Alliance. And yes I do have direct information which I will not share here, derived while for a year being under contract with the Scrum Alliance as a core team facilitator for the founding and operating of the Learning Consortium, well after you were board chair.

Jay Goldstein
Learning Consortium Adviser to the Scrum Alliance

Re: Reasons for Resigning are Clear. Reasons for Division are Unfortunate by Dawna Jones

Not sure what wild unsubstantiated claim you're referring to. The reasons were clearly stated. I am sure you've read the Learning Consortium report. It's clear. Again, why the other two resigned is of little point or purpose outside given that the two Steve's have openly stated clearly their point of departure. No guessing required.

Re: Response to resignation of Denning and Forte by Tom Mellor

I assume you are the same Jay Goldstein who co-authored the 2015 Learning Consortium Report with Steve Denning and Michael Pacanowsky.

There is not disparagement of Steve Denning in my comments. I was openly critical about how he and Steve Forte publicly handled their resignations. A rebuke of behavior is not disparagement unless it involves disrespectful, unprofessional or potentially slanderous condemnation of character by the person offering the opinion. The characters of Messrs. Denning and Forte are not in question; in my opinion, they are men of fine character.

I took issue with their behavior and actions only in how they handled their resignations. Men of good character can, in my opinion, reasonably misstep in behavior that does not extend beyond the bounds of ethics and law. Clearly, my opinion does not condemn their character, only their actions and behavior in this instance. I certainly found no ethical issues in how they resigned; I thought it was improper and unprofessional and that is my personal opinion subject to dispute.

Cryptic announcement by a person that they have inside information, but failing to provide how that supports the position of one party or another is not helpful. A person under contract or previously under contract likely has contract provisions that prohibit the disclosure of sensitive / confidential information. I offer that trying to leverage such a position is unprofessional and misguided.

The issues involved in this messy event are complicated and contentious between people. Facts take time to emerge and they need clarity to be seen through the smoke caused by the fire. I have lots of curiosity and I have tried to satisfy that curiosity through some investigation and direct conversations with some of the participants, including Mr. Denning. I am not taking sides in the issue, but I am offering support to remaining Board members and to the organization at large. If you read my 11 points, that is clear.

I remain open to hearing new, validated information. My sentiments are open to refinement and if new veracious information is presented that cause me to form new and / or differing opinions, I welcome it. I have encouraged transparency, improvement and collaboration in alignment with agile values since joining the Scrum Alliance in 2005. I want the organization to add value to the community to sustain and to succeed. That's why I and others serve, have served, and will serve in it as volunteers, including on the Board of Directors.

Re: Reasons for Resigning are Clear. Reasons for Division are Unfortunate by Tom Mellor

So, here are the reasons stated in their letter:

"Over the past six to eight months the organization has taken a new direction under the current leadership which we believe is inconsistent with principles of the Agile Manifesto and the Scrum Alliance mission of transforming the world of work. We have tried to course correct but we have been met with consistent resistance.

"We feel that our voices are no longer being heard and we are resigning our positions as directors of the Scrum Alliance effective noon MT July 7th, 2016."

To me, this is wholly cryptic and not helpful. What new direction? How is it inconsistent with principles in the Manifesto for Agile Software Development and with the Scrum Alliance mission? How did they specifically try to correct this? Why do they feel their voices are no longer being heard?

Where is the transparency here? How is this helping? I desire to hear. I've read the 2015 LC report and saw nothing in it to allude to any of these things. If the reasons the other 2 Board members resigned, why did Denning and Forte make mention of it and allude that those are representative of troubles, too?

Oh my, there's lot of guessing required and lots of guessing going on.

Gene Bounds rejoins the Board by Mark Levison

If you keeping track in this saga - Gene Bounds one of the four previously discussed has just rejoined the board. So for those who saw a linkage between Forte/Denning and the others I think its clear there isn't one.

Agile and Scrum backfired on the developers by Hermann Schmidt

You are so right! And there is more: Scrum and "Agile" has given conservative, control-based organisations the most powerful tools to date to micromanage their developers!

It all backfired on us.

Scrum has taken away all necessary slack (anyone remember Tom DeMarco?) from my work. Instead of weekly status meetings, I now have to justify my work every single day. Thank you very much. Self-organising teams? Haha, really? Super tight control on hourly basis it is! This is ridiculous. I have a hard time containing my rage.

"Scrum treats developers like teenagers at Mc Donalds" (Erik Meyer). So accurate.

"But that's not how it is supposed to be" I hear some say. Well, that may be right, but what counts is how it is implemented in reality. And the hierarchical organisations I know didn't give a damn about reorganizing or changing the mindset. How could we have been so naive to think that a whole category of people (classic PMs) would just go out of the way?

Personally I am utterly disappointed. I was a glowing follower of the idea once and now I detest the way it has turned out.

Re: Agile and Scrum backfired on the developers by Thomas Juli

Dear Hermann
wow, from what you are describing I do get the impression that, at least, your decision makers had no clue about the meaning of Agile's values or principles and stuck to their old, traditional mindset of control and short-term thinking. This is sad. And it underlines the point that Agile is not about tools or processes. It is a mindset, a paradigm shift.
I have seen teams that have experienced something similar of what you described. Some of them stayed, disillusioned and frustrated. Others left. My advice, leave that company - unless you, too, prefer the old traditional way of doing things.
Still, you may find Steve's article addressing the challenges of Agile interesting:
Best of luck,

Re: Agile and Scrum backfired on the developers by Hermann Schmidt


I am actually leaving the company and that is one reason why. For me, it was crystal clear from the very beginning that "Agile" is not about processes and tools, but the mind set. Unfortunately, this opinion I do not share with too many here.

Re: Agile and Scrum backfired on the developers by Thomas Juli

Good and wise choice. And choices we do have. Best of luck for your new endeavors

Re: Agile and Scrum backfired on the developers by Morten LN

I agree. I think the central problem is that scrum processes is not "owned" my developers anymore but by managers that Scrum Alliance has sold the idea to. I was a fan of Scrum (and attended a Scrum Master course) when it was something developers did because it made sense for them. Now developers have often no sense of "ownership" over Scrum which is directed by controlling people that do not produce anything themselves and therefore tend to prioritize scrum process they learned at Scrum Alliance courses at the expense of the people and value that is being produced. In many places Scrum has now ended up being a hindrance for software development rather then a help.
P.S. I have also yet to meet a full time certified scrum master that actually understood what servant leadership and practices means (e.g. helped remove barriers).

Re: Top-down vs bottom-up by Tom Mellor

I'm glad you know me so well. If you did know me, you'd know that "authoritarian" is not a word used to describe me. I think critically and with reason. And, I try to gather facts before rendering opinion. Uninformed opinions are shallow. Let's not confuse "remark" with "information" that is vetted and truthful.

Perhaps someday we can meet and you might change your opinion of me. Or maybe you can find out additional information about me that might influence your opinion. Either way, you could be better informed about me and change your perception.

Re: Agile and Scrum backfired on the developers by Tom Mellor

How many have you met?

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