Ben Butler
2 min readAug 11, 2023

Creator of Scrum: “Agile is not a product”

This reposts a message from the creator of Scrum, Ken Schwaber.

At XP/AU 2004, I kept hearing the question of how to "sell Agile to the executives." I also heard a lot of discussion about "crossing the chasm," the book about the evolution of products from early adoption to mainstream to late adoption. I got a chance to talk about this with several other people (whose names I will only disclose under duress), and I had the following insight: Agile is not a product. Because it isn’t a product, we shouldn’t be
thinking about selling it, we shouldn’t be thinking about it crossing a chasm.

Thinking of Agile as a product is particularly damaging because it will cause Agile to have the same failure that CMM had when it was viewed as a saleable commodity, as a product. People believed that they could market it and make money from it. People who bought it thought that they could then install it, train people on it, and then they would be better. Bob Schatz from Primavera has often pointed out that bringing Agile in is the start of an extensive change process. Deciding on Agile is a commitment to an effort, not the purchase of a solution.

I’ve been concerned for a while about organizations having some
success with Agile and deciding to go "Agile" whole hog. Their comments reflect a belief that Agile is something that can be implemented, solving a problem, and then they can move on. More to the truth, Agile is a commitment to collaboration, empowerment, respecting each other, courage, flexibility, facing the truth, and trust. It is about people, not products and solutions. I think people who think they can buy an "Agile" product are going to be in for a rude shock.

I believe that Agile is part of a social revolution to help people learn together to collaboratively figure out how to work and live in an increasingly complex world. Agile is an attitude, not a product. Agile is spirituality, not a religion. We don’t have to sell it as a product. We don’t have to evangelize it. We simply (and with difficulty) have to live it. People will observe us and envy our joy at work, and quake in fear and be defeated by our productivity. For the old way of doing things doesn’t cut it anymore. The Agile way is the appropriate response to our complex times.

So, be wary, Our culture thinks of everything as a saleable product. It is the metaphor of out consumer society. We will fall back into thinking of Agile as a product over and over, and it will confuse our thinking. Whenever this happens to your neighbor, help them out.

  • Ken Schwaber