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Hot Take On Scrum

Posted on:April 29, 2021 at 12:13 PM

Aptitude and Attitude

I recently did a deep dive into wardley maps. Here there’s a great discussion of aptitude and attitude that explains the core experience I’ve personally observed over the last twelve years working with scrum: there is no “right” way to do scrum.


Each business requirement or project can be tied to a particular level of innovation. Is the product stable or highly experimental? Is there a paved path or do we need research? Are we considering buying off the shelf vs building our own or do we have a truly unique business case?


Wardley lays out three types of people: pioneers, settlers, and town planners. Each feeds work into the next in a never ending cycle. Pioneers explore uncharted concepts and create new crazy ideas. Settlers use these new concepts to build something with real value. Town planners abstract these valuable products and scale them up and commoditize them.

This cycle moves particularly fast in engineering and especially in frontend (JS) engineering. You may have a team of pioneers making a new framework advancement today only to completely replace the framework tomorrow. However, we should strive to guide the right types of people towards the right types of business problems and projects.

Is your attitude aligned with your aptitude?

Take a look at the project you’re working on and what types of activities you do around it. You may switch attitudes over time so it’s worth reflecting regularly on this point and talking it over with your manager. We’re lucky as engineers to pretty much have access to any aptitude level of project if we look around.

Aptitude and attitude in scrum

You may be on a small team with each attitude represented, or in larger companies you may have a narrow business scope where the entire team is pioneers. Reflect on the type of team you’re on and how your scrum process reflects that composition.

A pioneer team may run minimalist kanban using reviews and git issues instead of tickets to move as quickly as possible. They are building many things that will likely not pan out so they don’t need as much reliability/stability as much as experimentation and iteration. Standups should be short, communication should be amplified, and you may have a team that looks more like a bunch of independent contractors.

On the other hand, a town planners team may have a daily standup with more business than engineering tuning in. They may have heavy process and standards to ensure high scalability, performance, and reliability. They may put emphasis on retrospectives and post-mortems to seek continuous improvements at scale.

Evolution of Aptitude

Engineers, teams, and businesses all tend to move in one direction: from more experimental to more scalable. Wherever you are now, what got you here will not get you there. Anticipate this evolution because it will happen. Prepare and adapt and don’t fight the waves and you’ll have a much better time. A new wave of pioneering is just around the corner.