Scrum has given us a lot, but it’s time for some conscious uncoupling

Gothmog, Lord of the Rings

“The age of men is over.”

confidently (and rather aggressively, as you would expect from one of those nasty orcs) declares the Orc commander Gothmog in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

“The Time of the Orc has come.”

There’s an irony, of course in using this quote for a blog post declaring Scrum’s ultimate decline into irrelevance. In fact the age of men (and woman as the insensitive Orc fails to include) was in fact only just beginning. …

An uncomfortable truth or do we just need to keep trying?

Photo by Stephen Dawson on Unsplash

The year of the open-minded Chris

I have declared 2021 to be the year of the open-minded Chris. As part of my commitment to personal growth am trying hard not to have opinions that I am emotionally attached to, but rather to have hypotheses that I hold lightly. I do believe that having a position on a subject is important and valuable. “You can’t steer a parked car” as the adage has it. So don’t worry dear readers you will still be getting a healthy dollop of opinionated verbiage here :)

First things first, quantitative vs qualitative

I often get these confused so let’s start with an explanation. Quantitative data can be…

From pyramids to nuclear missiles

By Nina — Own work, CC BY 2.5,

“A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.”

Project Management Institute

The evidence that projects have been around for a long time is not hard to find. One of the most recognizable shapes on the planet, the Great Pyramid of Giza shown above was a massive project, and when one considers the basic technology in use at the time, over 4500 years ago, even more remarkable.

There is however a difference between achieving a feat, however difficult, and the body of knowledge that constitutes Project Management. Like much of our modern business knowledge…

What changed in the latest Scrum guide — a review of the changes and the global launch event.

Photo by Olga Guryanova on Unsplash

On November the 18th 2020 at approximately 10:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada) the 2020 version of the Scrum guide was published, replacing the previous 2016 version. I know this because 10:00AM EST works out to 4AM New Zealand time. So it was very early in the morning for me when I launched zoom to join the global launch event. …

Understand how the “Discover > Design > Execute > Operate” pattern can help your team navigate uncertainty.

Photo by Fabio Jock on Unsplash

Pattern Summary

All projects and initiatives are different, however you will recognise four distinct phases in each. Consider the seasons: Summer, Autumn (or Fall), Spring and Winter. In some countries these are reasonably distinct, in others the transition from season to season is more blurred. Yet in all countries understanding the seasons and the weather they bring is helpful. So it is with initiatives and projects: these phases are not imposed on a project, rather they are a natural part of all projects, in fact if you look closely you will observe this pattern in all tasks, both big and small. …

Foundation Pattern: Use company bets to prioritize projects

Photo by Clifford Photography on Unsplash

Pattern Summary

A company bet in the context of this pattern is a potential project. The language comes from the world of gambling, where players will make bets, for example on the outcome of a sporting event, or a hand of poker. Implicit in the language of bets is the language of uncertainty and risk. For example when a bet is placed on a sporting event the bet is placed against set odds. The higher the risk the higher the potential pay-out — and of course the greater the chance you will lose your money.

This language is a good fit for…

Foundation Pattern: Use projects and milestones to drive product development

The Pattern

The most effective way to develop a new product or make a significant improvement to an existing product is to plan and execute a project. This project needs to have:

  • An end objective. What is the project seeking to achieve?
  • Optionally, phases. A large project can be divided into a few defined phases. This is helpful to increase clarity and focus.
  • Milestones. Milestones are clear, agreed and significant points within a phase

To use a mountaineering analogy, in climbing a large mountain there are natural places to rest and regroup, known as camps. These are analogous to project phases.

Traditional Mt Everest ascent plan. In our analogy the routes between base camps equate to project phases. Image credit:

Foundation Pattern: Have a product roadmap

Pattern Summary

A product roadmap gives clarity and focus to the team executing the roadmap. The roadmap is a high level plan for realizing the desired product objective. The roadmap is a living document, adapting to discoveries made during the course of development.


Netflix 2020 roadmap (example) Gibson Biddle


One Product, One Team (Chris Lennon)

Product Vision and Strategy (Chris Lennon)

Foundation Pattern: Teams need a Product Manager

Pattern Summary

Software teams need a strong Product Manager with a passion for the product and the skills and connections to help the team bring the product to market. The Product Manager acts as CEO of the product and is accountable for the product mission, vision and strategy.

Alternative Patterns / Anti-patterns

Product Manager and Product Owner (anti-pattern)

This pattern describes a role, as in a hat that is worn. In some companies the role of Product Manager is known as ‘Product Owner’. The point is that this role should be filled by a single person. Having both a Product Manager and a Product Owner for a single team is an anti-pattern…

Foundation Pattern: Products of all shapes and sizes need a product mission, vision and strategy

Pattern Summary

An articulated vision is essential for products of all shapes and sizes, as is an agreed and clear strategy.

  • A product mission is the product North Star, this describes what makes the product special. It speaks to the ‘why’ of the product
  • A product vision carries the product mission and begins to translate it into a series of steps
  • A product strategy outlines, at a high level the approach that will take a team towards the product vision. It speaks to the ‘how’ of the product

These are living artifacts; the product vision may stay reasonably constant throughout the lifetime…

Chris Lennon

Agile coach. Ways of Working researcher. I live in beautiful New Zealand and work for Visa. I am also the founder of a start up — Views are my own.

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