Agile is a Game. Agree About The Rules

In the previous lesson, I taught you about how word definitions are agreements, and how agreements are essential to success with Agile. Once you get everyone involved to agree on the definitions for Agile and Scrum, you are in position to go all the way by seeking and obtaining everyone’s commitment to success with Agile. It’s all very simple but you have to go step-by-step and do all the steps just like I tell you.

So here is what you do: you already have everyone’s agreement that the Manifesto is the definition of Agile (2 pages) and the Scrum Guide (less than 20 pages) is the definition of Scrum. That is Step 1.

Step 2 is to go and ask (ASK) everyone involved to play by the rules of Scrum (which is a GAME by the way) for 6 or 7 iterations. If they are unwilling, ask (ASK) for them to agree to play by the rules of Scrum for 3 or 4 iterations. Or 2. Or ONE. Ask (ASK) for their agreement.

These are the roles you need to have very specific conversations with:

  • All the stakeholders
  • All the execs, directors, and managers
  • All the Product Owners
  • All the Scrum Masters
  • All of the Teams
  • Anyone else you can possibly think of

It is essential that you do this. Do NOT rush this Step and DO NOT skip it. Get it done. With each person in each role, explain clearly what is expected, what is permissible, and what is out of bounds. Clearly explain the boundaries of each role, and the specific tasks. Make sure everyone understands. Ask them to ask questions. Do not rush this.

It is best to scope the agreement to a specific period of time, like 7 or 8 iterations. This way, it is easier for everyone to commit. Making it temporary (and inspectable later) also teaches some core ideas about iteration, experimentation, inspection, adaptation, and so on.

Just go ahead and live these things out. That is your very clear message to them. Live it out. See how it feels. Give it a try, this Agile thing. For real. Tell them no one will get hurt, that you have led people through this many, many times. Because you have.


It is usually a very good idea (no joke) to GET IT IN WRITING as Step 3. After they signal they are OK agreeing to this. Get it in writing if you can. Make it very real. Make it kind of scary.

Now you are in position to really be successful. Here is why:

  1. There is a sense of community now– everyone shares in the same basic agreement. The agreement is about THE RULES OF THE GAME. Which everyone is about to play.
  2. There is clarity. Everyone is clear on roles and responsibilities. Or so it seems, for now (!!)
  3. You and the Scrum Masters you are teaching can now assert yourselves, strongly if necessary, by reminding executives, directors, managers, stakeholders, Product Owners, Scrum Masters, Teams and everyone else involved….about their commitment to the rules. About their commitment to their AGREEMENTS with you and everyone else.
  4. When the Teams start Scrumming, you can remind them that they AGREED to do a Daily Scrum Meeting.
  5. When the Teams start Scrumming, you can remind the executives that, per the Scrum Guide, they must signal and execute on real and deep respect for the decisions of Product Owners.
  6. When the Teams start Scrumming, you can remind stakeholders that the scope of work in a Sprint cannot be changed in an ad hoc way. Ever.

Now when it gets crazy, YOU CAN REMIND PEOPLE OF THEIR AGREEMENTS. This is Step 4. And because it is time-boxed with an end-date, you can very firmly remind them of how very reasonable the entire arrangement is.

The next Step is to coach everyone through the experience. This is Step 5.

The last Step is to inspect everything. Especially the great results everyone is getting.

Summing up:

  • Step 1 Get agreement on definition of Agile and Scrum
  • Step 2 Get agreement to play by the rules of Scrum (for teams that are doing Scrum)
  • Step 3 Get the agreement in writing
  • Step 4 Remind people about their commitments when the trouble starts
  • Step 5 Coach them through it. You have permission now. GO FOR IT
  • Step 6 Teach them how to inspect and adapt


The alternative– starting in some other way– is almost guaranteed to FAIL.

This procedure, in six Steps actually works.

Especially those FIRST THREE Steps.

Can you see why?


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