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2020 Scrum Guide

The 2020 Scrum Guide is shorter, more focused, and has One Team. In addition to tying the three artifacts to goals with commitments, we addressed two of the biggest challenges in the industry - servant leaders who don’t lead and self-organizing developers doing whatever they want and not meeting the commitments.

After wrestling for a long time with servant leadership we finally just changed the word order. A Scrum Master is a Leader who Serves. Professor Nonaka who first used the word Scrum for project management in his 1986 paper in the Harvard Business review has consistently pointed out that the person who holds the accountabilities we give to the Scrum Master is the catalyst for organizational change by managing up and managing down. This requires leadership.

Self-organization is a concept from Complex Systems Theory where an intelligent system self-organizes to achieve a goal. So we now use the term self-managing to try to avoid teams weaponizing self-organization as a tool to avoid any commitments. The team self-manages to deliver on the commitments to meet the goals.

Self-Organization and Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS)

Self-Organizing: – There is no hierarchy of command and control in a complex adaptive system. – There is no planning or managing, but there is a constant re-organizing to find the best fit with the environment. ... The system is continually self-organizing through the process of emergence and feedback. Complex Adaptive Systems: Emergence and Self-Organization Tutorial Presented at HICSS-42 Big Island, HI January 5, 2009 Stephen H. Kaisler, D.Sc. And Gregory Madey, Ph.D. 

Relation of CAS Self-Organization to Scrum

Study of CAS in my doctoral work doing supercomputer modeling of the human cell to determine the origins of cancer is one of the main roots of Scrum. The doctoral degree took five years of massive computing using advanced mathematical models which led to founding the Center for Vitamins and Cancer Research at the University of Colorado Medical School under the sponsorship of Dr. Linus Pauling, two time Nobel Laureate. This research continues from 1980 until 2020 in my medical research lab which is getting increased funding in 2021 from my venture firm, Tesla Investment Holdings, LLC.

As Principle Investigator (one of 300 U.S. scientists qualified to run multi-million dollar NCI research grants) of the Colorado Cancer Center Grant during 1975-1983, I had several million dollars every year to fund technology, develop small programming teams, and work with Bell Labs creators of the C Language and Unix. This was the first 30M invested in development of what we now know as Scrum.

Current Research in CAS Related to Project Management

Some of the same scientists reviewing my doctoral work in 1980 are still publishing papers on these mathematical models today. They have become the standard way of thinking about certain types of systems that self-organize to move through multiple system states.

An interesting summary paper was just published:

Multi-stage models for the failure of complex systems, cascading disasters, and the onset of disease. May 2019 PLoS ONE 14(5):e0216422 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0216422 Project: Insurance led response to climate change 

Notice that this paper was part of a study of climate change. In fact, the abstract points out:

The model is sufficiently general to be used in many contexts, such as engineering, project management, disease progression, and disaster risk for example, allowing the estimation of failure rates in complex systems and projects.

So mathematical models applied to cancer are the same as those applied to climate change, i.e. they predict disaster. And they are equally applicable to project management as they explain the rates of project failure in the waterfall methodologies. This is why they are fundamental to the creation of Scrum and directly relevant to the 2020 update to the Scrum Guide.

In an effort to offer a better understanding of complex adaptive systems theory and self-organization, we removed the term from the 2020 Scrum Guide and substituted it with ‘Self-Managing.’ Self-Managing Teams are committed to re-organize themselves on a daily basis to more effectively achieve the Sprint Goal and ultimately the Product Goal by delivering an Increment once a sprint (or more often) that meets the Definition of Done.


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