Pragmatic Scrum Master: How Disciplined Agile Can Help?

Don’t get me wrong. I love Scrum. I use Scrum wherever it works. But let me be honest. The phrase “simple to understand, and difficult to master” is more than just truth. It is the perfect explanation of why some teams fall in the blasphemy of zombie Scrum. Without an experienced coach with a healthy empiricism-based mindset, who can enable the proper scientific-grounded process, merely playing the rituals remains the only option and gives those unlucky teams a stillborn process. But let’s face the harsh truth. How hard is it to find and retain such a coach? How many of these genuinely qualified coaches are available? Just take a look at own numbers. More than 300,000 people are certified in the ability to read and understand the Scrum Guide (PSM 1). Just a little bit over 8000 people are certified in applying Scrum Guide (PSM 2). And less than 1000 are approved as those who demonstrated a deep understanding and ability to explain the empirical nature of Scrum’s (PSM3). Less than 1000 per thousands and thousands of teams worldwide. 

Some are trying to overcome this problem by adopting more prescriptive frameworks like SAFe. For me, it looks like a little step back to the traditional predictive project management style, but definitely, it paves the way for inexperienced teams to follow. The teams surrender some degree of freedom, but, anyway, they don’t use it in full force due to a lack of qualification. 

Surprisingly, the solution comes from the authority, famous for its predictive, classic waterfall process management approach – Project Management Institute. They entirely bought the idea of overcoming the complexity by using the empirical process. But they also recognized the hesitation of inexperienced teams to select and adopt effective behavior that would support the true agility. Instead of just igniting the great goal of improving the world by an inspectable, transparent, and adaptive process, they offered the toolkit to select, adapt, evaluate, and evolve effective behaviors, tools and methods. 

Disciplined Agile recognizes two essential principles: “context counts” and “choice is good,” and offers various life cycles, including classic Agile, Agile Startup, Lean/DevOps, and an enterprise-level well-coordinated Program lifecycle. It equips the scrum masters and team with a rich of dozens of useful strategies to start. And all of that wrapped into a highly empirical process of selecting and adapting the process. So, like Scrum, Disciplined Agile teaches teams a scientific-based approach but also arms them well for their journey. 

But let’s listen to those who already have their feet wet. Jonathan Smart, Agility Capability Lead across Barclays, in his interview to InfoQ: “For us, our approach is based on Disciplined Agile (DA) as it is not one-size-fits-all, it is a goal-based, risk & value focused framework and is enterprise aware. It allows practices to vary as the context differs, with recommendations. In a large organisation, in the real world, there are many different combinations of product team cardinality, teams who are iteration based or flow based, variations in team Shu Ha Ri level and so on, which DA supports.”

You may want to join one of Disciplined Agile training, but all you need to start is get a “Choose your Wow” book. The book will supply you:

1) The complete set of the process goals to keep in mind to organize and support effective, economically reasonable, and enterprise integrated process. After all, we all don’t run our projects in a vacuum, do we?

2) Six options of the initial life cycle organization 

3) The algorithm to select, adapt, and evolve the life cycle. 

4) Over 30 “process blades” (the group of activities) are required to succeed at all product life stages, from inception to decline. 

5) Approach to prioritize process goals and process blades according to the current needs and challenges. 

6) Hundreds of hand-picked strategies to choose from as a start point. 

As a big management 3.0 proponent, I perceive Disciplined Agile as a great application of the management 3.0 principles. It sets the goal. It establishes the borders and makes sure that these borders are perfectly aligned with the team’s abilities. And last but not least, it supports the team success with a variety of options to find, adapt, apply, and evolve the knowledge and skills. 

Disciplined Agile would be the perfect aid and roadmap for any team, whether it just started its Agile journey or wants to improve their agility. Instead of prescribing the strict procedure or teach agilists “to swim by throwing them in the pool”, it empowers every role, including Scrum Master, with the method and selects the tools to succeed. 

Please feel free to follow the links below to learn more about Disciplined Agile. If you have any questions on how Disciplined Agile may help you, please do not hesitate to contact me. 


1) Scrum Certifications Breakdown

2) Disciplined Agile Consortium

3) “Choose your WoW” book at Amazon

4) Benefits of Agile Transformation at Barclays by Ben Linden

About the Author:

I am Nikolay Gekht, CTO of Gehtsoft USA, MCT, PMI-ACP, PSM 2, and DALSM. I am a certified technical trainer, agile coach, and a project manager with more than 20 years of experience.

Tell your friends
Thank you! Your submission has been received!