The Metaphors of Scrum


end line, and you get there in a straight line. The distance is short (30 days or less) that has a clear end point based on the product owner's definition.
Other Common Metaphors
There are other metaphors about agility that we could explore at some point in the future. We plan to keep a growing list of them at, but here are some of the more popular ones:

  • Backlog items are quot;formlessquot; An item can be anything is very open and elegant in it's lack of constraints. The very formless nature of a backlog item often anxiety when a person hears that it can be anything.
  • Sprint Planning sets quot;driving directions quot;
  • Sprint Demo is quot;product that is ready to shipquot;
  • Retrospection as quot;learning from historyquot;
  • Product Owner is quot;the driverquot;
  • ScrumMaster is quot;the doctorquot;
  • quot;Scrum is a frameworkquot; or is an quot;outline that gets filled in.quot; Well not exactly and not all the time. Scrum out of the box provides many prescriptive starting points. However, Scrum's big rule that the team lsquo;owns its process' is often interpreted to mean that anything goes...

There are many metaphors that we like when we discuss agile software development but, for the sake of brevity for this paper the authors will limit the discussion to what we have discussed so far.
We hope that it is now apparent that we use metaphors all the time to reason about the world. Scrum is described by a collection of powerful metaphors that have been used successfully to engage and focus the intellectual energy of teams that are working on projects in the face of complexity.
We have found that by being aware of the metaphors in Scrum (and agility in general) and how they are being applied in common dialog can have a tremendous influence on teams and get them up to quot;Normingquot; much more quickly.
It is our hope that this paper will help raise the consciousness of the Scrum community and organizations seeking to implement Scrum. And it will serve to guide others in their application of Scrum's metaphors to reason about product development.

About the authors
Douglas E. Shimp is a CST (Certified ScrumMaster Trainer), Use Case expert, Agile Process expert, and a Managing Partner at 3Back. He has 16 years experience in the technology field. One of his distinctions is his focus on the interaction of technology and corporate cultural issues. He is currently writing a book on quot;The Product Owner.quot; He is certified by both Cockburn and Associates to teach quot;Writing Effective Use Casesquot; and Advanced Development Methods as a ScrumMaster Trainer.
Dan Rawsthorne is a CST (Certified ScrumMaster Trainer) and a Use Case expert who lives at the quot;process endquot; of things at Danube. His focus is on helping organizations get products quot;out the doorquot; using agility, and he has been doing so for over 20 years. He has a PhD in mathematics from the University of Illinois, and is currently writing a book on how to be a Product Owner. He concentrates his training and coaching in Use Cases and Scrum.


[1] quot;Metaphors We Live Byquot; by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, 1980.

[2] (simile, metaphor, analogy) , 2007.

[3] quot;Metaphors We Live Byquot; by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, 1980.

[4] Agile Software Development With Scrum, Ken Schwaber and Mike Beedle.

[5] , Schwaber, 2007.

[6] See , Alistair Cockburn, 2006.

[7] See , Rawsthorne, Schauwber, Barton. 2005.

About the author

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