Scrum and SVO-p

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SVO-p by Scrum practitioners actively supports the success of Scrum in the now.

I notice that Ken Schwaber and Mike Beedle, co-authors of the book Agile Software Development with Scrum, write in nearly 100% SVO-p. The entire book except for a very tiny minority of the writing is written in SVO-p. This makes total sense, because the SVO-p form is consistent with the beliefs, values and behaviors of authentic Scrum. It is therefore no surprise that the original and most experienced practitioners of the art of Scrum use SVO-p as the preferred syntax for communicating the essentials of it. SVO-p is a very natural, nearly automatic fit with Scrum.

When you start experimenting with SVO-p in verbal communications, you find that it is necessary to speak in simple and direct (SVO) terms. You find that speaking in the present tense keeps you in the now, and tends to clarify your thinking. SVO-p strongly supports an empirical approach to work and problem-solving by focusing attention in the present moment, and making perfectly clear who is acting, and upon what

The use of SVO-p strongly supports the reception of interactive loops of Scrum feedback in the present. This property of SVO-p tends to support the reception of feedback over the development and acceptance of "predictions" regarding the non-existent future. The use of present tense focuses attention "in the now". The simple Subject-Verb-Object syntax is clear and direct. If you are speaking in a future tense, you find it easy to make predictions about the future. If you are speaking in the present tense, you find it easier to pay attention to what is happening now. This supports the essence of Scrum: empiricism, or "learning by observation"

SVO-p maximizes focus on the present, at the expense of the past and future. Scrum methods identify, acknowledge and directly confront the reality of complex software development. The use of SVO-p in Scrum, therefore, might not be optional. SVO-p is the best syntax available for communicating very directly in English. I wonder if one of the foul "Scrum Smells" is the avoidance of SVO-p syntax when communicating about current Scrum projects.

It is my belief that if you are really a candidate for a role in an authentic Scrum project, then you are ready for implementing your communications in SVO-p. Give it a try. If it feels uncomfortable, the discomfort may be about the difficulty of making fuzzy, indirect statements in SVO-p. You cannot easily make such statements in the SVO-p syntax. SVO-p identifies the subject, makes the action clear, and assigns responsibility for the action in the present moment. The directness of SVO-p is the greatest strength of the form. SVO-p supports the Scrum value of Openness by strongly encouraging clarity in each and every sentence.

Scrum and SVO-p confront reality, identify the subject, and assign responsibility. Scrum depends on interactive feedback in the now, and SVO-p supports that interactive feedback by focusing attention on the present moment.

I welcome your feedback about the use of SVO-p in actual Scrum practice. I am eager to learn about your experiences implementing SVO-p in Scrum. Please give it a try, and be sure to email me your feedback on SVO-p.


About the Author

Dan Mezick is a Certified Scrum Master, a Scrum Coach, and the organizer of the Agile CT and Agile Boston user groups. He is also the Stage producer for Agile2009's "Manifesting Agility" conference Stage. Reach him at dan.mezick@newtechusa.com

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