Scrum and SVO-p


Scrum is unique in that the management method is consistently direct. All communication in authentic Scrum is concise, direct and clear. Scrum encourages responsibility. The daily stand-up meeting actively encourages personal responsibility to execute on specific work, and to be accountable to the Team. The three questions of Scrum are questions related to accountability for specific commitments.

Each of Scrum's three roles have clearly defined responsibility for a set of very specific tasks. The Product Owner, for example, is required to gather requirements, place them on the Backlog, and prioritize them. The Team is required to pull the topmost N items from the Backlog to load a Sprint, to attend the daily Scrum, and so on. Each role in Scrum takes responsibility for a specific set of tasks. Scrum roles and ceremonies actively encourage responsibility.

Language directly influences thinking and perception. Syntax that is consistently direct encourages responsibility and clear thinking. Indirect forms of syntax can often obscure the subject and encourage the dodging of direct responsibility. Avoiding responsibility is in direct conflict with Scrum values of Commitment and Focus. Indirect forms of verbal communication are therefore not in alignment with Scrum values. Indirect verbal forms do not support Scrum.

I believe that SVO-p can be very profitably incorporated into the Scrum methodology. SVO-p stands for Subject-Verb-Object, Present Tense.

SVO-p is a syntax. It is a style of communication in which you always know who is responsible for an action. SVO-p is an active form that encourages clear thinking and candid, direct communication. SVO-p can help clarify your thinking.

Communicating in SVO-p requires definition of who is acting, what they are doing and to whom. It requires placing the thought in the present; that is, "in the now". Speakers and writers who actively dodge responsibility often choose the past tense and the future tense for expressing thoughts. Politicians, for example, often assign blame to past events, while making promises about the future.

SVO-p brings clarity to communication, and directly affects thinking through the constraint of language syntax.


Non SVO-p

"The people who write articles for free are to be congratulated. "

This sentence puts the congratulations out in the non-existing future and also hides the identity of the congratulator.


"I congratulate the writers who write articles for free."

This sentence in SVO-p identifies the user and places the action in the now.

Non SVO-p

"I've yet to meet anyone who has given me a straight answer."

This sentence places the action in the future and obscures the object of the sentence. It also places the giving of ‘straight answers' in the past.


"People don't give me straight answers."

In this SVO-p sentence, ‘People' are acting on ‘me' in the now, by not giving straight answers.

You may find that speaking in SVO-p is difficult at first. You may also find that the use of the SVO-p syntax can be contagious. When you use it, others often tend to naturally speak back to you in SVO-p.

SVO-p is particularly well suited for use during Scrum communications, because SVO-p is consistent and supports the Scrum values: Commitment, Focus, Openness, Respect, and Courage.

SVO-p discourages "passive voice". Passive forms tend to conceal the subject and avoid responsibility. This is a problem because of a much higher likelihood that the receiver of the message may misunderstand the statement. The use of active voice in the present tense supports immediate action in the present moment. The subject-verb-object form tends to support direct and clearly articulated responsibility.

Responsible action in the present moment is consistent with Scrum values. For example, in daily Scrums it is the responsibility of the ScrumMaster to make immediate decisions in the now rather than deferring decision-making into the non-existent future. Likewise, in Scrum there is an emphasis on learning empirically, in the present, while avoiding making any specific predictions about the future. In this sense, Scrum and SVO-p are a perfect match.

The use of

AgileConnection is a TechWell community.

Through conferences, training, consulting, and online resources, TechWell helps you develop and deliver great software every day.