The Agile and Scrum Mindsets: An Interview with Mitch Lacey


Mitch Lacey recently took the time to speak with us ahead of his 2012 Agile Development Conference session titled “Understanding Scrum: An Experiential Workshop.” Mitch shared with us how truly understanding scrum and agile allows for a smooth transition and effective results.

Over the past fifteen years, Mitch Lacey has managed numerous plan-driven and agile projects. Mitch shares his experience in project and client management through Certified ScrumMaster courses, agile coaching engagements, conference presentations, and his writings, including his new book The Scrum Field Guide: Practical Advice for Your First Year.


Noel : What changes or improvements have you seen in In your more than fifteen years of experience of managing agile and plan-driven projects?

Mitch : I have seen a shift in focus from large boxed releases to more iterative, market focused releases. I think this is a by-product of the world we live in today. Everything is faster, and business needs to find a way to adapt to increasing customer demands. However, I think plan driven projects have a place in the world today – it’s all about using the right tool for the job and not taking a one-size-fits-all approach, this usually leads to failure very late in the game.

Noel: What challenges have you faced when coaching customers to adopt agile practices?

Mitch : Everyone seems to think, in the beginning, that agile is just what you say, a set of practices. It’s not – it’s a different way of thinking. One of my favorite quotes from Einstein is “Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.” A lot of times people will keep the same mindset and try to do things differently, but they are not, they’re doing the same thing over and over again. This shows a fundamental lack of understanding as to the “why” of agile, which I’ll talk about in my session.

Noel: How does a ScrumMaster remove impediments that make meeting sprint goals difficult?

Mitch : Wow, this is a big one. There are a ton of answers for this. One time I had to chase down a manager. He kept avoiding me so I decided to camp in front of his office. Eventually on the second day he came in to get his wallet so he could go out that night. We had a lengthy conversation as to why he was not delivering, how I could help and the impact his lack of attention was causing multiple teams. It was a very challenging discussion as he was senior to me – but in the end we got the blocking issues resolved.

Noel: How do you see the role of a ScrumMaster evolving in the future?

Mitch : I hope the role of a ScrumMaster is not a role; it’s just how we work.

Noel: What do you want attendees of your session at the Better Software Conference East to be able to take back to their own companies and projects?

Mitch : I want people to understand there is more to agile than just the how – there is also the why component – the mindset shift. Things are not going to magically get better over time, but with disciple and focus, you can get through this.

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