We have played games for as long as humans have had a few minutes of spare time.  The first time we play any new game we start by asking:  what is the objective?  What are the rules (the constraints under which we agree to play).

We ask these questions in order to understand how to be successful in playing this particular game.  How can we win without being disqualified for cheating!

We all know that different games have different rules.  You need to know the rules in order to learn how to start playing.

Monopolising the Game

So, hands up if you have ever played monopoly 😀

But….have you ever played with non-standard rules?  Does your family play special rules you need to explain if someone else joins a family game for example?

Do you and your friends play so that all fines are put in the middle of the board and won by the lucky person who lands on the ‘free parking’ square for example?  Do you have to go round the board one full time and pass go for the first time before you are allowed to buy any properties?  I am sure you know what I mean.

In my highly un-scientific straw poll that passes for research in this matter I found everybody tweaked the rules.  I am sure that even with a much wider pool of subjects, the number of people who play exactly by the original rules are very small.

The reason people change the rules is to make the game more fun.  It doesn’t make it any ‘better’ – people don’t tweak the rules to win sooner.  As far as I could tell, no one’s rule-changes gave any particular player an advantage.  It just made the game more fun, as judged by the people who were about to play.

What is really cool is how 2 families can come together to play, and you see them negotiate the tweaks they will play.

Absolutely no one, ever, says:


They just agree the deviations from the basic rule set and then play.

So…why are we talking about Monopoly?

I think agile is designed to work in the same way as monopoly.

With SCRUM or Kanban, we play the rules as they are given to us….until we know and understand the game.

For example, SCRUM gives us a great start, teaching us habits and practices that can transplant to any other agile framework successfully.

When I am looking to hire a new scrum master I don’t really care whether they have a certification or not, because all this tells me as an employer is that the candidate knows the rules of the game.

This is great as far as it goes, but certification is not an end-point.  It seems to quietly imply your journey is finished, of being ‘done’.  Just like the game of monopoly, knowing the rules is a great place to start having fun!

To quote Michael Jordan:

I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games.  26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot…and missed.  I have failed over and over again in my life.  That is why I succeed.

Its by imagining and trying new ideas that helps us learn how to really play the agile game.  Inevitably we won’t be successful with everything we try.  But we will learn.

With out doubt, it’s those stories of what you have tried and what you learned from it that make for the most interesting candidates at interview.  I’d be surprised if most people looking for a new scrum master don’t feel the same way.

We are all looking for someone who is going to make the game more fun to play when they join us.

As Aristotle said:

[Tweet “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”]

I love Aristotle 😉