Jeff Sutherland: The 21st Century Will Be The Century of Scrum

I have written in an earlier post about the outstanding contributions to management thinking and practice that Jeff Sutherland and others have made with the invention of Scrum.

Jeff Sutherland talked recently with Rini van Solingen in Delft, Netherlands, about Scrum and radical management. Here are some excerpts.

Rini: [0.45] Scrum is picking up around the world. I would like to talk to you today about Scrum beyond software development…

Jeff: A few years ago, I started working with a venture capital group [OpenView Venture Partners in Boston] and they immediately saw that Scrum made things go twice as fast for anything. So they implemented Scrum throughout the firm, for the investors, for the search team, for all the teams supporting our investments, That caused some of our companies not only to look at Scrum in the software development area, but outside that. So we have a number of companies that now have senior management Scrums. The CEO is meeting every day with his team. And every department has their own Scrum team. So the whole company is doing Scrum.

The way this sometimes happens. Scrum is introduced in the software development teams and that starts working well. So the CEO starts saying: “Before it was software development that was broken. But now they are working well and it’s everything else that is slowing things down. We need to fix that. Why don’t we do Scrum everywhere?”


Rini: [5.00] In a recent post on Forbes, Steve Denning proposed that if there would be a Nobel Prize for management, he said it would be deserved by Jeff Sutherland and all the other people in the Agile field. To what extent do you know his book on radical management and the way in which he uses and reuses Scrum to bring it to the corporate level?

Jeff: Steve is an interesting guy. He came to my Scrum training. He really got Scrum at a deep level. He told me coming out of that class he was going to write a book on it. That book is: The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management.  The interesting thing about the book is that he doesn’t say this is Scrum other than one or two times.[i]

It’s all about what do managers need to do to come into the 21st Century. I think it’s brilliant. Of course, it’s flattering to say that we ought to get the Noble Prize, but in reality, there is no Nobel Prize for management. But Scrum is changing the world. That is happening. That’s why he is saying that. So I feel really good about that.

One of the primary goals of my company right now is to move Scrum into the management. There are a lot of good engineers out there who know how to do Scrum. To take it the next step, the management has to change and move into a 21st Century type of management that Denning is talking about.

Rini: So to conclude: the 21st Century will be the Century of Scrum?

Jeff: It’s looking that way. Let’s see what happens.


Rini: [7.00] Soon after we have introduced Scrum into software development teams, we often get a question to also look at the other teams, in sales, in marketing, and even the management team itself. So Scrum is moving beyond software development, as expressed by Steve Denning’s book on radical management where he uses the Scrum principles for the general management field.

He promotes the idea of value prioritization, where you make sure you deliver value as soon as possible. And where you establish flow through an organization so that the idea from concept to cash is as short as possible. And continuous improvement is the heartbeat of an organization. And putting self-steering [or self-organization] into the teams. So this will really change the way we organize ourselves.

When people ask me: “Should we look at Scrum? Should we look at radical management?” I say: you are not obliged to look at Scrum and radical management. But it’s a matter of “survival of the fittest”. We are not “obliged” to survive.

Other related posts:

What on earth is Scrum?

Scrum is a major management discovery

Major management insights from the Scrum Global Gathering