Empiricism

“Scrum is founded on empirical process control theory, or empiricism. Empiricism asserts that knowledge comes from experience and making decisions based on what is known. Scrum employs an iterative, incremental approach to optimize predictability and control risk. Three pillars uphold every implementation of empirical process control: transparency, inspection, and adaptation.” (Ken Schwaber and Jeff Southerland, Scrum Guide)

When we think about the foundation of Agile, specifically Scrum, we almost always focus in on the “Manifesto and 12 Principles”. The reality is that without empiricism there is no Agile or Scrum. The Manifesto, the 12 Principles and the Scrum Values, are neither greater than or on par with the Three Pillars of Empiricism which far too often get overlooked, or worse, forgotten.

Take a moment and think about the following:

Transparency prevents us from hiding away. It gives us the confidence to allow others to view what the team has delivered or is working on. Transparency also gives the team a degree of support when the iteration delivery news isn’t good. Without it, Iteration Review (aka Demo) suddenly becomes an optional event, and the team moves closer to siloed efforts.

Inspection gives us the confidence to open ourselves up to the reality of the sprint-goal progress, whether it’s good or bad. The benefit is there should be no surprises and when things do not go as well as we would like, it gives us the opportunity to see the reality and make corrections early on. Inspection often means measurables, such as burn down charts and other metrics, but it’s important to remember that metrics are never good or bad, rather a trigger for a conversation.

Adaption means everyone and everything should have the goal of becoming better – better team member interactions, better business process, etc. All things associated with the team should always be evolving for the better. The common event to accomplish this is the Retrospective, which often does not get the attention it deserves; retrospectives benefit the team in the short term but are critical for business survival in the long term.

The Three Pillars of Empiricism are not trivial. They are critical; they are not “like to haves”, but “must haves”. In Star Wars, the Empire ruling the galaxy was a terrible thing. In our world, Empiricism ruling the Agile galaxy is a great thing!