The Beer Game vs. the 90% Syndrome
Agile in general and Scrum, in particular, are almost always described as a "new paradigm" or a "paradigm shift," implying that agile methodologies are somehow incommensurable with traditional Software Engineering theory. Relying upon a long-standing prediction derived from one of Software Engineering’s most durable and respected software development simulation models, we show that the primary methodological design decisions of Scrum can be understood as a sampling-based solution to the 90% Syndrome -- a solution that exhibits exactly the solution characteristics predicted by traditional Software Engineering. Aside from contributing credence to Scrum’s claim of improved predictability, this direct connection to the “normal science” Software Engineering of the ’80s and ’90s refutes the widely held assumption that Scrum (along with other Agile methods) represents a major paradigm shift or a “Kuhnian revolution” and thus requires some new “theory of agility.” Instead, we argue, Scrum should be viewed as solving the 90% Syndrome in a manner that affirms normal science.
Robert Ward is the author of Debugging C, founding editor of "The C/C++ Users Journal," and formerly CEO of R&D Publications, Inc., publishers of "The C/C++ Users Journal" and three other software-related international journals. More recently Ward has worked for Motorola and Motorola Mobility first as a software engineer, and later as Director of Software Engineering for the converged solutions division. In that role, he was responsible for software engineering groups in the US, Canada, Argentina, India, and Sweden. As a director, he led the adoption of Scrum in all the teams he oversaw. After Google sold Motorola Mobility's set-top box assets to Arris Group, Ward worked as a Distinguished Advanced Research Engineer, prototyping implementations of evolving digital media distribution standards. He "retired" in 2015 and decided to further his interest in teaching and in Scrum by pursuing a Ph.D. at Iowa State University.
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