Tribal Scrum

Dave Logan introduces “Tribal Scrum” in his CBS Money Watch blog and CultureSync Tribal Leadership blog. For a brief introduction to Scrum, see Introduction to Lean, Agile, Scrum, & XP. For a brief introduction to Tribal Leadership, see Tribal Leadership Distilled: Paradigm, Process, and Model.

The purpose of Dave’s CultureSync Tribal Leadership blog is to “highlight why Scrum and Tribal Leadership are perfect for each other” and “jump start a conversation about implementing ‘Tribal Scrum’.” The blog starts by exploring a “modified version [of Scrum] for executive tribes” and briefly emphasizes “Scrum But” (“incomplete Scrum” where “Scrum implementations fall short of the real deal”) and “Tribal Leadership But” (where “people implement some, but not all, of the system”).

While I’m optimistic about the Tribal Scrum movement, I’m also somewhat disheartened that the conversation has started around Scrum But and Tribal Leadership But!

There is much debate around “But-ness” — against Scrum Buts and for Scrum Buts, and there is even a Scrum But test! Rather than become mired in such debates (where the means (Scrum) commonly becomes the ends!), focus on values & principles and foster the emergence of the most healthy approach (to value discovery and delivery within a specific context); that is, foster being in alignment with the “spirit of the law” versus the “letter of the law” where the result “speak for themselves” based on the nature of those involved!


Dave stresses that “if Scrum follows the BPR road, and emphasizes practices over principles it will fail” and highlights that “the experts in Scrum have the opportunity to become leaders of a business revolution.”

Dave also acknowledges “what’s missing in Tribal Leadership has been a specific game [framework] that great tribes can play against other great tribes” and suggests that “scrum is that game.”

Dave thus suggests “let’s put the best of Tribal leadership, along with the best of Scrum, in a blender, add in executive management concerns, hit puree, and see what comes out.”

Dave additionally warns: “For those who think they already have the answer, please remember: this is about tribes learning together, not about gurus having the answers in which they present to others who are amazed by their brilliance.”


Dave explicitly suggests: “If Scrum and Tribal leadership are combined, and focused on the concerns of executive leaders, a transformation in organizations will result.” A great example is’s transformation journey! However, regarding transformation, let’s likewise be very clear that transformation cannot be merely reduced to two bodies of knowledge and experience (Scrum and Tribal Leadership) but generally leverages the wisdom of many; for example, Judith E. Glaser (WE-Centric Leadership), Leandro Herrero (Viral Change), Peter Fuda (Transformation and Leadership Framework/Model/Cycle), William Isaacs (Dialogue), and many others (AIR, Human Leadership, etc.) — it’s imperative that the emerging Tribal Scrum community is open versus closed to the wisdom of others outside the immediate community.

Dave then suggests that “just as Peter Drucker’s work brought management into the 20th century, the results of ‘Tribal Scrum'” would bring management into the 21st century” and elaborates how this can be accomplished.

Dave emphasizes: “First, let’s be clear that Tribal Scrum will not result from a single person piecing it together and declaring that they have the answer.” Essentially, Dave is suggesting that Tribal Scrum will emerge by “combining”, “trying”, “refining”, and “letting the community determine what worked and what didn’t.”

Dave then emphasizes: “Second, everyone needs to get immersed in both Tribal Leadership and Scrum.” Essentially, Dave is suggesting that the Scrum and Tribal Leadership communities act on their curiosity about one another.

Dave next emphasizes: “Third, Tribal Scrum will result from lots and lots of experiments — some successful and some not, by combining the two approaches.” Essentially, Dave is suggesting an “open-source approach to knowledge sharing.”

Dave next emphasizes: “Fourth, the community needs to determine the winning approaches here, based on adherence to values and contribution measured by merit.” Dave openly shares that “many people in the Agile world” have expressed that “the Agile community has become fractious and contentious … even dysfunctional”; to which he has responded that “this evolution is completely natural, and has happened in most knowledge-based, accomplish-oriented fields.”

Many member of both the Scrum community (and Agile community, including Scrum, Lean, Kanban, XP, etc.) and the Tribal Leadership community have expressed concern and disappointment in how dysfunctional their respective community has become. As Dave suggests, “this evolution is completely natural”! Furthermore, communities naturally ebb and flow with function/dysfunction — including “extended speech-making, almost no listening, and strong-willed personalities trying to dominate the group with manipulation, back-room deal-making, and force” — but ultimately “the community needs to decide that such behaviors will not be tolerated.” Fundamentally, the health (or lack thereof) of a community is a reflection of its functions/dysfunctions based on the nature of its members!

And lastly, Dave emphasizes: “Fifth, we should eat our own dog food.” Essentially, Dave’s call to action is that “we need a venue, identification of community values, selection of a noble cause, commitment to Scrum and Tribal Leadership.”

Conclusively, Tribal Scrum will emerge through immersion and sharing within a combined Scrum and Tribal Leadership community!

This is a tremendous opportunity for the Scrum and Tribal Leadership communities — looking forward to the journey ahead: Venue, Values, Cause, and Commitment!


10 thoughts on “Tribal Scrum

  1. Great post Si! Tribal Leadership and Scrum are a natural fit for organizational change and collaborative development and I’m excited to see where this goes. After a year of transformation here at Cars, we are still trying, refining, and letting the communities work together but still have a ways to go. Persistence and patience…

    • Thanks, Len, very well said… persistence and patience.
      The journey is never-ending, and it’s more-so about the journey than merely the destination.
      Appreciate your comment.

    • Hi Len, I’m looking forward to learning more about how you supported Cars through this transformation and how you are sustaining the results.

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