Comparison of OpenAgile with Scrum

June 2, 2020
6 minute read
Yes, another comparison between OpenAgile and Scrum… what can I say: it’s a common topic for me ‎to discuss with people! Certainly, OpenAgile does come from Scrum historically. It’s meant to be an ‎improvement in many circumstances. One comment below about Scrum being closed is starting to ‎change. The Scrum Alliance and have built a collaborative definition of Scrum currently ‎hosted at OpenAgile is built as an open-source method and has included ‎lots of community contributions from the start.‎

OpenAgile is similar to Scrum in many respects. Both are systems for delivering value to stakeholders. Both are Agile methods. Both are frameworks that deliberately avoid giving all the answers. So why would we choose OpenAgile over Scrum (or Scrum over OpenAgile)?

The most important difference is in applicability: Scrum is designed to help organizations optimize software product development, whereas OpenAgile is designed to help anyone learn to deliver value effectively.

OpenAgile is an improvement over Scrum in the following ways:

  1. More effective teamwork and team practices, in particular the Consultative Method of Decision Making, and applicability over a larger range of team sizes from a single individual on up.
  2. Recognition of the individual capacities required for effective learning, namely Truthfulness, Detachment, Search, Love and Courage. Scrum acknowledges a separate set of qualities, but does not show how they systematically connect with the requirements of a Scrum environment.
  3. Systematic handling of more types of work beyond just “new artifacts” and “obstacles”. In particular, OpenAgile includes calendar items, repetitive items and quality items and acknowledges their unique qualities in a work environment. OpenAgile also provides a framework to include additional types of work beyond these five.
  4. Improved role definitions based on extensive experience.
    1. There is only one role defined in OpenAgile (Team Member) vs. three defined in Scrum (Team Member, ScrumMaster, Product Owner).
    2. There are multiple paths of service that allow Team Members and Stakeholders to engage with an OpenAgile team or community in different ways. There are five paths of service: Process Facilitation, Growth Facilitation, Tutoring, Mentoring, and Catalyst.
    3. The Process Facilitator path of service is similar to the ScrumMaster role with the following major differences:
  • is not responsible for team development
  • is not necessarily a single person, nor is it a required role
  1. The Growth Facilitator path of service is similar to the Product Owner role with the following major differences:
  • is responsible for all aspects of growth including value (like the Product Owner), and individual and team capacity building.
  • is not necessarily a single person, nor is it a required role
  1. Integration of principles and practices from other methods. Two examples suffice:
    1. From Crystal: creating a safe work/learning environment.
    2. From Lean: build quality in, value stream mapping, root cause analysis, standard work.
  2. OpenAgile allows interruptions during the Cycle. Scrum has the concept of Sprint Safety. This makes Scrum unsuitable for operational work and general management.
  3. The distinction between Commitment Velocity and other uses of the term “velocity” used in Scrum. Commitment Velocity is the historical minimum slope of a team’s Cycle burndown charts and determines how much work a team plans in its Engagement Meeting.
  4. Flexibility in the length a Cycle. Scrum requires that Sprints (Cycles) be one month in duration or less. OpenAgile allows a Cycle to be longer than that and instead provides a guideline that there should be a minimum number of Cycles planned in the time expected to reach the overall goal.
  5. The Progress Meeting in OpenAgile does not require people to take turns or directly answer specific questions.
  6. Avoiding conflict-oriented models of staff and management (Chickens and Pigs in Scrum).
  7. Terminology changes to be more clear in meaning and applicable beyond software. A comparative glossary is included below.

Another major difference between the two frameworks is how the community operates. OpenAgile is an open-source method that has a specific structure for community involvement that allows for continuous improvement of the system. Scrum is closed. It is closely managed by it’s founders and this has led to challenges with the method becoming dogmatic. OpenAgile is meant to constantly evolve and grow.

The core OpenAgile materials are even managed in a publicly-available version control system:

Comparative Glossary

Cycle Sprint
Engagement Meeting Sprint Planning and Sprint Review
Team Member Team Member or “Pigs”
Process Facilitation ScrumMaster
Growth Facilitation Product Owner
Value Drivers Product Backlog
Value Driver Product Backlog Item
Cycle Plan Sprint Backlog
Task Task
Work Period Day
Progress Meeting Daily Scrum
Systematic Learning “Inspect and Adapt”
Delivered Value Potentially Shippable Software
Stakeholders “Chickens”
Five Types of Work: New, Repetitive, Obstacles, Calendar, Quality – no direct equivalents –
Consultative Decision Making – no equivalents –

References on OpenAgile:

References on Scrum:

“Agile Software Development with Scrum” – Schwaber and Beedle

“Agile Project Management with Scrum” – Schwaber

“Scrum and the Enterprise” – Schwaber

[This article was originally published on Agile Advice on 01-Feb-2010]

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Capital One
Equitable Life of Canada
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