The infinite game ➿

Welcome to the “Infinite Game” team pages.
We take the name of this page from a book by James Carse called Finite and Infinite Games. Of the book, amazon.com says:

“There are at least two kinds of games,” states James P. Carse as he begins this extraordinary book. “One could be called finite; the other infinite.”

Finite games are the familiar contests of everyday life; they are played in order to be won, which is when they end. But infinite games are more mysterious. Their object is not winning, but ensuring the continuation of play. The rules may change, the boundaries may change, even the participants may change—as long as the game is never allowed to come to an end.

We also call ourselves the Kirkegaard Group after Danish existentialist Søren Kirkegaard. Kirkegaard is best known for his “leap of faith” philosophy, based on taking a decision to affirm some reality in the absence of evidence for that reality and even in the presence of evidence to the contrary: faith is therefore more than belief, but a choice to act.

The group’s position stands on the foundation that we couldn’t find anyone else at the retreat who has actually ever seen a team that is fully practicing Scrum, without some element of Scrum-butt. We have seen such teams and believe that lack of management constraints is the differentiating factor. Scrum fails to thrive in organizations because some aspect of the environment or of management policy takes away the power of the Product Owner, or the autonomy of the Team, or the authority (ownership of the process) of the ScrumMaster. Coaches who are hired to do transformations do not persevere in removing this interference out of fear of being fired, and they rather help teams “suck a little less.”

Our position is that Scrum isn’t about helping teams suck a little less. Its roots in TPS in Japanese manufacturing are not about helping their products and environments suck a little less. Our perception is that most contemporary coaching dialectic is about helping teams suck a little less. We still need kaizen (incremental, low-risk change at the team level) but also kaikaku (more radical change that often entails management involvement). We have been fired. And we have helped clear the way so teams could do great things.

So we believe great coaches are existensialistic. They acquire learning not to enhance their marketing plan but because it is the right thing to do. They are fearless about being fired. They put flesh in the game. They take only those engagements where it is possible to do great things. They are unafraid to confront managers with the fact that they might misunderstand Scrum.

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