Scott Adams and Agile

I’ve collected a dozen Dilbert cartoons relevant to Scrum. This week brings us a couple cartoons depicting a dysfunctional daily Scrum (an exercise we sometimes use in class). Previous cartoons have lampooned user stories, working without plans or documentation (“Just start coding and complaining!”), and forcing Agile approaches from the top down.

Various Agile advocates get offended each time this happens. I’d suggest they look a little deeper to see how these cartoons actually reinforce our message, particularly about inappropriate involvement of the boss (pointy haired, or not) in team self-organization.

Years ago, I saw a Gary Larson Far Side cartoon of a female chimpanzee finding a blond hair on a male chimpanzee. She asked, “Conducting a little more ‘research’ with that Jane Goodall tramp?”

The Jane Goodall Institute was on the verge of suing until Goodall herself endorsed the cartoon and eventually wrote the preface for one of Larson’s Far Side books. Unfortunately, the chimps had the last word. In 1988, one of them gave Larson a bit of a roughing up when he visited Goodall’s research park in Tanzania.

Research suggests humor is an important ingredient in transformation. Try to imagine a high-performing team doing creative work in the risky problem space of new product development with no sense of humor. If it’s not safe to laugh at ourselves, how can we do any kind of meaningful retrospective?

How can we grow a sense of fun on a team that’s too stiff? Games from improvisational theater (or “improv”) show promise. I’ve found improv skills such as co-creation (“Yes, and…”), comfort with risk taking, and allowing chaos within constraints to translate directly to Scrum teamwork. Contact us for specifics on how to use these to create breakthroughs in your team.


Download the PDF version: Scott Adams and Agile blog

Michael James

Michael James is a software process mentor, team coach, and Scrum Trainer with a focus on the engineering practices (TDD, refactoring, continuous integration, pair programming) that allow Agile project management practices. He is also a software developer (a recovering "software architect" who still loves good design).

Posted in Agile
4 comments on “Scott Adams and Agile
  1. Willi says:

    Hi Michael, I’ve posted it before and I don’t know if you’ve watched it, but I did this video with my sense of humor:


  2. Michael James says:

    You seem to be in Brazil. Have you read the book _Maverick_ about Semco?


  3. Carol says:


    You mention that you have collected 12 or so Dilbert cartoons on Agile. I am a scrum master and am looking to put something together for my team. Would you mind doing sending those to me, or pointing me to where they are on the Dilbert site? I wish there was a search on that site. I find it very hard to find items on a specific topic without a search.

    Thanks for your help,

  4. Michael James says:

    Please contact and I’ll email to you.


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