The Agile X-Files: The Scrum Mastery Truth is Out There

Posted By - Geoff Watts


If you’re anything like me (and a large proportion of the population) you’ll love a good conspiracy theory?

Conspiracy theories are like magnets that attract curious minds, pulling them into an alternate reality full of intrigue and suspense. Some popular examples include the moon landing hoax (a “giant leap” for conspiracies), the flat Earth theory (a round of applause for defying gravity), the belief that Elvis is still alive (we CAN go on together with suspicious minds) and the many explanations for the assassination of JFK (I’ve seen where Oswald supposedly took his shot).

Now, the orthodoxy will tell you there is no connection to the world of Scrum Mastery. But let me tell you a secret…it’s a conspiracy!

While it may seem like a far-fetched idea, there’s a treasure trove of hidden wisdom we can unearth from this enigmatic world to supercharge our Scrum Mastery. In this blog post, we’ll dive into these parallels and see how great Scrum Masters can leverage some of the tactics used by conspiracy theorists to foster culture change in organisations.

When you look past the mainstream media (or surface-level Scrum training courses) and look at what makes these theories so enticing, I’m sure you’ll agree that actually it’s more than just a coincidence.



The Scrum Mastery Connection

In both our Scrum Mastery Pathway and Product Mastery Pathway we cover the topics of cultural change and bringing people along with us on our journey of challenging the status quo.  Because, let’s be honest, when it comes to establishing culture change in an organisation, Scrum Masters, agile coaches, Product Owners and Product Managers face several challenges reminiscent of conspiracy theory dilemmas:


  • Resistance to Change: Much like the nonbelievers who dismiss the idea of a lizard elite, employees may be hesitant to adopt new ways of working, especially if they’re comfortable with the status quo. Great Scrum Masters are the persuasive force that encourages teams to step out of their comfort zones and embrace the truth of agile methodologies.
  • Skepticism and Doubt: Just as some people are skeptical of conspiracy theories like the existence of secret societies, team members may question the efficacy of agile practices. Great Scrum Masters demonstrate the value of agile approaches by providing evidence of successful case studies and highlighting the benefits of agility.
  • Misalignment of Goals: Different departments or teams may have conflicting goals, making it difficult to establish a unified vision for change – similar to the disagreements among UFO enthusiasts about the true nature of extraterrestrial visitors. Great Scrum Masters act as peacekeepers, guiding teams towards a shared objective while respecting their diverse perspectives.
  • Organisational Structure: Rigid hierarchical structures can hinder collaboration and the flow of information, not unlike the shadowy organisations that allegedly suppress information about the existence of aliens. Great Scrum Masters strive to break down these barriers, fostering a culture of open communication and collaboration to help teams uncover hidden insights and reach their full potential.

Are you ready to navigate the murky waters of cultural change and guide your teams and organisation towards a brighter, more agile future? Well, grab your tinfoil hat, roll up your sleeves, and let’s get to work!

Basic Human Desires

It turns out there are a number of basic human desires that drive the popularity of conspiracy theories and by understanding these innate desires. In our Scrum Mastery Pathways, we teach how Great Scrum Masters use those insights to nudge organisations towards change. Here are a few examples:


  • The Secret Society of Agile: Everyone wants to be part of a group, a secret society where they belong. Great Scrum Masters harness this desire, creating an environment where team members feel like they’re part of an exclusive club on a mission to change the world.
  • The Allure of the Underdog: Who doesn’t love a good David and Goliath story? Great Scrum Masters capitalise on this fascination by positioning change initiatives as thrilling quests for teams to defy the odds and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
  • Connecting the Cosmic Dots: People love to see the big picture, even if it’s just a bunch of random stars in the sky. While this can lead to some far-out ideas, great Scrum Masters use this tendency to help teams spot genuine patterns and trends, guiding them towards interstellar problem-solving and decision-making.

Leveraging Conspiracy Theory Tactics for Scrum Mastery

By understanding the tactics used by conspiracy theorists, great Scrum Masters can tackle these challenges and accelerate culture change:

Embrace Skepticism and Critical Thinking

A healthy dose of skepticism is an essential trait for both conspiracy theorists and Scrum Mastery. While conspiracy theorists question established narratives, great Scrum Masters question existing processes and practices to identify opportunities for improvement. By encouraging teams to question the status quo, Scrum Masters can drive innovation and help organisations evolve.

Encourage teams to question existing processes and practices, and be open to new ideas and solutions.

Encourage Collaboration and Communication

Conspiracy theories often revolve around the notion of change—whether it’s a hidden agenda, a global shift, or a transformative event. Similarly, Scrum Mastery is about embracing change and helping teams adapt to new environments and ways of working. By studying the strategies employed by conspiracy theorists to cope with uncertainty, great Scrum Masters develop techniques to help teams navigate change and uncertainty more effectively.

Conspiracy theorists rely on the power of collaboration and communication to gather and share information. They form communities, discuss ideas, and collectively analyse data. Great Scrum Masters also promote collaboration and communication within teams, ensuring that members work together effectively and exchange ideas freely. The open exchange of information is key to developing a shared understanding of team goals and ensuring that everyone is on the same page.

Foster an environment where teams can share ideas and work together effectively, breaking down silos and promoting a shared vision.

scrum-mastery-storyUse Storytelling to Engage and Persuade

Conspiracy theories often rely on storytelling to captivate and persuade their audience. Great Scrum Masters are also skilled at storytelling, as they need to communicate complex ideas and concepts to teams and stakeholders. By understanding the techniques used by conspiracy theorists to craft compelling narratives, Scrum Masters can improve their storytelling skills and better influence the teams they work with. 

Craft compelling narratives to illustrate the benefits of change and the potential consequences of maintaining the status quo.

Address Cognitive Biases

Conspiracy theories often tap into cognitive biases that make them attractive and viral. It turns out there’s a whole rogues’ gallery of cognitive biases that can pull the wool over our eyes in the context of Scrum Mastery. Here’s a small selection:

  • Confirmation bias: People tend to search for, interpret, and remember information that confirms their pre-existing beliefs. Conspiracy theories often provide explanations that align with an individual’s worldview, making them more appealing and likely to be shared.
  • Proportionality bias: This bias leads people to assume that significant events must have equally significant causes. Conspiracy theories often propose elaborate explanations for major events, playing into this cognitive bias.
  • Availability heuristic: People are more likely to believe information that is readily available or easily recalled. Conspiracy theories often capitalise on this bias by using memorable and emotionally charged stories.
  • Illusory Pattern Perception: Ever connected the dots on your bedroom ceiling? That’s our tendency to see patterns where none exist. Instead of falling for nonexistent patterns, great Scrum Masters leverage this tendency by helping teams recognise and create real patterns in their work processes. By reinforcing positive habits and routines, great Scrum Masters can effectively guide teams towards improved performance and collaboration.
  • Groupthink: Great Scrum Masters use the power of groupthink to their advantage by carefully curating a team culture that values open communication, continuous improvement, and adaptability. By fostering an environment where these values become the norm, great Scrum Masters ensure that groupthink works in favor of agile principles.
  • Sunk Cost Fallacy: This is the tendency to continue investing in a project or decision based on the amount already invested, rather than evaluating its current worth. Great Scrum Masters use the sunk cost fallacy as a teaching moment to encourage teams to reevaluate their commitments and priorities regularly. By focusing on the value of present and future work rather than past investments, great Scrum Masters can help teams become more adaptive and responsive to change.

Understanding these cognitive biases and their role in the appeal of conspiracy theories can help Scrum Masters promote Scrum Mastery and recognise potential pitfalls in their own thinking and communication. By being aware of these biases, great Scrum Masters can work to mitigate their impact on team dynamics and decision-making.


scrum-mastery-conspiracy-area51Although conspiracy theories and Scrum Mastery may seem worlds apart, they share intriguing parallels that can help great Scrum Masters foster culture change within organisations. By leveraging the tactics used by conspiracy theorists and addressing the specific challenges of implementing change, great Scrum Masters can help organisations embrace new ways of working, drive innovation, and achieve success.

Serious disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to promote misinformation or propaganda. The goal is to explore the parallels between conspiracy theories and Scrum Mastery to help accelerate culture change within organisations. 

So, let’s take inspiration from the world of conspiracy theories (without promoting misinformation) and harness these tactics to accelerate culture change and uncover the truth about how to liberate our organisations!

Keep an open mind, question the status quo, and never stop spreading your message. Who knows what other unexpected connections we may find along the way? Happy hunting!


Further Reading

Sunstein, C. R., & Vermeule, A. (2009). Conspiracy Theories: Causes and Cures. Journal of Political Philosophy, 17(2), 202-227. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9760.2008.00325.x 

Brotherton, R. (2015). Suspicious Minds: Why We Believe Conspiracy Theories. Bloomsbury Publishing

Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, Fast and Slow. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1974). Judgment under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases. Science, 185(4157), 1124-1131. DOI: 10.1126/science.185.4157.1124

Nickerson, R. S. (1998). Confirmation Bias: A Ubiquitous Phenomenon in Many Guises. Review of General Psychology, 2(2), 175-220. DOI: 10.1037/1089-2680.2.2.175

Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The Need to Belong: Desire for Interpersonal Attachments as a Fundamental Human Motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 497-529. DOI: 10.1037/0033-2909.117.3.497

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