Burnt out wrecked car on the footpath opposite Cellar Hill

Scrum Destroys Consulting Firms

Agile and Scrum are quickly destroying the human species, I’ve even written a book about it. Here is how it is single-handedly destroying IT consulting firms. I’ve been at IT consulting for over 30 years now and watched as Agile rotted firms from the inside out. What destroyed them (and most IT projects) was the adoption of scrum.

How I know

Just being an IT consultant for over 30 years doesn’t give a person this knowledge. I’ve worked with consultants who have over 50 years in the industry and they still have no idea how IT consulting companies work. No. During the first two decades of my career I dated two different technical recruiters. They worked for multiple agencies over the two decades they were part of my life. Oh, we didn’t date for two decades. When you are a technical recruiter, no matter how pissed you are over the end of a relationship, you keep in touch with the dude because you can make money pimping him out.

In the 1980s it was nothing for a firm to get a requirement to provide roughly 40 VAX/BASIC consultants for a multi-year project. There would be a mad dash by every firm to slam resumes in front of the hiring managers. If your ex knew VAX/BASIC and client feedback said he was good, you grabbed the phone. Every firm paid recruiters a low salary and a cut of the billing. They may hate you but the fact you were earning them somewhere between $1-$7/hr kept hatred at a slow simmer. Just imagine how differently you would view an ex if you had 20 of them all billing and earning you $7/hr each while you did nothing?

The Morning Meeting

How it used to work

Every morning, some time between 8-9, there was a meeting. Management would have a list of 2-3 projects considered “hot” staffing requirements and they would hand them out as marching orders. Recruiters would spend at least the morning reaching out to everyone they knew with those skills trying to get candidates. Then they would spend the afternoon doing their regular work.

As agencies got PCs with Netware file servers they also got contact databases. Every morning, before the meeting, management would run the N-day report and bring it to the meeting. Some firms used thirty days and some use as long as six months. Any client that had not been contacted in that number of days would appear on the report. Here is where they pee-pee whacked account reps for not doing their jobs and where the clients who no longer had account reps got assigned new people.

This was actual management. It ensured you got the most out of all your resources. Hiring managers that needed 40+ people never reached out, they were always getting called. If there was a consultant they liked in another department they would just tell that consultant, who would tell his firm, and guess what one of the “hot” staffing requirements would be at the morning meeting?


The most worthless ritual ever invented.

  1. What did you do yesterday?
  2. What will you do today?
  3. Are there any impediments in your way?

These questions are created so that incompetent management can hide the fact they are incompetent. Yes, I’ve heard the readily debunked “what if you have an employee that is just stuck and won’t ask for help?” As a manager, anyone you haven’t heard (or seen) bitching is someone you need to talk with. Bitching workers ask for (really demand) help. It’s the quiet ones that try to hide all day, collect a paycheck, then go home. It’s one of the reasons the military likes a bitching soldier because everything is working as it should. Quiet soldiers turn out to be problems.

Careful observers of the above questions we are to answer in scrum will note, management isn’t actually doing anything.

How it is broken now

There are several firms in the embedded systems/medical device world that I like doing business with. There are also shit firms like Collabera, IBM, KForce, and Apex that I will never work for/with/or through. Even the firms I like have been destroyed by Scrum. How you ask? Management no longer manages, they use Scrum.

Standing up and telling your co-workers you called 40+ clients, updated the contact database, and didn’t get even one open job requirement sounds a lot like accomplishing nothing. This is actually the bulk of a recruiter’s week if they have to work both sides or the bulk of an account rep’s week. Following that up with “I will do the same thing today” really sounds like you are doing nothing. You only get to announce a new job req a couple of times per week. Management is no longer just telling the people “these are hot, work on these all morning.”

What sounds good at Scrum?

“Filled out the paperwork to get us on the vendor list with Company X”

“Pulled down two job reqs from the Facebook job portal for Scrum Masters and am trying to fill them.”

“Submitted 3 visa workers to John Deere via their portal.”

Catching on yet?

Doing the boring, difficult work of maintaining contacts at companies isn’t happening. The absolute best paying companies to work for as a consultant don’t have job portals or a Vendor Management System. You have to have a services contract in place with them, keep in touch, submit people when needed.

What hath Scrum Wrought?

These token few firms specializing in my niche that I like now have hundreds, and I do mean hundreds, of companies in their database where they have actual contracts in place and nobody talking to them. Just last week I bumped one about some contracts I was seeing in Eden Prairie. They were being listed by one of those bottom feeding W-2 only companies. I poked around and found out who the client was. Turns out the pimp I like has had a non-expiring services contract with that company since 2013. Nobody has contacted them in over seven years.


Scrum/Agile practices are why many of today’s consulting firms just plain suck. It’s also why you are seeing so many of them “merge” because they are about to go out of business. Get rid of them. Return the morning meeting to actual management. Make sure your people bother to call a company you bothered to get a services contract with at least twice per year!

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