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Nonaka's Scrum People as the Conveyor of Knowledge

Prof. Ikujiro Nonaka is called, "the grandfather of Scrum", because he researched collaborative new product development projects in Japan and published an article “The New New Product Development Game“(1986) in Harvard Business Review. He coined the word “Scrum” which is later referenced by Jeff Sutherland, Ken Schwaber and Mike Beedle in the early context of Agile software development.

In this session I will share some of Nonaka's original ideas in “his Scrum” (and other literature) which have not been implemented in the "modern Scrum" (Agile software development) and I will explore the ideas further to understand why and how Scrum works.

SECI-model (revisited)

Nonaka originally discussed this in his book “Knowledge Creating Company“, and now put in the context of Agile. How tacit and explicit knowledge transform each other into innovation, and why “Design Thinking” (or empathy to the users through experience, or in his word
“socialization”) should be inserted to the first part of the PDCA loop. Scrum’s Sprint can be seen as an engine of the SECI spiral knowledge creation model that builds both the product and the team at the same time.

Fractal organization

Nonaka discussed this originally in his book “U.S. Marine”, and now put it into the Agile context. In U.S. Marine, land-air-sea soldiers are in one team(MAGTAF) from the top organization level to the smallest landing mission team level with only three soldiers. This is an example of the fractal(self-similar) structure of organization, where cross-functional teaming is essential at multiple levels. One Scrum team to Scrum-of-scrum organization can be seen as an instance of this fractal organization.

Phronetic Leadership

Nonaka discussed this in his book “Managing Flow“. Also he and I put this insight into Agile world. Phronesis is the third type of knowledge after science (explicit knowledge) and art(tacit). Phronetic Leadership(or Leader, i.e. person) conveys the knowledge without separating the two, and it is the key to a good scrum team personified as Product Owner.

Präsentation Download


  • Erfahrungsbericht
  • Beginner

Referent: Kenji Hiranabe

Special Guest: Kenji Hiranabe ist Schüler von Prof. Ikujiro Nonaka der von manchen als "the grandfather of Scrum" bezeichnet wird.

CEO of Change Vision, Inc., an ISV of Astah, an Agile modeling tool, based in Tokyo Japan.
I think of software development as a form of communication game, and am always searching for better ways to make it more productive, collaborative, and fun!
Recent articles includes "Kanban Applied to Software Development: from Agile to Lean". Co-translated several Agile books into Japanese
including: "Lean Software Development," "XP Installed", "Agile Project Management."
Co-authored with Ikujiro Nonaka,
“Agile and Scrum: Collaborative Software Devevelopment That Connects Customers, Engineers and Management”
2008 Gordon Pask Award recipient for contributions to Agile practice.