We're trying something new today.
The swirling, putrid-green heavens begrudgingly opens its yawing maw and unleashes a lazy torrent of acid-rain-drool upon the slowly awakening inhabitants of Valadia IX. The deluge of thick droplets sizzles through the air, splashing against fortified architecture and sliding slug-trails along the sides of buildings before eventually terminating either in a sizzle against the blackened ground, or coming to rest, indolent, atop the thrice-waxed leaves of the native flora. Every year, about twenty tourists are dissolved as they foolishly jostle the trees and are engulfed by the remnants of the last storm. However, they are the type of tourist stupid enough to think that a trip to Valadia IX would be "fun" and "an experience", so they are seldom missed.
Perhaps a little background for those in the audience for are unfamiliar with the setting that our drama will unfold in. It is the 41st millenium. Humanity, despite spanning untold galaxies, is in a perpetual war for survival against the forces of Chaos, demonic, Lovecraftian spirits that exist in the Warp, a wretched place beyond space and time, that seek to corrupt their eternal souls. The main thing standing against the tides of madness are the Imperial Guard, trillions of soldiers and heroes, the posters say, laying down their lives for the good of all humanity and their immortal God-Emperor enshrined upon his life support system - the Golden Throne - on Terra. The only way to explain how important the God-Emperor is to humanity is that spreadsheets are not allowed near the Golden Throne's systems.
What the posters don't usually talk about is the incomprehensibly large logistical machine required to ensure the (relatively) smooth operation of a billion battlefronts. And the supporting systems, run out of millions of offices scattered throughout the Imperium, where information is processed to ensure the effective persecution of the eternal war.
It is in one such office that we find Gregory "Greg" Xavanto, blinking bleary-eyed at the screen of his cogitator while he sips at this recaf, pausing occasionally to stretch and glance out the glasscrete windows to observe the rolling yellow-green waves of bile scouring the planet's surface. There are two risks to any mortal who pursues the war against Chaos - the risk to the body and the risk to the soul.
The door behind him opened up, accompanied by the usual "Good morning, everybody! Working hard or hardly working, am I right? Because hardly working is a violation of Penal Code 3.1, an affront to our glorious Emperor, and I'll have to have you executed, haha! Just kidding!"
Greg was currently fighting for his soul.
Harry Talls was actually a pretty good person, if you really like bad people. No one understood exactly how he had come to be in charge of this branch of the Departmento Munitorum, but all the most experienced staff had left within the first two years of his tenure. All his superiors seemed to be aware that he was absolutely incompetent, but he would fly into such hysterics at the slightest sign of being contradicted or embarrassed that they had simply decided to hope he just sort of... went away on his own. Each morning, he would cheerfully greet the team the same way, and his personal Oblivious-class refractor field would disperse the veritable lasgun barrage of insincere, forced smiles, where a more clueful man would simply be incinerated on the spot.
"Hey, Greg!" Harry said, "just wanted to have a quick report on those Basilisk firing solutions for the landholder on Aranis V!"
Greg braced himself harder than an autocannon operator, saw Sash across the room mouthing "May the Emperor be with you." and turned to face Harry. Scorching las-smile delivered. Neatly deflected.
Harry wiggled his eyebrows and said, "So, got them ready for me? I promised them to the field artillery officer a month ago, and we're already two weeks overdue." Harry had a way of saying we that everyone instantly understood to mean you.
"Hi Harry. Yes, as I've said before, there have been some complications. I wish you had consulted me before promising -"
Harry opened his mouth to say something no doubt charged with Chaos energy, and Greg hurried along.
"- anyway, look, the external team on Mars says they still have a massive backlog of work, and won't even be able to ship the news barrels for another month, let alone get time on the hypercogitation cluster to calculate the new firing solutions."
Harry considered this very briefly, decided it was inconvenient, and chose to ignore it.
"Greg, listen, you know I have an immense respect for your work -"
"I - wh —"
"But Greg, we really need some time to talk about your attitude on this whole thing."
"No, Greg, let me finish. I appreciate that this is difficult, but I don't want to hear about problems without I want to hear solutions! You all know I'll happily accept any personal criticism and I, in fact, invite it."
"But the code your tech-merc wrote is—"
"Greg, this isn't the time to hear about me - we're discussing your performance. Just... get it done, all right? And pencil in a bit of time on your chronolog for a meeting tomorrow evening - don't worry, I'm sure we'll be able to sort these performance issues out - but I have found this conversation very frustrating."
Harry glanced at his chronometer as Greg gaped like a Sivalian eel-hawk, floundering desperately for something to say.
"Look, this has been a great chat, but I've got a meeting with the Chief Techpriest. Have a good day, okay, and have that firing solution ready by the end of today? Perfect, thanks."
Oh no, here it comes. Harry proffered a clenched hand for his customary fist bump. He seemed to think it was an endearing quirk - imagine the head of the planetary munitorium going for a fist bump instead of a firm handshake, how positively congenial - and he was relentless. He would stand there, fist outstretched, as the painful seconds ticked by with all the exquisite torment of a chainsword sawing through limb, until the sheer force of his manic smile and unflinching awkwardness forced you to reciprocate. Harry loomed over Greg now, his knuckles as inviting as those of a Mezoa Pattern Power Fist threatening to blast an opponent into a fine red mist.
Greg held out for three seconds before offering a tepid bump. The moment of contact felt like he just had his soul crushed underfoot by an Imperial Titan. Harry's smile could only be described as demonic.
"Awesome! See you!"
Harry sauntered away to harass someone else. Greg prayed to the Emperor for protection, and dialed into Mars to find out if there was any way he could get them to do their damn jobs.
It is 25:34 planetside on Aranis V, and Sergeant Mertol is currently sheltering in a trench while a searing volley of lasgun fire scorches lethal trails of ozone overhead.
"Private Malley, what the gakk is taking so long? For the love of the Emperor, level that gakking bunker! Why can't those gakking idiots drop an Earthshaker round on those heretic bastards already?"
They can hear the explosive crumple of steel as their abandoned Imperial tank detonates somewhere behind them.
"Sir, they say it's the design of our backend!"
"What the gakk does that mean, Private?"
"Sir, I don't know, Sir!"
"You tell those gakking idiots that —"
A new voice cuts across the chaos of battle, and all the guardsmen within the trench fell silent, including Sergeant Mertol, whose presence was best noted by his peers by the string of shouted obscenities that trailed behind him like an uncouth cloak. But when an Imperial commissar speaks, all around them are silent. The sight of their peaked caps and imposing greatcoats came with a reputation so dire that soldiers would sooner face the enemy than risk an accusation of cowardice from a commissar, alongside the customary summary execution.
Admittedly, Commissar Valera was beloved by the troops, having never resorted to violence directed against the enlisted, and was a figure who ruled through inspiration rather than fear. Still, the silence that reigned was tinged by a patina of unease.
"Hold the line, Sergeant. I have some familiarity with such matters from my previous occupation. I will return within the day."
Valera ducked into a nearby tunnel system, stopping to grab something from a nearby crate, and was gone. The troops huddled around the sergeant, who looked perplexed.
"Trooper Tallor, you've taken drinks with the commissar on occasion. What did the commissar do before their appointment?"
"They said they were a 'sysadmin' on Holy Terra, sir. I don't know what that is."
They all stared into the tunnel for a while.
"Sergeant, why do you think the commissar grabbed a rack of boltgun rounds on her way out?"
Far, far away, in a considerably more genteel setting - Mars, the greatest Forge World in the Imperium - the war is being waged very quietly.
Nutritional Supply Depot 434 (a cafeteria) is a perfect reflection of its customers. Perfectly sterile, perfectly uniform grey tiles, polished to a perfect sheen, with thousand of meticulously braided wires running along the ceiling. There is only one item on the menu, doled out in precise quantities by a bewildering array of mechanical arms, nutritionally perfected slab - a literal cube of gray... something. Guardsmen eat it reluctantly, but the techpriests of the Cult Mechanicus love the local preparation of it.
Techpriests enjoy two things - being as far from the frailties of the flesh as possible, and the appropriate care of machinery. Slab accomplishes the former by being nutritionally adequate and disgusting, but Techpriest Gunther is pushing his around his plate distractedly with one of his six mechanical tendrils.
The whine of servos signals Techpriest Jalla sliding in to sit opposite him. Jal pushes her slab around too.
Finally, Gunther breaks the silence, his raspy, mechanical voice sounding like it's issuing from the masked faces of twelve Krieg shocktroopers speaking in unison.
"Got a call from Valadia IX again."
"Yes. Command will not authorize any techpriest time to maintain the divine command sets upon the Valadian artillery platforms."
Glumly, one of Gunther's tendrils forked a perfect cube of slab into his mouth. Amidst his depression at the idea of a cogitator being maintained poorly, it tastes absolutely bland, so that was good at least.
Jalla hissed, pushing her plate away from him.
"I can't stand it for another minute, Gunther. Think about it! If we don't get those fools to tend to the blessed Machine Spirit, all those guardsmen are going to die!"
"And then who is going to worship the machines?"
They seethed together for a while, tendrils flailing and flexing erratically, looking like two livid octopi. Around them, it was dead silent apart from the sound of servitors slicing and dicing slab into perfect geometric shapes.
"Gunther, did you ask why we can't just write a quick script? It would take but a day —"
"They said that they had already promised the Warmaster a thousand boltguns for the space marines, and we can't work on the Basilisks until they have a jam rate lower than 0.001%!"
"But - but - they said I can't work on the boltgun jams either!"
"Yes, because they've promised the Warmaster a fleet of Mars-class Battlecruisers before the end of this solar year, and we're scheduled to finish in eight solar years."
Jalla was grateful that she had long since replaced her blood with a more efficient chemical slurry, because flimsy human veins were only rated for about a tenth of the pressure currently being exerted against her carbo-synthoid circulatory system.
"But they won't let me work on —"
Gunther waved a resigned tendril at Jalla, silencing her. "I know. I know."
They finished their slab in silence. Gunther thought that he detected the mildest hint of seasoning, which only served to make a bad day worse.
"You know Gunther, I spoke to Master Augustus last week, the lead Techmarine of the Blood Angels. He told me that he hasn't missed a project deadline in a hundred and forty three years, and all the cogitators in his Chapter have never experienced any downtime - ever. And command never contradicts his maintenance orders."
"By the Omnissiah, how is such a thing possible?"
"He can crush ferrocrete with his bare hands and carries a Baal Pattern Mark IV power sword at all times."
The backline of Aranis V was a sodden, disgusting field of churned mud and filth, all amidst the concussing din of shouted commands and mortar fire. The weather on Aranis V cycled between twenty second bursts of intense, freezing rain, punctuated by about thirty seconds of howling gales so intense that they stole the breath away, finally giving way to tropical stillness and a humidity so thick that the guardsmen almost wanted to requisition aquatic combat gear.
They somehow still got the local variant of mosquitos amidst this madness, which Commissar Valera thought was just plain unfair.
She had emerged from the Imperial tunnel network about an hour ago, and was now (barely) sheltered from the elements in Archlord Macavian Duratel's command tent, sipping a tin filled with recaf so acrid that it was probably a rights violation to serve it to prisoner's of war, but she was a friendly officer so that was probably all right.
A lone mosquito had somehow drowned itself to death in the recaf, and Valera was determinedly trying to sip from the tin in short bursts, lips pressed taut against the rim of the vessel in a desperate attempt to keep the bug out. She was also arguing with Macavian.
Archlord Macavian Duratel had a reputation amongst the troops as being a reasonable man to work for. He thought clearly, treated them well, and listened to complaints. The only major flaw that the man had was that he only had a good command of High Gothic, spoken by nobles, and required the aid of a servitor to translate more complicated words for him. It hovered in the air next to him now, a floating skull with a nobleman's cap wedged firmly upon its head. Both the Archlord and the servitor were wearing truly glorious golden monocles.
"Commissar, I'm afraid that while I understand that the offensive has stalled and can't proceed without those firing solutions, I have been assured by my command staff that we are simply looking at another few days before we're able to lay fire at the coordinates you're requested through these weather conditions."
Most of guardsmen units swore in languages that conveniently avoided offending the sensibilities of local command and blog readers, opting to drop in replacements from the planets from which they were mustered from. For example, Valera's previous troop used gak. Unfortunately, Valera was from Holy Terra.
"That's simply unacceptable. It would take ten minutes to punch a script to sort this out in fucking Python if your infrastructure was halfway reasonable."
Macavian looked utterly perplexed. "What in the name of all that is Holy do gravcars have to do with —"
The servitor floated slightly closer to his ear and, in a perfectly monotone, synthesized voice said, "with respect sire, you are recalling the tollaqa word fitone, which has come to mean a modern gravcar following the sabbat crusades. commissar valera is referring to an ancient terran programming language called python."
"Ah! Ah. Ahhhh." Macavian sounded like a stressed vampire working his way through a particularly enlightening mathematics lecture. "Commissar, you know that prior to having to prosecute this war, I ran a tight ship with the factories and manufactoriums here."
Valera bobbed her head in agreement. The mosquito just bobbed.
"I did that by trusting my command staff," he continued, "and they have assured me that there's no way that this can be accomplished within the next three sprints."
"Sprints? Do your managing engineers require battlefield transportation? I can arrange an escort within a solar cycle."
"Ah, no. It's more of a, uh —" he looked for the word and failed. "A sprint is one, two, or four weeks, depending on the team that I'm talking to, and they've assured me that this is the most effective way to deliver software. It ensures everything will be delivered on time, with plenty of warning in the rare cases where this isn't going to happen."
Valera slammed an open palm against the table, causing the mosquito to bob even more violently in agreement. "Then why the fuck is everything late?"
Confusion. "We can of course get you more recaf, commissar, but —"
"with respect sire, you are thinking of the ancient terran word latte, meaning recaf. the commissar is using the word late, meaning not within the bounds of a previously agreed upon schedule"
"Ah! Ah. Ahhhh. Commissar, you know that I have little understand of these programming issues. But I've been assured that this is the best method to run such an operation, so I have largely concerned myself with logistics."
"How did you run the manufactoriums, Archlord? In sprints?"
"Er, no. Well, we tried a few things, and they all didn't really make much difference, if I'm being honest. My best people delivered consistently and honestly, and I had to have the worst transferred. I never worked out a better method for delivering than that, I'm afraid."
Valera stared at the Archlord for a long moment - long enough to make him uncomfortable. With some delicacy, she reached into the tin of recaf and picked out the offending mosquito, placing it upon the table. To her surprise, it began to stir and right itself. She slammed the remainder of the scalding recaf so quickly that it made the Archlord wince, checked that her bolt pistol was still loaded, and hurried her way to the exit.
The mosquito buzzed out ahead of her, hopefully to bite a non-technical project manager.
"Where is engineering command operating out of?"
"I'm going to visit those motherfuckers, and may the Holy Emperor watch over them."
Macavian beamed as the commissar strode off in the direction of his command staff.
"Well, that went well, wouldn't you say? Really turned that one around, eh?"
"with respect sire, you are thinking of the gulani word motarfak, which means revered spirit. the commissar was using the term motherfucker, which means -"
It was the end of the "stand up", which Valera had graciously been invited to. They did it sitting down, which was her first clue that one of the Chaos Gods was involved. It had been scheduled for fifteen minutes, and they were getting near the end of the first hour. The managers seemed very pleased with themselves, puffed up with self-importance. By her calculations, she had probably lost another twelve troopers under her command in the meantime.
Most of the details were lost on her, and this, she suspected, was because the people that were talking the most had no idea what on Terra they were talking about.
She was carefully thumbing the safety off her bolt pistol under the table. Harry was talking.
"Well, that was a productive session. I'll let the Archlord know that the Basilisk solutions will be delayed a further few sprints. And Greg, could you chastise the machine spirit?"
"You know, hit it so that it knows to stop misbehaving."
"That's not how - yes, Harry. Sure. I'll get right on that."
"Great! Oh, and I know we've gone a bit over, but could you—"
Harry was cut short by the bark of a bolt pistol, which sent his body tumbling to the floor.
Stunned silence. All faces turned to Valera.
The bolt pistol barked out four more times as staff dove for cover. One of the worst offenders sprinted for the door, only to be cut short by Valera's chainsword. A man and a woman ducked for the door right after she cut that one down, and she let them both go because they had rolled their eyes at a few points during the meeting - still untainted.
Quivering in terror, a woman in full command regalia drew herself to her full height on the other side of the table.
"What is the meaning of this, commissar? I'll have you shot!"
The click of a new bolt magazine being loaded into the pistol.
"You had a Tzeentch cult operating right under your nose and you're going to have me shot?"
"A Tzeentch cult? What are you talking about?"
Tzeentch was one of the horrific Chaos Gods, notorious for warping human ambition with galaxy-spanning plans, sometimes operating over thousands of years.
"You all but admitted it! You all worship the subdaemon Scrum."
The woman slumped in relief. A misunderstanding. They would make it out of this alive.
"Commissar, no! It's a management methodology! Scrum is a framework to help you implement Agile—"
Valera fired five rounds into her.
"Oh. That's much worse."
She turned the gun on the rest of the room, firing a total of eleven times, with the weapon jamming on the twelfth shot.
An Imperial bolt pistol is a marvel of human engineering. They fire .75 caliber explosive "bolts", with single shots capable of eliminating basically any soft target and many hard targets. Due to their extreme expense, they are maintained meticulously, and Valera maintained hers better than most. A typical bolt pistol jams around one in every ten thousand rounds, and Valera's jammed once in every hundred thousand.
She stared at Greg, who stared back, slack-jawed and pale. She cleared the jam and fired at him again. Jam. Another clear. Another jam.
Slowly, she lowered the weapon. Maybe the machine spirit recognizes its own.
"Just... just get the guns firing, okay? You're in charge now."
Within a solar day, Valera was back with her squad, watching alongside Sergeant Mertol, as all the enemy positions within a hundred kilometers are smashed into a grey dust by hundreds of Earthshaker rounds.
Individuals willing to defy convention and perhaps even ethics and the law to pursue their intellectual ambitions often make willing and effective servants. Some thinkers who reach a stumbling block in their scholarly pursuits can become obsessed with a particular problem or question. These scholars may try any number of approaches to find answers, but no experiment, no amount of research or consultation with experts, and no amount of sweat and elbow grease brings them closer to a solution. These obsessed scholars are particularly vulnerable to Tzeentch’s temptations. While some may deliberately seek the assistance of the Master of Fate, many more unwittingly fall into Tzeentch’s service after accepting help from an insightful but mysterious new colleague or after gazing too long at a classified or forbidden text that somehow finds its way onto their desk.
A tome lies gathering dust on Harry's desk, and no one remembers how it got there, even after an Inquisitorial investigation. The Inquisitor locks it in a hyperbaric duravault, banned for anyone with less than Vermilion level clearance, noting that to merely read the cover would corrupt the ambitious instantaneously with its impossible promises.
In the future, historians may look back on human progress and draw a sharp line designating "before Scrum" and "after Scrum." Scrum is that ground-breaking. It already drives most of the world's top technology companies. And now it's starting to spread to every domain where leaders wrestle with complex projects.
If you've ever been startled by how fast the world is changing, Scrum is one of the reasons why. Productivity gains of as much as 1200% have been recorded.
In this book you'll journey to Scrum's front lines where Jeff's system of deep accountability, team interaction, and constant iterative improvement is, among other feats, bringing the FBI into the 21st century, perfecting the design of an affordable 140 mile per hour/100 mile per gallon car, helping NPR report fast-moving action in the Middle East, changing the way pharmacists interact with patients, reducing poverty in the Third World, and even helping people plan their weddings and accomplish weekend chores.