Well, it’s not a statement from my side but rather a quote from one of our project manager, let’s call him Al. As a convinced agile and lean follower and as someone who has spend years working in a highly efficient Scrum team, I’ve needed almost two days to digest this and be able to start writing this post.
Usually, you associate Scrum with Agile, Agile with light-weight. You also associate overkill with bloated, bloated with heavy-weight. So the statement just makes no sense and we can just forget it, right ? Well, I do think the statement makes no sense but finding out where this statement comes from might teach us something useful. In general, even when someone makes a statement which obviously makes no sense, it’s often useful to go past that and understand why this statement was made.
First, I doubt Al has much experience in a real Scrum environment. Unfortunately, like many organizations around the globe, the one I’m currently working for does practice something which is called Scrum but actually has nothing to do with Scrum because:
- Scrum is just used because of the hype
- Noone has any experience with Scrum, not even the Scrum master
- The team has no real power
- The team doesn’t commit
- The scrum master is making decisions instead of the team
- Transparency is kept at a minimum level
- No demo at the end of the sprint
- Things are half done by the end of the sprint: the result of the sprint is by far not shippable
So in this environment, Scrum basically means more overhead:
- More meetings: planning, daily scrum, review, retrospective…
- More work managing an ever changing backlog
- More re-planning because estimations are wrong, a lot of fire fighting happens next to the sprint, scope and priority change
- More chaos because tasks are not broken down to fit in a sprint, so tasks start in one sprint and end sometimes 3 or 4 sprints later
Of course, all these perceived Scrum overhead are just problems arising because Scrum is simply not implemented and lived properly. As Mike Cohn (the founder of Mountain Goat Software) wrote 7 years ago in an article called “Scrum Shouldn’t Be a Burden”:
If Scrum feels too heavy or as if it has too much overhead, it likely is being done incorrectly.
So what the statement above means is basically:
- I do not really know what Scrum is
- What we call Scrum here doesn’t work
- Doing Scrum the wrong way actually makes you even slower than with a non-agile process
Well, I guess all these statements are true (wish Al had actually realised that’s what he should have said).
So does it mean Scrum makes no sense in such an organization ? It might be the case. But before coming to this conclusion, this organization needs to first understand what scrum is, how it works and especially why it works. Without understanding why it works, you just end up borrowing roles, ceremonies and artifacts from Scrum but fail to implement and working and effective Scrum.