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Unsuccessful Scrum – HOW Scrum Master Can Fix It?

Published on 11 March 2016 author: Zoran Vujkov

According to creators of Scrum (Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland) “Scrum is a framework of practices tied together by small set of clearly defined rules. To correctly implement Scrum, it is important to follow the few prescribed rules and to work within the framework of practices. Scrum does not contain redundant rules or practices. Scrum is lightweight, simple to understand and difficult to master. Scrum is like chess. You either play it as its rules state, or you don’t.”

For some companies difficulties come with their expectation that Scrum is a silver bullet or a cookbook with solutions for all their problems. Ken Schwaber said: “When rules are not stated, the users of Scrum are expected to figure out what to do. Don’t try to figure out a perfect solution, because the problem usually changes quickly. Instead, try something and see how it works. The inspect-and-adapt mechanisms of Scrum’s empirical nature will guide you.“

Unfortunately some companies are trying to add additional practices to the Scrum framework that are very much Scrum/Agile anti-patterns and pitfalls. Things like:

  • Test sprints
  • Random size sprints
  • Having SM with a command control style skills
  • Changes forced during a sprint which affect team velocity
  • Lack of Definition of Ready
  • Lack of Definition of Done
  • Focusing on very precise estimation.
  • Having Project Manager with Scrum Team
  • Having Management that prevents team self-organization or doesn’t help team being great.

Outcome is that core principle of Agile and Scrum are overlooked and companies are missing chances to improve. These companies needs to go back to basic Scrum characteristics, try to understand them better and by applying them company will have more productive teams. Some of important Scrums characteristics are:

  • Requirements are captured as items in “product backlog” – It is important to have requirements within a product backlog, targeted for next sprint, in “ready” state (sized properly, estimable, clear, testable …). The biggest waste in life of software developers is to work on requirement that they don’t understand, so it is important for development team to resist accepting requirements which are not in “ready” state.
  • Having a Definition of Done – at the end of the sprint software developed by team needs to be potentially shippable or “done” (working software that can be used by customer to generate a feedback; properly tested; zero bugs …).
  • Self-organizing teams – during sprint execution, in particular after daily standup, team needs to be self-organizing around the remaining work to achieve sprint goal and team needs to identify and remove impediments, things that slow them down. Team is structured and empowered to organize and manage their own work. Scrum Master together with Management should influences and help Development team how self-organizes and do the great work.

According to the Scrum Guide “Scrum Master is someone who is responsible for ensuring Scrum is understood and enacted, and that the Scrum Team adheres to Scrum theory, practices, and rules”. Scrum Master is a servant-leader for a Scrum team. Scrum Master is helping PO how to do his job. Scrum Master is coaching, protecting, developing development team to be fully functional, smarter and productive. However very often during adoption of SCRUM framework, it becomes clear that some of Scrum practices are in collision with the company culture. Scrum Master plays pivotal role in successful Scrum adoption within a company. Scrum Master is change agent within a company who inspire and release the energy for changing others and company culture.

Certified Scrum Master Course can be your first step to understanding the SM role. If you are already familiar with Scrum methodology and use it, but you want to learn more about Scrum anti-patterns and pitfalls faced by many teams, actually how to fix them, then think about two trainings offered through upcoming Agile Month-April 2016:

10 years of experience in Agile Coaching of more than 70 Scrum Teams are presented through this trainings. Look at the schedule of all trainings in Agile Month-April 2016.

Zoran Vujkov

Zoran Vujkov is an experienced Agile Coach since 2008, certified by the Scum Alliance. He successfully led Agile Transformations in a couple of international companies, from traditional waterfall methods of software development to Agile frameworks (SCRUM, Kanban, XP, Scaled Agile Framework-SAFe).

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