In a social media discussion in mid-2019, several people expressed surprise at the idea that Scrum might include “overhead.” The confusion seemed genuine. Some people asked for examples. It seemed they were unable to conceive of “overhead” in Scrum.
The popularity of Scrum has led to an interesting situation in the Agile community. Many people view Scrum as The Answer. It’s the only and best way. There is no possibility to improve beyond Scrum. Everything in Scrum is valuable by definition.
In reality, every process includes overhead. We do things for customers/users, and we also do things to position ourselves to do things for customers/users. When we don’t distinguish between the two, we can fall into the trap of trying to perfect our overhead activities, rather than minimize them.
Continue reading Reducing process overhead in Scrum
Sometimes I use the phrase, “novice Scrum team,” to describe a team that’s new to Scrum, still settling into the routine of sprints, and still getting a handle on the underlying values of Scrum. Often, these teams are in the process of adopting unfamiliar technical practices like test-driven development and unfamiliar processes like continuous integration, and learning to collaborate across roles that had been sequestered in functional silos before the cross-functional Scrum team was established. They’re learning a lot of new things at the same time.
Quite a few people appear puzzled or bemused by the phrase. It occurs to me they may think of Scrum as a fixed set of rules to follow, rather than as a starting point for ongoing improvement. You either follow the rules or you don’t. There’s no concept of “novice Scrum team” because there’s no concept of ongoing improvement: When you follow the rules of Scrum, you’re doing Scrum. You either do Scrum or you don’t. That’s all there is.
Continue reading Doing Scrum Perfectly
I came across a post by Damian Synadinos, dating from August 2017, entitled Thinking about Beliefs. He explores the idea of belief systems; how they come to be, how people interpret them, how adopters implement them, various things that can go right or wrong when people apply them, and what can happen when we question our belief systems.
After presenting a general model of belief systems, Damian goes on to illustrate his ideas by describing how he set out to question his beliefs regarding software testing; that is, his belief system around his work. He discovered that some of his previously-held beliefs about software testing seemed sound while others had room for improvement, once he began to question them systematically.
Continue reading Scrum as a belief system
The “agile” world seems to have devolved into a cloud of buzzwords and catch phrases. People repeat them without giving much thought to what the words might actually mean. They say things like passion and commit and fail, and they threaten to hold you accountable.
When agilists say these things, they understand one another perfectly well. They have internalized the deeper meaning of these “standard” agile buzzwords and catch phrases.
But it is not plain English. It is jargon.
What does a normal person hear, when the agilists speak their magical incantations?
Continue reading The power of words
I’m not a salesman for, or even much of an enthusiast for Scrum, and yet I keep finding myself in the position of defending it (or appearing to do so). A survey was posted a few weeks ago entitled “What’s the Problem with Scrum, and How can we Fix it?” (capitalization theirs). They’ve published the results, and so here I am again, appearing to defend Scrum.
What I’m actually defending is the idea that if we want to criticize a thing, that at least let’s criticize what the thing really is, and not a strawman version of it.
Continue reading What’s the problem with “What’s the problem with Scrum?”
This post by Thomas Schranz caught my attention: Why SCRUM Backlogs lead to bad Product Decisions. One finds numerous articles against Scrum on Thomas’ site. I think he misunderstands Scrum fundamentally.
Is my purpose here to defend Scrum? Friends and colleagues will know that I’m not a Scrum salesperson. I see Scrum as a tool, and not as the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything. So, why defend it? My purpose in this post is to caution against blaming one’s tools for one’s results, and to suggest that we try to understand a thing before we criticize it. (I don’t claim to be a flawless practitioner of my own advice.)
Continue reading (!Scrum) != Scrum