(Yet another) Defense of “Scrum”

Sometimes, I weary of defending Scrum

Jan 1, 2016 · 3 min read

I tire at times of constructing rebuttal after rebuttal to criticisms of Scrum. The writers are frequently those who, with slurs and errors, hurl their rage-filled or malevolent opinions at Scrum. It reminds me much of a drunkard chucking an empty wine bottle at a stop sign after be being struck by a vehicle that failed to obey the sign. Perhaps, I should dub this sort of writing,

The wino’s defense

These rants rarely present a cogent criticism of the Scrum framework, and even more rarely ever propose anything that will improve Scrum or work better than Scrum. Instead writers bluster around, mocking managerial abuse, decrying team dysfunction, and forming wrong-headed causal relationships between Scrum and terrible conditions at their job. This blustering may give the writer and other drunken revelers a cathartic release they badly need; one thing it does not provide however, is credibility.

Read the damn Scrum guide

Before any of you rub your hands gleefully and make ready to criticize this post or Scrum, read the damn Scrum guide. I’ll just leave it here for your convenience:

Put on your headphones and get out your highlighters. Focus in on the words on the pages and get ready to mark out all those things your managers make you do that you hate, that your fellow developers do that aggravates you, etc. You may be surprised to find, upon finishing your assigned reading, you’ve not highlighted a single thing; alternatively, you may have highlighted several words you don’t understand or see often like “lightweight,” “cross-functional,” “self-organizing,” “empirical” and “forecast” or words you long to see describe your organization like “respect,” “creativity,” and “feedback.” Could it be you and your organization have not been doing Scrum after all?

All dressed up and no where to go

If you find that you are still super mad but now the voice of a pricked conscience advises that you might be hunting the wrong witch, you are faced with a personal challenge. You must decide to continue the crusade against Scrum and it’s history or to propose improvements. For each failure owned by Sutherland, Schwaber, or the Scrum community over the past 20 years, I would wager that there is a significant number of success stories, ignored at the peril of critical argument. How could these counter-examples exist with significant frequency if Scrum and the community are so flawed?

Individuals and interactions

If my personal history is any answer to this questions, it would be that the quality of the individuals and our interactions has made the difference between success and failure in almost every case. Various, positive differences I would group under the category of professionalism make the difference more often than not. Scrum was our vehicle, and we either drove it off a cliff or raced it around the Nuremberg track. Ultimately however, we and not Scrum succeeded or failed.

Lie to anyone but not to yourself

Ok, I really don’t propose deceit as a good practice in any capacity; however, if you’re going to lie to people as a policy, you still should never ever lie to yourself. Don’t tell yourself the source of your failures is Scrum. It’s wrong-headed and won’t help you improve yourself or your organization. Moreover, you look silly and dangerous hurling empty liter bottles of Mogen David 20/20 at innocent signage.

Add something meaningful

Propose improvements rather than waylaying straw men. Take the aspects of Scrum that you find lacking and send thoughtful emails to Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland. You could also just start doing something different that works for you and tell us what it is!!

Join in the ruckus of improvement rather than hurling grenades that produce more noise than light.

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