So you think Scrum = Agile training wheels?

Are you serious? — Episode 52

Willem-Jan Ageling
May 19 · 4 min read

Every once in a while I come across the interesting notion that Scrum is “Agile training wheels”. Scrum would be the ideal framework to start Agile. I do understand where this is coming from, but I also have issues with it.

The case for Scrum as Agile training wheels

The Scrum Guide provides you all the information to properly “do” Scrum:

  • It discusses where Scrum shines (complex environments);
  • It explains that Scrum is founded on empiricism;
  • It brings forward the Scrum Values;
  • It defines the required roles and explains what is expected from the roles;
  • It discusses the events and explains what should be in the events;
  • It discusses the artifacts and explains why these are important.

The Scrum Guide is only 19 pages. And every sentence in the Scrum Guide intends to help clarify what Scrum is. You’d argue that it should be easy to use Scrum to start your Agile journey.

Another important factor is that the Scrum Guide is widely known as Scrum’s single source of truth, it’s for free and readily available for all.

The Scrum Guide enables people that don’t know Scrum to simply start. It will be a tough journey if you really have no-one in the team that can guide you (not even the Scrum Master), but it is possible. As long as you take the lessons from the Scrum Guide at heart.

In that sense I agree that Scrum can function as “training wheels”.

The case against Scrum as Agile training wheels

It is not that you can’t use Scrum to start your “Agile journey”. But I have three issues with the notion.

Issue 1 — Scrum is hard to master

Scrum is deceptively hard to master. If you see it as “training wheels” you run the risk of underestimating the framework. You could then start changing it before you understand the core of it or the core of Agile (thanks Max Heiliger for the point you made to bring this across).

Issue 2 — Scrum is not for beginners only

Once you learn how to ride a bike you don’t need your training wheels anymore. The training wheels become useless or will even hold you back.

Scrum isn’t like training wheels.

As soon as a team masters Scrum more and more you will see more and more benefits. Also: you might want to move away from Scrum, but you don’t need to. I know many seasoned Scrum teams that don’t see a need to abandon Scrum at all.

Issue 3 — Is Agile the goal or is Agile the means to achieve a goal?

Scrum as training wheels for Agile suggests that Agile is the goal. I don’t think this should be the case. Instead Agile is a means to reach a certain goal. It would be good if the goal is somewhere in the line of “Uncovering better ways to deliver value to our stakeholder, benefiting both us and our stakeholders”.

Conclusion

I agree with the fact that Scrum is simple to understand and that as such in can help you to embark on an Agile journey.

But Scrum is deceptively hard to master. If you see it as “training wheels” you run the risk of underestimating the framework and the concepts of “Agile”. Also: being Agile is not a goal in itself.

Furthermore I don’t agree with the notion that Scrum is equivalent to training wheels, suggesting that Scrum will be impeding you when you advance in your Agile journey.

Scrum is a framework that is suited for the inexperienced, but even better suited for the expert:

“Scrum is […] simple to understand, difficult to master” — Scrum Guide 2017


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Thanks to Max Heiliger.

Willem-Jan Ageling

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Interested in ways to work better together. I love the discussion with open-minded people.

Serious Scrum

Content by and for serious scrum practitioners.