The destructive power of Scrum lip service

Are you doing Scrum when things get rough?

Willem-Jan Ageling
Sep 1 · 3 min read
Poster depicting Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Poster depicting Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Poster from (free of use)

Are these situations familiar to you:

  • We acknowledge that we work in a complex environment where you make decisions for what is known. But for this super important initiative the organisation demands a fixed due date for a fixed scope from YOU;
  • We embrace self-organising teams, but during crunch time someone from outside of the Development Team takes charge at the Daily Scrums and Sprint Planning to ensure that things get done;
  • At the Sprint Retrospective we wish to improve our practices, but we aren’t allowed to drop a certain tool that we all dislike;
  • We are all happy with our Definition of Done, but get instructed to ‘cut corners’ when the pressure is on.

I could go on and on. We can come with a list of 100 ScrumButs. In fact, we did just this at Serious Scrum!

Why are we so vigorously fighting Scrum lip service? Well:

Scrum lip service is destroying your organisation.

Scrum: not only for the good times

If your organisation used to have directive leadership and traditional projects and then chooses to adopt Scrum then is is a major change in your way of approaching your environment. You acknowledge that your environment is complex and that that traditional approach isn’t suited for your environment.

When you adopt Scrum you empower the teams to self-organise and embrace empiricism. Stakeholders of the Scrum Team need to adapt too:

“… employees and stakeholders (need to: wja) understand and enact Scrum and empirical product development” — Scrum Guide 2017 Schwaber and Sutherland

Scrum doesn’t exist for good times only. On the contrary: during bad times you can really see how serious an organisation is with Scrum.

The destructiveness of lip service

If you say one thing and do another your credibility will be impacted. Now imagine if an organisation advocates Scrum, provides training and coaching and voices that they firmly believe that Scrum is the way to success. What will happen when you switch to the old routines when things get rough? I can imagine a couple of things:

  • Some will be furious because they aren’t allowed to work the way they wish to work;
  • Some will be suspicious the next time you come with ‘something new’;
  • Some will believe that the organisation can’t be trusted;
  • Some will think Scrum is awful;
  • You did not profit from the true power of Scrum;
  • You will not make the deadline with that fixed set of features anyway;
  • You will not see an improvement in performance of the team when someone is directing them. You will see the opposite instead, because people will wait for your instructions and not question them, although they are the experts;
  • Cutting corners on the Definition of Done will result in issues on production and technical debt. It will bite you in the end;
  • Your organisation will be back at square one. All the energy and belief in your new idea vanishes.

Scrum is there for good times, but even more for the hard times

Scrum isn’t a framework for good times only. On the contrary: Scrum shines when things get complex. But… only if the organisation acknowledges that within complex environments you need a different approach: empiricism.

Switching back to old routines during hard times only shows that you don’t believe in Scrum with it’s self-organisation and empiricism. Therefore please think twice before you adopt Scrum. Are you adopting it for the right reasons?

Do you want to write for Serious Scrum or seriously discuss Scrum?

Serious Scrum

Content by and for serious scrum practitioners.

Thanks to Maarten Dalmijn

Willem-Jan Ageling

Written by

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

Serious Scrum

Content by and for serious scrum practitioners.

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