Digital Roast

Scrum - is it the best way to work?

February 07, 2020


Don’t get me wrong - Scrum has it’s benefits. Doing it by the book with the help from a very talented coach helped me wrap my head around it and really appreciate what Agile values are all about, as well as learn the basic toolbox: Stand-ups, planning, estimation, retrospective, etc.

But why is this almost always the de-facto way of working? Wherever I go or hear from my fellow peers, I would say that 95% (educated guess on my side) of teams start and keep using Scrum as a framework of choice. Whenever anyone suggests anything different people are unwilling to change, which is ironic in some ways.

One way to rule them all

In the book Learning Agile[1] there is a great thought that keeps coming back to me:

“If you recognise that you’re in an environment where you can put the practices in place but not the values, then you can still get better-than-not-doing-it results.” I think in many cases this is true for many teams and organisations.

I guess one of the potential benefits of everyone doing Scrum is that when you move around companies you have familiarity around the process of how you approach the work. You come in, you know it will be a sprint and you know the roles and what will happen.

But is there more?

On the other hand, the world is such a wonderful and diverse place with so many different teams solving all sorts of challenges each day and trying to get competitive advantage and innovate. Yet Scrum is everywhere. Sometimes I have seen and heard of Agile transformations (yes, in recent years) where everyone is going to do Scrum and things are going to be great. But common sense dictates that no two teams are alike so why shoehorn them into one single way of working?

In a brilliant blog post by Simon Wardley he makes a great point:

“…A decade of using maps, speaking and writing articles in various publications that point out the need for multiple methods has taught me one thing. In a decade from now, I’ll still be hearing people arguing over whether agile, lean, six sigma or some equivalent method is better everywhere. It isn’t. It’ll never be…” [2]

But I hope for a better future.

How can we break the habit?

If you are in a similar boat, an interesting piece of advice I have received online is that to help a team reflect on Scrum ask them these two questions:

  1. What do we maintain with Scrum?
  2. What opportunities are there if we don’t work in a Scrum way? This helped me start a more constructive discussion in my team. Also educate yourself more about Agile manifesto and principles. Also educate yourself about other ways of working.

A great place to expand your horizon is Dan North’s piece on SWARMing - Scaling Without A Religious Methodology[3]. It is a goldmine of ideas and wisdom on what really matters if you wish to have a successful Agile transformation and how just adopting a framework will not help you succeed. He covers a wide area of concerns like how “most lean or agile transformation initiatives will fail, because they challenge the very fundamentals of the organisation”.

Not every team can and should do Scrum

Have a look and try to learn more around how teams work and help your teams achieve the best, even if you break some rules.

One of the four core values of Agile is “Responding to change over following a plan”. I believe that doing prescriptive Scrum is following a plan and in order to respond you need to observe your team and respond in a way that will work best for them.

Sources and extra reading:

Cover photo by Olga Guryanova on Unsplash