Career and Money Advice At The Intersection Of Business And Technology

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Scrum mania

December 2nd, 2008 · 1 Comment

There was a scrum mania around me. The software development team had been missing deadlines and producing buggy code. The business team felt frustrated because they were not getting the features they wanted to market and sell.

Let’s implement SCRUM! Let’s be iterative and get things out quickly! The company sent a few program managers to a scrum training course. A couple of days later, they came back with "SCRUM Master" certifications.

After a few months of scrums, very little progress were made. "It’s because we don’t have the right software tool to keep track of product backlog and scrum tasks.

The company immediately purchased Scrumwork.

A year passed. Still, the development team is as unproductive as before. The business team is as frustrated as they’ve ever been.

Ironically, the business team starts to have SCRUMS! "We need to form a cross-functional team to tackle a very complex issue. Let’s have our own SCRUM!"

Scrum is NOT the cure-all medicine. It’s a methodology. Nothing more, nothing less. Scrum alone will not make you successful.

In the 1980’s, San Francisco 49ers was the football team to beat in the national football league. Their West Coast offense was the system that many teams emulated. However, to make the West Coast offense working, a team needs a mobile quarterback (like Steve Young), a great slot receiver (like Jerry Rice), a productive tight end (like Brent Jones), and the right coach (like the "genius".) Several teams had successes emulating 49ers (e.g. Green Bay Packers under Mike Holmgreen, Oakland Raider under Jon Gruden, Philadelphia Eagles under Andy Reid.) They didn’t just put in the "west coast" methodology. They made sure that they had the right personnel, the right coach, and the right training regimen.

There are also other teams who didn’t adopt the west coast offense. The New England Patriot had huge success by having a totally different offense/defense system and personnel.

Similarly, scrum won’t work for every company and every project. It’s an effective methodology for certain projects with certain personnel at certain companies. It will not cure all of your project management problems.

Are you having a scrum mania in your organization? Please do yourself a favor — do not dive into implementing scrum without consider the strategic and organization implications of adopting scrums. It’s not that simple, and it won’t solve all of your problems!

Tags: Get Project Done · Product Management

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Ted Howard // Dec 2, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    I’ve worked on a team that ran scrums of one month. As planning began, we usually knew what our customers would ask us to do but sometimes we had a surprise and change of our expectations. We would set the plan, sprint to the final demo, show off, and repeat. It was smooth.

    I’ve also worked on a team building a product that took 6+ months to build. They used scrum. Well, really they had a traditional development process and masqueraded as scrum by having a monthly milestone and progress meeting with management. Every sprint’s tasks were basically decided months beforehand, so it wasn’t scrum in that sense. The product was never ready to release until that final sprint, so it was scrum in that sense either.

    I think it was a better way to run a standard development cycle just because management knew what was going on, demos forced periodic quality checks, and demos also provided morale boosts. If we had to mis-use the term ‘scrum’ then I think it was a fair price to pay.

    The way I’ve seen scrum go awry is when it becomes process for the sake of process. It sounds like you witnessed training for the sake of process for the sake of process. Read Paul Graham’s latest:


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