The death of scrum may sound dramatic, but there are views out there that proclaim loudly that it is indeed dead or at least dying.
Why? Because, in the lifecycle of most schools of thought or business philosophies, there comes a time when dissenting voices kickback.
Scrum, they say, isn’t delivering, or isn’t working the way it says it will.
With its origins in software development, the agile approach to working – and scrum as its practical framework – has developed a reputation for being advanced in its thinking and practical applications.
But all next big things suffer from some degree of backlash. For some of its critics, scrum has over-promised and under-delivered. But where does the root of much of this criticism lie?
Scrum is not always the right fit, and it’s certainly not a universal solution that will work with all organisations. But some criticisms of scrum come from common misinterpretations of this framework.
What’s Wrong with Scrum?
There are certain criticisms of scrum that crop up in situations where the framework isn’t meeting expectations.
One is that it involves too many meetings and not enough actual work. Certainly, the scrum process incorporates various types of meetings, but they aren’t designed to be drawn out. The focus is on concise planning followed by action to achieve immediate goals.
Because meetings are part of scrum events, they may appear to be frequent, but this is because this is how the framework functions. The daily scrum event should only last 15 minutes, however, and not prevent practical work from progressing.
Another criticism is that scrum is simply not the right fit for many organisations. But scrum will only fit if the organisation embraces change within its culture. There may be a misconception that because scrum is a framework, you can apply it anywhere to get your desired results.
The scrum framework needs a culture that supports it. Without this supportive culture, it will face obstacles that can impede its functionality.
As a role in scrum, the scrum master may attract a certain amount of criticism or even scepticism. For some, it feels unclear what the scrum master’s purpose is. Again, this comes down to misconceptions about what the role involves. Shouldn’t the scrum master be taking more of an active role in leading the team, and if not, why are they there in the first place?
But it’s neither a babysitting role nor a project management one. But the scrum master is still pivotal in scrum, as a kind of coach and intermediary between the scrum team and the rest of the organisation in which it’s operating.
Performing this role well requires both subtlety and assertiveness. The scrum team should function without the constant involvement of the scrum master, but the scrum master must still ensure that the team remains motivated and adheres to scrum methodology.
Does Scrum Over-Promise?
The issue with a system that helps change happen is that it can raise unrealistic expectations.
Dysfunctional organisations, for instance, may develop an expectation that scrum will solve all their issues, both now and in the future.
But while scrum supports and enables change, any organisation using it must first recognise and accept that it has areas requiring improvement.
Scrum, on its own, cannot resolve dysfunctional organisations. It can provide the practical tools to enact change, but the commitment to change must come first from the organisation.
It is a similar problem that some therapists encounter: people look for some sort of external agency that will make change happen, when in fact change needs to come from within themselves. The therapy can help shed light on various issues, and be a tool for self-awareness. But the real change is down to the individual.
With scrum, it’s not, therefore, a case of over-promising, but of unrealistic expectations.
What Does Scrum Offer Organisations?
Scrum is a framework. It’s not a rigid methodology or belief system. It’s simply a way of approaching work that democratises aspects of input and encourages organisations to use teams where skills are more important than individual status.
If you develop a culture of trust and mutual respect, where doing things differently is welcomed as means of inventive problem-solving, then scrum can provide an ideal framework for achieving practical results.
But without the right cultural attributes, there’s a greater chance of misconceptions about scrum creeping in. This more likely to perpetuate an air of dysfunction.
Scrum is Alive and Well
Declaring the death of scrum is not only premature, but it’s also inaccurate. Scrum isn’t for everyone, but where the culture that adopts it is the right fit, scrum continues to offer a means to achieving lasting and productive change.
For more details about the agile approach to working and using the scrum framework, please contact Simple Progression.