Why Do Scrum Teams Fail?
For agile to become a viable solution, it needs a practical framework. This is what scrum should provide. However, as with other frameworks and approaches, there’s no guarantee scrum will always work. Sometimes, scrum teams fail.
Why should this happen, and what can help make the application of the scrum framework a success?
The Failure to Buy-in to Scrum
As more and more organisations and enterprises search for better ways of working, or methods to manage change effectively, they choose to make the transformation to agile.
The agile approach has many business benefits, but it requires more than organisational housekeeping. It represents a shift in mindset. Therefore, as scrum is the framework to bring about this change, the organisation adopting it needs to buy into it.
Scrum requires full commitment, without half-measures. People can be psychologically averse to change. If some of these people are key stakeholders, then this will but up barriers to implementing the scrum framework.
The organisational culture has to be open to the idea of scrum, and of the agile mindset, from the start.
Going too Fast
Scrum doesn’t provide an instant fix. The whole point of it is to take things incrementally, in sprints. Where an organisation forges ahead regardless, this is likely to derail the entire scrum process.
If the organisation is making the transition from waterfall to agile, for example, then this represents a significant shift, and one that it cannot afford to try and rush or force through.
The implementation is, in effect, the first scrum project, which may need breaking down into smaller, incremental tasks. And, by applying the scrum framework at an appropriate pace, this should help scrum align with the local organisational culture.
Lack of Planning
Implementing a whole new approach is not something an organisation can improvise. It requires proper, detailed strategic planning.
The temptation may be to launch into activities immediately, but as with taking things too fast (see above), this is likely to hamper the way the scrum team works from the start.
It needs to start with a goal or vision, to focus the team on what, ultimately, it is working towards.
Here, the role of the product owner is critical. The product owner is responsible for the product backlog. This is the list of tasks that will help the scrum team accomplish stated objectives.
They do this by working from their own sprint backlog, increment by increment.
The product owner role is pivotal to the success of the scrum team, and any organisation wishing to adopt the scrum framework needs to include this role as part of its planning.
Lack of Agile Skills and Experience
In-house expertise and resources may not be enough to support the scrum framework.
If the scrum team doesn’t have the right levels of skill or experience, then the whole scrum approach can feel alien. The steeper the learning curve is, the more slowly it’s going to take for the team to acclimatise itself to these new ways of working.
The scrum master should be acting as champion of the scrum framework, reinforcing scrum values, theory, rules and practices.
It’s critical, therefore, that the person occupying this role has the level of experience and skill required to support the entire scrum team, and represent it to other people who sit outside it.
Without the scrum team understanding how the framework should work from the start, the risk is that the whole approach then becomes flawed.
This goes back to the issue of the organisational buy-in. The mindset and culture need to be supportive of scrum, and it takes key people with experience and skill to help ensure this happens.
The Wrong Fit
The scrum framework will work with organisations that are either already agile in approach, or are willing to make this shift.
But where an organisation has a waterfall structure, and this is its preferred way to structure its projects, then the scrum framework will not be the right fit.
In certain contexts, the waterfall method works well, and it may gel more comfortably with a given organisational culture.
No business can benefit if it simply pays lip service to agile in the hope that this will make it appear more dynamic to potential clients, stakeholders or investors.
Agile, as we’ve stated already, is a mindset. It represents a profound change. Scrum and its various components can support this change. But if agile isn’t on the agenda, then scrum shouldn’t be either.
Take a step back, consider your project and the type of organisation you are, before opting for scrum.
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