SCRUM doesn’t work

teamwork photo

SCRUM is a method to change management, team building and communication with a tight form of project management. It also provides a way to tackle difficult projects and create a successful team – But does it really work?

SCRUM currently is hyped as one of the Agile methods with meeting culture and a tight form of project management. Scrum comes with project planing, project review and retrospective. An important part of this Agile method is the daily scrum (standup meeting).

The SCRUM rules can help you building a real team, handle some difficult projects and cleanup your task board.

I’ve heard some stories from SCRUM masters who are working in hostile company environments where there is no teamwork and no communication culture. The developers don’t work together and are not even interested in the work of their co-workers.

After some months with SCRUM the people start to talk to each other – they are slowly beginning to (re-) build teams.

Unfortunately employers try to run a flattened version of SCRUM because they think that SCRUM doesn’t fit. They are complaining about the huge meeting times and they don’t understand why a retrospective needs two or three hours…

  • Why should an employer pay their employees for private discussions in retrospective?
  • 15 minutes for standup meeting each day for every employee? We’re losing time and money!
  • Why can’t a project manager or employer attend the retrospective?
  • Why do we need a dedicated SCRUM master? A developer can do that job!

As a result, the daily standups are cut to 50% or less. Developers might stay away from meetings because they are afraid of trouble or they think this meetings consume too much time, which can be used more meaningful.

What if the project manager thinks he is the team leader and want to attend the retrospective? If there is no SCRUM master (or he is just part of the team) the project manager can lead the retrospective for his own benefit. The result from this will be more obligations (eg. better quality, faster development times or more responsibility) for the team and there will be no “commitment” from the team for it. This will be the end of SCRUM.

As a result managers and employees are dropping more and more SCRUM principles because they don’t believe in communication or are afraid of the overhead of Agile methods.

 

SCRUM doesn’t work…

  • … if your employer think that SCRUM is only a project management tool.
  • … if your project manager is your team leader
  • … if you don’t want teams
  • … if your boss or your project manager want to attend retrospective or retrospective is not a safe environment (eg. violation of VEGAS rule: “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”)
  • … if you want competition between employees
  • … if you don’t want criticism, suggestions and improvements from your employees
  • … if you want a silent office (communication is company culture!)
  • … if you’re company’s hierarchy is more important to you than your employees

 

SCRUM works…

  • … if the company wants real teamwork
  • … if the company wants real new ideas, suggestions, improvements and criticism
  • … if you want to establish a communication culture
  • … if the company wants to find the real reasons of impediments
  • … if you are ready to build or change the company’s culture

 

With Scrum you can enjoy the working process and reap the benefit of working agile. Real teamwork can create a good feeling if you’re closing a sprint and the result of the hard work is visible for all team members in the review meeting. Even if the sprint has failed no one is alone and all developers did their best to save the sprint – converting a failure to a less destructive feeling.

The heartbeat of each company are innovations and SCRUM provides enough room for Kaizen (improvements) and innovations. With this your company will be more attractive for good developers.

~tl/dr~

The company, the team leaders, the project leaders and the employees must be ready for SCRUM. Employees can be trained for SCRUM but if the employer don’t want real teamwork, new ideas and criticism you should find another company with SCRUM.

SCRUM can lead to a massive improvement of productivity, Kaizen and innovations. On the other hand if your company don’t solve the problems which SCRUM made visible it can result in a crash – but keep in mind, SCRUM don’t create problems but will simply make them visible.

IMHO SCRUM is not (only) a method for project management but a method to build a better, faster and more efficient company – and to get happier employees.
Your projects don’t have to be agile because you can run SCRUM as company or team method.

 

Real teamwork is more than just working together.

I'm working as DevOps (software developer and linux administrator) in a TYPO3 agency in Stuttgart. I love OpenSource technologies like Linux and PHP and I'm want to share knowledge and experience.

4 Comments

  1. Alex Stiber

    2015-08-18 - 6:03 pm
    Reply

    Good article! What I really appreciate about Scrum is that you don’t have to go “the whole way”. You can go step by step by adding more and more techniques to your daily business and feel and MEASURE the improvements.

    In my team (IT-Support in a TYPO3 agency) we started by adding daily standups, everybody gets to know what the team is working on. As our team is quite heterogenous according to tasks and problems their working on, it’s the ultimate possibility to build up a good team which works not only for a project but for a higher goal. I don’t see Scrum as a project management tool but rather as a toolbox for building up a functional communication culture.

    We will carry on trying to integrate more techniques to our working process.

    • Markus Blaschke

      2015-08-18 - 9:33 pm
      Reply

      Thanks and it’s nice to hear that you’re team is still using daily standups as I suggested some months ago – keep it going, you won’t regret it 🙂

      As next step you can try to introduce retrospectives and all other SCRUM principles will follow… 🙂

  2. Kamil Jopek

    2015-12-09 - 11:53 am
    Reply

    Nice blogpost Markus!

  3. Sumit

    2016-02-04 - 12:21 pm
    Reply

    Luckily our boss and our clients support every aspect of scrum. That’s when it’s the dream of every developer.

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