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Scrum is the Best Thing in the Whole Wide World

Published: December 19, 2017

Scrum is:

a framework for developing, delivering, and sustaining complex products.It is the best thing in the whole wide world.

1 WnxhMGV3n7E 2xHIpBjcSQ 2x Scrum has a huge and supportive community. If you want to learn, you can learn. There are 858 books about Scrum on Amazon (in English) including a For Dummies book. YouTube is filled with Scrum videos. There are Meetups everywhere. There are conferences and gatherings around the world. People post insanely helpful lists of patterns. You can get certified

if that’s your thing.

You can buy tools like Jira that are designed for Scrum. Reference Cards. Planning Poker Cards. Tons of LEGO games. And there is no shortage of folks willing to train and coach your team(s). If you fancy starting your own Scrum certification business and training others…you can do that too! Some trainers make $10,000 a month! It is really the best thing in the whole wide world.

Now. You may run into people who say “Scrum doesn’t work!” Well it does work! I guarantee you that they aren’t doing it 100%. They’re faking it (FakeScrum). No one said it would be easy. It says right there in The Guide: “Lightweight, Simple to understand, and Difficult to master.

They’re probably doing California Agile “where developers do whatever they want and so you get whenever delivery.” Or they are just wimpy wimps and can’t handle the relentless reality checks:

Scrum’s relentless reality checks expose dysfunctional constraints in individuals, teams, and organizations. Many people claiming to do Scrum modify the parts that require breaking through organizational impediments and end up robbing themselves of most of the benefits.Maybe they didn’t get the memo that “Scrum is deliberately incomplete.” There are a whole host of things — like important technical practices — that it doesn’t really cover. Writes Martin Fowler:

Scrum is process that’s centered on project management techniques and deliberately omits any technical practices, in contrast to (for example) Extreme Programming.Scrum gives you the best starting point in the whole wide world, and then gives you the best community in the whole wide world to help you hone your Scrum dominance (and that other stuff). And there’s a bonus. Because Scrum is the best thing in the whole wide world, all the other functions have to figure out how to play Scrum (e.g. How to Fit UX/UI into Agile and Scrum). How awesome is that?

No question is out of bounds and there’s an answer for everything:

Q: The Scrum Guide says “The Scrum Master enforces the rule that only Development Team members participate in the Daily Scrum”. Does that mean that the Product Owner must not be present at the Daily Scrum event, or does it merely mean that the Product Owner is allowed to be present but must not participate in the proceedings of the event. A: The Product Owner (PO) is welcome to attend in order to listen and observe, as Scrum processes should always be transparent, but the PO may not interact.Oh wait, that top-rated answer doesn’t jive with latest version of the Scrum Guide. But you get the idea. The internet is FILLED with great content, and Scrum is getting officially updated all the time by Ken and Jeff. The latest update included this… the best update in the whole wide world:

To ensure continuous improvement, it (the Spring Backlog) includes at least one high priority process improvement identified in the previous Retrospective meeting.Dang! Now that’s a hat-tip to the Toyota Production System if I ever saw one. Respectin’ your roots FTW. (Read about the other updates here).

Here’s another thing that makes Scrum the best thing in the whole wide world. Because everyone is doing it (the whole wide world), you can be sure that your situation is NOT unique. Relive the wonderful Story Point vs. Hour Estimate debate. What if users don’t like the latest increment? Story Points vs. Story Counting. Product owner vs. product manager. Once you learn the lingo, Google will become your second Scrum Master. Before you know it, you’ll be doing voodoo like this:

Right now we use Git Hub Issues for each project an individual engineer is working on. We’re are making a transition to broader stories handled in Jira. We mark each task either Cap or Exp for accounting purposes so we can figure out how much of our dev time we can capitalize for accounting reasons. How can we do this in Jira when multiple engineers might work on the same user story?Zing. That’s some CapEx, OpEx, Jira Kung Fu.

Now, for the record, none of this is Scrum. Story Points aren’t Scrum. Jira isn’t Scrum. Burndowns aren’t Scrum. [Insert weird non-Agile business requirement grafted on to Scrum] is not Scrum. Abusing Scrum is not Scrum. Repeat after me:

When it works…it’s Scrum inspired. When it doesn’t…you’re not doing Scrum, Scrum has left it to you to figure out, or Scrum is difficult to master.Got it? Remember…

Scrum is an absolutely minimal 17 page, 5,200 word, open-ended framework with ~80 rules (“must”, “should”, etc.), new roles, new artifacts, and new meetings. One of those roles — the Scrum Master — is completely new! Scrum comes with its own Master. THAT is the best thing in the whole wide world.

Now… you have to beware of the haters and snake-oil charlatans out there…spreading dangerous Fake News to the masses. They’ll talk about removing Sprints, variable length Sprints, decoupling cadences, letting the team Scrum Master themselves, and “starting where they are” with the Kanban Method.

It gets even more extreme. Behold this heresy:

Scrum is something we’re sold. Something we certify. Something we implement in an organization in the hopes that it’ll breed agility. Still, it’s not inherently agile. One can be agile but never use Scrum. Conversely, one can use Scrum and never be agile.And this comes from someone who “love(s), live(s), and breathe(s) the Scrum framework”. Come on Tanner :)

Here’s why this is dangerous: it is potentially dangerous to the teenagers. The kids will believe anything they read on the Internet (even StackExchange). Before you know it they’ll be messing with their Scrum implementation under the pretense of “trying stuff!” And you know what happens then? They’ll BLAME SCRUM when it goes wrong! They’ll give up! They’ll drop-out of Scrum School, steal the car, and go to California to do California Scrum, or worse yet FauxScrum, or, gasp… Kanban.

We can’t let this happen to the best thing in the whole wide world. Freestyling is a Ri activity and must be reserved for Ri-Masters. Teams can find this out for themselves (after doing Scrum perfectly), and we then we’ll take credit for it. Until then, play by the rules. Writes Ken Schwaber

Scrum is like chess. You either play it as its rules state, or you don’tAnd as we are reminded in the Scrum Guide:

Scrum’s roles, events, artifacts, and rules are immutable and although implementing only parts of Scrum is possible, the result is not Scrum. Scrum exists only in its entirety and functions well as a container for other techniques, methodologies, and practices.Because…Scrum is the best thing in the whole wide world.

Am I joking? Not about some things…

I truly mean that Scrum community is (one of the) best things in the whole wide world (of software development project management). The community is absolutely amazing. If you need help, you can get it. There’s a huge N. With a discerning eye (and ear, and maybe budget), you can find your path.

That said, I’m concerned:

  • Scrum is being oversold
  • There is so much terrible advice out there, mostly driven by bad information, and organizations doing bad things with Scrum
  • The Why is not reaching users (teams), certified SMs, and certified POs. I talk to many people who aren’t familiar with the Scrum Guide, Scrum Values, or Scrum Pillars…and who haven’t read the Agile Manifesto.
  • We’re still not stressing the importance of technical practices, modern product practices, modern UX practices, etc.
  • Scrum is focused on Certifications, not the end-users (the teams)
  • Scrum is routinely imposed on teams, and its tools/practices abused by organizations. On some level, its level of prescription is too easily abused, and the money too easy to ignore
  • Scrum is feeling increasingly heavyweight and dated
  • The “business” of Scrum has become geared to certifications, and not the “users” of the framework…teams themselves
  • Newer and lighter approaches are emerging, but we’re too scared to promote them for fear of the “the newbs”
  • It isn’t really evolving So what do you do about all of that stuff? Can you “save Scrum” from the envitable ebb and flow of practices? It feels like it is straining under the accumulated patterns, decades of use, its popularity, its usefullness, decades of abuse (not supported, but happening nonetheless), the certification business model, and feeling more heavyweight next to lighter approaches. Martin Fowler (again) from 2009:

I’m sure that the many Flaccid Scrum projects being run will harm Scrum’s reputation, and probably the broader agile reputation as well. But since I see SemanticDiffusion as an inevitability I’m not unduly alarmed. Teams that fail will probably fail whatever methodology they mis-apply, teams that succeed will build their practices on good ideas and the scrum community’s role is to spread these good ideas around widely. Many people are looking to Lean as the Next Big Agile Thing. But the more popular lean becomes the more it will run into the same kind of issues as Scrum is facing now. That doesn’t make Lean (or Scrum) worthless, it just reminds us Individuals and Interactions are more valuable than Processes and Tools.Well. Lean isn’t the Next Big Agile Thing (yet). My guess?

  1. More team, and less Scrum Master and Product Owner focused
  2. Does not require certifications
  3. Learnable by teams in a self-directed fashion (but adaptable)
  4. More integrated with modern UX and Product practices
  5. Less structured and rules based But just like Martin … I could be wrong!

Because …. Scrum is the best thing in the whole wide world.