Thursday, April 18, 2013

Scrum exposes problems. It does not fix them.


I regularly hear people making statements such as "If we do Scrum, it will solve our problems".

The reality is in fact, it does exactly the opposite.  Scrum helps to expose problems.  In some way, you could view this as purposely creating them.

Let me explain.... The Scrum Framework is deceptively simple.  If followed properly, it will quickly show impediments to the development process.  As work continues, it will expose an increasing number of obstacles.  This is it's purpose.

Scrum does not fix a company or a system.  The fixing needs to be done by the company, team members, and management.

By exposing impediments, Scrum allows the removal of obstacles to the development process.  Due to it's time-box nature, it improves the focus of the teams and organization to fix those problems.

By removing those obstacles, it allows the team to go faster.

Think of a balloon filled with helium with several layers of straps and barriers keeping it down.

The balloon wants to climb, but cannot because of barriers holding it back.

Some people think that the measure of "velocity" can be used to "push" a team to go faster.  This is the equivalent of just pushing harder on the balloon to have it try and force the straps out of the way.

In a Scrum context, we realize that pushing the balloon harder to go up when a strap is holding it down only stretches the balloon to it's limits and will eventually cause it to explode as opposed to climb.

Work to remove the straps holding the balloon back, and it can be free to climb.

As the balloon climbs and more barriers are removed, it can start to move at it's natural rate (flow).

The benefit of Scrum is the removal of obstacles, not the solving of problems.  The problems Scrum expose need to be addressed.  Only then can the performance of the team increase.

The reality is that Scrum solves no problems at all.  Scrum exposes problems.

If Scrum shows you something that is hurting the development process, you need to adjust the process to remove the delay to the team.

Having the team changes its' way or worse; trying to change Scrum so you do not have to deal with the information, only serves to allow the straps to remain secure.

Trying to adjust Scrum to allow the "straps" to stay in place and just keep pushing will not fix the problem Scrum has shown.  What is intended is the direct application of pressure to remove the obstacle.

Please don't tell people that Scrum fixes problems.  Remember, Scrum exposes them.


by Mike Caspar
Passionate About Agile