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Team doesn't want to work Scrum

Last post 11:06 am November 20, 2018 by Eugene M
8 replies
09:20 am November 18, 2018


I recently got asked to be scrum master on a second team and decided first to "silently" monitor the team for a sprint to see what was going on. By silently I mean I was in listening-mode at their events (daily/refining/review/retro/planning), reviewed their product/sprintbacklog & metrics and had one-on-one conversations with Product Owner, Scrummaster-to-be-replaced, and members of the dev-team(7 people). The outcome; a hell of a challenge.

My findings, in order I attended:

- Sprintreview: There were no customers attending the demo. Although it was a good demo, it was demonstrated for the team itself. It felt pretty useless. No inspect & adapt happened. 40% of the work did not finish and no-one actually cared it didn't. The remaining userstories were dragged into the next sprint.

- Sprintretro: The team did a 2Word retro stating one bad thing and one good thing about the last sprint. A pretty good discussion went on, but no actionable improvements were written down/registered. Also no actionable improvements were planned for next Sprint. So pretty much all that was left from retro was a bunch of yellow stickies. 

- Sprintplanning: It was very unclear which userstories had to be planned during the Planning-event. The product owner was absent because of (personal) problems. The product backlog was not ordered and the Scrummaster planned the stories he thought would be the correct ones. The team did not plan the Sprint based on velocity but purely on time available. Also the items that were planned, were not/partially refined and did not meet the Definition of Ready. No sprint goals were defined, but by the look of it there should have been 5 different goals (with 1 or 2 people working on each goal). Userstories were mostly being planned to be worked on by 1 or 2 people. At the end of the planning no one asked / gave commitment to the planned Sprint Backlog.

- Daily Scrums: At daily scrums each person told what they did the last 24-hours, and what they were going to do in the next 24 hours. No impediments came up. People were not interested in eachothers work as they were working parallel on different subjects. People did do not their administration to the Sprint backlog (takes 3 minutes a day). The daily scrums felt purposeless. Halfway the sprint the scrumboard held 20 active userstories out of the planned 35, at the same time, with not one story closed! 

Eventually the sprint ended with over half the stories unfinished. Clear disturbing signals were simply ignored; bad burndown-rate, not enough time to finish committed work, etc. It felt like "rabbits caught in headlights".


In my conversations, the people on the team indicated that all these issues were due to the scrum "method" they had to follow. A clear fallacy.

Also they didn't understand why they should "continuously improve". They actually see NO reason for that. 

I want to suggest the whole team to enroll for a Scrum / Scrum Awareness - training, but it's probably not only knowledge but also mindset that drives the team.


Now before making up a plan on how to start with this team I would like to know how you look upon the team I describe above.

How would you handle this, of how would you handle parts of the problems described here?

One more question: What is your opinion on continuous improvement?


Thanks in advance,


02:59 pm November 18, 2018

I recently got asked to be scrum master on a second team

Who asked you to do this? Who wants Scrum to be implemented by that team, and what penalty or consequence will follow if it doesn’t happen?

03:44 pm November 18, 2018

Who asked you to do this? Who wants Scrum to be implemented by that team, and what penalty or consequence will follow if it doesn’t happen?

Hi Ian, thanks for the reply! At our office all the build-teams apply Scrum. My manager asked me to be the scrum master of that second team. No one on the team asked to work this way, it's basically the organizations' prescription. Also the company prescribes the use of the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) making this team one of the teams on the Agile Release Train and should work accordingly. I can't give you the answer on what penalty or consequence not following this way would have. 

I'm gonna ask the team if they can suggest another way of working(kanban only, waterfall, etc) and meanwhile I can figure out what consequences are. Any other follow-up tips you can give?



04:46 pm November 18, 2018

Doesn't sound too dissimilar from where I work...


I think these issues occur when you don't have support from upper management and the Team feels no consequences for not caring and/or delivering...

05:47 pm November 18, 2018

Explain to management the same thing you have described here and ask them if they think it’s good enough. Whatever vision they may have for organizational change, do the team’s current practices line up with it?

Put the emphasis firmly on the team’s ability to frame and meet Sprint commitments that stakeholders can depend upon. What are the consequences for delivering “Done” work and any forecasts that might be made? Do stakeholders care? Transparency is needed and you can help to supply it, though it might not always make you popular.

Organizational change is hard and must be sponsored by management. Assuming things aren’t up to snuff in their view, the first step they must take is to communicate a sense of urgency for change.

02:36 pm November 19, 2018

This thread is of real interest to me.   I am a Product Owner in a company that had been using waterfall for 28years then suddenly told to change to Agile/scrum.  They were given a 2 day basic course and then left to figure it out on their own.  Two years later there is much resistance to Scrum as no-one has really seen the value and worst of all, my scrum master thinks scrum is a waste of time...!!

Please keep this post updated on how you are getting on with your team as it may help me (and others)!!  

04:39 pm November 19, 2018

My current company went from a siloed, waterfallish process to Scrum when a new executive came in.  It was pitched as the magic bullet to help us deliver thing faster.  The company paid to have a company come in and do scrum training for the entire product and engineering organization. We even had the Agile Coach stay with us for almost 2 months afterwards. 

Today we still struggle with scrum on various teams at various times.  Our biggest problem is that that same executive is not supporting our efforts to be agile using Scrum.  A large portion of the company is not using agile practices and have no idea what they are. Parts of the Engineering organization (UX, Operations among others) are not doing any agile practices or are doing very home grown versions. Or Product Management organization still wants to do old stype PM/PO model and aren't really interacting with the stakeholders. Our Scrum Master team has asked multiple times to be able to work with areas outside our immediate teams to help spread the knowledge of Scrum and how other organizations interact with the teams but have been told no.

@Ian has some very good advice.  You will need management support for the transition or it will never be successful. You have an impediment to the success of your team and you need to find a way to start addressing it.  Have the courage to bring up the uncomfortable issues with the people that have it within their authority to address. I am lucky enough to have a level of management between me and the executives and that layer does see value in Scrum and is encouraging it.  I'll admit we are very much a Scrumbut shop but we do have more Scrum than buts. 

Another thing you can do is to start working with the team as a coach.  Help them understand the values of Scrum.  Help them understand the benefit of the events and artifacts. It sounds like you have a pretty good understanding of it.  Use your knowledge to help. It is part of the Scrum Masters job to do so after all.  My suggestion is that you do a overview with them, then start focusing on one thing at a time.  Help them realize the benefit one item at a time.  Also, start each event with a short explanation of why you are gathered and what the event is intended to produce. Facilitate to keep the events on track. 

Good luck. It won't be easy and I say that from recent experience. 

07:41 am November 20, 2018

When facing resistance to Scrum implementations it can be helpful to not talk about the "jargon", but the underlzing principles and practices and the benefits they might bring in your specific situation.

11:06 am November 20, 2018

Two years later there is much resistance to Scrum as no-one has really seen the value and worst of all, my scrum master thinks scrum is a waste of time...!!

Should be in pole-position for google "scrum master jokes" :)


Christopher, one thing I had found useful was to research similar (or not so similar) setups, where other companies found themselves in roughly the same spot (or other challenging ones) where we were, and try to learn from their struggles and solutions. There are good resources online, inlcuding case studies and videos.

Your company (management to be more precise) would also need to understand there is a learning curve, but, above all, they need to invest time, money and other resources if they really want to change - AND succeed. Try to get an expert - Ian M (see above) - to consult the company.


Very curious though that you are the main driver behind this, and not your SM - what are they up to anyway?

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