When Scrum Goes Wrong

Last post 01:05 pm January 22, 2016
by Timothy Baffa
1 reply
10:22 pm January 21, 2016

Hi All,

Please advise how to approach a situation where as a new Scrum Master working with 2 experienced Scrum Masters one learns Scrum practices are not followed but instead a hybrid of Scrum and traditional Project Management practices. Thanks.

01:05 pm January 22, 2016


While Scrum is a somewhat prescriptive framework to promote an Agile mindset, it is critical to understand the reasons for everything promoted in Scrum, and the root causes of the dysfunctions that Scrum tries to address.

You likely won't get very far by highlighting areas around their "hybrid" approach, and stating that it isn't Scrum. They likely know it isn't Scrum. Try to understand the reasons why they are choosing the path they are on. Try to raise visibility into areas of inefficiency that they believe are necessary.

It isn't your job to change them. It is your job to get them to want to change. That is where your focus should be. And if they decide not to change, so be it, but you still need to raise awareness as much as possible around such poor practices, but in a non-threatening way. It is quite a balancing act.

A quick example:

I was a Scrum Master at a company that tried a "hybrid" methodology as well. It was a mess of course - I could see it, but others just buried their heads and continued to plow forward. The company tried to plan out their year in advance, and treated the "Scrum" portion as simply iterative development cycles, with all of the old heavy-handed operational and release frameworks in place.

The company spent hundreds of meeting hours with dozens of individuals in year-end planning meetings to come up with a "fixed" scope for the next year. In a PM-based CoP in December (Scrum Masters were considered PMs - talk about dysfunction), one of the PM's who was unhappy with the projections given to her stated that she would probably have a red status in February for being behind.

I asked her why she would agree to a long-range plan if she knew it was wrong (she attended these workshops, not me). She didn't have an answer.
I asked her and others in the meeting if they've ever completed their yearly plan, or even come close to projections. None did.
Finally, I asked them why they participated for weeks upon weeks in an exercise that they knew was a waste of time? They laughed about it, but had no real reply. Nothing changed, and they continued to be SINO (Scrum In Name Only).

It can be quite difficult sometimes. All you can do is make your observations known, and then move on.

Good luck!