January 4, 2022

Don’t confuse Scrum with “An Implementation of Scrum”

scrum

Scrum was introduced in 1995. Since then, as more people, teams, and organizations have started using Scrum, the framework has grown into the most used method for agile product delivery.

And as the popularity of Scrum started to grow, many misinterpretations of the framework grew with it. Interestingly, the strength of Scrum is also its “weakness”.

The power of Scrum

What makes the Scrum framework particularly powerful is its imperfect and incomplete nature. As a framework, Scrum itself doesn’t really DO much. It merely focuses on ‘the what’ and leaves ‘the how’ to the self-managing ability of the Scrum team.

An example:

The purpose of the Daily Scrum is to inspect progress toward the Sprint Goal and adapt the Sprint Backlog as necessary, adjusting the upcoming planned work. How you do an effective Daily Scrum is up to the Developers as they are the ones who should take ownership of this event.

If we zoom in a little bit, we’ll see that the framework consists of various accountabilities where each plays a vital role in delivering value in a complex environment.

The Scrum framework is purposefully incomplete, only defining the parts required to implement Scrum theory. Scrum is built upon by the collective intelligence of the people using it. Rather than provide people with detailed instructions, the rules of Scrum guide their relationships and interactions. - Scrum Guide 2020

As a result, each Scrum team will eventually have their own ‘implementation of Scrum’. The events, roles, artifacts and rules that bind them all can be found in the Scrum Guide. This is just “the mechanical side of Scrum”. How you actually do Scrum can be different per team, and that’s OK! Don’t worry.

 

However, if each team has their own ‘implementation of Scrum’, when is it a good Scrum implementation, and when is it a bad Scrum implementation? This is where the values and principles of Scrum come in.

When these values are embodied by the Scrum Team and the people they work with, the empirical Scrum pillars of transparency, inspection, and adaptation come to life building trust. — Scrum Guide 2020

An example:

A good implementation of Scrum is a team that commits to achieving their Sprint Goal. The goal should be clear, but how to get there can alter or even emerge during the Sprint. A bad implementation of Scrum is a team that commits to their Sprint Backlog. When asked, “what do you consider as a successful Sprint”, it will be something like “when all items in our Sprint are done”. This often leads to top-down micromanaging and feature factory behaviour.

The “weakness” of Scrum

Because Scrum (as a framework) focuses on ‘the what’ and leaves the ‘how’ open, a gap occurs. Naturally, Scrum practitioners and notorious (scaling) frameworks start filling up this gap. Usually, this is a good thing because, as I mentioned earlier, this is one of the framework’s strengths. However, the cracks start showing when the underlying philosophy, values and principles of Scrum are not fully understood but are being presented as the truth. And due to ignorance, factors such as mindset, the way of working, solutions, and complementary practises are seen as part of a framework that was intended to be simple by design. This is where the misinterpretations of Scrum starts emerging.

I’ve been teaching Scrum.org courses for many years, and I’ve concluded that ‘years of experience’ and all these fancy certificates doesn’t equal understanding. The students that struggle the most in our classes are the ones that need to unlearn the most.

Conclusion

  • Scrum is a simple framework with accountabilities, events and artifacts.
  • Often when people bash Scrum, pay attention as it is often about an implementation of Scrum.
  • How you effectively implement Scrum is up to the self-managing ability of the Scrum team.
  • Don’t standardize your implementation of Scrum. Each team has different needs and requires a different implementation of Scrum.
  • Although you have a different implementation of Scrum, the rules of Scrum, as described in the Scrum Guide, still applies and should be respected.
  • Make sure that the Scrum team embodies the Scrum values and the people they work with; the empirical Scrum pillars of transparency, inspection, and adaptation come to life building trust.

What is the most effective implementation of Scrum? No idea, but keep Scrum as your base and have this conversation with your team. Keep on experimenting, keep on exploring and keep on Scrum’in!

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