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“Helpful” Practices that May be Holding your Scrum Team Back

December 2, 2023

Scrum Traps

Scrum is the most popular Agile framework today, with over 90% of Agile teams using the Scrum framework (16th annual State of Agile report from Digital AI).  The idea behind Scrum is empiricism, or making decisions based upon what is known.  To get the most out of the Scrum framework, teams should embrace transparency, practice frequent inspection of value delivered and enable teams to adapt to new information.  


However, many teams who have adopted Scrum use it only as window dressing - or worse, adopt practices which are intended to be ‘helpful’ but which actually hinder teams from delivering value.  These practices sound like a good idea, but they are actually ‘traps’ which may hold back organizations from getting the most out of the Scrum framework.


In this article, we'll explore some of these common mental traps and shed light on why they may not be as beneficial as they initially seem.

Micromanagement in the Guise of Support

One of the most counterproductive practices is micromanagement, which often masquerades as active support for Scrum Teams. While managers may have the best intentions at heart, constant oversight and interference can stifle team autonomy and creativity. Scrum encourages self-organization and trusts teams to manage their own workloads. Micromanaging can lead to a lack of ownership, reduced morale, and ultimately hinder the team's ability to deliver quality results.  See our recent article, 10 Signs you are Micromanaging your Scrum Team.

Overloading Teams with Concurrent Projects

In an attempt to maximize productivity, some organizations assign team members to multiple projects simultaneously. While this may seem like a way to utilize resources efficiently, it can actually lead to burnout and decreased overall effectiveness. Scrum emphasizes focus and prioritization, advocating for teams to work on a limited number of tasks at any given time. Overloading teams with concurrent projects can result in decreased quality, missed deadlines, and increased stress levels among team members.

Insisting on Detailed Documentation Over Collaboration

In certain industries, there is a tendency to prioritize extensive documentation over face-to-face collaboration. While documentation is important for traceability and compliance, excessive focus on it can hinder the agile nature of Scrum. The Agile Manifesto places higher value on individuals and interactions over processes and tools. Over-reliance on documentation can slow down decision-making, impede responsiveness to change, and hinder the team's ability to deliver incremental value quickly.

Ignoring Continuous Learning and Improvement

In some cases, organizations may view Scrum as a set of rigid rules that must be strictly followed, rather than an adaptable framework that encourages continuous learning and improvement. Teams that are not given the space to experiment, fail, and learn from their experiences are missing out on the true essence of Agile methodologies. Encouraging a culture of continuous learning and improvement empowers teams to refine their processes, adapt to changing circumstances, and ultimately deliver higher-quality outcomes.

Neglecting the Importance of Cross-Functional Teams

While Scrum encourages cross-functional teams with diverse skill sets, some organizations may continue to segregate roles into silos. This can hinder collaboration and limit the team's ability to take ownership of their work. A truly cross-functional team is empowered to take on a wide range of tasks, from development to testing and beyond. Neglecting this aspect of Scrum can lead to inefficiencies, bottlenecks, and reduced adaptability.  To learn how to define products for your organization, signup for Rebel Scrum’s upcoming Product Definition workshop.  


While the intention behind adopting complimentary practices is often to support Scrum Teams, it's important to critically evaluate their impact. The key to successful Scrum implementation lies in understanding the core principles and values that underlie the framework. By recognizing and avoiding practices that can hinder team autonomy, collaboration, and adaptability, organizations can unlock the full potential of Scrum and deliver high-quality results in an ever-changing business landscape. Remember, the true essence of Scrum lies in embracing a mindset of continuous improvement, trust, and empowerment.

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