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Open Letter to all the People Being Forced to do Scrum

July 14, 2019

I've been thinking about the people who complain about being forced to do Scrum.

I agree that forcing self-organizing teams to do something seems counterproductive.  However, even in that scenario, there are only a few hard and fast Scrum rules. Anything else I'm being made to do is not Scrum's fault: 

  1. My teammates and I have to meet once a month to come up with a goal we can accomplish together in the next month. To help make sure the work we're doing has value to the organization I work for, someone on the team is going to help decide what work to achieve that goal would be most valuable.
  2. We need to make the work that my teammates and I pull from available to the people in the organization for whom we work, however, someone on the team has the final say about what's in the list. 
  3. The items in the above list need to include the order in which we think the work is going to be started, a description, an estimate, and some indicator of value. Those four properties can change whenever we discover something new. 
  4. During our meeting, my teammates and I need to create a plan to achieve the above work, but it only needs to have enough details to get started. 
  5. My teammates and I have to meet once a day to talk about how we're going to work together on our plan. 
  6. We need to keep our plan up to date. 
  7. The work my teammates and I do needs to meet a predefined level of quality. The organization I work for may set a baseline, but if that doesn't exist, we can choose that predefined level of quality. At the bare minimum, what we've produced during the month must be usable.
  8. My teammates and I have to meet once a month to get feedback on the work we did from the people who care about what we're building. At this point, our work needs to be in a state where it meets the predefined level of quality and is usable. 
  9. My team has to pause once a month to talk about how we can improve how we work together. We have to come up with one improvement for the next month. 

So yeah, that's a bunch of stuff I'm forced to do, but it doesn't feel so bad when I consider the autonomy and organizational support that comes with Scrum:

  1. Other than the rules I've listed, no one from outside my team gets to decide how we're going to work together.
  2. I have input on the goal our team is trying to accomplish, and I have the final say on whether I think the goal do-able or not. 
  3. My team get to decide how we estimate our work and only the people doing the work on my team decides what those estimates are.
  4. No one from outside my team gets to decide what we work on and the people doing the work on my team get to choose how much work we think we can accomplish.
  5. No one tells us how to run our daily meeting, where or when to hold it and who gets to participate.
  6. The organization I work for ensures that my teammates and I get a minimum of 20 hours a month to plan our work, review the work and discuss how we want to improve. We could use less if we don't need that time. We could do more if we decide there's value in it.
  7. The organization needs to support someone on the team whose job it is to help us understand these rules and to get the most benefit from following them.

Forcing a team to do Scrum isn't the best approach, but if you are in that situation, understand the value it delivers, and appreciate the autonomy that comes with it. 

P.S.If you think I missed anything in my lists, please add a comment, and I'll be happy to update it.

Steve Porter

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