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Scrum: The Obstacle Is The Way

February 25, 2021

Scrum: The Obstacle Is The Way

Scrum is hard. To be more specific, learning Scrum is easy, using Scrum to develop complex products is hard.

Scrum exposes many of the obstacles that will prevent us from building valuable products. The way forward is through these obstacles.

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” – Marcus Aurelius

A common misconception around Scrum is that once you adopt it things will become easier. Unfortunately, while this may be the goal, this is not automatically and immediately true.

Scrum often makes things harder, at least in the short term. This is on purpose and by design. Scrum is designed to expose the biggest obstacles & impediments that lie on your way. Scrum helps to make this transparent.

Traditional development approaches often result in issues being hidden away or ignored until late on. Bad news typically only arrives shortly before a scheduled release. At this point, we are typically in a testing phase and have little usable product. Options at this point are limited. Usually, the only way forward is to add more time and money. Trust is lost as sponsors wonder why these problems weren’t discovered much sooner.

Scrum is different, although not in the way that many expect. Scrum will not solve your underlying issues/impediments. What it will do it help you discover them much earlier. Early discovery is powerful as it gives you more options and more time to deal with them.

By building part of your product to a Done state, Sprint after Sprint, you make transparent the issues that make this difficult or even impossible.

Discovering issues early means we have time to do something about them. Adding time and money at this stage is a possibility. Finding issues at this early stage gives us another important option. We can accept the reality of the speed of delivery (even if it does not meet initially hoped for expectations) and move to reduce the scope of the work.

Whilst Scope reduction may be uncomfortable, it is often the best choice to deal with the rate of delivery not meeting expectations. There is not equal value in all the things we plan to build.

This scope reduction is made possible as we are developing iteratively and incrementally with Scrum. We do not have to discard partially complete work which would result in significant waste.

The secret to all of this is having the courage to face up to problems as they arise and act based on the reality of the situation. We may want a faster delivery, but we should plan and make choices based on the reality of the situation in front of us rather than a fictionalised ideal that has proven to be impossible at the current time.

Scrum is hard. It shows us the bad news sooner. But there is power in this if we can learn to embrace it. Early identification gives us more options. The obstacle is the way!

With inspiration from The Obstacle Is The Way by Ryan Holiday.

Simon KneafseyHi, my name is Simon Kneafsey and I am a Professional Scrum Trainer with & I am on a mission to simplify Scrum for a million people. I have helped over 10,000 people so far and I can help you too.

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