Scrum is a framework, not a set of work instructions. The Scrum framework guides the way individuals interact and work together to deliver complex products. The flexibility of Scrum is its strength.
The true power of Scrum lies in its simplicity and flexibility. Scrum relies upon the intelligence of those using it to figure out the best way to apply Scrum in their unique environment. For this reason it is important for Scrum practitioners to understand that there are a lot of myths and misconceptions about Scrum that they should be wary of when they are applying Scrum to their unique environment. In this article, we will debunk some of the common Scrum myths.
Myth 1: The Sprint Review is just a demo
The misconception that the Sprint Review is merely a demo overlooks its fundamental purpose within the Scrum framework. While a demo may be a component of the Sprint Review, it represents just one facet of a broader process. The Sprint Review serves as an invaluable opportunity to inspect and assess what has been delivered over the course of the Sprint. For the Product Owner, it is a crucial moment to gather feedback that can potentially shape the content and ordering of the Product Backlog.
Part of the reason for the success of Scrum in helping people and teams deliver complex products is the fact that Scrum implements Empirical Process control. The three pillars of Empiricism are transparency, inspection, and adaptation. This means that during the Sprint Review, the Scrum team should be open and honest about how the Sprint unfolded, take a collective look at the increment that was delivered, and collaboratively brainstorm potential adaptations for the Product Owner to consider adding to the Product Backlog for delivery in future Sprints. In this way, the Sprint Review is far more than a mere demo – it is a vital part of the iterative, feedback-driven process that underpins successful product development with the Scrum framework.
Myth 2: Scrum is the same as SAFe
Another misconception in the Agile community is equating Scrum with SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework). While both fall under the Agile umbrella, they are distinct approaches with different scopes and purposes. Scrum is a lightweight, iterative framework designed for small, self-organizing teams to efficiently develop and deliver products. SAFe, on the other hand, is a framework used for scaling Agile practices across multiple teams and departments. SAFe introduces additional overhead including a broader set of roles, events, and artifacts to facilitate coordinated efforts in complex organizational settings.
While SAFe is the most popular scaling framework, it can introduce a significant amount of overhead. Before scaling with SAFe, organizations should consider whether scaling is even necessary by taking a look at their Product Definition. If scaling is still needed, consider a lightweight scaling framework such as Nexus.
Myth 3: The Scrum Master really doesn’t do that much
There seems to be this idea in the minds of those who are newer to scrum that the Scrum Master really just doesn’t do all that much. In fact, the Scrum Master holds a crucial position in ensuring the effectiveness and success of the Scrum Team and the broader organization. Their responsibilities are multifaceted, encompassing various essential functions as outlined in the Scrum Guide. One of their key roles is to establish and uphold Scrum practices within the team and the organization, ensuring a clear understanding of both theory and application. They act as true leaders, serving as a guiding force for the Scrum Team and the larger organizational ecosystem.
Furthermore, the Scrum Master is instrumental in enabling the Scrum Team to continually improve their practices within the Scrum framework. This involves coaching team members in self-management and cross-functionality, and ensuring that all Scrum events are conducted effectively and efficiently. Additionally, they play a pivotal role in removing any impediments that may hinder the progress of the Scrum Team, allowing them to focus on delivering high-value increments that meet the Definition of Done. Beyond the team, the Scrum Master also supports the Product Owner by facilitating effective Product Goal definition, aiding in concise Product Backlog management, and helping establish empirical product planning for complex environments.
In essence, the Scrum Master's contributions are indispensable to the success of the Scrum Team and the organization at large. Their leadership, coaching, and facilitation skills are vital in driving the adoption of Scrum principles and ensuring that all stakeholders, from team members to external collaborators, are aligned and empowered to work towards the common goal of delivering value.
Myth 4: Scaling is the best way to manage dependencies
A dependency occurs when one task, item in the Product Backlog, user story, or feature relies on another for completion or integration. Dependencies can impede the delivery of value, as a task dependent on another cannot be finished until the dependency is resolved. These dependencies can arise due to various factors, such as technical constraints or resource availability. The most common underlying cause of dependencies is a narrow product definition.
When the product definition is overly restricted, it can result in an abundance of Scrum teams each focused on a limited scope of value delivery. While this approach may initially appear to enhance focus, it can lead to unintended consequences. It may give rise to a deadlock of conflicting priorities throughout the organization, where what is vital for one team may be deemed less important by another. These conflicting priorities can lead to uncertainty about which tasks carry the highest organizational significance.
Many organizations opt to address these dependencies by implementing a scaling framework on top of their narrowly defined products, but this can be akin to applying a band-aid to a wound that requires stitches. A more effective approach is to take a step back and ask: what is the overarching product (or products) we want to deliver? Then, assemble the necessary resources to bring those products to fruition and form dedicated product teams for each. Each product team may comprise one or more Scrum teams collaborating under a single Product Owner and a unified vision to deliver value to the customer. For more on how to define products, signup for Rebel Scrum’s Product Definition Workshop.
It is crucial for Scrum practitioners to recognize common myths and misconceptions surrounding the framework. Scrum's true strength lies in its simplicity and adaptability. By dispelling common myths, teams can harness the full potential of Scrum to deliver value efficiently and effectively.