Are the systemic issues you encountered under your previous project management philosophy are still cropping up after implementing Scrum?  There are a number of reasons that Scrum can fail but when you dig deeper you're usually going to see some recurring themes.  In this post we are going to examine these themes and shed light on possible solutions.  

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If you are having trouble getting the most out of your existing Scrum setup, we offer comprehensive Scrum Coaching here at Spire.  

One of the reasons that Scrum is so attractive is because it's so easy to learn and so simple to follow.  There are only 3 roles, Sprints are manageable, the retro meetings help you fix systemic issues.  Easy enough, right?  Scrum is indeed simple, almost deceptively so.  If you're moving from a previous method it can be hard to break your old habits and get complete buy in from your team.  So let's take a closer look at why you might be struggling with Scrum:

1.) Mixing Methods

Like many things in life, Scrum will only be effective if you stick to it.  Perhaps an aspect of Kanban or XP really tickles your fancy and you want to tie it into your projects moving forward.  It's temping to mix and match components from other Agile methods because they look attractive in a vacuum.  Unfortunately, Scrum won't work as designed if you start introducing foreign components.  This is true of the other Agile methods as well but the impact of mixing methods is more apparent in Scrum because of how basic it is.

2.) Scrum-Fall

Even less effective is the idea of of applying a Scrum workflow process to a Waterfall development project.  Given the longevity of the Waterfall development method, this is perhaps the most common mistake that developers make when they decide to move to Scrum.  In practice, these deployments often remain Waterfall in nature and apply new names to meetings.  The beauty of Scrum is how flexible and efficient it is and Waterfall just can't keep pace.  Quite simply. Scrum and Waterfall are the oil & water of the development world and forcing them together just won't work. 

3.) Skipping Stand-up's

There will be days when you have fires to put out and it feels like there are no minutes to spare for "another meeting" but you've got to do it.  The reason stand-up's are effective is because they keep everyone on the same page.  A huge component of a stand-up is the discussion of impediments.  When a team member speaks to the group about an impediment they are having, people start brainstorming and offering solutions.  In addition, the Scrum Master and Product Owner are getting the facts they need.  Perhaps time or resources need to be shifted to solve the problem and keep people moving forward on their tasks.  If you skip the stand-up, you are missing out on this collaborative aspect of Scrum.

4.) Mindset

Generally speaking, if you aren't completely Scrum then your projects will suffer.  It's a simple method, almost deceptively so, but it only works if you commit to it.  In most cases a failure of Scrum points to a failure to change the mindset of your team.  If a Product Owner doesn't formulate the right back log or communicate properly with stake holders, a project is doomed at the outset.  If a Scrum Master views themselves as a "project manager" instead of a facilitator, they won't be an effective resource for the team.  If team members fall into tunnel vision, only caring about their own tasks, projects will remain disjointed and miss out on the benefits of collaboration.   


If you are concerned that you aren't "Scrummy" enough, chances are good that you're making one or more of the above mistakes.  If you think some additional coaching would benefit your team, or if you'd just like to start a discussion on getting more from your Scrum deployment, let us know!

Shiraz Hemani
CEO - Spire Business Services


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