Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Start off by the book, if you're new to Scrum!

We started our agile journey a year ago. I knew that Scrum was increasingly popular and I read a lot about it (and other Agile methods). One of the great things about it was (and is) that it is so "common sense". Every description of the method(s) explain that you have to find your own way and that for example Scrum is just a framework, not a ready out-of-the-box method or toolset. This is great, but it was also (to us at least) a pitfall and contributed largely to one of the first really big mistakes (out of many ;-))...

Why? What happened? Oh, right.. I will explain. The pragmatic attitude of Scrum and the "laidback" sortof informal tone it gives when you read about it, made us feel like it was alright to cut corners; "Oh, yeah well we dont have to do it exactly by the book - Agile and Scrum says you need to find your own way right, an implementation and process set that suits you and your unique environment.. So then it's OK for us to skip the retrospections really, or to not have people appointed Scrum Master' [and so on]". We'd tend to use Scrum and Agile and its flexibility and humbleness, if you will, as an excuse to cut corners in the implementation. As a result, I think our implementation of Scrum/Agile has been suffering and consequently has taken a lot longer time than it otherwise could have. Don't get me wrong; the Agile approach has been meaningful and has improved our means of developing software from day one. I just feel it could have done us even more good even sooner. Many times throughout the past year we've discovered something new about Scrum that we've introduced (or had a problem that we've had to solve) which has really made us take one or several steps closer to a "real" Scrum implementation.

What I am saying is this: If you're new to Scrum and you want to introduce it in your organization or your team; do it by the book first. Don't cut corners or make tradeoffs! Set out to follow everything you read about it, 100%! Take that extra week of studying Agile and Scrum, or that extra $2000 CSM course. Do that, upfront from day one. No seriously. Do it.

I wish we had done that. You will want to learn and fully understand the method first and the thinking behind it, before you are capable of understanding how to make tradeoffs or cut corners. Yes, Scrum is a very flexible method (framework) and you definately need to adjust to your organizaiton in order for it to work fully for you. But you need to (really) understand it first before you're capable of understanding the full implications of shortcuts.

You will find a valuable checklist that you want to benchmark against, here, it's Henrik Kniberg's Scrum Checklist. I wish we had known about this sooner. Check it out.


  1. Interesting. We made the same mistakes obviously (in hindsight) when we introduced Scrum 2 years ago.

    We had no: retrospectives, scrum masters, not enough time set aside for product owners, managers still micromanaging, no planning poker but private backlogs estimated with time, no User Stories ... you name it. So we were off for a slow start. When i did the Nokia Test (based on my limited view of the whole) i get a score of 2-3 out of 10. Darn! (as Ken Schwaber likes to put it)

    Still, after two years the team gave a clear vote: more Scrum! More, More! And that's what we'll do.

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