Scrum is not a magic wand
October 05, 2022 • ⌛ 9 min
Some people would like to use Scrum to solve their problems without any effort. I must disappoint you, Scrum is not a magic wand and it simply doesn’t work that way.
I would rather compare it to the ingredient in the potion. In some cases it is a crucial ingredient that will make your potion working, but sometimes it can work like a poison, because you didn’t use it well.
I am a huge fan of Harry Potter, but I’m sorry - this post will not be about magic. Today I would like to talk about verification if Scrum is a good solution for you.
When you decide to use Scrum in your company, you should ask yourself first:
Is my project or environment complex?
To verify that you can use Stacey Matrix (picture below). It includes 3 factors that you need to consider to decide if your environment is complex:
The horizontal axis represents technology that you need to use. Is it a new technology that your team hasn’t used before? Or maybe you already used it many times and the technology part is not a problem for you.
The less you know technology required for the project, the further you need to go on the axis.
The vertical axis in Stacey Matrix represents requirements in your project. Are they really straightforward and clear for everyone? Be careful - I am not talking about short requirements that can transform into monsters later on. If requirements are simple and clear, it’s quite possible that you are on the bottom of the vertical axis.
There is also another scenario when you have so many requirements and you are wondering how to manage them. Or there are so many elements in the requirements that are not clear. If that’s your case, keep going up on the vertical axis.
The last factor, but frequently forgotten by organisations - people. You can have well defined and simple requirements, known technology, but you just hired new team members to develop the product. What doesn’t mean? You should put yourself far away from the beginning of the people line, because team members will need to be onboarded, get to know each other & learn how to work together.
To verify your position, you need to check if:
- your team members have been working together before
- there are any new joiners
- you have enough skills in the team to create the product
All of these elements: technology, requirements & people can help you to decide if your environment is simple, complicated or complex.
- Simple environment doesn’t require implementation of Scrum. You can keep working using traditional waterfall methodology. It doesn’t mean that you don’t need to change. Maybe you can improve the way you communicate with your clients and try to promote the Agile mindset within your company.
- Complicated environment also doesn’t need Scrum. It also doesn’t mean that you don’t need to change anything. But Scrum will be probably a little bit too much for your team.
- Complex - that’s the environment perfect for Scrum. Before moving on and implementing it, check other points that will help you to verify if Scrum is for you.
Scrum has changed over the last few years. In the past it was a framework used only in software development. Even the way of describing Scrum in the Scrum Guide has changed.
Scrum (n): A framework within which people can address complex adaptive problems, while productively and creatively delivering products of the highest possible value.
Scrum is a process framework that has been used to manage work on complex products since the early 1990s.
Scrum is a lightweight framework that helps people, teams and organisations generate value through adaptive solutions for complex problems.
We are humbled to see Scrum being adopted in many domains holding essentially complex work, beyond software product development where Scrum has its roots.
You can see the difference. Currently Scrum is not only for creating products in software development, but it has been used in many other domains where people generate value.
Does it mean that it will fit into every single environment? To be honest I don’t think so. Scrum is just a framework. We should use it only if it serves our company, team. I believe that it shouldn’t be used just for the purpose of using it. We always need to know WHY we use it instead of following the market trend.
I believe that analysing your context is crucial in making a decision if Scrum is for you.
What is your industry?
There was a time when I worked in the fund accounting team in the financial company. I found out about Scrum around that time, but even if I would like to implement Scrum there, it wouldn’t make any sense. Why? We were working on a daily/hour basis and had deadlines with our clients every hour. It’s not something that you could simply change, because that was strictly related to the market and industry.
It is just one example, but there are many other industries that don’t really need Scrum. And that’s ok! Remember - Scrum is not a magic wand.
Scrum will work well in the industry where you can generate value, create product increment on the Sprint basis. If you work only on a daily, task basis, you should consider some less complex options e.g. Kanban.
Ask your people
Let’s imagine that you verified and you recognize that your environment is complex and you think that Scrum will be perfect in your industry.
Before going further and implementing anything, stop & ask people in your organisation what they think about this idea.
I know, I know - some people will be afraid of change and they will freak out. That’s normal. What you need to find out is - what are their needs. I assume that you don’t want to use Scrum just for the purpose of using it, so make sure that you decide to use it based on your and your team members’ needs.
Check with them:
- Their main challenges - what are they struggling with every day?
- What is bothering them? - they think it should work differently, but they don’t know how.
- How do they feel about implementing changes?
- Do they know what Scrum is? What do they think about implementing it?
- What do they need to feel better?
- Do they have any ideas for improvements?
Remember, Scrum is focused around people generating value or great products. You want to address pain points of your team members by using Scrum. It is really important to have a clear WHY as the outcome from discussion with your people. Why would you decide to implement Scrum? How can you use it to help your team members overcome their daily challenges?
You will not be able to implement anything if your team will not be onboard. So make sure that you understand them well and make a thoughtful choice.
Are you ready for change?
Change is an inevitable and important part of Scrum. It will help you to verify if Scrum is a good option for you.
I wanted to write about it, because some companies are simply not ready to change. What do I mean by that? It is possible that your company has a really old-school mindset and the way how it is structured at this stage, will not allow for creating cross-functional teams.
This is a common problem and I believe you should sort it out before implementing any other changes. If your team members work individually and the company doesn’t really allow you to update the structure to enable collaboration, Scrum will not serve you well.
Maybe your teams work in silos on the product and none of them is capable of generating value independently. Fix it before implementing Scrum!
Readiness for change means also being mentally prepared. Remember, Scrum will require many changes in your team, organisation and the way you think. If you really want to implement it, you need to be open-minded and allow yourself for mistakes in the journey that is waiting upon you.
Scrum is not a magic wand, that’s why you need to to make sure it is the right framework for you. Before implementing Scrum:
- Verify the complexity of your environment.
- Check your context - does Scrum fit into your industry?
- Consult it with people in your team, company.
- Ask yourself - Are you ready for change?
These steps will help you to make thoughtful choices and clarify WHY you want to implement Scrum.
Do you know any other ways to verify if Scrum is a suitable framework for someone? Feel free to add your ideas in the comment section.
Join our community
Sign up for newsletter to get the latest news.