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Scrum – the difficulty hidden in simplicity

Post date 10.12.2020

The Scrum Team is ready to work, Scrum Master is on the board and Product Owner is already excited about new strategies, immediate results, and – eventually – about the success of the whole project. Sticky notes are everywhere and we are ready to take over the world!

It sounds like a fairytale, an ideal plan. Unfortunately, reality quickly verifies these ideas. Scrum – despite its unquestionable value – does not make problems magically disappear. It is not a perfect panacea for every dilemma the Scrum Team has to face but a framework that can improve the system and work organization if implemented rightly.

The most important elements of Scrum

Scrum Team

Every Scrum Team consists of one Scrum Master, one Product Owner, and Developers. Practice shows that one person shouldn’t take two or three of these roles on themselves. The reason for that is quite simple – the conflict of interests.

The essence of the Scrum Team is its interdisciplinarity. It does not mean that every member has to have the knowledge needed for an unaided realization of the project (it would be ridiculous!). However, the Scrum Team should have possibilities, skills, and a will for improvement that would allow the realization of a fully functional, desirable product.

Scrum Events: Sprint, Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review, Sprint Retrospective

Sprint is the basis of work organization in Scrum. Sprint contains a typical creative process and the following events:

– Sprint Planning – describes the aim and a plan for the whole iteration (Sprint)

– Daily Scrum – everyday meetings regulating work process, organizing tasks for the next 24h

– Sprint Review – an inspection of work done in the past Sprint. It is the moment when stakeholders give feedback to the Scrum Team.

– Sprint Retrospective – an analysis of the work process in the past Sprint and relations between co-workers, time for afterthoughts, and articulation of improvements that should be implemented in the next Sprint

Values: inspection, adaptation, transparency

They allow verification of work, a realization of premises, etc. They enable quick reaction to emerging obstacles and implementation of adjustments. Respecting these values leads to a thorough understanding of all modifications and their causes by the whole Scrum Team. It is vital that everyone understands and interprets them in the same way.

Artifacts: Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog, Increment

Sprint Backlog is an organized list of everything that is known at the moment and considered valuable in the process of product development. Sprint Backlog functions in an analogous way but it regards a particular iteration. It specifies work that should be done to achieve the Sprint Goal. The increment is a value of work done during the last Sprint and a sum of all past Sprints that is consistent with the Definition of Done.

It’s easy! We will implement Scrum in a nick of time!

It is written in the Scrum Guide itself that Scrum is simple and easy to understand but at the same time very difficult to put into practice. Even though the above Scrum rules seem banal, the Scrum Team may struggle with their implementation. Sometimes the initial excitement evolves into disappointment caused by imprecise framework implementation.

Here are some problems that may appear at the beginning of work in Scrum:

Low transparency in communication

The value of proper communication is often overlooked. Lack of concrete actions aimed at checking the understanding of the plan leads to a situation when every member of the Scrum Team has accomplished the task in a way that is not compatible with the rest and does not add to the value of the product. That is why it is vital to allow one of the Scrum Team members to summarise the prepared plan with everybody. It allows verification of the common idea at an early stage of the work process.

Too much work planned

Clearly, it is difficult to predict how much work the Scrum Team is able to do during one Sprint. However, the morale is high and the Scrum Team is eager to work so it is tempting to add some more tasks to the Sprint Backlog. After a while, it becomes normal that the Sprint Backlog bursts at the seams…

Too many responsibilities, extra hours, and growing frustration may lead to a lack of motivation and satisfaction from work. Why would we implement Scrum then?

Exactly for the purpose of avoiding such situations! Scrum gives space for calm discussions about the Scrum Team’s potential as well as for the verification of the mistakes and current way of work. These practices prevent the Scrum Team from potential burnout and senseless tasks.

Elephant in the room

It is a phenomenon of avoiding difficult topics that results in the creation of taboos. The Scrum Team is aware of something being off but no one addresses the issue as nobody wants to start a depressing process of pointing out flaws present in the work process. This is the situation that the Scrum Master should take care of. He or she should moderate the discussion (preferably during the Sprint Retrospective) in a way that would allow the Team to address the problematic issues. Honest discussions about the problem result in a higher comfort of work and a better product at the end of the Sprint.

Scrum…so what about it?

Scrum is based on a few simple but obligatory rules. Luckily, it does not mean that Scrum limits our freedom of action. Scrum helps to organize work in a way that enhances regular inspections, improvements, and tangible results. This agility supports the process of product creation as it grants order and better results. Moreover, it positively influences co-workers relations what may be crucial for the team striving for progress. However, one has to remember that Scrum is not a magical system that would rescue the Scrum Team from every misfortune. It does not deliver scalable benefits to everyone. It is only a framework. The crucial part is the way it would be implemented by the Scrum Team depending on the type of the project and the Scrum Team’s understanding of an empirical method. That is the essence of difficulty hidden in the simple concept of Scrum.

Author: Joanna Dawidowska


  • ScrumGuide

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