Your Bastardized Version of SCRUM is Actually Harming Your Project.

The real power of SCRUM lies not just in its organization of daily tasks, but in its extraordinary prediction power. Sprints and standups are just a part of the equation. Stop blaming your butchered method for your late deliveries; stick to the rules and get ready to get your socks knocked off.

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Disclaimer: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

SCRUM doesn’t work with every project, nor it does with every team. It could, potentially, but for the framework to really shine in its grandiosity the whole team needs to be fully committed to its rules and have a fluid willingness to polish the technique. Also, the whole team needs to be involved, which brings other advantages like more knowledge about your team member’s strengths. Perfecting SCRUM can take months, it can get frustrating, tedious. Questions arise, and that’s why the Retrospective meeting is so important, because it’s the place where this can be discussed. The Retrospective should also be the SCRUM Master’s field, where she or he should act as both framework leader and therapist. However, it is all worth it. I cannot repeat this enough. IT IS ALL WORTH IT.

  • Your daily stand-up lasts longer than 15 minutes, or it’s not unusual to have longer specification discussions where some or most team members daze off.
  • The product owner doesn’t show to some or all the meetings, although he should be present at all times.
  • There are frequent requests that need to be included and that are not in the original planning. Most of these requests are not discussed by the team.
  • Spikes turn into new sprints, or sprints have to be lengthened.
  • Sprints are excessively long, teams are excessively large.

1. Be ridiculously disciplined, especially at first.

If you want to get to the juicy part of SCRUM, the prediction, you need to play by the rules. And I guarantee you want to get to the prediction, because that’s where SCRUM shines.

2. Be willing to familiarize yourself with every single bit of a project.

When I joined my team, I was almost exclusively a UX designer. The peak of my programming knowledge was editing jQuery demos. Yet, by Sprint 4 or so, I was estimating effort and risk for database integrations. How on earth did that happen?

Make your own planning poker

3. Be open and transparent.

What I mean by this is the following: In SCRUM, transparency is paramount. Nobody will stand over your shoulder making sure you are working on the card you just moved to the “In Progress” column, but because the planning is done in a group, you need to be honest (or very skilled) at defending your chosen effort score, and whatever you do will be written all over your velocity.

4. Be vocal.

Meetings are all about communication. Standups require you to be clear and focused. During Plannings, you will need to explain and defend your position, but standups are just a report and a quick alignment opportunity. Reviews thrive on honesty and focus on improving the product, and so do Retrospectives but they are only about how the team works.

5. Now, chill and predict.

This is the main reason why I am a SCRUM evangelist: If you do it right, if you survive the creeping hours of meetings (in the beginning especially), the fear of giving scores for things that sound completely alien and the pressure of expressing what’s really in your mind, you will belong to a team that works like a damn clock. You might even have time to get inspired.

Anthropologist & User Experience Designer. I write about science and technology. Robot whisperer. VR enthusiast. Gamer. @yisela_at

Anthropologist & User Experience Designer. I write about science and technology. Robot whisperer. VR enthusiast. Gamer. @yisela_at