Friday, October 10, 2008

Are you really doing Scrum?


I’ve spent some time recently looking more closely at Scrum. One of the things that has come across is that Scrum is quite tightly defined. In particular it is tightly defined around its basic rules and the concept of a self-organizing team. And there are those who would argue that if you move away from some of the Scrum rules, or compromise on the self-organizing team then “you aren’t doing Scrum.”

Personally I don’t care if I’m not doing Scrum, what I care about is whether what I am doing is effective, whether it is improving and whether the customer is being served. That is why I documented Blue-White-Red or BWR for short. BWR is not Scrum, parts of it look like Scrum and it could be seen as a step towards Scrum but it is not Scrum.

As I’ve said before Scrum is where most of the attention is at the moment. A lot of organizations are looking at Agile and saying “Lets try it” and then deciding “Lets try Scrum flavoured Agile.” Therefore, it looks like a lot of teams are trying Scrum.

Using the strict definition of Scrum most of these companies are not doing Scrum. They think they are doing “Scrum”, they may even say they are doing Scrum, and the Scrum alliance may be happy to count then as “doing Scrum” but using the strict definition of Scrum they aren’t.

For example, a friend of mine specialises in Agile in Banks. In the summer he was hired to help a Big UK/International bank adopt Scrum. But, I don’t think the bank are removing their project managers, nor are they embracing self-organizing teams they way Scrum mandates. But if you ask them they will probably say “We are doing Scrum.” My guess is they are doing something closer to BWR.

I have nothing against Scrum, in fact I like it. I believe self-organizaing teams are the best way to organise work. I’m happy for the Scrum alliance to have its definition, I’m happy to help people adopt Scrum. If Scrum “succeeds” then Agile is growing and I’m happy.

But strict-Scrum isn’t a good cultural fit for many organizations. Leave aside which is the better way to manage a team and look at what organizations do. Most organization use some form of command-and-control, they have layers of managers telling people what to do. For such organizations to claim they do Scrum is wrong.

Perhaps one of the reasons why it appears Scrum is the most popular Agile method is simply the number of job adverts for Scrum Masters and Scrum Product Owners. Look this example pulled from JobServe recently:

“Media Project Manager - Scrum Master: ... looking for a Project Manager (Scrum Master) to work for one of their leading media/publishing clients in London. ... You will have a proven record in the delivery of content focussed online/development projects and have Prince II Practitioner accreditation.”

Firstly, on the strict-Scrum definition there is no Project Manager. So if you have a project manager you aren’t doing Scrum. Conversely, if you are following Scrum then you have self-organizing teams so you are not doing Prince II.

I have no way of knowing whether this organization thinks it is doing Scrum or Prince II but it sounds like they are doing neither. Yet to the casual viewer it looks like someone else is doing Scrum (and Prince II). I suspect this organization is doing some form of Agile and is simply looking to set filters on the CVs that come in. Looking for Scrum Master certification is like looking for Prince II certification, it doesn’t mean much.