Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Scrum Wall (another Agile failure mode)

I recently came across the expression “The Scrum Wall”, as in the expression “Hitting the Scrum Wall”. Its akin to “the pain barrier”, or “feel the burn” in aerobics workouts of old.

Once I heard it I knew what it was, I’ve talked about this before, now I know it has a name.

The Scrum Wall is the thing Bob Martin described at the ACCU conference. And it is probably why Jeff Sutherland endorses Test Driven Development and other technical practices from XP.

You hit the Scrum wall when you adopt Scrum and everything goes well, then, after a few Sprints things don’t work any more - to use an English expression, they go pear shaped. You can’t keep your commitments, you can’t release software, your customers get annoyed and angry, it looks like Scrum is broken.

This is what happens when you adopt Scrum without technical practices such as Test Driven Development, continuous integration and refectoring. When teams adopt the Scrum process, they go faster, show progress, things look good... and then the quality becomes a problem. Now the team are fighting through quick sand.

The code quality is poor and developers are expected to continue to make progress. Maybe the Scrum Master/Project Manager reverts to past behavior and demands overtime and weekend working. Maybe the team start busting a gut to keep their commitments. Either way the team is heading for burn-out.

That’s the wall.