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Why the Scrum Method has Broad Appeal

The method works because it contends with the challenges of delivering on a software development project while creating a motivating work environment.


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According to the latest State of Agile Survey,conducted by VersionOne, Scrum is used by 58 percent of Agile teams, up from 50 percent, the number reported in 2009. Scrum adoption clearly has momentum, but what is the big attraction, and is it something we should consider for the future?

I believe that that part of Scrum’s appeal is that it is easy to buy into and adopt because it is simple to understand. This simplicity along with an abundance of press and support gets Scrum through the door in many organizations. But there needs to be more to the story to support why Scrum is sticking. And there is. This article explores my take on why Scrum’s adoption is increasing.

I’ll begin with the end in mind…



The Future State

Imagine a world (well, a working world, anyway) where you are on a software development team. A world where you and your team have the complete trust, respect, and support to work as an autonomous team – making all of the day-to-day decisions about how to perform your work for yourselves. Management doesn’t interfere with you or your team; it operates as a coach and servant, providing your team with guidance and support to overcome obstacles and get the job done.

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In this world you and your team are more than just aligned with the business, you’re connected to it. Your team delivers working software in very short intervals measured in weeks, not months. In addition, this working software demonstrates actual features (not horizontal, architectural layers), providing a natural unit of work that your users can understand and relate to. This, along with the constant interaction between the team and the business users has created a strong bond between the team and the users.

It’s a demanding, competitive world, but you and your team remain on the top of your game because the development pace is sustainable, allowing individuals to develop and grow. The inessential bureaucratic overhead has been stripped away, retaining only what is truly necessary to manage and coordinate the delivery of a continual stream of high-quality software without the risk of burnout.

The work environment has an informal feel to it, with white boards, index cards, and sticky-notes, but this only masks the focus and discipline that lies just beneath the surface. There is a deep understanding of what it takes to deliver quality software on your team, which is staffed with committed professionals who are constantly striving to learn new techniques and practices. Because of all of this, your work is genuinely rewarding to you.

Is this a pipe dream? It doesn’t have to be. This is precisely what Scrum can help to deliver. But nothing is for free. It’s a little like flying these days; there are some fees to pay if you want to arrive at your destination with your entire luggage.

Scrum is Not …

Let’s take off the rose-colored glasses. Scrum is not is a “flavor of the month” management fad. Too often, managers hear something like, “we can double our productivity,” but don’t ask what it will take to achieve such a dramatic increase. 

Being agile is harder than declaring agility. For example, people can become certified ScrumMasters or Product Owners and you can check things off as being “done” from an educational standpoint, but your execution may be far from agile. In the Scrum world, this can manifest itself as being a ScrumBut. “We do Scrum, but we don’t have a Product Owner…” Or, “We do Scrum, but we don’t hold daily stand-ups…” Or more generally stated: “We do Scrum, but… we don’t perform a key activity required to make Scrum work.” Developing true agility will take work and it will involve change.

Scrum won’t fix all of your problems, either. In fact, Scrum will surface heretofore hidden problems within your organization that will need to be addressed. For example, with Scrum, teamwork becomes paramount, and if you have people that cannot and will not play well with others, Scrum won’t fix this problem for you. Management needs to step in and correct the problem. And it doesn’t end there. As Scrum adoption increases in your organization, the need for other organization change in other departments that interact with your Scrum teams will surface.



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