How Scrum Goes Awry

agile coding scrum

Will Faught

2 minutes

Robin Message on how Scrum goes awry:

The Product Owner in a scrum is typically someone from the business or product side of the business. They are not there to advocate for technical priorities; and indeed, this is fair enough, because someone needs to advocate for business and customer value. Scrum intends them to be “responsible” and “accountable” for the product backlog, and therefore to work with others to create backlog items, but in practice, they are typically the sole person creating the backlog. So, they are setting the direction of development, but without any thought as to practicalities of the development process.

Then we have the Scrum master. The ideal Scrum master would be someone with technical and product experience, respected in the company as a leader, willing to work as a servant, and outside of the technical or product hierarchy. Unfortunately, the Scrum master is typically someone with limited experience, two days training, who is not respected as a leader but only considered to be a servant, and often in the product part of the organisation (as that is where project management has sat previously.) Often they are even managed by the product owner, or share a boss with the product owner.

Finally we have this self-organised, cross-functional, non-hierarchical, essentially amorphous development team. They are meant to be self organising, with no one telling them how to build the product backlog. However, they have limited or no say over what is top of the product backlog, pressure to deliver something sprint-after-sprint, and no-one with the authority to balance the product owner and advocate for developing with higher quality.

I’ve seen all of this happen. It’s so frustrating.