Dark Scrum – Some comments

We have been talking about this issue for years.

Well, we do not entirely agree on what the issue is.

Ron Jeffries calls it Dark Scrum. To quote (almost): “too often “Scrum” is used to oppress people”…and he explains that it was his aim that agile would make the world safe for programmers and testers.

I think the key problem is half-baked scrum. Scrum done “half-way”, not completely, and with insufficient understanding. So that the benefits are far less than they should be.

My experience, personally, is that “scrum” is never worse than what we had before. Never. But, my experience is that almost never do people get the real value that Scrum could bring in the first year. (This speaks – in part – to the kinds of clients I remember most.)

Ken Schwaber has a phrase, which I do not particularly like: Flaccid Scrum. I guess this means “scrum” not done very well.

Jeff Sutherland (and I and others) used to talk about Scrum-Butt. “We do scrum, but….” Now Jeff Sutherland talks mostly in a positive way about Aggressive Scrum.

Ok, a few key statements.

1. We want Scrum (and agile) to be used in such a way that everyone’s life gets better. This includes managers and customers, among others.
2. We do not find bad uses of Scrum (of things withing Scrum) to justify modifying Scrum.
3. People should always (ok, almost always) play a game fully, with all the rules, before considering modifying the game. Scrum is such a game.
4. If you use all of Scrum with good intention, with a good understanding of the underlying principles, and with energy, for a reasonable time (3 months – plus), then you can with a good conscience modify it for your situation.
5. In general, we recommend playing Scrum aggressively. And every organization should support this.
6. Scrum is not a silver bullet or magic pill. If the players have no energy, do not understand, have no skill, are not willing to fix reasonable impediments, etc — then Scrum will not help much. Except that Scrum will probably expose those dysfunctions.
7. We find a whole lot of what is called Scrum might at best be called “scrum” or something Scrum-like. Usually more like half-baked scrum.

Still, this is a serious problem.

In what ways?
1. It hurts the meaning of Scrum. This makes Scrum less effective for others.
2. People are getting far less benefit from Scrum.
3. The misunderstood “scrum” is being used to harm people. (Although I think this was probably happening before under the old process.)  At least, people using scrum-like names for things are harming people. (I am questioning whether those scrum-like things are really scrum.)
4. A lot more people could get a lot more benefit from Scrum if this were not happening.

What comes next is root cause analysis and action.  Enough for now.


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