November 28, 2017
I think we have all seen Bad Scrum and misuse of the Scrum Framework. Sometimes Scrum started out well with a solid understanding of Scrum, good leadership, an effective Scrum Master, an engaged and empowered Product Owner, and a hopeful and open-minded Dev Team.
But then somewhere along the way it went bad. Maybe the leadership changed or changed their mind. Perhaps the skillful Scrum Master left and was replaced by one who was ineffective. The team may have soured or felt like Scrum was used against them.
Other times, Scrum was just bad from the very beginning. Managers used the Scrum Framework against people. Tools like Jira were used to monitor and control Team members.
Teams were told to self-organize and then assigned work, or given fixed scope and fixed timeline commitments. Project managers were anointed as Scrum Masters, skipped the training, and then allowed to do what they thought was best.
The situation has gotten so bad that people are getting hurt by it. Some new terminology had to be introduced to describe it. Ron Jeffries, one of the original 17 signatories to the Agile Manifesto, coined the term Dark Scrum in this popular post.
Agile Leadership guru Michael Sahota refers to it as Weaponized agile, perhaps inspired by Chicago’s own Mike Marchi who coined the term Weaponized Scrum. Ryan Ripley also wrote about it years ago in Bad Agile Management Burns Scrum Teams.
My heart goes out to all parties involved in Bad Scrum. When Scrum is bad, no one is happy or sees the benefits of Agile and the Scrum Framework that they have hoped for.
Instead, there is pain, frustration, despair, and a quiet sense of resignation. Good people leave. Trying Scrum again for the second (or third) time is something few have the will or courage to attempt.
And I’d like to help, somehow. I’m optimistic about even Bad Scrum succeeding when given a fair chance and when implemented with proper training and support.
It doesn’t work everywhere, but it does serve as a great tool for making organizational problems (like those noted above) visible so that people with courage can address those impediments. I truly believe that Agile and Scrum remain the best way to organize and deliver results.
The situation reminds me of signs I’ve seen over the years “We Buy Ugly Houses”. It seems that no matter what shape the house is in, someone is willing to buy it. It is that sense of optimism that attracts me.
Fixing Bad Scrum is not trivial, but I think it is achievable. I would start by focusing on the following:
What do you think? Do you see the Scrum Framework being used and abused? What is the Bad Scrum that you see being practiced? Are there other steps that could or should be taken to fix bad Scrum?