Scrum Exposes Dysfunction? Not So

Gil Broza specializes in increasing organizational agility and team performance with minimal risk and thrashing. Dozens of companies seeking transformations, makeovers or improvements have relied on his pragmatic, modern and respectful support for customizing agile in their contexts. His book "The Agile Mind-Set" helps practitioners go beyond process and adopt a true agile approach to work. His book "The Human Side of Agile" is a practical book on leading agile teams to greatness. These days, several of the world's largest organizations are having him train hundreds of their managers in technology and business (up to VP level) on practical agile leadership. Get Gil's popular 20-session mini-program "Something Happened on the Way to Agile" free at OnTheWayToAgile.com.

One popular saying in the agile community is "Scrum exposes dysfunction." If you're struggling to implement scrum effectively, as the thinking goes, this indicates dysfunction in your environment. (By the way, other agile frameworks are also said to have this effect. However, I hear the statement made predominantly about scrum, so that's what I'll focus on here.)

In my experience, this belief is not only wrong, it’s also a detractor to genuine attempts at transformation. This category of unhelpful accepted wisdom already contains at least three other beliefs:

  1. That Shu-Ha-Ri [1] is the way to agile
  2. That agile results in "cheaper better faster"
  3. That there are "agile best practices"

Allow me to explain the heresy. In most organizations, an attempt to implement scrum will encounter trouble. Existing team structures, processes, roles, motivational schemes and power structures are probably not agile-friendly. People will misunderstand the new framework and fear a loss of identity, power or self-worth. With partial or inconsistent understanding of the framework, it will not be easy to lead people toward an effective implementation of it.

You might think of these challenges as impediments to scrum, and that would be correct. Contrary to very popular advice (430,000 hits on Google), I suggest you avoid presenting these…

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