When implementing Scrum, there are always challenges associated with people, processes or the technology we use. Starting out with the right Agile mindset is a good start. However, transitioning from the old way we did things will always introduce trepidation and anxiety to some level. Transition programs of any kind usually go one of three ways:
- Full Transition
- Step or Part-Transition
- Pretend to Transition
Using a color code from one of our favorite films, the Matrix, we might categorize these as the following:
- Full Transition - Red Pill
- Step or Part-Transition - Purple Pill (Ok I added this one!)
- Pretend to Transition - Blue Pill
The creators of Scrum always intended it to be used as per the Scrum Guide, while considering some minor adjustments that may be necessary to facilitate the project. There are some organizations however that sing the praises of Scrum and Agile, but do very little in the way of implementing it into the organization. I have seen many corporate brochures that use the word "Agile" in almost every paragraph, only to find out that Agile is the furthest thing from their mind. The business environment in most cases is hybrid at best, even in the software development sectors.
A case in point was a BPO service delivery firm I dealt with in the Philippines that provided application development solutions to international corporations. They implemented a mixture of Scrum and XP and yes Waterfall. Scrum by utilizing daily scrums, Sprints, Sprint Reviews, Retrospectives etc., XP by utilizing pair-programming, refactoring, embracing simplicity of code, thorough testing etc., and Waterfall by trying to identify all the requirements up-front to lock down scope. This latter practice of course goes against Agile principles of the inverted triangle where time and cost are fixed, but scope may change.
However, a quick look at their flagship newsletter at the end of the year revealed a case study for the same project describing how this "Agile project was a success." I happen to know the project was a success because the client had a deep pocket and was willing to pay the bloated budget to get the job done. This point was of course left out of the case study.
The reality during the project was that the daily stand-ups were in fact sit-downs. Some daily meetings did not happen on time or at all. Retrospectives were almost a repeat of the Sprint Review where the development team talked about the issues the customer raised about the demo more than discussing ways to improve the team's processes and ways of working together. The Product Manager was AWOL for a day or two at a time, and the Scrum Master; well they didn't have one. Instead, one of the development team members who was also team leader no less, assumed the role of "Scrum Coach" to ensure that Scrum and XP principles would be followed. The team member did this by telling the team what processes to do and not to do, while also assessing individual performance as opposed to team performance. A bad idea in Scrum.
This scenario and ones similar to it is what I call the Purple Pill of Scrum and Agile. It is not a hybrid. It is a hybrid excuse for not taking seriously the Agile mindset and giving it a real chance to succeed.
In his book "Succeeding with Agile - Software Development Using Scrum", Mike Cohn outlines why we do Scrum:
- Faster Time-to-Market
- Higher Productivity
- Lower Costs
- Improved Employee Engagement
- Improved Job Satisfaction
- Higher Quality
- Improved Stakeholder Satisfaction
and my favorite...
- What we've been doing no longer works
So, if you are involved in a Scrum or Agile project, remember the three golden rules which will help you decide which Pill to swallow:
- Ideally adopt a Full Transition: Red Pill
- Never Pretend to Transition - Blue Pill
- If you're going to take the Purple Pill, at least implement Scrum properly, even if it is in steps, or mixed with other methods such as XP
Cohn, M. (2010) Succeeding with Agile - Software Development Using Scrum. Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.
Thank you for your interest in the Scrumptious blog. If you have any ideas for Scrum topics, please message me here. Until next time, remember, projects can be Scrumptious!