What is Your Frustration with Scrum?

On July 7th the Scrum community gathered in Amsterdam (The Netherlands) for the 5th edition of Scrum Day Europe. This years theme was ‘the next iteration’. Therefore we looked back to see what Scrum brought us the last 20 years, but also looked forward into the future of Scrum. Naturally, the evaluation was done via a retrospective. The goal was to generate insights and define improvements for the Scrum framework from the Scrum community. Every participant contributed and provided input; thereby it proved to be a true community event!

The 5 Retrospective Questions

During the day we asked everyone to answer 5 questions:

  1. What has proven to be the strength of Scrum the past 20 years?
  2. What should be the focus of Scrum the upcoming 20 years?
  3. What of Scrum frustrated you the most so far?
  4. What connects you to Scrum?
  5. What is a small improvement that could be added to Scrum?

In a series of blog posts I’ll share the answers we’ve received on these questions. This blog post will be about the biggest frustrations the participants of Scrum Day Europe experienced so far with Scrum. I’ll share the filtered data and my personal opinion. Of course I’m also interested in your point of view!


The Frustrations with Scrum

According to the participants, what caused the most frustrations so far are:

  • Scrum seems so simple, but it is so hard (6)
  • The Scrum zombie variant (5)
  • Misunderstanding of the Scrum Master role (4)
  • Product Owner without mandate (4)
  • Management unwilling to change (2)
  • Roles require above average people
  • Values of Scrum and current organization don’t match
  • The pure focus on software development
  • Not knowing what to do with portfolio/product management
  • The lack of just-do-it
  • Working water-scrum-fall
  • Team communication

My Take on the Frustrations

Out of all the suggestions made by the participants I would like to highlight three of them and share my take-aways.

1. Scrum Zombies!

It’s no coincidence Zombie-Scrum is mentioned quite often as a Scrum frustration. Not only is it a serious problem in many organizations, it was also the topic of an awesome workshop hosted by Christiaan Verwijs and Johannes Schartau during Scrum Day Europe. Check out this blog post about their ideas on Zombie-Scrum. Below I’ve shared 5 examples Christiaan and Johannes often encounter within organizations.

Scrum Zombies…

  • Consider a project mindset more important than a product mindset. Although every sprint can result in a new version, only the final version delivers real value;
  • Consider the purpose of Scrum a process that must be followed (for its own sake);
  • Consider working software a nice-to-have; we’re not going live at the end of a sprint anyways;
  • Consider ‘done’ as something what we can reasonably do at this moment, and have always done;
  • Consider customers as ignorant. Customers don’t know what they want, so we decide it for them.

2. Misunderstanding of the Scrum Master Role

Yes! I can only wholeheartedly agree with this frustration! There are so many misunderstandings of the Scrum Master role. For example:

  • The Scrum Master as the secretary for the team taking all the notes and updating the Sprint Burndown Chart;
  • The Scrum Master as the police officer supervising the Scrum rules;
  • The Scrum Master as the boss leading the daily Scrum and asking for status updates.

Instead, the Scrum Master should be considered as a…

  • Servant Leader whose focus is on the needs of the team members and those they serve (the customer), with the goal of achieving results in line with the organization’s values, principles, and business objectives;
  • Facilitator by setting the stage and providing clear boundaries in which the team can collaborate;
  • Coach coaching the individual with a focus on mindset and behavior, the team in continuous improvement and the organization in truly collaborating with the Scrum team;
  • Conflict navigator to address unproductive attitudes and dysfunctional behaviors;
  • Manager responsible for managing impediments, eliminate waste, managing the process, managing the team’s health, managing the boundaries of self-organization, and managing the culture;
  • Mentor that transfers agile knowledge and experience to the team;
  • Teacher to ensure Scrum and other relevant methods are understood and enacted;
  • Impediment remover solving blocking issues to the team’s progress taking into account the self-organizing capabilities of the Development Team;
  • Change agent to enable a culture in which Scrum Teams can flourish.

The role of a Scrum Master is one of many stances and diversity. A great Scrum Master is aware of them and knows when and how to apply them, depending on situation and context. Everything with the purpose of helping people understand and apply the Scrum framework better. It’s THE role that can prevent zombie-Scrum. During Scrum Day Europe we all became aware of the necessity battling these Scrum zombies…

3. The Product Owner Without Mandate

A Product Owner without mandate is like a sports coach without the authority to change tactics or apply substitutes during a match. It devaluates the role. Of course, a great sports coach prepares the team for the upcoming match, and ideally doesn’t have to do anything. But when it is necessary to change something, you need the authority to quickly perform these changes. Even so, a Product Owner should be empowered to take decisions related to the product. Sure, creating support for decisions might take some time, but swiftly taking important decisions is a primary condition for a sustainable pace of the development team.

Check out this blog post by Ron Eringa for the possible evolution of the Product Owner.

What’s Your Opinion?

This is the 3rd blog post about the Scrum Day Europe 2016 Retrospective. In the first blog post I’ve described the strength of Scrum. The second blog post was about the desired focus of Scrum. This part is about the frustrations the participants of Scrum Day Europe experienced so far with Scrum. I’ve shared some of my thoughts about Zombie-Scrum, misunderstandings of the Scrum Master role and the Product Owner without mandate.

What is your biggest frustration with Scrum so far?