Scrum is Overrated

Most companies follow some type of Scrum process. Typically this entails 2 or 3 week sprints. At the end of each sprint changes are demoed, retrospectives are performed and the backlog is groomed. During each sprint task completion time is captured, which allows management to project into the future when projects will reach completion.

Many of the Scrum projects I’ve been apart of emphasize “committing” to tasks or “taking ownership.” At the end of the sprint many engineers are held accountable for incomplete tasks. Sprint velocity is another idea that is hammered home. We have to keep our velocity! It’s like creating software is a race, it’s not. If engineers are held accountable by a metric, they’ll optimize for the metric, this isn’t want you want.

Scrum creates an easy to understand framework for teams to follow and it gives management the tools to predict the future. Teams that have practices waterfall find Scrum easy to grok.

Many of Scrums practices aren’t needed. For example, most issue tracking software allow managers to run reports on the frequency of ticket completion. With this information, managers are able to infer velocity, instead of baking velocity into the process and making it a big deal. Taking ownership is a farce, we do it naturally, to make it explicit is insulting. All the projects I’ve been a part of each engineer has a corner of the application that’s their space.

Other ways to improve software delivery:

  • If you need weekly deployments, schedule them. Deploy what’s ready.
  • Keep the backlog groomed; then engineers never run out of work.
  • In my opinion, retrospectives are the most essential non-development activity. Without it, you have no chance of becoming a better and more efficient organization.
  • Automate, automate, automate
  • Committing to a list of features is ridiculous. Rank the tasks and complete what you can. Fretting over why “task A” wasn’t complete is a waste of time. It’s clear the task was either too big, or higher priority work was taken on.
  • Demos are a waste of time unless the client cares and provides feedback. 
  • Daily meetings may or may not be needed. I prefer meeting every couple of days.

At the end of the day it’s about providing value to the client in the most efficient way.

Leave a Comment