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Scrummertime and the livin' is easy

15 January 2010

Marko Majkic

Scrummertime and the livin' is easy

By Marko Majkic, CSM, CSP

I have prejudices.

Usually, people have prejudices about everything, including Scrum. This is normal and ok as long as we are aware of these prejudices and we're ready to deal with them.

Scrum is usually compared to those project processes, methodologies, and frameworks we already know and Scrum is compared to them, colored with our expectations. People got to know about Scrum in different ways, googling, from a friend, heard about it in a conference, or as a buzzword somewhere. Anyway, we come to the Scrum in hordes, and there isn't a person that I've met who didn't think "Hey, this is really simple!" and who wasn't delighted with Scrum's simplicity. Because of this, Scrum is a honey pot for the IT community.

Scrum is very EASY to attract people to.
Scrum basics are very EASY to learn and understand.
Scrum is EASY to start with.

That's all about EASY Scrum. All that comes after that is HARD. And, in my opinion, this transition from an EASY to HARD state of mind is the biggest issue in failed Scrum implementations. We are not prepared, we are lazy, we don't want to work hard, and we are always looking for an easier way to succeed. That's human nature. But humans are intelligent beings. We should inspect and adapt. We should inspect issues that occur, and we should adapt to these new circumstances.

Yes, I understand the disappointment of knowing that not everything about Scrum is sweet. A bitter taste forms after the first issues start coming, pushing us away from Scrum. When impediments start coming up, all the "dirt" will start coming to the surface, showing the ugly face of our project, habits, organization, and ultimately, us. We then face a pretty tough choice. We're essentially Neo, and we can take either the red or blue pill.

Those who choose an easier way tend to give up, blaming Scrum for their troubles and failures. These people tend to think, "Hey, we are perfect, but forced to live in this imperfect world." This way of thinking certainly improves our morale, self-esteem, and self-confidence, at least for some time. But our morale, self-esteem and self-confidence are pretty hungry beasts that should be fed often. And their hunger makes us their slaves.

To break free, we have to be brave; we have to say "ENOUGH." We have to take another bitter bite, and then another and so on, until all that is left is crumbs.

Those who stand against these issues, dealing with them despite this bitter taste, have good chance to become great change agents, great ScrumMasters and good Scrum coaches. Deal with all those challenges and you'll earn real self-esteem, self-confidence, and the respect of people you work with. Fighting the impediments with Scrum principles, you are fighting a good fight.

Those who retreat shouldn't be criticized, but supported, encouraged and coached. To fail is to be human, and there's the "gravity" of an easier way that brings us down, but standing up and keeping to the Scrum principles is quite rewarding at the end. After winning those battles, and beating all obstacles, you will be able to say proudly, "I'm a ScrumMaster."

Doing Scrum usually means that you will get into conflict with people at some point. Conflict is quite stressful and tough. Conflicts are impediments in your Scrum implementation, and you are the one who is expected to solve them. Yes, it's a tough job. You are the one who is expected to tell the people the truth about the ugly reality, which, sometimes, can be painful. Again, it's a tough job. And remember, there's no EASY way to do the job. Don't try to find a workaround, just do the right thing. Sometimes you won't know what the right thing is, but you'll feel it, as long as you're following Scrum principles.

There are people who didn't give up on Scrum (at least not completely), they don't use Scrum, but use this buzzword claiming that they are Agile and efficient. After all, it's nice to be in such good Scrum and Agile company! It's similar to claiming you drive a Ferrari, but don't. This means that you are successful, being in such good, high class company. But what's the real value of it? Nothing! Finally, when you take an honest look at yourself in a "Scrum mirror," you'll see a guy driving 30-year old car, worth nothing. Reflecting, you'll still see non-functional teams and organizations, and bad software habits. It's essentially nothing of real value. This illusion will disappear very soon and your software will still suck. Yes, this is another EASY way, but wrong as well.

Wake up; there's no EASY way.

Scrum is EASY to understand and embrace, but be careful, or you'll be misled. Don't blame Scrum for it. Living with Scrum is not easy, but I feel great, because I believe Scrum gives me an opportunity to do my job honestly. And after doing Scrum for a few years and coaching Scrum for a year and a half in my company, I can tell you this: It is rewarding. I remember the mess I found there at the beginning. And I look at it now. I feel like a parent whose child has become a decent person. "Just look at him!" I can proudly say. And no, it is not only Scrum. Scrum helped me, but I did it with a little help from my friends, or my Team. I'm really grateful to Scrum and to all the people I learned Scrum from and taught Scrum to. Scrum gave me the tool that I used to help create beautiful teams, relationships, processes, and organization. Finally, I feel that I improved myself while on this path.

And once more, Scrum is easy to learn, but doing it is difficult. Be careful. Don't expect easy tasks on this path. Don't expect an easy shortcut to victory. Be courageous. Scrum will reward you, helping you on this path. Getting results, your work will be recognized and you will improve your professional career. You will bring good changes to your teams, processes, and the organization. You will help change people in a good way. You will improve yourself on this path.

Scrum, thanks for NOT being EASY! Thanks for improving me on this bumpy road.

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

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