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Scrum Sins

28 June 2017

Harshal Joglekar
John Deere

We all commit sins every day. And if you are moving into Scrum, then you are probably already a big-time sinner!

I myself committed many crimes when I and my team transitioned to Scrum. Let this article be a confession in front of the Scrum community.

When my leadership told me that, from the next day, we would be undergoing a transformation to Agile, I never asked them, "Why?” And that was my first sin or crime. Everything happens for a reason. And you have the right to ask the reason behind any act (especially in this professional world). If I had asked "Why?" then I would have been able to stop most of the further crimes soon to be committed by my team members and me.

From day one, we blindly assumed that Scrum was the only Agile framework, and we started following it. That was the second sin. We never ever explored other frameworks, such as Kanban.

In our first sprint sprint planning, every Scrum Team member was excited and we committed for 30 story points. We could hardly deliver 20. And then we were ready to commit a crime. In our retrospective meeting we decided to increase the sprint length by one week. We thought this would help us to get more time to finish what we had said we would do.

The second sprint planning came and went. The team committed for more, since we had one extra week. And now, on the tenth day, we had not even achieved 60% of what we had said we would do. So, you guessed it, then we were ready to commit yet another crime. In our retrospective meeting we decided to increase the sprint length by one more week. We thought that now we would have more time to finish what we had said we would do.

Ooops. Of course we were wrong. In the third sprint, that extra week did not help us deliver what we had committed for.

By then, some of us were benefiting from a ScrumMaster course, and hence we understood that instead of changing the sprint length, we should have changed our commitment. This saved our collective life going forward.

After one year, we saw that the team’s velocity had been constant, and the team was not ready to take risks. This was because we had the goal of a 100% say-do ratio for every sprint. This was stopping us from taking risks. We changed the goal to a 90% say-do ratio, which did wonders! Our team’s velocity improved. The team started taking some (calculated) risks and increased their velocity by 15% compared to the previous year.

Now the time had come when Scrum rituals like daily stand-ups and retrospectives were becoming uninteresting. We found that many of the "pigs" were missing from the rituals; mostly the ScrumMaster and product owner were the only ones who were attending the meetings religiously. This forced us to find new ways of doing daily stand-ups. We started holding them in different areas, sometimes in the coffee room, for instance. We started holding retrospectives in garden areas near office. We found new ways of handling these retrospectives: One way was to take a helium balloon and tie a string to it. We wrote down things that went wrong on sticky notes and attached them to the string, so that they would weigh the balloon down. This symbolized the progress and regress of the sprint.

Now, after two years, we are a fairly stable and self-organizing Scrum Team, and the credit goes to our innovative ScrumMaster, product owner, and pigs.

If you are transitioning into Scrum, make sure that you do not commit the same sins we did.

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.

Article Rating

Current rating: 5 (3 ratings)


Jie Chen, CSM, 6/28/2017 5:59:12 AM
helium balloon is a best practice !
Tim Baffa, CSM, 6/28/2017 12:02:55 PM
Harshal, very good article. I like the helium balloon analogy. I really like your team experiment that adjusted your Say/Do ratio.

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