What are the most common mistakes or misconceptions when organizations start Scrum?

November 3, 20162 min
Here are the three most common mistakes (in no particular order) that I see with my clients who are struggling to implement and sustain long-term Agile adoption.
  1. Weak Product Owners – without a Product Owner (PO), Scrum does not work.  Thankfully, most of my clients have recognized that PO are essential for Scrum success.  Unfortunately, many PO are just business analysts or systems engineers with no real authority to make significant business decisions.  As a result, real business decision-makers are not invested in seeing Scrum succeed.  Solution: encourage real business owners to be the PO for at least two months.
  2. No investment in technical Agility – as most of you know, Scrum is easy to teach and fairly straightforward to set-up (when you have organizational support).  This provides a quick burst of productivity, customer satisfaction and team responsiveness to business needs, i.e business Agility.  This gives the impression that longterm success with Scrum and Agile is driven by a few, straightforward changes.  Sadly, without investing in technical Agility (practices such as Simple Design, Test-Driven Development, Continuous Integration, Refactoring and Pair Programming), business Agility begins to degrade as technical execution remains unchanged.  Solution: provide team members at least three months to adopt Extreme Programming practices.
  3. Lack of full-time, dedicated ScrumMasters – in all my CSM courses I know we talk about the need for a full-time ScrumMaster (SM) for each team and I know that some people leave the class unconvinced on the value of a full-time SM.  So here is the real question to ask yourselves, “Now that you have been doing Scrum for X number of months with a part-time SM, has anything of any significance been actually fixed in your organization?  Has a new culture of respect, collaboration and passion for serving the users taken its first steps?”  If you can say, “Yes!”, then you do not need a full-time, dedicated SM.  For a lot people, Scrum and Agile are just window dressing on the same-old crappy status quo.  If you like the status quo, then keep doing what you are doing with part-time SM.  However, if at this point you want to change the status quo, then you need full-time SM.  Solution: have at least ONE full-time SM in your company to initiate and sustain change.