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11 Ways to Fail at Scrum

Scrum provides a process framework to help realize the benefits of Agile principles. The value of Scrum has been demonstrated many times, on numerous projects, throughout various industries. It is a fairly simple and straightforward set of practices and guidelines that will (usually) result in greater adaptability to change, improved productivity, higher quality products, and happier customers (over waterfall methods). But as simple and straightforward as these methods may be, many organizations struggle to realize the benefits of Agile. Through my six years of facilitating Agile projects, here are the top eleven reasons (I’ve observed) that organizations fail at adopting Scrum.

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Scrum Methods: User Story Authorship

Scrum is not just a change in methodology; it is a change in culture. It is not simply a practice of iterative development; it embraces the principles defined in the Agile Manifesto and places the customer at the center of product development. For organizations that adhere to Agile practices, their highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.[1] This is where user stories provide value. User stories enable project stakeholders (including customers, managers, product owners, team members, etc.) to easily capture ideas for product features without writing extensive documentation. 

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What Makes a Good ScrumMaster?

While there are qualities that are essential in all circumstances, the answer to this question is most certainly context specific. All ScrumMasters need to communicate effectively, be very well organized, and not be shy of confrontation. And above all, ScrumMasters must be able to facilitate open communication between the development team and those they rely on for information (Product Owner, customer(s), etc.).

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Object-Oriented Solutions: Planning for Failure


Quality software is built around the expectation of failure. To deliver reliable software, you must always plan on things breaking. In designing and building software for critical systems, such as air traffic control or nuclear power plants, runtime reliability is absolutely critical.  And while human life may not hang in the balance of a business application, the life of the business may.

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Agile Planning: Adding Spikes to Mitigate Risks

Planning an Agile project can be rather simple when all is known. When the market is predictable, requirements are clear, the technology is well understood, and the team is experienced in using all of the required tools, there isn’t much research required to complete a project. But for those times when all of the stars are not aligned and (God forbid) there is something the team does not fully understand, the team will need to dedicate some time to investigation or experimentation in order to complete the project. In terms of Agile and Extreme Programming (XP), this effort is known as a spike.

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User Story Authorship:  Defining the User Role

Software development teams new to Scrum often struggle with writing user stories.  And the biggest challenge is usually incurred right from the beginning; defining the user role.  While this can be challenging in any type of development, it is especially difficult in systems development.  Read more »


Realizing Scrum Values:  Visibility

One value of Scrum that is often overlooked is visibility, which actually enables critical Scrum practices. Visibility is realized by communicating project status to all stakeholders, which includes the status of individual and team commitments, impediments, progress, along with other project metrics and indicators. Read more »