My clients who are still unsure about Scrum often ask me, “What are the benefits we’ll reap from doing Scrum? What are the downsides to using it?”
Oh my – I could write a book to answer this.
Well… actually, I DID write a book about Scrum :) In 30 Days to Better Agile, I talk about the things that can go wrong with Scrum and, importantly, how to fix them. I wouldn’t call these disadvantages exactly, but they are challenges you need to be aware of as you adopt Scrum:
- Scrum isn’t as easy as it looks. Here is the deceptive thing about Scrum: it is simple. But simple and easy are not the same thing. Be ready to invest time and effort to get good at Scrum.
- Scrum can make some people very uncomfortable. There may be people in your organization that like things the way they are. As a matter of fact, they might have a sweet little set-up going right now where they don’t have to work very hard, have created power fiefdoms or other situations that are not in your organization’s best interest. Scrum is going to expose all that – and when it does, expect a backlash.
- Scrum requires change. Some people find change exciting and energizing. Some find it frightening, and some (see second bullet point) find it threatening. A key skill I teach ScrumMasters in my CSM course is to bring people to Scrum at their own pace, meaning a pace which feels safe.
So, yep – Scrum is likely going to get everyone all riled up. So why do it?
- Scrum helps you make the best use of limited resources. I don’t know if your projects are like mine, but I always have more requirements than I do time or money to fulfill them. Scrum ensures I will get the most value for the time/money I do have to spend.
- Scrum has a built-in way to accommodate emerging requirements. Imagine someone said to you: “I need you to tell me exactly what you want to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for the next 18 months. I am going to document that and then make you sign something saying you promise not to change this agreed-upon menu and, if you DO change it, it is going to cost you big-time.” This is the equivalent of what we do when we ask our customers to know, at the front of a long project, each and every thing they might want or need.
- Scrum is a thinking-person’s approach to dealing with the world. All great human inventions evolved through empiricism. Trying something, making adjustments and trying it again. That is exactly what Scrum does. Its use of iterations followed by inspect-and-adapt points allow us to integrate new learning every sprint. Rather than following a project plan, zombie-like, long after it has shown to be inaccurate, Scrum allows us to refine our plan as we go along to create the highest value result possible.
When you truly internalize Scrum values, I believe it changes your brain. You literally could not go back to your old way of thinking if you tried. Life becomes a delightful and intellectually satisfying process of experimentation and discovery. And you create products and services that make the world a better place.
It is the ultimate win-win for both the individual and society.