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Story of Scrum: More of a selling point than actually doing it right

Posted by Jai on June 26, 2009

I will share here some experiences that how companies use the Scrum as a selling point than actually following the scrum practices in the development process.

Not long ago I was a part of the team where we used to follow scrums of scrum, which I came to know a lot later. For both, the company and the developers who have been following the traditional methods of development like waterfall, moving to scrum is a big deal and not many follow it the right way. Here I share the experiences that how things used to happen and what mistakes were done in the way and what could have been done better.

What used to happen?

Like many, it was another outsourced project. I myself like other developers came to the project from typical waterfall model and the management told us that we will be divided in to different teams and each working on different modules and we will call them as scrum teams. No one asked why scrum teams, as no one was aware what scrum is, funny but many were freshers and many were more into technical things than the process etc. We were told that we will be making delivery in every two weeks, fine.

Soon the things got rolling. Everyone started working on setting up things and doing initial POCs and later we came to know that we won’t be doing demo this iteration, the term sounds familiar after looking at literal English meaning, fine here also.  There used to be a single guy to get the requirement from client, who used to have call with the client may be during late hours between some overlapping time period. And then he used to forward those requirements to scrum masters who used to estimate and return back with estimation etc. and it was dictated to the team that we need to do these things in this iteration. Get started and get it done.

Everyone started to finish their part. Some used to do it earlier and then go to play basketball or table tennis, some companies do provide it in company campus, trust me.
Some used to fight with it till late in the night and stay late. Sometimes the personal favors used to work.

All used to meet, as a team meeting once a week to know that the things are on time and if some help is required from someone to get the things done.

Soon the number of bugs and changes started to pop a lot. The team was responsible to fix the last iteration issues along with the new requirements. One reason was that the management was not ready to report all the bugs to the client so that he does not raise the question on the team quality etc.

Things worked for some time but soon the client started questioning that we won’t be able to meet the deadline. We are behind schedule. The management asked the team to stay a bit late for few weeks. One friend of mine got married recently and he was doing his honeymoon in office only, not literally I mean he was staying so late in office that no power left for night job :).

Due to all the pressure etc. no one was talking about quality.

As different teams were working on different modules and integration issues were coming during release time only. In case of any dependency the scrum master, we used to call him but he was having impression of team lead, used to say that go and directly ask the guy in other team and solve it.

Of course the tester was there. Who else gonna pass the release and follow up with the client in terms of number of bugs open and closed etc. But the fight between the developers and testers is long going and sometimes it was hard to solve, the blame game part.

The things kept rolling this way. The team was doing the job for what they were got payed and at least something was being produced. And even the client was fine with it because he knew that the things are getting done at very cheap rate.

Change is the inevitable things and I choose to move on but later I came to know the things are still rolling there and few developers got promoted to lead level and leads to assistant mangers and so on the manager to some other top post.

But when I look back and see it, seriously what we guys were doing.

Where were we wrong?

I am going to mention few points where we went wrong otherwise if I start putting all together you can make a mini book out of it :).

  • no awareness of scrum among team
  • scrum more of selling point in terms of agility- to be flexible in terms of changes during development
  • team used to work late hours
  • no regular meetings among team members to resolve impediments
  • no regular meetings among scrum masters to solve dependencies
  • changes in between the sprint
  • no co ordination between scrum masters
  • team focusing more on technical part
  • no mutual code ownership
  • everyone more interested in doing their own job
  • minimum team work
  • no coordination with tester

And many similar small small things like it.

What could have been done?

Well another negative on above negative points won’t make it positive. Do read, learn and live scrum. Do it once in true spirit of scrum and you will come to know its beauty.

Better luck

Good that things worked ok for the team, but imagine what the team could have achieved and how you could have turned the same team into a high performance team and how you could have done it at the sustainable pace.

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4 Responses to “Story of Scrum: More of a selling point than actually doing it right”

  1. Vikas said

    I totally agree with the views, but it is the mentality of the company which affects following the process a lot.

  2. Hey Jai

    I think you’ve hit on one of the big problems with Scrum. It’s a great project management tool – terrific for working through projects in a agile fashion – but it falls down in the lack of technical day-to-day detail. Though it does sound like what you were involved with was more Scrum in name than in practice, your team could have benefited perhaps from looking at some “old school” Extreme Programming techniques, e.g.:

    – no mutual code ownership
    – everyone more interested in doing their own job
    – minimum team work

    you wouldn’t have got away with any of this if you’d be concentrating on the day-to-day practices originally exposed by Kent Beck and co. I love Scrum, but I think it’s time we start getting back to basics. Interestingly, today we decided to throw away all our clever “agile” tools (Mingle, etc) and go back to using 3″x5″ cards – a practice from XP days. This is no slight against Scrum btw.. just how we’ve over-complicated “agile”.

  3. There’s more to this meme over at Scott Mcphee’s Let X=X blog:

    http://www.crazymcphee.net/x/2009/06/23/agile-is-dead/

    I sense a disturbance in the blogosphere.. as if a million software developers cried out “Enough!” :)

  4. [...] Malik, compartilha do argumento de Tobias quando menciona que a causa parece se a maneira como Agile está sendo implementada e seguida.. Ele ressalta que a comunicação é a questão fundamental de um processo [...]

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