Thursday, October 9, 2008

What I hate about Scrum

I attended the Deep Lean conference held in Stockholm on September 25-26 2008, with Mary & Tom Poppendieck, Jeff Sutherland and Henrik Kniberg. They were as brilliant and full of energy, as was the crowd full of smart questions.

Especially Mary impressed me and it was a joy to listen to her presentations. During on of those she suddenly said "Let me tell you what I hate about Scrum". Jeff Sutherland sharpened his ears as did the rest of us. Let me get back to what she said in a moment.

The best thing about the conference was that all of the speakers stayed in the room and listened to the presentations. To hear them interrupt each other and discuss something was great. The lesson learned from that is that these guys don't have all the answers. You need to think for yourself. I certainly need to repeat that for myself every once in a while.

Let me mention just a few things that stuck with me from this conference.

Keep your backlog short
Why spend time elaborating on things that perhaps will never get done? I immediately started deleting things off of my project backlog as well as my private Outlook task list. If the items I deleted ever become important they will certainly bubble up to the top of my mind again.

Story point deflation
This is a question that came up and I don't remember it getting a good answer from any the speakers.

Let's say you estimate a story to five points during the first sprint planning. A number of sprints later you get a similarly difficult story to estimate. This story gets an estimate of only two points, since the team is equaling story points with ideal man days. The result is that the team gets more and more done but the velocity stays the same.

Is the solution to make estimations relative to a medium sized reference story? Even though the days needed for the story is only two, it will still get five points since it is about as complex as the reference story. I don't know if this works, but perhaps somebody else does?

Product Champion
Mary spoke of the product champion as somebody who is the product owner and the system architect in one person. That's a role I would like to have. The product owner has always struck me as somebody too far away from the technology. She also abolished the scrum master altogether. A functioning team will remove impediments by itself.

Unnecessary features
Lean is a lot about waste, and the worst waste is the implementation of unused features. Probably very, very true. But how about this: Features sell products. I buy dishwasher detergent based on whether is has that red ball in middle. I feel I need that feature. And the big corporation buys the application server from IBM since their product is just incredibly complex and has so many features. Then it must be good, and worth all that money. Solution, anybody?

Ok, so now let's get back to the question of love and hate.

What was it that Mary hated about Scrum? As I recall it she said "What I hate about Scrum is that only team members get to speak during the Scrum meeting. If anyone else attend they should stay silent and listen. That is totally disrespectful."

At this moment Jeff desperately (?) reached for the microphone and said "That is a misinterpretation of Scrum".

I'm glad he set that straight.

Two other blog posts about Deep Lean: Damon Poole, David Jellison

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