Scrum is a great framework for agile application development — provided you truly understand its core principles. Straying from those principles is one of the prime culprits that put development projects into trouble.
Like agile application development in general, Scrum is about people, not processes. That’s the main reason why it’s a valid alternative to waterfall development, where each stage of a project must be completed before the next stage begins. Scrum, by contrast, uses communication and collaboration to develop projects in sprints, discrete chunks that produce a working software product quickly and effectively.
Shifting to Scrum for software development requires a full agile transformation. There can’t be any half-measures or the whole process breaks down. That’s why it’s essential to avoid some of the most common mistakes that foul up a Scrum transformation:
1. Failing to get buy-in from key stakeholders
Scrum requires everybody to be a true believer — not just the Scrum Masters, Product Owners and coders, but everybody involved in the development process. Executives, middle managers and clients all must be on board because they will all be required to collaborate quickly to keep all product backlogs moving forward.
Effective collaboration is the backbone of Scrum. People involved in Scrum development can’t have the idea in their head that their participation is optional and that they can put off collaboration until sometime next week when they feel like it.
2. Choosing the wrong Scrum Master
Moving products through the development process requires somebody who can cajole, persuade, reassure, and problem solve. Ideally, you want a Scrum Master who excels in a servant-leader role — not an authoritarian, top-down boss but a leader who enables transformative change.
The Scrum Master must be an effective communicator and hands-on collaborator. Part of the Scrum Master’s responsibility is to keep everybody focused on their goals while making sure everything stays within the Scrum framework.
3. Forgoing the Daily Standup
Scrum depends on a daily standup meeting where the Scrum Master gathers all the key people and reviews the status of the project to keep everybody moving forward.
Project team members might be tempted to stray from the daily Standup schedule. After all, they may think things have not changed all that much in the past 24 hours. But the Scrum Master is in contact with everybody on the team — clients, executives, etc. — and knows differently.
The Standup needs to be short, preferably no more than 15 minutes. The Standup is about status and marching orders. It’s not about problem-solving; that happens later in the collaborations between the people who have to solve the problem.
4. Creating obstacles to collaboration
Another core principle of Scrum is having key people work together so they can easily talk to each other and work out difficult problems.
Of course, these days, your talent may work around the globe — clients in Europe, coders in Asia, and executives in the Silicon Valley. If you’re working with virtual teams, make sure they have the best communication tools for quick, effective collaboration.
Ideally, people in Scrum projects talk to each other rather than send emails or direct messages because so much time is lost to the process of writing things that can be figured out much more quickly in a conversation. Make sure your process is enabling quick and efficient conversations and avoiding time-wasting typed-out discussions.
5. Waiting too long to plan
Like any other complex project, agile application development projects have potential for hang-ups. Up front planning can help acknowledge and mitigate risks before they snowball. Creating a plan as early as possible in the development process ensures the speed that is one of the key advantages of Scrum.
Again, this is where the commitment to development principles is crucial: Your plans must account for what you’re going to do at each key juncture, and how your key people are going to get things done.
One great path to better planning is to have a standardized document that guides you and your team through all the phases of a Scrum project. Starting with this Scrum-planning framework can help you and your team anticipate bumps in the road before they turn into major obstacles.