Why does a Scrum Process grind to a halt? | Kurt Nielsen

Kurt Nielsen has written a very nice short article that I would like to bring to your awareness:


I have been doing Scrum for almost 4 years now, and it is still exiting, especially when you see teams raise their bar to more than twice what the expected and four times as high as their mothers would have believed.

But I am still puzzled why it is so easy to let the process gradually slow down and grind to a halt. What is it that is so difficult to hold on to? What is it that is so attractive about the old ways and habits?

I don’t have a final answer, but few obsersvations keep reappearing:

First of all there is the Second Law of Thermodynamics – A system left to it self will see an increase in entropy – or chaos and randomness in plain English.
Secondly we are often dealing with creative people, developers. It is against their nature to keep doing things the same way, we would actually rather invent something new,not necessarily better, but just new.

Scrum has some of its roots in the “lean” processes, who in turn borrow from Japanese mindset. For good an bad the Japanese admire the master, the ability to reduce something to its bare essence without superfluous adornments, the Japanese sword for example. We in the west – lead by the Americans – have little patience for something that takes a lifetime to master, we want a quick fix!
In the same way – especially in the Post Modern world – we are skeptic of anything that claims: “This is the right way!” – we want to make our own way, Frank Sinatra sang “I did it may way!”, it may not have been a good way, but it was mine.

As a final thing, it seems that there is not much prestige in a “String and chewing gum” process like Scrum with simple artifacts and simple rules, and something you can get started with in a couple of days. For some people it simply does not give the panache they are after. There is also a reason why people drive Mercedes to the baker instead of a Kia. It looks much more important to work with a huge tool-set that takes months to master. Once you have learned Microsoft Project, it has to be used.

What are we to do about this.

First of all we have to realize that the Scrum process like everything else has to have energy supplied to keep functioning. That is why the Scrummaster also has to be the energy source of the process – at least the backup source if the other players run dry.

As a second hip-shot I would propose that organizations have to make very what they actually value: Results or Process? Whether that means differentiated sallaries, posters on the walls sacking the loafers or whatever has to depend on the actual circumstances. The important thing is that we develop a critical mass of conviction of the fact that what really counts is results, visibility and simplicity.

Finally to the developers, I believe that we all have to face up to the fact that by obeying a few simple rules and being disciplined about prioritization, done-is-done and a goal-seeking attiude, we actually release mental bandwidth to accomplish what we really want – invent “cool stuff”.

Contact Kurt Nielsen at kurt(DOT)nielsen(AT)organicobject(DOT)com.


One response to “Why does a Scrum Process grind to a halt? | Kurt Nielsen

  1. Pingback: Scrum@Work » Sehr lesenswert…

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