Should Your Team Use Scrum?

As a qualified Scrum Master I’m constantly asked “should our development team use Scrum?” Now you might think that being a Scrum Master – and a massive fan of Scrum – the answer will be yes. Well, you would be wrong. I often steer people away from Scrum – but all for the right reasons.

Scrum Masters know how hard it is for a team to adopt and put Scrum into practice successfully due to Scrum being a fairly lightweight framework so is open to individual interpretation. Therefore, we want to make sure the nature of the software project is right for the Scrum framework. As a result I’ve come up with five simple, yes/no questions that I use to recommend Scrum or not for a project.

CodeFork project management scrum agile

The Questions

  1. Do you have a minimum of three technical members undertaking the work?
  2. Are you developing a product/increment? (vs. just doing one-off/unrelated work)
  3. Is the majority of the work large enough to require a team? (vs. smaller, individual task-sized work)
  4. Is the majority of the work complex?
  5. Can the majority of work be planned? (vs. unplanned/support type of work)

If the person answers “yes” to all 5 questions, then I’ll recommend Scrum as the framework that should be adopted. If there are 3 or 4 “yes” answers, the Scrum framework will probably help the software team, but they may experience some friction and waste. If there are only 1 or 2 “yes” answers, the Scrum framework will be more a hindrance than help.

It’s Not About Effort

None of the questions above include any questions around:

  • culture;
  • behaviour;
  • type of industry.

I don’t really care about the current management structure, trust levels, technical debt, if they have remote team members, or whether they are a government agency or financial institution. Those factors are more related to the level of effort required for Scrum adoption to become successful. The questions are more about the nature of the work and less about the current level of disruption.

Back to the thought process of the Scrum Master, the questions tell me whether I should proceed with implementing the Scrum framework for a project. Follow-up questions about the culture within the workplace/project team, current behaviour, and environment will tell me how much effort will be required. Incidentally, those are not simple yes/no questions, but an understanding that evolves over time.

Conclusion

My questions are not the be all or end all by any means. For example, if someone answers “yes” to four questions, but answered “no” to having at least three technical people to do the work, then it may be a non-starter from the get-go. Since opinions will vary I recommend using them purely as a guideline for your own questions or assessment if Scrum is going to be suitable for a project or whether an alternative framework would be more suited, of which there are many.