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6 Scrum Anti-Patterns Your Team Has to Avoid

10 Oct 2019

While Scrum is fairly easy to understand and try out as a framework, mastering it takes quite a bit of time and effort. This is especially true if Scrum was not agreed-upon or if the team has too much experience in a more traditional work environment and structure. 

Often times, the Scrum teams fall prey to anti-patterns, solutions that initially seem very attractive and cause headaches later. 

So, what are Scrum anti-patterns, how to recognize them and deal with them?

1. Playing without a gameplan

Scrum discourages extensive planning at the onset of projects. 

Instead, it sends you on the road of continuous fine-tuning and adaptation. This is a good modus operandi for addressing unknown and unexpected issues that always sprout up.

However, this isn’t to say you should stick to the no-plan-at-all strategy. Drifting around aimlessly is a sure way to waste precious resources and come shy of your goals. 

So, take time to design and guide the project in the early stages: this spadework pays dividends later. The Product Owner will definitely benefit from a certain plan and a clear vision to communicate to the stakeholders. 

You can start with a basic roadmap outline and then flesh things out as you go. Try to make your estimates more than some wild guesses. Know it takes time to master this approach and that first hurdles tend to be the toughest ones to overcome. 

2. Going overboard with features 

The Product Backlog is a crucial piece of the Scrum puzzle. Ideally, it contains stories that add user value and improve customer satisfaction. 

Still, this does not mean you MUST relentlessly roll out feature after feature. That can make you lose sight of other priorities, such as costs. You may be able to deliver a ton of perceived value, but what if that leads you to spend a ton of time and blow the budget?

Well, you are misusing the framework and running into grave risks. Your whole system could burst at the seams eventually. 

To prevent this disaster, factor in technical debt and other tradeoffs that may occur in the development process. Ensure sound engineering practices to grease the wheels of the system. 

3. Confusion about roles

Scrum Roles are one of the essential components that make or break Scrum.

It goes without saying that you have to get them absolutely right. Room for error is virtually nonexistent, so be mindful of a few common mistakes. 

First off, note Scrum Master is not to act as a Project Manager. These two have different areas of jurisdiction and leadership styles. Scrum Master nurtures self-organization, while Project Manager organizes the work of people for them.

Secondly, you want to prevent Scrum Masters and Product Owners from colliding over responsibilities. After all, they have to work hand in hand toward delivering value to consumers. 

Finally, notice both are more of servant-leaders than firm rulers. You need to establish the foundations of trust and draw the lines in the sand. Avoiding these issues will come to haunt you somewhere down the road. 

4. Quality becoming an afterthought

Iterative delivery of software increments is the backbone of Agile development. 

Its chief measure of success is working software. But, the Backlog doesn’t automatically yield functional solutions. The real problem is when teams obsess over scoring Sprint points and sprucing up burn-down charts. 

Namely, this kind of setup fails to offer tangible quality guidelines. Simply put, quality isn’t something that just happens in the wake of successful Scrum transformation. 

You have to employ key performance indicators to see how you’re doing. Moreover, it’s necessary to perform frequent testing, code reviews, and quality checks for good measure. Don’t allow members to pick too many features and stores either— set work in progress limits. 

These are all ways to maintain a sense of clear focus on project goals. You will minimize the number of bugs and solve user experience issues in one stroke.  

5. Moving at a frantic pace 

Short sprints can foster somewhat misleading notions on the part of Scrum Team members. 

They chase unrealistic goals and deadlines, forgetting that software development is actually a marathon. What good does speed do when sloppiness ultimately undermines the outcome? 

To stay on track, allow teams to exert more control. Let them schedule and reorganize work as they see fit. Merely completing a bunch tasks doesn’t take you very far on its own. It’s also about how those tasks fit the big picture and forward the whole project. 

Thus, take your time to find the optimal, manageable pace. Try not to alternate durations of Sprints and related events too much. Remember you have to split the workload into potentially shippable product increments, bite-sized chunks teams can handle. 

Moving forward at a sustainable pace is known to boosts team engagement, while keeping the fatigue and burnout at bay. It’s a win-win!

6. Tolerating the old ways 

Scrum is supposed to leave a lot of room for team autonomy and self-organization, especially when it comes to the “How” part. For instance, the Product Owner shouldn’t delegate and micromanage everything. This individual must spend a lot of time with teams and clients.

This is integral to facilitating ongoing learning, development, and optimization. 

Alas, many companies take half-measures and preserve parts of the old system. Scrum Guide proclaims that this kind of lackluster integration doesn’t result in real Scrum. 

Therefore, initiate a cultural shift and promote transparency across the board. Unclog the channels of communication and supply everyone with relevant information. Break the loop of bad habits and anything weighing the teams down. 

It’s time to go onward and upward and abandon the status quo.  

Full Steam Ahead

Doing Scrum half-heartedly is dangerous as even the smallest missteps can quickly take over and become the norm.  

Evaluate your current framework and key systems. Assemble self-organizing teams of high-performing individuals. See to it roles and events are adhered to as intended. 

Refrain from clinging onto outdated remnants of the traditional approaches. Promote lively communication and collaboration and stop detrimental patterns in their tracks.