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Large Organisations,Patterns

June 8, 2011

ScrumBut is good enough

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From http://www.scrum.org/scrumbut

“ScrumButs and Modifying Scrum

ScrumButs are reasons why teams canโ€™t take full advantage of Scrum to solve the problems and realize the benefits. Every Scrum role, rule, and timebox is designed to provide the desired benefits and address the problems. ScrumButs mean that Scrum has exposed a dysfunction that is contributing to the problem, but is too hard to fix. A ScrumBut retains the problem while modifying Scrum to make it invisible so that the dysfunction is no longer a thorn in the side of the team.

A ScrumBut has a particular syntax: (ScrumBut)(Reason)(Workaround)



So, doing ScrumBut is bad. It prevents the team / organisation to obtain the full benefits of when doing Scrum properly. Right…

Thing is, when moving to Scrum, I haven’t worked with any team which didn’t have to go through some form of ScrumBut, and stay in that state for a while. Some of them never made it out, and sometimes, ScrumBut is good enough for them.

When transitioning, there are going to be part of the organisation resisting the change. In some instances, that resisting can be overcome pretty easily and rapidly. In some other cases, it can take weeks, months, years to reach a certain level of change, and required efforts and resources can be massive.

Also, although we could be in a ScrumBut situation, it is important to accept that the level of transition achieved may already have had very positive impacts on the business, with some people, quality, predictability, visibility, time to market, total cost of ownership, fit for purpose benefits. Maybe the extra effort and investment might be too high for the expected return…

Sometimes that said level of transition is enough and allows the team / organisation to achieve their targets and keep competing, or indeed lead the competition. Would they get even better if they could get out of the ScrumBut state? No doubt about it! However, just like defining a test first and coding to pass the test allows us to say “enough coding”, a company may achieve a stated improvement on one of their important business dimensions by implementing “just enough” of the Scrum practices, and adhering just enough to the principles and values.

In time, the sense of urgency to do “more” may increase again, at which point getting out of the ScrumBut state will also increase. In the meantime and for many companies, doing ScrumBut might just be enough.

The real issue for a company is more that they need to agree that they are doing ScrumBut, and that they need a way to know when ScrumBut is not enough anymore.

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  1. Are we talking about Doing Agile versus Being Agile? Doing Agile and ScrumBut in particular can bring benefits, make things more productive etc. This is good.

    But good is the enemy of great.

    Being Agile is about greatness. It is about overcoming the dysfunction. It requires transformation to Agile and not merely adoption of some practices.

    All some companies want is good. They just want to be 10% better. In this case ScrumBut is fine. Although, I would argue Kanban is a better choice for companies that just want to get 10%.

    Comment by Michael Sahota — June 8, 2011 @ 3:15 pm
  2. “You’re living in a dream world Neo.”

    I’d like the idea of overcoming things like Waterfall, but most of the stuff is deeply ingrained into people. I’d reckon that it takes years for bigger companies to be agile by doing it. If there is a benefit in Being Agile, then doing it is for at least one medium-sized company I know of the only way of having a chance to be it one day.

    Comment by Dennis — June 9, 2011 @ 10:13 pm
  3. Hey Dennis,

    I agree ๐Ÿ™‚ I also very much feel that the only way to Become something is to behave like the thing you want to become, In other words, if you want to BE Agile, you first need to DO it, and do it some more, repeat and do it better every time.

    Only then in my opinion can a company say that they are becoming or being Agile.

    Comment by Oli — June 28, 2011 @ 10:14 am
  4. Hi,

    And sorry for the late reply: my disk crashed on my macbook Pro (#fail), had to replace it (#learn), then couldn’t find the time and inspiration to reply earlier.


    Thanks for your comment once again Michael ๐Ÿ™‚

    For me, good is on the path to Great, it is a transition state. Also, I like applying Darwin’s theory of evolution to corporation, and although becoming great might be a noble target, the only necessity most companies have right now is to become good enough to compete once again. For them, becoming great has usually been introduced in their Mission statement as a marketing and PR exercise, with no substance and no real appetite, and usually purely driven by the latest CEO in town.

    To continue the evolution analogy, most companies I engage with have burdened their DNA with a stack of non-benefiting genes, across a the 4 main dimensions that are People, Process, Infrastructure and Tools.

    Sometimes, the expression of these genes is so bad for these companies that becoming Great CANNOT be their goal. It can be an inspiration in some people’s head, but it cannot be a goal. Before they can start contemplating this as a goal, they first have to become good again, get rid of some of these genes that are preventing them from doing simple things more efficiently, and more complex things in line with their competition or what the market requires.

    In this context, I believe ScrumBut is good enough. Also, my point is that ScrumBut happens during a transition, regardless of what the ultimate goal is. Companies and teams that will make it to the Great ladder will just stay in that state less longer and move to the next evolution stage quicker ๐Ÿ™‚

    As for Kanban… Do you still get 10% if you do KanbanBut?

    The argument could probably be applied there as well. It is not easy to do Kanban properly and consistently: it requires a high level of discipline and an equal sense of urgency.

    Comment by Oli — June 28, 2011 @ 10:11 am

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