Scrum attack, like a heart attack, can happen at any time to any team. Unhealthy habits put the team at higher risk of an attack. What are these habits and what are the symptoms to look out for? I talk about them in this post.
Short on time? Head over to the summary of this post.
How does Heart Attack happen?
Last weekend, I was reading an article on the heart attack. If you aren’t familiar with how it happens, let me explain it briefly.
Coronary arteries supply blood to the heart and keep it functioning. When they are blocked, the heart struggles without blood supply and eventually stops. So the next question, what causes these arteries to block?
Plaque is build up of stuff – like cholesterol, WBC, calcium and other substances – on the artery walls. When they are substantial enough, the flow of the blood through the artery is blocked, much like our kitchen drainage system suffering from junk. Sometimes the plaque breaks up, causing blood clots that may eventually block the artery.
So why am I going so medical in a post on Scrum?
Because such an attack is possible on any Scrum project with unhealthy practices. That takes us to the next question.
What are the Causes and Symptoms of Scrum Attack?
Let’s be practical. Nobody loves a heart attack. Neither they wish their scrum project to fail.
It happens due to things consciously or otherwise let into their body. If you look closely, this may well resemble a failed scrum project.
Here are some causes and symptoms of a project that may suffer from a scrum attack.
#1 Unnecessary deliverables
When you start a scrum project, everything is healthy and lean. Like a cheerful little kid. But as time goes on, you start producing things that are superficial. They don’t add value and you do it just because they used to work.
Detailed design document is one classic example. The primary purpose of this is to document the design approach agreed for the project. But I have seen many projects that run around this document. Even worse, teams spend days and weeks on this document and the very premise of agility is at stake.
Watch out things that you or your team do just for the sake of doing them. Question their purpose and make others think.
#2 Communication troubles
Positive and productive communication is essential for any team to succeed. It doesn’t mean they are engaged in conversations all the time. But, they must be open and clear in their communication. And, such communication should happen with positive intent.
Nirvana or ultimate maturity is realized when osmotic communication (refer Alistair Cockburn) becomes a norm. Information and knowledge transpire through subtle means. You barely hear the team members talk but they work together like magic.
If there are communication troubles among team members, this is the probably the first thing you should fix.
#3 Lack of buy-in
In a team, the most difficult thing to achieve is acceptance for change. Humans are, by default, complacent creatures. Unless proven with hard examples, the team tends to resist change in any form.
Remember, any change always happens in two stages; first, in the mind and the second, in reality.
Lack of buy-in for change is another major cause of scrum attack. If you push the team harder without fixing this problem, they will ultimately break.
#4 Localized Agility
What do you think happens when one system keeps pumping more output into another, which cannot scale up? Yes, the other system eventually breaks.
That’s what precisely happens when one part of your product team, say development, is pumped up while devops, for example, is not. This is what I call localized agility.
Look for signs of localized agility and identify ways to fix it. If left untreated, it will ultimately result in a scrum attack.
A heart attack is the result of plaques in arteries that obstruct blood supply to the heart. In scrum, if such plaques are allowed to form due to unhealthy practices, then the result is a scrum attack.
Here are four main causes to look out for:
- Unnecessary deliverables produced by the team that comes in the way of delivering real value to business
- Communication troubles between team members due to personal and professional reasons
- Lack of buy-in among the team for changes
- Localized agility where one section of the collaborating teams is rapid and agile while other sections are not
Like any doctor says with a heart attack: maintain good habits, watch out for it and act early.