The Skinny on Scrum

In the eleven years I’ve known my husband, I gained 30 pounds. I’ve tried numerous attempts at losing the weight – I’ve counted points. I’ve counted calories. I tried low-fat diets, no fat diets, low carb diets, no-carb diets. I would lose 5 or 10 pounds and then gain it back. It was a wild roller coaster and I felt like a failure… and I was frustrated.

Convinced something was wrong with my body, I asked my doctor to perform multiple blood tests. They always came back fine; I was quite healthy. Overweight, but healthy. I was convinced that it was the DIET’S FAULT.

This was weighing heavily (pun intended) on my mind while creating a training deck for our Vaco agile clients. I was in the process of inserting a slide on the 5 Core Scrum Values when it hit me:

I wasn’t personally aligned with these values myself.

  • Focus.
  • Openness.
  • Respect.
  • Courage.
  • Commitment.

I wasn’t focused. Like most people, my diets kicked off on a Monday morning. I followed the diet to a “T” on Mondays and Tuesdays. Wednesday’s were a little slippery, sometimes I would sneak a free office cookie or two. Thursday’s were “girl’s night out” which meant wine. Several glasses, of course. Fridays: Date night with my husband which meant more wine. Oh, and dessert.

By Saturday morning, I would wake feeling remorseful and defeated. I would then chalk it up to a “bad week” and decide to start again the following Monday, giving myself the weekend to “just relax and enjoy” – which really meant, fried food, wine, and exercise avoidance.

I wasn’t being open or honest with myself. I continuously made careless choices without any sort of personal accountability. I literally ignored my role in this thing called weight loss. It was the epitome of denial.

I wasn’t respecting the rules of any of the diet plans. I cut corners as much as possible – over measuring, under-exercising, sneaking bites of this or that. Essentially, I was a big fat cheater.

I didn’t have the courage to admit this to myself. It was all too easy to blame everything around me, but being honest was scary.  I felt vulnerable and embarrassed. Weak and shameful.

Clearly, I wasn’t committed to losing this weight. All signs point to this.

I realized it wasn’t the diet’s fault. 
It was mine.

What’s my point here? If Scrum isn’t working for you, I challenge you to turn inward and ask yourself if your organization is aligned with the 5 Scrum Values.

Are you FOCUSED?

Are your team members adhering to WIP limits? Do they have WIP limits? Are your scrum teams able to work on what they committed to at planning, or are they continually switching gears? How’s your quality? Do you have test automation? Is your Scrum Master focused on process improvement? Do you even have a dedicated SM?

Are you OPEN?

Is all the work visible on the Scrum board (or are your team members working on “side” projects no one knows about)? Do your teams follow working agreements? What about Definition of Done or Definition of Ready? Do your teams feel comfortable raising concerns or are they “yes” people?


Are you following the Scrum Guide? The 12 Principles? Does your organization respect your team’s working hours or are they expected to work nights and weekends to meet unrealistic deadlines? Are your team members “T” shaped? Cross-functional? Do developers help test? Does the team feel responsible for the work, or do they still have that siloed mindset?


Do you have the courage to approach the difficult conversations, the elephant in the room? Are your teams encouraged to experiment? Do they have the organization’s support if they fail? Are your Product Owners empowered to make decisions or are they just order takers? Does your company ever say “no” to clients or at the very least, negotiate scope? Do your team members ask for what they need?


Are your team members committed to the sprint goal? How often are they rolling stories from sprint to sprint? What are the consequences when this happens? Is the entire organization committed to continuous improvement (top-down and bottom-up)?

Wrapping Things Up




It’s not Scrum’s fault. Just like it wasn’t the diet’s faults.

If Scrum isn’t working for you, I challenge you to turn inwards and ask yourself if you are aligned with the 5 Scrum Values. Think FORCC (Focus, Openness, Respect, Courage, Commitment).


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