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Dependencies Are the Death of Value Delivery

Siloed or narrow product definition slows delivery

Scrum, the most popular Agile framework, has seen significant growth in adoption over the past few years. According to the annual State of Agile report from Digital AI, Scrum adoption surged from 58% to an impressive 87% of Agile teams between 2020 and 2022. This trend reflects the effectiveness and benefits that Scrum brings to organizations seeking to enhance value delivery.

While Scrum's popularity continues to soar, many teams are still suffering from unnecessary dependencies which slow value delivery across the organization. A dependency refers to a situation where one task, Product Backlog item, user story, or feature relies on another for completion or integration. Dependencies slow value delivery, because a task which depends upon another cannot be completed until the dependency has been satisfied. Dependencies can arise due to various reasons, such as technical constraints or resource availability. The most common root cause for dependencies is a narrow Product Definition.

Dependencies Slow Value Delivery

Cross-functional teams

When products are defined too narrowly within an organization, they can inadvertently foster unnecessary dependencies. This occurs when teams are isolated in their respective domains, lacking the cross-functional capabilities to tackle tasks independently. As a result, they become reliant on other teams to complete their work, creating a web of dependencies that slows down the overall value delivery process.

Below are the top five negative impacts that dependencies can have on the organization:

1. Proliferation of Product Backlogs

Defining products too narrowly results in a proliferation of product backlogs which creates conflict.

Narrowly defined teams can lead to a proliferation of Product Backlogs focused on a narrow slice of value delivery. While this approach may seem like it enhances focus, it can have unintended consequences. This approach can lead to a gridlock of conflicting priorities across the organization where work that is high priority for one team may be considered low priority by another. These conflicting priorities can lead to confusion on which work is really the most important from an organizational perspective.

2: Unnecessary Handoffs

Handoffs slow value delivery

When teams operate in isolation, handoffs between teams become frequent. This handoff process introduces delays and potential miscommunications, slowing down the progress of the value delivery. Additionally, information scatter occurs when knowledge is distributed unevenly across teams, making it harder to resolve issues and make informed decisions. This, coupled with a high inventory of product backlog items, creates a backlog bloat that further hampers the delivery of value.

3: Loss of Customer and Whole-Product Focus

Define products to accelerate value delivery

Narrowly defined teams can inadvertently lead to a myopic view of the product. Each team may become so focused on their specific area that they lose sight of the broader customer needs and the holistic product vision. This can result in fragmented solutions that fail to deliver the comprehensive value that customers expect.

4: Opaque Measure of Process

unclear measures of progress

In an environment riddled with dependencies, accurately measuring progress and performance becomes challenging. Traditional metrics may not adequately capture the complexities introduced by inter-team dependencies, leading to an opaque understanding of the overall process health.

5. Limits to Self-Organization

Dependency-laden environments can stifle the self-organizing capabilities of Agile teams. Instead of being empowered to make decisions and take ownership of their work, teams may find themselves beholden to external dependencies and constraints.


While Scrum's popularity is on the rise, it's crucial to recognize potential stumbling blocks like dependencies. Dependencies can slow down value delivery and hinder the full potential of Scrum adoption.

One of the most common root causes of dependencies lies in how organizations define their products. By taking the time to define products and addressing dependencies head-on, organizations can unlock the true power of Agile methodologies.

To learn more about Product Definition, signup for Rebel Scrum’s new Product Definition course.

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