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False Dichotomy

Updated: Jan 12


Harvard Business Review critique

An unusual article featured in the latest edition of the Harvard Business Review titled "Case Study: Should I Pitch a New Project-Management System?" raised several concerns and demonstrated misconceptions about Scrum. The piece created a false dilemma between "Scrum" and a hypothetical "Flow" process, essentially referring to Kanban.  


At the beginning of the article, the protagonist and another individual talk about how much better flow is than Scrum and erroneously portray a dichotomy between Kanban and Scrum, ignoring the fact that both can be effectively used together. Notably, Scrum.org offers a course called 'Professional Scrum with Kanban' that trains individuals to integrate both approaches.  


Combining Scrum with Kanban can help Scrum Teams better manage the flow of work within the Scrum Team.  For example, one common practice associated with Kanban teams is limiting work in progress (WIP).  A Scrum team can ensure a more streamlined workflow by setting constraints on the number of tasks.  This becomes especially advantageous in Scrum, where cross-functional teams with diverse skill sets collaborate on various tasks within a fixed timeframe.




Secondly, it became evident that the hypothetical company in the article was not correctly implementing the Scrum framework anyway.  For example, the protagonist's frustration stemmed from developers handing off work to a separate testing team at the end of each Sprint.  However, such handoffs are contrary to Scrum, which advocates for creating a done increment within each Sprint. Teams using Scrum for software development, for example, should develop and test every Sprint and should have all the skills needed on the team to deliver a done, usable increment of product.


Thirdly, the article hinted at Scrum endorsing siloed workflows, a misinterpretation, as Scrum encourages cross-functional teams with diverse skills to collaborate. The mention of redundant Daily Scrum events involving multiple teams also contradicts the Scrum framework, which does not prescribe such practices.


The article's mention of supervisors setting unrealistic deadlines emphasizes a need for more involvement by the Product Owner in creating a roadmap based on the Scrum Team's performance and the Product Backlog.  The article inaccurately suggested that in Scrum, managers determined release dates, but in 'flow', the team can decide. In reality, the Product Owner in Scrum decides the release date based on product priorities, not management.


Furthermore, the company's use of an annual process improvement review contradicts Scrum's frequent Sprint Retrospective meetings, which focus on continuous improvement.  Scrum Teams can incorporate Kanban practices, such as limiting work in progress, within the Sprint without requiring management approval. 


And most confusingly, at the end of the article, the protagonist’s solution is to implement ‘Flow,’ which the protagonist says resulted in a delivery of 10 points per Sprint.  This description implies that after all the complaints about Scrum, portrayed earlier in the article, they actually wound up keeping Scrum and implementing some common Kanban practices. 


Finally, it is essential to clarify that neither Scrum nor Kanban should be labeled as 'project management systems'; rather, Scrum is a framework designed to assist teams in organizing work and delivering valuable products.


In conclusion, the article displayed a lack of understanding of Scrum principles, leading to misleading conclusions, which all appear to degenerate Scrum while actually, the protagonist in the article… keeps using Scrum.


Sigh.

 


Scrum adoption

 Despite articles like this which seem to throw shade at Scrum, the adoption of Scrum has been accelerating in recent years.  Scrum is a framework that enhances teamwork by providing enough - but not too much - structure to enable Scrum Team members to collaborate effectively.  To learn more about the Scrum framework, sign up for the Applying Professional Scrum course with Rebel Scrum or contact us to learn more about group training options for your organization. 

 

Scrum Day 2024 in beautiful Madison, Wisconsin, is hosted by Rebel Scrum.  Make this the year you collaborate with your peers to improve your adoption of Agile frameworks like Scrum and Kanban. Get tickets today for discounted pricing at the Scrum conference that will leave you buzzing with ideas from fellow practitioners and industry experts.

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