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“Scrum is Dead” and other Scrum Myths


This image shows a developer saying "was that the loch ness monster?" while a manager waves them off and says that it's just a myth.

When we uncover the truth, we arm ourselves with valuable insights, and that's truly empowering. It brings clarity and the ability to make informed choices, breaking free from the confines of misinformation. So, remember, 'the truth shall set you free' isn't just a saying—it's a reminder that seeking and embracing the truth gives us the power to navigate our work life with purpose."


In this article, we will dispel 3 Scrum myths. Now, I’m not saying the Loch Ness Monster is real… but I am saying that Scrum is not dead.



Myth 1: Scrum Is 'Dead'


This image shows that the adoption of Scrum has grown from 58% of Agile teams in the 14th Annual State of Agile report to 87% of Agile teams in the 16th annual report.

The reality: 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. (See our recent article “Why is Scrum the most popular Agile framework?” for more on this topic.)


Some critics have prematurely declared Scrum as 'dead' or 'outdated,' suggesting that newer frameworks have superseded it. This is far from the truth. Scrum remains a highly relevant and widely used Agile framework, valued for its simplicity, transparency, and emphasis on self-organization. Many Scrum teams are improving their adoption of Scrum by adopting complimentary practices such as practices common to Kanban, like limiting work in progress and adopting a pull system.


This graph shows that the Agile is being adopted at growing rates across the organization from software development to Marketing.

Not only is Scrum adoption growing at a remarkable pace, but Agile in general is increasingly being adopted in many different parts of the organization as well. The chart above shows which areas of the organization are using Agile. As you can see, from 2020 to 20221, the use of Agile in Software development grew from 37% to 86%. Agile toption grew for Operations, Marketing and even Human Resources. These are all complex business problems, so it makes sense that Agile frameworks becoming more and more popular as organizations seek to increase flexibility and respond to changing business needs. (See our recent article “Is Agile the right Fit?” For more on whether Agile is the right fit for your business need.)


Myth 2: The Scrum Master Is Like a Project Manager

The reality: While both Scrum Masters and Project Managers have certain tasks in common both, for example, facilitate meetings - the responsibilities and focus areas of a Scrum Master differ significantly from those of a traditional Project Manager. A Scrum Master acts as a servant-leader, helping the team to understand and implement Scrum as well as complimentary practices. The Scrum Master facilitates communication, removes impediments, coaches the team and improves the adoption of Scrum.


On the other hand, a Project Manager is focused on ensuring that the project is delivered on time, with the originally planned scope and within the planned budget. The Project Manager is accountable for a temporary endeavor, but the Scrum Master is responsible for improving the ability of the Scrum to deliver value for a long-lived Product. The Scrum Master is focused on empowering the team whereas the Project Manager is responsible for task management and delivering a particular scope of work within the planned time and budget.


Myth 3: The Product Owner Must have Technical Expertise

The reality: The misconception that a Product Owner must possess extensive technical expertise is one that needs to be debunked. While technical knowledge can be valuable, it is by no means a prerequisite for effective product ownership. The purpose of the Product Owner is to maximize the value of the product, and this is achieved through the content and ordering of the Product Backlog. This involves understanding the needs of the stakeholders, market trends, and the competitive landscape. The Product Owner collaborates with developers and stakeholders to determine the best approach to deliver value, leveraging the technical expertise of the team.


In today's rapidly evolving market, having a clear technical strategy is essential for staying competitive. The Product Owner doesn't need to be an engineer, but they should have a level of technology sympathy within their respective domain. This means understanding the possibilities and limitations of technology and how it can be harnessed to enhance the product. However, it's important for the Product Owner to avoid getting too bogged down in tactical technical solutions, as this can detract from the overarching goal of maximizing value.


In certain cases, an excess of technical expertise can inadvertently narrow the focus of a Product Owner. This may occur when the Product Owner becomes overly fixated on the "how" of implementation, potentially at the expense of a broader understanding of what is truly needed. It's crucial for the Product Owner to maintain their focus on the "what" – identifying and prioritizing the features and functionalities that will deliver the most value to the product and its users.


By leaving the question of "how" up to the development team, the Product Owner allows for a more dynamic and innovative approach to problem-solving. This empowers the team to leverage their technical expertise to come up with the most effective solutions, without being constrained by preconceived notions. It also fosters a collaborative environment where developers are encouraged to bring their own creative ideas and solutions to the table.


While a level of technical understanding may be helpful, it's important for a Product Owner to strike a balance. They should focus on discerning what is needed and let the development team handle the "how." This approach not only encourages a broader perspective but also fosters a more creative and innovative development process.



Conclusion

Dispelling these three prevalent Scrum myths is crucial for gaining a clear and accurate understanding of this powerful Agile framework. Understanding that Scrum is very much alive and thriving in the Agile landscape is essential for organizations aiming to optimize their value delivery. Recognizing the distinct roles of a Scrum Master and a Project Manager is crucial for effective team facilitation and project management. Finally, understanding that technical expertise is not a mandatory prerequisite for a Product Owner reinforces the importance of their role in bridging the gap between company strategy and the development team. Embracing these truths not only enhances our proficiency in Scrum but also empowers us to navigate the complexities of Agile development. Remember, in the world of Scrum, the truth is our most valuable asset.


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