Dear Scrum Letter

July 28, 2011 | Author: PM Hut | Filed under: Project Management Musings,SCRUM

Dear Scrum Letter
By Terry Bunio

Dear Scrum, I am sorry I have to write this in a letter, but I just found you to be distant and inflexible lately. I must admit when I first met you I was charmed by your processes and procedures. The form was liberating, I never felt so alive and everything seemed so clear and concise. But slowly I must admit the rigidity of the process has not allowed for the freedom that I and my projects need. I really did need a process where I could add requirements during a sprint when it made sense. I didn’t want to be limited in the duration of retrospectives if I thought there was more to discuss.

I guess I just need space.

And to be brutally honest, I was feeling really bad about referring to my team and clients as chickens and pigs. Although the metaphor was cute, it ended up being more divisive than anything. And I hated being referred to as a Scrum Master. The actual role seemed to diminish my value as a Project Manager and made me just a coach of the process instead of a valued team member. I felt that I wasn’t actually part of the team anymore.

I guess I have changed. It is not you, it is me.

More and more we just talked about Scrum and how we had to follow the process very diligently. Our discussions were only focused on Scrum topics. “What makes a good Product Owner?” and ”How to be a better Scrum Master” were the main topics. It seemed all we ever did was talk about you. We never talked about my feelings on User Story Mapping, Paper Prototyping, or other new methods that made me feel alive. In short, we were in a rut and not exploring anymore. We were just using a process for the sake of process and it felt like, well, waterfall.

I know those words hurt and I know the process is better than waterfall, but I felt we weren’t growing.

No, I haven’t met anyone new. But there is a whole world out there and maybe I need to date for a while until I discover someone I can truly be happy with. I just know I need someone who wants to change and adapt as much as I do. We will always have those items I learned from you and I will always have the Daily Stand ups, Retrospectives, and Technical Spikes. There is so much you taught me and you will always have a special place in my methodology heart.

I hope we can remain friends and maybe catch a movie someday. Maybe the Hobbit when it is released in 2012. Stay in touch.

Yours Truly.


Terry Bunio is currently a Principal Consultant at Protegra. He has managed multiple complex projects and provided Project Management, Architecture and Database leadership for companies such as Manitoba Public Insurance, LPL Financial, Assante Asset Management, Moventum, Government of Manitoba, Investors Group, and London Life. More recently Terry’s focus and passion has been on managing Lean projects and being part of Lean and Agile Project teams. As a practical Project Manager, Terry is known to challenge assumptions and strive to strike the balance between the theoretical book agile and the real world approaches.

Protegra helps organizations in the private and public sectors identify and solve tough business performance challenges. Protegra offers management consulting services focused on operational efficiencies. For organizations that use information technology as a competitive advantage, Protegra offers software services development and solutions.

3 people have left comments

Hi Terry,

breaking up is never a fun moment :-)

For your first issue on not being flexible enough, you might want to take a look at Scrum + Kanban. It makes it all a bit more flexible and perhaps that is a solution…

For the relationship and the issues you had in it, I think Dr Phill might be a proper solution…

kind regards

Kenneth van Rumste wrote on July 29, 2011 - 1:09 am | Visit Link

Dear Terry,

I’m sorry to hear that you and Scrum are not getting along as you used to do. Your letter is interesting and your point of view respectable. As an outside observer to this relationship, may I point out a few things you may want to think about?

Thank you.

Scrum is a very minimal framework. I am surprised you are not finding enough flexibility within it’s structure to do what you and your customers need. For example, many teams add new requirements in the middle of a sprint. They do this by observing that they have additional capacity and pull in the next priority work. Or, they remove a requirement originally planned that now has less priority than the new one added.

Retrospectives are time-boxed to drive focus and action, similarly to other time-boxes in Scrum. And Scrum is generous. There is nothing in the definition of Scrum that prohibits an additional retrospective session if the team decides it is needed. I’m sure Scrum is disappointed that you feel you can’t talk to your teammates about important issues since that is what Agile is all about.

If you don’t like the chicken and pigs metaphor, don’t use it. It is not part of the definition of Scrum but a metaphor to understand the importance of participation roles for those not on the Scrum Team. Most teams I know that are involved with Scrum don’t use the terms in everyday meetings.

Scrum Master is an odd term and can lead to misunderstanding of the role. Sorry it is so painful to you. I am surprised that you diminish the value of a team coach. A team that requires only facilitation of their Scrum Master, and someone in that role who only performs facilitation should re-evaluate how they can create more value for the team and product. It can be extremely rewarding and directly contributes to the profit of the product.

You are right, just as with any defined way of working it is easy to fall into the trap of working the process instead of working the value. This is not the fault of Scrum, it is human nature. An good way to avoid this trap is to always be asking “Why about this part of the process provides value? How do we create more of that value?”

Again, Scrum is generous. User Story Mapping, Paper Prototypes and most other detailed ways of working are not prohibited by Scrum. Please use them together and see what new benefits you can gain.

I’m glad you continue to use many of the parts of Scrum that are valuable to you. And it is probable that some may move from Scrum to other ways of working that are better for them. As you contemplate your separation from Scrum, please realize that sometimes it is not Scrum that we wish to shun but our individual perception of Scrum that may blind us to what it could be. Perception is reality for each of us. Seek out other perceptions to help adjust your own to match before moving away from something that could be valuable.

I’m here for you and Scrum in this difficult time for you both.


Alan Dayley wrote on July 29, 2011 - 1:15 am | Visit Link

Nice Article with a different style.
I have the chance to read so about scrum/Agile but I still need to find out one solid difference b/w it and the Traditional Good Project Management. I could see that ways of doing the things are little different but still all the underlying reasoning for following the process remains the same.

Anju Aggarwal wrote on July 29, 2011 - 2:10 am | Visit Link

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