4 Reasons Some Companies Fail to Get the Full Benefits of Scrum

April 10, 2013

Dr. Jeff Sutherland, co-creator of Scrum, explains some of the stumbling blocks that companies and teams run into when implementing Scrum and offers tactics to avoid them.

4 Reasons Some Companies Fail to Get the Full Benefits of Scrum

Although Scrum is more popular than ever, the reality is that only 10 to 15 percent of companies are realizing its full potential. Often, this is because Scrum, while easy to understand, can be a difficult process to implement properly. Jeff Sutherland, CEO of Scrum Inc. recently sat down with OpenView (listen to the full interview here) to provide solutions to some of the common pitfalls that cause companies to come up short of achieving the full benefits of Scrum.

1) Not Paying Attention to “Yesterday’s Weather”

One of the most demoralizing things for a team to encounter is when they fail to reach the goals of their sprint.
Teams that are able to consistently finish what they set out to do are able to accelerate at a faster rate, which is why it is so important for you to only be undertaking what you have proven to be capable of in previous sprints. It is what we refer to as implementing a pattern of “yesterday’s weather.”
Not only will this help you cut down on planning time, your team will be more comfortable and confident, as well. They have already proven to be effective and consistent in delivering when using “yesterday’s weather” to pull into a sprint.

2) Neglecting to Incorporate a Buffer Plan For Delays

Naturally, things will pop up that could potentially derail you during a sprint. But because this is an inevitable pattern, you can plan for it.
By creating an interrupt buffer, you can allow a product owner to take on a certain percentage of unexpected, high priority work that crops up during your sprint. He or she will triage interruptions, deciding whether each is:

  • work the team must do during this sprint
  • work that can wait for the next sprint
  • work that isn’t too important and can be thrown in the backlog

In the event that too many interruptions occur, you can simply abort the sprint and re-plan, but with a buffer you will at least be prepared for a reasonable amount of distraction.

3) Failing to Build Repeatable Patterns

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The key to successfully completing sprints is to have repeatable patterns you can rely upon. Pulling in the right amount of work and being able to handle your interruptions are key patterns to establish. But you’ll also want to develop emergency procedures for when you find your productivity slowing down even with those two safeguards in place.
That way, when you are behind schedule you can alternate your pattern of work to compensate as a fail-safe. Have a checklist you can work through when things slow down that are designed to help you get back on track. As a last resort, you can also attempt to offload some of your backlog to other teams.

4) Being Afraid to Reset

Sometimes enough disruption will occur to totally derail a sprint. In these instances, it’s actually better to stop and reset rather than continue ahead with little hope of finishing on time.
Instead of allowing your team to coast unhappily into failure, resetting can give them the chance to refocus and reenergize so they can be successful going forward.

What impediments has your team faced implementing Scrum? Have you been able to overcome them?



<strong>Dr. Jeff Sutherland</strong> is the co-creator of Scrum and a leading expert on how the framework has evolved to meet the needs of today’s business. As the CEO of <a href="http://www.scruminc.com/index.php">Scrum Inc.</a> and the Senior Advisor and Agile Coach to OpenView Venture Partners, Jeff sets the vision for success with Scrum. He continues to share best practices with organizations around the globe and has written extensively on Scrum rules and methods. With a deep understanding of business process — gleaned from years as CTO/CEO of eleven different software companies — Jeff is able to describe the high level organizational benefits of Scrum and what it takes to create hyperproductive teams.