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Jared Richardson works at Logos Technologies As a recognized expert in the software industry, Jared has worked with both start-ups and software giants. He's been involved with various open source projects, with roles from contributor to founder. Jared co-authored the best selling book Ship It! and Career 2.0, and founded the Agile RTP user group as a local outlet for the agile community in North Carolina. His personal blog is Agile Artisans Jared has posted 52 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Scrum is Suffocating Me!

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From time to time I get email from people in various stages of Agile adoption, asking for advice or tips. Last week one sounded particularly desperate. With permission, I've listed a few bits of the letter, along with my answers and a few comments. My hope is that some others will see themselves in notes likes these and gain a better understanding themselves and their situation.

 I'm in a desperate situation and don't know who to turn to. At work recently we adopted scrum method and it just is not working for me. I have tried to communicate this to my employers...

They said it was to be a open and transparent transition, but as I raised issues it became clear that the decision had already been made and everything else was merely a formality...

... I feel that scrum works great for management, but not for me as a coder...

In the past I would have received a task to do and I would come up with designs, take them to architects for approval, write tests then get busy (in teams as well). Now, I am part of a team that has to meet everyday to say what I'm doing everyday. Except, I don't have any say anymore about design or the 'bigger picture'. Now you cannot move until you have meetings. code by committee. Now I write jdbc calls and stick it into methods. This is the extent of my day. My cv is suffering because of this.

...I previously was a little independent and had some freedoms, but now I'm finding it very difficult to integrate into the team.

I resorted to apologizing where I needed to, got my head down and did what was asked of me. But it hasn't solved anything and I don't really know where to from here.

Do you have any ideas?


We have a developer who's been working with code for a while... he had a pattern down that worked well for him, but now scrum isn't working at all for him. He's getting desperate... he wants his old life back.

 I suggested he do a few things....

  •  Read more about Scrum
  • Read more about Agile in general
  • Read a few blogs about Agile

I wanted him to learn more about Scrum and Agile so that he would be able to first be able to evaluate what his team was doing. Were they omitting key practices? Abusing others? I obviously can't know these things, but maybe he can figure it out with a bit of self-education.

 I also wanted him educated about Scrum and Agile. Many practices, when not introduced properly, can look really bad to the teams they're being forced on.

 In this aspect his management failed him. When a team adopts Scrum or Agile, management too often buys an "Agile Tool", and expects it to drive the team. Unfortunately, people drive Agile, not tools. Tools support the effort, not the other way around.

 If you're wanting to drive Agile adoption, you've got to be sure your team trained and share your motivations with them. If management is driving Agile adoption, it's to address some type of pain. Either they don't know what your team is doing and they want insight to the development lifecycle, or they need to get a smaller feature set to market more often, or they want to boost quality. Whatever the motivations, they need to share them with the team.

 Then get the team trained... don't just throw them in the water and see if they can swim.

 In this case, I got lucky. The writer mentioned one key complaint. Did you catch it?

 ...I previously was a little independent and had some freedoms...

 This developer used to have "freedom". That's often "geek speak" for doing my own thing. I asked if the team had gone Agile because they had no insight to what he'd been doing. If perhaps the team was happy now because they now knew what he was up to day by day.

 Well, if I must be honest and I don't know how you knew, but they have in the past complained about me 'going dark'. Not knowing where I am in my work. That suited me because I was new to java. The thing is, I delivered everything on time, in proper working order. I thought that would satisfy any manager.

 This is a typical developer response... we think if we do good work, that should be enough for anyone, but it's not. When people are quiet, no-one assumes you're getting work done. Managers, and coworkers, need to see what you're doing and understand it.


So what's the solution to this question?

  • Educate yourself
  • Make a point of actively sharing your work (peering or pairing, charting, etc)


I hope that Agile (Scrum in this case) works out for this guy. But it's up to him and his team. Each side has some work to do. It might hurt a bit at first, but all exercise does.







Published at DZone with permission of its author, Jared Richardson.

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)


Travis Calder replied on Wed, 2010/05/12 - 2:09am

Excellent article.

I totally agree with the observation that many complaints around agile actually focus on improperly adopted practices.

I work on a team that does Scrum, approximately. We work on 1 week sprints, and one of the features of agile that really has me sold is the fact that we meet once a week to discuss what we felt worked and didn't work for us that week. Over time our process evolves, and we get faster and better every week because we're allowed to "throw out" the pieces we don't like and "keep" what makes the team productive.

I would be interested to know if the letter's author is in a similar situation. Do they hold retrospectives? If so, is everyone free to speak their mind, even if it is to say that Agile doesn't feel right? Does the team, as a unit, attempt to find the root cause of complaints like this so they can be addressed?

People before Process. Following agile dogma blindly, without ever consulting your team, isn't actually agile because it's ignoring one of the key "rules".

Idis Sa replied on Thu, 2010/05/13 - 12:48pm

Scrum is  a hype. All these people trying to sell their books and workshops are screwing millions of developers. The best thing you can do if you do not like Scrum is to look for another job where you don't need to do Scrum. From my own experience I can tell you that it can be done and it will only get easier with time after people start realizing that Scrum is crap.

Jared Richardson replied on Thu, 2010/05/13 - 2:50pm in response to: Idis Sa

I would respectfully disagree... I've seen Scrum, and practices like Scrum, do wonders for shops with a lack of process and structure. I've also seen it abused horribly and cause many problems. It sounds like you've seen more of the problem shops.

Scrum isn't a silver bullet and won't solve all problems either. It requires good programming practices from something like XP to succeed.

I'm curious to know what you use in place of a practice like Scrum? How do you guide the team? Do you follow the "Shut up and code" philosophy where good people are left alone and they just Do The Right Thing and it all works out? Or is there a a specific practice you follow?

.... Hoping I'm not just feeding a troll.... ;)

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