The Scrum methodology of agile software development marks a dramatic departure from waterfall management. In fact, Scrum and other agile processes were inspired by its shortcomings. The Scrum methodology emphasizes communication and collaboration, functioning software, and the flexibility to adapt to emerging business realities — all attributes that suffer in the rigidly ordered waterfall paradigm.
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In a post on agile luminary Martin Fowler’s blog, he identifies a new strain of Scrum dysfunction that’s wreaking havoc on software development projects: “flaccid Scrum.” Here’s Fowler’s description of how this anti-pattern gets started:
- “They want to use an agile process, and pick Scrum
- They adopt the Scrum practices, and maybe even the principles
- After a while progress is slow because the code base is a mess”
What Fowler is describing here is an organization that has begun to use Scrum—and Scrum only—to manage its projects. For organizations developing software (or other chaotic technology deliverables), Scrum is not a substitute for agile engineering practices—not even close. In fact, Scrum intentionally omits engineering practices to give organizations as much flexibility as possible. That is, Scrum is about people and teams and believes that decisions about engineering practices should be left up to them, rather than prescribed.
Of course, Fowler understands this and is quick to say that a recent outcropping of so-called “flaccid Scrum” projects has more to do with Scrum’s surge in popularity than any inherent flaw with the framework.
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