9 Scrum antipatterns to have on your radar As with everything in life, working with Scrum has its highs and its lows. It can be easy to fall into a routine that resembles Scrum but doesn’t offer the same value.
Complacent, seemingly innocent practices become ingrained into your process and — while it feels like they help — they easily distract from the project’s main goal.
We call these “Scrum antipatterns”.
5 common Scrum antipatterns and how to solve them
The first step to combating antipatterns is to actually recognize them. It’s highly likely that your team is utilizing antipatterns without even realizing they are negatively impacting the project.
Let’s have a look at the most common antipatterns — and how to fix them:
1. Thinking Scrum can solve everything
Scrum is wonderful, but let’s be honest… it’s not magic.
Scrum is a tool that can help tackle specific problems and shouldn’t be the go-to solution for everything. That’s how you get stuck!
The best way to fight this antipattern is to simply ask “Why?”. Scrum has been integrated so heavily into our workflows that many may not understand why we do it. Taking a step back to remember why Scrum works and why we use it can give you a chance to reassess the situation — finding the solution or approach that actually works best.
After all, Agile and Scrum are heavily focused on being adaptable, so your team should be equally flexible to make it work.
2. Forgetting that Scrum and Agile are part of the same family
Here’s a truth you may have forgotten: Agile is a mindset, Scrum is a way of operating within that mindset.
If you’re getting too wrapped up in the world of Scrum, rather than keeping Agile workflows in the picture, you can dig yourself a deep hole and bury your project. The whole team needs to look at both Scrum and Agile to make sure they’re getting the best out of their practices.
3. Focusing on Scrum guidelines
You might be able to see a pattern forming here! Scrum is a fantastic way of working, but placing too much emphasis on it can hinder your team. Following a rigid set of guidelines is the complete opposite of the Agile methodology you should be working with when using Scrum.
It may seem ironic, but focusing too heavily on the Scrum guidelines is a trademark antipattern as it actually limits your team. Remember the old adage: rules are made to be broken!
To dig themselves out of the Scrum hole, teams should always be looking for ways to improve their processes rather than following the rule book at all times.
4. Introducing Scrum, but not actually working Scrum
Scrum for Scrum’s sake. This happens quite often and adds absolutely zero value to your team or your product.
Management hears about the value Scrum can bring — cheaper costs, faster turnaround, higher revenue, and so on. They then start preaching Scrum and insist everyone switches to it. But they don’t follow through properly, they don’t know how to implement it correctly, and a few months later, never mention it again because it didn’t provide the results they were looking for.
The issue is, you can’t just say the word Scrum and expect everything to change. Agile working is a gradual process that needs to be introduced correctly — it’s not a buzzword designed to fix everything overnight.
Ultimately, Scrum is a reflection tool that gives you the guidelines to understand what’s working well and what needs to improve. Use it to inform your decision-making process so that you and your team can make the right choices.
5. Embracing Scrum in one department only
Scrum is mainly used in product development, but does that mean only product teams can work this way? Absolutely not!
By its very nature, Scrum needs to involve the end users and the customers you’re building the product for. If it’s confined to the product team alone, you’re not going to see the benefits as a whole. You need regular feedback from everyone involved in the process to make sure the product will genuinely address the customer’s needs.
This is true of any form of Agile methodology you’re trying to introduce. The entire company needs to be involved in the Agile transformation so everyone can be on the same page and give valuable feedback.
Scrum Masters and product owners aren’t immune either! - 4 antipatterns that leaders should watch out for
By nature, Scrum Masters and product owners are the authority on what to do and not do during sprints. That being said, they can still throw some antipatterns into the mix.
1. Product Owners staying out of the process
Some product owners like to take themselves out of the product development cycle. That may seem like a good thing, as the team is able to self-organize and work with autonomy, but it means there is no one to keep the work on track.
A product owner may be involved with multiple teams at once and have to split their time between them, but that doesn’t mean they should be completely hands-off. Product owners should be regularly checking in with their teams to make sure any concerns are answered and the sprint is on track to being a success.
2. Being MIA too often
On a similar note, the dream of a self-organizing team comes with drawbacks. Obviously, you don’t want to have to micromanage your team at every point in the process, but leaving them without guidance can be equally as damaging.
If the Scrum Master or product owner can’t be there, they need to make sure they can be contacted easily. After the last year of remote working, we should all be using communication software and be fully clued up on how it works. Now things are heading back to a hybrid “normal”, it’s important you and your teams are still using that software as standard.
3. Too many sprint cancellations… or not enough
Canceling sprints seems like an extreme measure, but a good team knows when a sprint should be called off.
Sometimes it becomes obvious that the sprint isn’t going to be successful and to continue working on it would just be a waste of time and money. A product owner or Scrum Master should be willing to cancel a sprint in these situations. It may seem like you’ve wasted time by only performing half a sprint, but it’s going to save more time and money for the project as a whole.
On the other side of things, once you open up the concept of canceling sprints, you and your team may start seeing this as an easy way out. Not every sprint will need to be canceled and let’s be honest, working with Scrum is all about finding problems and fixing them — not running away from them.
4. Removing retrospectives
It may not surprise you to see us reeling at the idea of Scrum Masters saying no to retrospectives. After all, if you’ve visited our blog before you’ll have seen countless posts on how important retrospectives can be for your projects and all the best ways to get the maximum value from them.
Yet, despite our efforts, some teams are growing bored of the retrospective and choosing to skip them altogether! We understand that they can become repetitive over time, but we can’t stress how important retrospectives are for learning and improvement.
Is your Scrum team experiencing retrospective fatigue? Then try switching up how you’re running them. EasyRetro has over 100 templates and plenty of guides to make retrospectives fun again. Give them a go today!