Adapting Scrum

Paul Henman
7 min readSep 6, 2021

That’s not a typo in the title — I see lots of articles about adopting scrum (i.e. getting started) but I wanted to touch on adapting scrum, for those who have been doing scrum “by the book” and are wondering what’s next.

The most common start point for groups as they step into the agile world is scrum. It makes sense because the official scrum guide details many of the things which they need to do, which may well be quite alien to them, for example having regular retrospectives to look for ways to improve how they work. I’ve heard people use the analogy of learning ten pin bowling with “bumpers” to prevent balls from going into the gutter, however, even following the scrum guide word for word won’t prevent a team from encountering problems. Instilling the practice of retrospection should give teams a fighting chance at tackling those challenges, but there are no guarantees. It’s worth understanding that scrum won’t fix your problems — all it can do is shine a light on them, and then it’s up to the people involved to resolve them.

Over time a team becomes familiar with scrum’s pillars (transparency, inspection, and adaptation), values (commitment, focus, openness, respect, and courage), events (sprints, sprint planning, daily scrum, sprint review, and retrospective) and artefacts (product backlog, sprint backlog, and increment). Once they find a cadence that works for them, a team can become restless and wonder “what’s next?” — ideally their mindset of continuous improvement has the team looking beyond scrum.

One area I encourage teams to investigate is XP because scrum focuses on how teams can organise their work and deliver value when faced with complex problems — it doesn’t mention anything about software engineering, and that’s where Extreme Programming fits in. XP provides some concepts which will be familiar to scrum teams (iterations, stand ups, sustainable pace) but also some which are commonly associated with scrum and yet aren’t in the scrum guide, for example, user stories and velocity. Scrum and XP fit together so well there ought to be a name for it!

Just like scrum, XP can appear simple at first but (as claimed by some games) it takes a minute to learn, a lifetime to master! Some of the concepts seem obvious, maybe even redundant, and yet I have seen teams struggle to do them well — “ Code the unit test

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Paul Henman

Agile Coach in Toronto, Canada (https://TorontoAgileCoach.ca); founder of Toronto PhotoWalks (https://topw.ca); Formula One (F1) and rugby fan