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“Best practices” and “Anti-practices” in scrum.

Scrum is an implementation of agile methodology in which incremental changes are delivered timely.  Scrum helps people and teams deliver value incrementally in a collaborative way.  It promotes a sense of personal responsibility, adds structure to complex projects, and keeps the work moving steadily. It is an adaptive, fast, flexible, incremental, iterative, and effective methodology that was designed to deliver outstanding values quickly throughout a project. Scrum is a lightweight yet incredibly powerful set of values, principles, and practices.

 

 Scrum benefits any project when Best Practices are followed and are successfully implemented.


1] The three pillars of empiricism- Transparency, inspection, adaptation are at the base of the Scrum framework. 

  • The scrum team and everybody involved must have transparency/visibility into the upcoming process and project work must be visible to those who are performing the work as well as those who are receiving the workTransparency enables everyone to have a shared understanding of the progress of the project, and it helps to build trust and accountability within the team.

  • In scrum, the progress toward the agreed product goal and the current sprint goal must be often and thoroughly inspected. This creates early visibility into challenges in the product increment or the development process. Regular refinement in the product backlog ensuring prioritization improves the clarity and effectiveness of the backlog, making it easier for the team to plan and deliver.

  • When the need to adapt the product increment or the development is revealed in any inspection, the process should be changed by the necessary actions and must be executed them as per the next best plan. Adaptation helps to minimize any deviations to acceptable limits concerning agreed goals

 

2] The five Scrum values are commitment, focus, openness, respect, and courage. In Scrum methodology, these values serve as a guide for individual as well as the team behavior, intending to lift collaboration and increase the project success.

  • Commitment is staying dedicated to the objectives developed by team for an accomplishment of the goals and objectives.

  • Focus is about staying on track and helping other team members do the same by eliminating distractions as much as possible.

  • Openness means being open-minded in terms of communication between members and stakeholders. Welcoming new ideas, strategies and styles of working helps the team move forward.

  • Respect means teammates should appreciate each other for their strengths treating people as equals regardless of age, education, social position, etc. and also means respecting others’ decisions and opinions even if you disagree with them.

  • Courage means getting out of own comfort zone to say `no`, asking for help, accepting challenges or trying new things for meeting defined range of expectations.

3] Scrum principles guiding for the best results:

  • Empirical process control: Scrum teams manage work that is based on observation and experimentation and make changes based on project needs.

  • Self-organization: Each team member is self-motivated and seeks to accept greater responsibility for managing and completing their own tasks. The Scrum Team takes decision about how to work together and which member should perform a given task. The team members have ownership of delivering high-quality, valuable increments of the product.

  • Time-boxing: Teams spend a fixed amount of time in scrum events - sprint planning, daily scrum meetings, sprint review, and retrospectives providing a predictable cadence for development. Daily stand-up meetings should promote communication, collaboration, and quick issue resolution. A sprint review can showcase the product increment and receive feedback.  A retrospective helps to identify areas for improvement for a continuous improvement and ensures that the team learns from each sprint.

  • Value-based prioritization: Teams determine the order and separate what must be done now, from what needs to be done later. Each team member works on the highest-priority items first. 

  • Working collaboratively: Putting aside any differences in opinion, the team works best together to deliver what will benefit the product or service as a whole.

4] Cross-functional teams having of individuals with varied skills, a shared sense of responsibility, and a collaborative mindset should work together autonomously by reducing dependencies, leveraging their varied expertise to deliver products and services in short cycles by enabling:

  • Fast feedback

  • Quicker innovation

  • Continuous improvement

  • Rapid adaptation to change

  • Accelerated pace from idea to delivery


Anti-practices are the opposite of the best practices. Scrum anti practices may be a habit or process or behavior that leads to harmful outcomes. Scrum Anti Patterns or practices are behaviors that the team members exhibit that would drain the resources from the scrum team in the long run. These may be just individual mistakes or may be followed within a team or organization and can make the project goals and objectives weak leading to failure of the project. The anti-patterns may emerge from misunderstanding, misapplying or overemphasizing scrum principals.

Sprint anti-patterns-

· Changing Sprint Goals Mid-Sprint: Allowing mid-sprint changes in goal or scope disrupts the team's focus and undermines the purpose of time-boxed sprints.

· Extending Sprint: Frequently extending sprint duration to meet sprint goals disturbs the momentum of sprint and the ability to consistently forecast a body of work to deliver a potentially releasable increment becomes difficult.

· Ignoring technical debt: Instead of addressing accumulated technical debt of incomplete solutions, prioritizing short-term goals in a project can slow down the development process and compromise the quality of the product 

· Sprint stuffing: Pushing the development team to take on new tasks after accomplishing the sprint goal early and overloading the team with extra work can lead to burnout, decreased quality, and an inability to meet the next sprint goals.

· Skipping essential steps – Missing sprint reviews and retrospectives may result into a lack of reflection and lack of feedback from key stakeholders about the product and the process to improvise the agile practices and the value delivery.  Similarly, if any opportunities to inspect and adapt are missed, then it is hard to grasp the current status of the project, to define a direction about the next steps of the project and then strategize and execute vision by making adjustments in the processes avoiding the possible road blockers.

· Over-reliance on the definition of ready: Postponing critical tasks because they don’t strictly meet the “ready” criteria may reflect on financial losses and delivery delays.

· Micromanaging The team by dictatorial leadership or individual team members can hinder creativity and motivation and takes away from self-organization, self-management and autonomy bypassing scrum roles and principals.

· Overemphasis on processes and tools: Agile and scrum uses processes and tools to enable effective teamwork and delivery. However, this anti-pattern occurs when the organization overemphasizes processes and tools, leading to a focus on process adherence rather than customer value and team collaboration.

 

 Sprint planning anti-patterns-

· Outdated product backlog: If a product backlog has too many items past their expiry date, those need to be moved to the new sprint delaying next steps and process to achieve goals. 

· Over-prepped backlog: A detailed product backlog takes too much time to begin the sprint and refining may be difficult too during the sprint.

· Unrefined product backlog:  A chaotic sprint planning session and unclear priorities are the results of an unrefined product backlog.

· Interference of Stakeholder: That may deviate the focus of the team on project goals and process by redirecting the project to different direction. 

· Incomplete /improper Definition of Done can lead to misunderstandings about what "done" means, resulting in lower product quality.

 

 Daily Scrum anti-patterns-

· Overcrowded stand-ups:  As against the scrum guide suggestion, if the team size is over 10, the communication becomes ineffective and inefficient.

· Problem-solving stand-ups:  The daily standup meeting is to discuss progress and identify blockers. If stand-up is turned into extended problem-solving sessions, it is not fast, optimistic, and active and more likely that some people will find them irrelevant and zone out resulting into unproductive meeting. There is a higher chance of tangential side conversations that waste everyone’s time.

· Skipped Daily Scrums: Skipping stand-ups may keep the team uninformed about the progress of the team and transparency may be lost. The impediments may not be shared to get the solutions for an easy flow of the process.

 

Sprint review anti-patterns-

· Declaring undone tasks as “done:”- It is very misleading and the progress of the project may not be directed towards the completion of the goal correctly.

· No feedback – If the sprint review is treated as a demo only and no feedback from stakeholders is received, the purpose of sprint review meeting is lost.

· Absence of Stakeholder- Stakeholders miss sprint reviews and no feedback is received for improvement of the product or changing requirements and ensuring the product and the business needs.

 

Sprint retrospective anti-patterns-

· Negative-only retros: Focusing solely on negative points without celebrating any wins becomes discouraging for the team.

· Skipping retrospectives: Skipping retrospectives bypasses the opportunities to reflect on the project's overall performance, evaluate its achievements and shortcomings, and identify opportunities for improvement in future.

· No follow-up actions:  The purpose of retrospective is not achieved if action items or plan from previous retrospectives are not followed.

· Discussion domination: One or two voices dominating the discussion gives ignorance feeling to others.

· No fun: Always using the same format for retrospectives, makes them stale and hindering innovation.


Scrum team anti-patterns-

· Product Owner anti-patterns – Disconnected, inactive and inaccessible or unavailable PO, deferred decision-making to stakeholders or higher-ups makes harder to maintain a clear vision and direction for the product.

· Scrum Master anti-patterns - Communication interference by enforcing unnecessary ways of interacting, not respecting, focusing too much on to follow Scrum practices, taking on development tasks or acting as a Product Owner, acting as a taskmaster instead of a servant-leader and not efficiently facilitating teams by removing any impediments makes harder for the teams to develop project as aimed.

· Development team anti-patterns - one member over works, leading to bottlenecks or burnout, under-committing to avoid failure, focusing only on individual tasks and performance while neglecting team goals is unfair for any team leading to frustration and anxiety.

 

Conclusion -

Adhering to Scrum best practices and avoiding anti-practices is essential for reaping the benefits of agility, collaboration, and continuous improvement in project. Effective scrum looking as part of a longer journey towards agility requires something more than just following the mechanics and fundamentals of the framework or fall into the habit of simply going through the motions. Success of Scrum methodology requires mindset changes for ways of working and thinking, and an environment that supports it including trust embracing the Scrum Values in the work. It`s  Professional Scrum!!

 

References –

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