Why you will fail with Scrum

Finally here is an English translation of my article “Kein Erfolg mit Scrum” (no success with Scrum) in German which describes several reasons why you will fail with Scrum.

Feel free to download it here: Marc Bless – Why you will fail with Scrum

You will learn some things about the cycle of failure, local optimization, ineffective retrospectives, error culture in organizations, and the lack of management support. The article then elaborates on the following change-anti-patterns: efficiency instead of effectiveness, lack of trust, and search someone to blame. It finally proposes to get aware and make use of the Responsibility Process to overcome those patterns.

One-line summary of the conclusion: Agile doesn’t work without responsibility.

I would like to introduce you to some of the main contents of the article:

  • Cycle of Failure: the cause of a problem is analysed, possible solutions get implemented. Due to some typical anti-patterns the cause of the problem still remains in the organisation.
  • Symptom 1: Local Optimization – Teams, individuals, projects and initiatives are measured by individual objectives. This leads to egocentric optimization. An overarching solution is identified and implemented. However, a lack of trust, the search for culprits, and the pursuit of efficiency rather than effectiveness ensure that local optimization is maintained.
  • Symptom 2: Ineffective Retrospectives – Like at the regulars’ table, the same problems are discussed again and again, but no effective changes are implemented. The solution lies in the training and further development of Scrum Masters. However, savings are made at the wrong end, which again equates to efficiency instead of effectiveness. The problem remains.
  • Symptom 3: Error culture – Management by Hope, watermelon reporting (always green on the outside, but don’t look inside) and punishing the bearer of bad news are visible effects of a destructive error culture. The solution is to develop leaders and establish a constructive error culture. Unfortunately, fear-driven behaviors such as obfuscation and blame-seeking ensure that the root cause persists.
  • Symptom 4: No management support – agile methods are introduced “from below” in the teams, but do not receive acceptance and legitimization from the management level. The necessary culture change fails to materialize, again for the reasons already mentioned: lack of trust, efficiency instead of effectiveness, and looking for someone to blame.
  • These three anti-patterns can be explained and worked on with the models “5 Dysfunctions of a Team” and “Responsibility Process”. If you can get into a coaching process with the key people, you will find many ways to set new impulses and insights in these two models.
  • Responsibility is the key to working agility.

Enjoy reading!

It would be a pleasure to get your critical feedback! Thanks in advance.


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