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Seven Sins of Scrum and other Agile Antipatterns

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Sean Dunn and Chris Edwards from IHS in Canada presented a talk (written by Todd Little) at the 2016 Agile India conference in Bangalore titled “7 Sins of Scrum and other Agile Antipatterns

They presented a variety of common ways that Agile practices are implemented badly in organisations with the symptoms that result from these “antipatterns”.

They started by defining what they mean by an antipattern: “something that looks like a good idea, but which backfires badly when applied” referencing James Coplien.

The talk referenced the cynical “Manifesto for Half-arsed Agile Software Development” and how many agile/scrum implementations seem to be lip-service and name only.

They described seven “sins” that are common to scrum teams, and symptoms that they have seen in organisations where these sins were apparent.   They used the structure of the Agile Manifesto as a way of expressing the sins and the antipatterns that result from the sins.

The sins and their antipatterns are:

  1. Processes & Tools Over Individuals & Interactions
    1. Agile is the tool Over Tools to support agility
    2. Agile is a process Over Agility is a mindset
    3. Best practices Over Principles & values
    4. One size fits all Over Context
    5. Collaboration Over Shared ownership
  2. Status Over Flow of Value
    1. Showing progress Over Delivering value
    2. Checking boxes Over Learning & adapting
    3. “My part is done” Over “Team is done”
    4. Starting Over Finishing
    5. Individual utilization Over Team throughput
    6. Specialization Over Generalization
  3. Stories Over Strategy
    1. Buckets (chunks of work) Over Filters (flow of value)
    2. “I want it all” Gluttony Over Minimum viable product
    3. Listening to customers Over Learning what they really need
    4. “I know what they need” Over Validating hypothesis
    5. Tasks Over Stories
    6. Following orders Over Understanding why
  4. Crap Over Craftsmanship
    1. Almost done Over Really done
    2. Velocity Over Quality
    3. Testing quality in Over Building quality in
    4. Technical debt is evil Over Technical debt is debt
    5. Cost of crap Over Cost of delay
  5. Iterations Over Releases
    1. Potentially shippable increments Over Releases
    2. Commitment Over Focus on value
    3. Capacity planning Over Velocity planning
  6. Illusion Over Reality
    1. Gross velocity Over Net velocity
    2. Unpointed stories Over Best estimate
    3. Velocity Over Quality
    4. Estimation Over Forecasting
    5. Microestimation Over Macroestimation
    6. Vanity metrics Over Decision metrics
  7. Organizational Hacks Over Leadership
    1. Controlling inputs Over Controlling outputs/outcomes
    2. Micromanagement Over Macromanagement
    3. Taking sides Over Serving the whole team
    4. Meetings Over Actions & resolutions
    5. Certification Over Qualification

They ended with some advice on how to help teams stay on the virtuous path:

  • Use Retrosepectives
  • Improve Incrementally
  • Pick 1 or 2 Items at a Time
  • Get Coaching as Needed

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