14 Apr 2023
The primary risks in scrum are associated with the conditions or circumstances you are working in.
So, the first element of that is the context in which you are building products, features, or services.
This isn’t an attempt to articulate the problem in its entirety, it is rather a question of whether you understand the problem well enough to start working on it and learn through the process of scrum product development and agile problem solving.
An initial appreciation of the context in which you are working.
The primary risk in scrum is having a team rush into solving a problem or building a solution without understanding the context and thinking that the framework is going to solve the problem rather than provide a means to solving that problem.
Does the organization have a deep understanding of what is required for the team to crack on and solve the problem?
If the organization is not designed or structured in a way that empowers teams to build complex solutions or solve complex problems, risk increases significantly.
Scrum doesn’t solve problems, it reveals them.
Is the organization willing and able to empower teams to solve those systemic problems and address systemic issues so that they can be more effective in building complex solutions?
As the team begins work, scrum will reveal the systemic issues that are creating impediments and blocking the team from achieving their goals. A scrum master, agile leader, and other key players in the organization will need to actively address these problems and resolve them effectively for the team to build momentum and continuously improve performance.
And so forth.
So, the second risk in scrum is systemic and if it isn’t resolved quickly and effectively, risk increases significantly.
I have witnessed many well-intentioned agile adoptions, where people are forced to adopt scrum or another agile framework against their wishes.
The solution is imposed on them rather than embraced by the team.
If your people haven’t been engaged in the discussion and invited to explore options that best fit their application, you are going to experience significant resistance.
In some cases, that’s people simply not playing ball, whilst at other times, it involves people actively sabotaging the adoption and implementation of scrum.
Engage teams and discuss:
Really take the time to engage people, educate them on the pros and cons of each framework, and allow them to contribute to the decision-making that will impact their environment.
If they are invited to explore the solution, and actively agree that this is a step in the right direction that they can build on, you’re more likely to have a successful adoption and implementation of scrum. You are more likely to achieve the outcomes and objectives that matter to you and the team.
People who actively resist change and don’t wish to engage should be supported through that journey, and in the worst case, supported in transitioning to a different team or environment that doesn’t require agile or scrum.
Scrum is a great answer, but it isn’t a great solution for simple or complicated work, you could just use project management for that. So, there is a place for people who don’t wish to work in complex environments, you just need to guide them to the right outcome and ensure that the team who are going to work with scrum are willing, able, and committed to its success.
Failing to achieve this will exponentially increase risk in the environment.
So, those are the three (3) primary risks of scrum in my experience.
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