I'm Beginning to Hate Scrum

I'm Beginning to Hate Scrum

#135. Remy is starting to hate Scrum. He thinks we should use Kanban. And get rid of Product Owners.

It's a shame, then, that Remy doesn't understand Scrum. And doesn't want to understand Scrum.

Don't be like Remy.


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“I am beginning to hate Scrum”

That was the opening line in a LinkedIn post from someone in our Microsoft business apps community.

And I’m going to spend the rest of this episode tearing down his posts because I don’t think he’s got a clue what he’s talking about. I don’t think he knows much about Scrum. His posts are riddled with misinformation and inaccuracies.

Let’s set the record straight.

Hi, I’m Neil Benson from Customery, and you’re listening to the Amazing Applications podcast. My mission with this show is to help you slash your budgets, shrink your timelines, mitigate technical risks and build amazing Dynamics 365 and Power Platform applications that everyone loves.

Hi, I’m Neil Benson. Welcome to the Customery Academy channel. My mission with this show is to help you slash your budgets, shrink your timelines, mitigate technical risks and build amazing Dynamics 365 and Power Platform applications that everyone loves.

And one of the ways I’d like to help you do that is by adopting an agile approach, like Scrum, when you’re building complex, mission-critical, enterprise business apps. 

I’ve been building Dynamics 365 apps with Scrum since 2008. I’m a certified scrum master with Scrum Alliance and a professional scrum master and professional product owner with Scrum.org. I’m not a certified scrum trainer or a professional scrum trainer, but I have taught the Scrum framework to thousands of business apps professionals since I launched Customery Academy in 2017.

I’m going to call him Remy. Remy has been a freelance business apps developer for ten years, and has over 20 years’ experience as a developer, analyst and architect.

Remy’s posts reminds me of the movie review that someone wrote about Dune: one star. Too much sand. If you’re going to review Denis Villeneuve’s 2021 movie adaptation of Frank Herbert’s classic science-fiction book, Dune, you better have seen the movie and it’ll help if you’ve also read the book. It’s set on a DESERT planet. It features SAND worms. There are SAND miners harvesting a spice from the SAND. There are a DESERT tribe wearing still suits to recycle water from their bodies. You better believe it’s got sand.

Remy recently published three LinkedIn posts about Scrum.  

The first lines were “I am starting to hate Scrum”, “I use Kanban instead of Scrum. Much simpler” and “Get Rid of the Product Owner!”

He might as well have yelled, “Too much sand!”

Every day someone posts something like I hate Scrum. My Amazing Apps podcast episode #44 from 2020 is called “Agile is Dead” based on a blog article with a similar title.

But I don’t think I’ve seen a post like this from one of our fellow Dynamics 365 and Power Platform makers before, so I was intrigued, then I was outraged.

In the first article there’s a lot of nonsense like, “It’s become a project methodology for managers to control the team.” And “the meetings become useless because everyone is already informed.” “An endless treadmill where refactoring and experimentation slowly dies.”

Then Remy concludes, “Scrum is starting to limit teams. It needs fewer rules. It should become Kanban.”

I’m not sure if Remy has read the Scrum Guide. Whenever I challenged him, he threw up the “so if it’s not working, it’s not Scrum?” aggressive defence.

Scrum has got three pillars, five values, three accountabilities, five events, three artefacts and each artefact has a commitment. There are 25 things in the Scrum Guide described in 13 pages. It’s a lightweight framework, not a prescriptive methodology.

Kanban is another popular agile approach. I’m not a Kanban practitioner so I forgive me if I overstep myself here. Kanban has three change management principles and three service management principles, and six general practices. There are 18 things in Kanban. Kanban University describes it as a management method that should be applied to an existing process. And it’s neatly described in the Official Kanban Guide that’s 14 pages long. Seriously, the Kanban Guide is a little longer than the Scrum Guide but it does look prettier and has diagrams too.

In the comments in his LinkedIn post, Remy goes on to say that his issues aren’t with Scrum, but with the way that managers hide behind the Scrum methodology and don’t adopt the mindset. 

I’m not sure what he means, since the agile mindset required to successfully apply Scrum and Kanban are the same.

In his second post, Remy says, “I use Kanban instead of Scrum. Much simpler”. He goes on to say that if you remove two things from Scrum then you have Kanban: sprints and tasks.

Well, Remy. Tasks aren’t part of Scrum. If you’ve added tasks to Scrum and you remove them, you’re left with Scrum.

Scrum does have sprints. They are a timebox within which we plan some work, get the work done, and review the work with our stakeholders. 

Kanban doesn’t have sprints, but it does limit work in a similar way. The Kanban practice is called ‘Limit Work in Progress (WIP)’ and it has WIP limits that are used in a pull system. Kanban and Scrum both limit WIP. Kanban uses WIP limits. Scrum uses the sprint backlog to achieve the same result, and that is to balance the utilisation of individual team members with the flow of work through the team.

Kanban also has feedback loops called cadences. It has meetings like the daily Team Kanban Meeting, biweekly or monthly Team Retrospective and a weekly or as needed Internal Team Replenishment Meeting.

Kanban’s cadences fit so well together with Scrum’s sprints and events that lots of Scrum teams combine Scrum and Kanban together. Scrum.org has Professional Scrum with Kanban courses and certifications if you want to find out more.

Remy, if you’re going to compare Scrum with Kanban, it might help if you understand a little about both. Certainly, if you remove sprints from Scrum, you’re not left with Kanban. That’s like saying, if you remove sand from Dune, you’re left with Star Wars. (Star Wars has sand in it too).

In his third post, Remy takes a dig at product owners. I’ve worked with some awesome product owners, and I believe their role is underrated and undervalued by most Microsoft customers and partners.

Remy seems to recognise what’s required to be a great product owner. He says they need domain knowledge, and a passion for the deliverables and making it better for the users. I’d agree with that.

Remy also asserts they need to be great at requirements analysis and have technical skills too, but that’s not been my experience – the developers can help with requirements analysis and solution expertise.

Getting rid of product owners and replacing them with product managers is Remy’s suggestion to fix the problem. Product owner is too confusing. Product manager is perfectly clear, right?

None of the amazing product owners I’ve worked with had a Product Owner job title. Or a Product Manager job title for that matter. 

Product owner isn’t a job title. It’s an accountability given to someone with the vision and decision-making authority to build an amazing application.

The product owners I’ve worked with are Operations Directors, VPs of Customer Service, Regional Managers, Heads of Sales, Chief Financial Officers. They have line of business experience, decision-making authority and vision. 

Calling them a Product Manager or expecting them to have a Product Manager job title or profession isn’t going to help Microsoft customers deploying Dynamics 365 or Power Platform apps. People with those job titles don’t exist in most organisations.

OK. So Remy has some ideas about Scrum that I don’t agree with. I wanted to share my feedback with you because I think his ideas are misplaced and he’s spreading misinformation about a framework that I love, and is working well for thousands maybe millions of teams worldwide, including lots of you and your Dynamics 365 and Power Platform teams.

I reached out to Remy and offered his team three months of coaching at no cost, or Remy could take my Scrum for Microsoft Business Apps course and get certified at my expense. 

He said, “I don’t have a hard time with Scrum. I have a hard time with managers that (mis)use Scrum. Thanks for the offer, but I have no need for it.”

Remy, you’re a textbook example of the Dunning-Kruger effect in full force. Good luck to you.

Scrum isn’t complicated, but achieving its full potential can be hard. If you’re suffering from bad Scrum, like poor Remy, and given the comments on some of Remy’s posts there’s a few of you. 

I’ve got lots of YouTube videos to help. I’ve published over 100 podcast episodes about Scrum and business apps. I’ve created four training programs – some free, some paid – you’re welcome to register for those at customery.academy.

As I record this the Football World Cup finals are being played in Qatar. I haven’t been watching because I can’t play football. Most people can’t play and don’t play football. 

But I can’t deny that there are thousands of teams and millions of people who can play and enjoy playing football and are scoring goals in football. Argentina scored three today. Sorry Croatia. 

The best football teams spend time training and practising, and they have coaches to help them identify where they could improve.

Just like football, teams can score goals with Scrum. If you’re not convinced, invest in Scrum training and find a better coach. If it still doesn’t work, play a different game. But it’s close-minded to say that Scrum doesn’t work when you couldn’t work with Scrum.

Until next time, keep sprinting.