Scrum without the buts

Scrum is very simple in theory; however its successful implementation does represent a challenge. The success factors lie both within and outside of the team. The necessary improvements usually comprise process adaptation and the understanding of roles within and outside of the team.

Scrumbuts and their causes

Along with the success of agile software development, reports of failure have been increasing. The term ScrumButs has become generally accepted in this context. It refers to clearly identifiable shortcomings in the practical implementation of Scrum, which inhibit Scrum from achieving its full potential. These arise when specific aspects of the method are changed or omitted entirely. In principle, there are two different causes of ScrumButs. On the one hand are adaptations that are made in order to optimise Scrum within the framework of the established process. On the other hand are adaptations that become established in the everyday practice without any intention of improvement. Typical examples of ScrumButs are:

  • The person in charge sets the specifications for the team or changes the priorities during the sprint, rather than handling over the responsibility.
  • The development of additional features becomes more important than the quality assurance of the primary features.
  • The team does not take over responsibility for the implementation and quality of the delivery and expects coordination from a superior.


ScrumButs usually result in poor quality, low performance and delivery delays. Scrum failures often originate from the lack of a clear understanding of the roles. Scrum demands a great deal more personal responsibility from the developers. The supervisors must find a way to make everyone involved understand the method. They must adopt a leadership style that focuses on motivation and skills rather than control. Change in the mindset of the participants is often best achieved with assistance from external experts. Such experts are independent of the company's internal politics and can fall back on a broad set of experiences from many similar situations. This enables them to ensure that all methodological deficiencies are identified and eliminated. They ensure that problematic understanding of roles among participants is jointly identified and corrected. Scrum gives particular attention to quality. In order to ensure that the highest quality is achieved, structures must be created to ensure that the tests do not hold up the fast development cycles. This includes the highest possible level of automation and clearly structured, standardised test management.


A medical company notes that the introduction of Scrum has not fulfilled their expectations. After a few months of applying the methodology, the improvements have not materialized to the anticipated extent. Also a range of problems have appeared. This negative development is reinforced by the behavior of individual participants, which is influenced by the phase-oriented development that was practiced before. This results in misunderstandings about the competences and responsibilities of the participants. The company decides to hire an external specialist as a Scrum master. His role is to improve the communication between the parties and to support change management in the understanding of roles. The interfaces between the participants and their competences and duties are clarified. In order to anchor the improvements, he also ensures that the continuous improvement process of Scrum is well applied in every development cycle. Progress can be seen after a few months - the quality of the finished components is increasing measurably and the delivery assurances are being met to an ever-growing extent.