When should you NOT use Scrum?
I was asked this question in a class recently. (When should I not use Scrum?) I gave an answer, but I want to give a better answer, or at least a different one.
To be fair, it is a hard question. And a hard question for me.
My personal answer, which I gave, is I have been doing projects for 20+ years in lots of environments. I cannot think of a single project (product, effort) that I would not have wanted to use lean-agile-scrum on (ie, use Scrum as the core).
Did I make projects work with waterfall, and have some success? Sure. And I feel sure that I could have had much more success with Scrum.
Are there other types of work other than what I have done? Of course!
So, when would I not want to do Scrum?
I gave two examples.
1. If two people on the 7 person Team say “I hate Scrum”, then I probably would not do Scrum with that Team. Almost surely they will make it fail. Maybe you would do waterfall instead. (I might fire myself, though, and get myself on another Team.)
2. If they give you an impossible project (say 18 months of work that must be done in 12 months), and if you don’t succeed they will fire you — then, I recommend waterfall.
Management won’t really know how the (waterfall) project is doing. Just say: Green. You will have plenty of time to work on your resume, post it on Monster.com (or CareerBuilder), have some interviews, and get a new job. It is important that you protect yourself and your family from these jerks (or this situation). (Firing someone for not accomplishing the impossible is being a jerk.)
Some people laugh when I describe that situation, but seriously, you have to protect yourself. As you are leaving, wave goodbye and tell them the project is RED.
Are there other cases?
A. If the Team is doing exactly the same project again, and you can accurately predict that no other significant change will happen, then maybe consider waterfall. (How can you accurately predict the future?)
B. If you have a completely dysfunctional Team, …well, I wouldn’t do Scrum or Waterfall or anything. Get yourself off the Team!
C. If you can’t get anything like a real Team. Not stable, no Team coherence….then maybe I don’t want to use Scrum. Really I think that knowledge creation in a Team is so key to all our work, so I want to go to ‘management’ and say ‘You all are not committed to getting this done, so let’s delay the project until you are committed and we can get a real Team.’
D. No one on the ‘team’ is at least 50% dedicated to the Team. Then not Scrum, again. Probably nothing else either.
E. People allocated 50%, but clearly no prospect of moving the allocation above 50%. Umm, makes me question using Scrum. Or even doing the work. Give us work where you do want to allocate people 100%. (If the work is important, 100% allocation is the only reasonable thing to do. Well, … a later post.)
F. Skill sets that are not ‘overlapping’ at all (eg, A-skill people can not help with the work of B-skill people). In the time line, we need to do A-work early, and B-work later. In light doses, we have this scenario to some degree every time. In small doses. In this specific case, it is extreme. There is no use in a cross-functional team. Should we use Scrum?
I suppose one might use Scrum and a (small) Scrum Team to get the A work done, and then another Scrum Team to do the B-work.
But lots of questions. One: if this is such a big impediment, why can’t we fix it?
You get some ideas.
Ultimately, it depends on common sense (as Ken Schwaber says).
Then he says: And common sense is very uncommon.
More later on other situations, and some ideas on the best conditions to start Scrum.