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5 Big Scrum Questions – Issue 1

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5 Big Scrum Questions – Issue 1

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5 Questions was a series created by James Brett. The ideas was to ask five specific questions to members of the Scrum community and post the their replies. I thought it was a great idea, and I really liked reading the articles. unfortunately James only did four posts, and then stopped. Just before Christmas, 2012 he decided to selling his domain and I asked him if I could buy the 5 Questions series from him so that they’re not lost. He graciously said that I could have them at no cost. James’ blog is now gone, and this series of articles are all that remain.

Over the next couple of months I’ll be republishing all of James Brett’s 5 Questions as they appeared on his blog.

This is the first installment of a brand new series of articles I will be bringing you over the next few months (or years, depending on its success). I have devised five questions that I intend to put to some of the leading lights in the Scrum industry, either famous, infamous or just those with a raft of experience. The questions are Scrum related and by asking them I hope to provide an insight into how these people think and what they think about Scrum.

The five questions are:

  1. Can you describe what you would consider the top Scrum enabler in an organization?
  2. Where do you see Scrum in 5 years time?
  3. What has been your toughest Scrum challenge so far?
  4. What makes you passionate about Scrum?
  5. What can we learn from you about Scrum?

First up in the series is Ron Jefferies. Ron was involved in the original creation of the Agile Manifesto and is a leading practitioner in Agile, XP and Scrum. I hope you find Ron’s answers interesting, I know I did.

Bio: Ron Jeffries is author of Extreme Programming Adventures in C#, the senior author of Extreme Programming Installed, and was the on-site XP coach for the original Extreme Programming project. Ron has been involved with Extreme Programming for over ten years, presenting numerous talks and publishing papers on the topic. He is the proprietor of www.XProgramming.com, a well-known source of XP information. Ron was one of the creators, and a featured instructor in Object Mentor’s popular XP Immersion course. He is a well-known independent consultant in XP and Agile methods.

Ron has advanced degrees in mathematics and computer science, and has been a systems developer for more years than most of you have been alive. His teams have built operating systems, compilers, relational database systems, and a large range of applications. Ron’s software products have produced revenue of over half a billion dollars, and he wonders why he didn’t get any of it.

Ron’s answers..

Q1. Can you describe what you would consider the top Scrum enabler in an organization?

This is a bit like asking which leg of a stool is most important. Among others, any of these things can DISABLE Scrum:

1. Lack of an engaged and empowered Product Owner;
2. Failure of the team to inspect and adapt, especially in taking on good development practices such as found in XP.
3. Management or cultural refusal to permit the team a high degree of self-organization and self-management.
4. Insufficient focus on getting Done, and on improving the meaning of “Done” over time.

Q2. Where do you see Scrum in 5 years time?

Approximately where it is now, but larger. By that I mean that there will be a big pile of teams who claim that they are doing Scrum, with varying levels of success. There will be a large mass of teams who have tried Scrum, received great benefits, but nonetheless fallen away from doing it.

And there will be a near-infinite supply of teams needing the kind of help that Scrum provides. Even worse, there will be many more teams who claim that they are doing Scrum but really aren’t.

Q3. What has been your toughest Scrum challenge so far?

The biggest challenges I see are two:

First, teams whose management interfere with the process, most commonly by putting on too much pressure, resulting in work that looks good on the outside but is rotten inside. Over not very much time at all, this slows down progress and results in disillusionment with Scrum. The real problem was management mistakes, but these are not recognized.

Second, and the opposite face of the same coin, Scrum’s value can be destroyed by a team that allows management pressure to reduce their focus on internal quality. Once that focus drops far enough, progress plummets.

Q4. What makes you passionate about Scrum?

I’m not passionate about Scrum. I am passionate about learning and teaching good ways of doing software, and I believe that the values and principles that we put down in the Agile Manifesto remain the best way to do that. Scrum is one means to making software better, and the lives of those who build it better, and I like it for that. But my focus is on the people who make software and helping them make things just a bit better.

Q5. What can we learn from you about Scrum?

I like to say that my special contribution to teams is to inform them that the sensation they feel in their butt is called “pain”, and they should do something to make it go away. And I have a fair amount of skill in helping people to do that, if they’re interested to learn.

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