Is is an absolute must when following the Scrum methodology to practice collective code ownership, instead of for example weak code ownership?

  • I must say that it drives me crazy that others in my pseudo-scrum team change my code out of a need that did not require any change at all, just proper understanding of the architecture or API I put in place.
    – Ando
    Jul 2, 2011 at 17:44
  • 3
    If there is no collective ownership, how is it be possible to have commitment by team? Within a skill set (say, Java programming), anyone should be willing to take any task. Jul 22, 2011 at 9:32

3 Answers 3


Collective code ownership is not an integral part of Scrum.

It is, however, a part of Extreme Programming. Extreme programming & Scrum work very well together.

The central element in Scrum is the team. Therefore, it's highly encouraged to practice collective code ownership in opposition of any sort of individualism.

Scrum works best in big projects (>$1M) with a lot of uncertainties and with big teams (>=5 devs on same code base). Weak code ownership can be very effective in smaller teams and smaller projects as Paul Graham describes it.

  • ">1M" what? Employees? Features? Lines of code in the overall product? Lines of code owned by a scrum team? Why does it not work best with more modest code sizes (assuming you meant code size)? Feb 15, 2012 at 18:22
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    1 million dollars. Because optimal scrum team is 7 persons and using scrum in less than several months is not really a project that should use scrum. 7 developers * 6 months is a typical 1 million dollars project.
    – user2567
    Feb 15, 2012 at 18:56
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    $1M seems awfully arbitrary (and dated -- two years from now $1M won't buy as much as it does today, and certainly not as much as it did two years ago). Though, I guess it's as good a number as any. A million dollar budget won't pay for much more than a single scrum team, so I guess you're saying SCRUM doesn't work if you can't afford at least one scrum team. That makes sense. Though, that doesn't apply for a true startup where everyone is working on a tiny budget. I think your answer would be better if you took at the artificial limit. Feb 15, 2012 at 20:55
  • @BryanOakley: not exactly, I wrote scrum works better when you have the optimal figures. Scrum can work in smaller team and with less iterations, but it becomes less usefull in those cases. I prefer to use no framework at all in those case, or a "light" scrum which is what I do in one of my companies where there are only 3 developers. About what you can buy with $1M, I didn't see that fluctuate a lot since the past 10 years.
    – user2567
    Feb 15, 2012 at 21:15

On the topic of code ownership, I think this post here puts it better than I could ever possibly write:

I don’t want to depend on anything without an owner. I see how this reasoning can be infuriating. Shifting the focus from software to wetware is a dirty trick loved by technically impotent pseudo-business-oriented middle-management loser types. Here’s my attempt at distinguishing myself from their ilk: not only do I want to depend on stuff with an owner, but I require a happy owner at that. Contrary to a common managerial assumption (one of those which rarely hold but do keep managers sane), I don’t believe in forcibly assigning ownership. If the owner doesn’t like the module, expect some pretty lousy gardening job.

/fanatical weak code ownership believer.


I don't think collective code ownership is absolutely necessary for scrum, however, the less code ownership, the more flexibility there is in task assignments. This is especially true when there are multiple scrum teams. Less code ownership also removes the bottlenecks that can develop when one code owner is overworked.

Code ownership does give continuity to development and depending on the skill sets of team members, it may be impossible to remove completely.

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