There was a company developing software product. They had adopted SCRUM as agile method for entire development department incl. programmers, testers and analysts. It had been working grand for them in early months. However later things started to revert, enthusiasm cooled down and slowly people drifted back into their usual habits. The sprint became 6-8 weeks long, daily stand ups became weekly status updates around the table with bug count parade, scrum master became just a badge rotated between team members like a hot potato, product owner disengaged and lost the ownership of the backlog, and so on.

My question for you, fellow agile practitioners, is how to regain the SCRUM principles in such situation? What could the team members who still believed and care do? What are the best steps for development manager to take in such situation in order to get the team back on track for SCRUM/Agile?

3 Answers 3


Read this excellent article from Ron Jeffries and you will understand what needs to be done.

If you want to do Scrum, you have to follow the rules. If you don't follow the rules, it's not Scrum. And you shouldn't expect it to work.

There is plenty of space in Scrum to adapt the rules to the local team, but only once the basics have been mastered. This sounds like a prime example of a group of people who decided to alter the rules before they truly understood what they were doing. The principle of Shu-Ha-Ri applies here (and in many other places).

  • Excellent article from Ron. You can apply the same logic to a lot of things.
    – user2567
    Jul 20, 2011 at 8:34
  • +1 for the Baseball metaphor. Sad but true. Jul 20, 2011 at 8:35

You write:

Scrum master became just a badge rotated between team members like a hot potato

Scrum Master role is full time. He ensures that the Scrum process is applied correctly.

Your problem is pretty clear to me: no scrum master, no scrum.

The latest official Scrum Guide has been published today. Here is the official definition of Scrum Master:

The Scrum Master is responsible for ensuring Scrum is understood and enacted. Scrum Masters do this by ensuring that the Scrum Team adheres to Scrum theory, practices, and rules. The  Scrum Master is a servant‐leader for the Scrum Team. 

The Scrum Master helps those outside the Scrum Team understand which of their interactions  with the Scrum Team are helpful and which aren’t. The Scrum Master helps everyone change  these interactions to maximize the value created by the Scrum Team.

Scrum Master Service to the Product Owner

The Scrum Master serves the Product Owner in several ways, including:

  • Finding techniques for effective Product Backlog management;
  • Clearly communicating vision, goals, and Product Backlog items to the Development Team;
  • Teaching the Development Team to create clear and concise Product Backlog items;
  • Understanding long‐term product planning in an empirical environment;
  • Understanding and practicing agility; and,
  • Facilitating Scrum events as requested or needed.

Scrum Master Service to the Development Team

The Scrum Master serves the Development Team in several ways, including:

  • Coaching the Development Team in self‐organization and cross‐functionality;
  • Teaching and leading the Development Team to create high value products;
  • Removing impediments to the Development Team’s progress;
  • Facilitating Scrum events as requested or needed; and,
  • Coaching the Development Team in organizational environments in which Scrum is not yet  fully adopted and understood.

Scrum Master Service to the Organization

The Scrum Master serves the organization in several ways, including:

  • Leading and coaching the organization in its Scrum adoption;
  • Planning Scrum implementations within the organization;
  • Helping employees and stakeholders understand and enact Scrum and empirical product  development;
  • Causing change that increases the productivity of the Scrum Team; and,

Working with other Scrum Masters to increase the effectiveness of the application of Scrum in the organization

Hire a trained Scrum Master or if you can afford it, a Scrum Coach.


The usual culprit is management's inability to demand Scrum-based information.

To maintain Scrum-based delivery, product owners and higher management in the development organization must demand Scrum-based quality assurance. Burndown charts, backlog-based planning, sprint schedules, those kind of things.

Management needs to be assured that Scrum is actually being practiced by finding some indicators or measurements of Scrum activity going on.

Management must not collect different data based on other practices -- as if Scrum doesn't exist.

If Scrum peters out into weekly status, that's because someone is asking for an all-hands weekly status, and subverting the Scrum daily standup. Odds are good that Scrum doesn't go to the top of the organization and folks are being asked to do both Scrum and non-Scrum activities.

It can stem from Management not trusting Scrum to work and subverting it by asking for additional practices that are not Scrum.

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