In the past few years, many companies and agencies have turned to Scrum and Agile as a solution to the well-known problems of the pachydermic waterfall model.

Scrum preaches that a fast and efficient delivery is achievable through early identification and elimination of impediments that could prevent the delivery from happening as expected.

We are facing a basic syllogism: if you do not remove obstacles, the delivery cannot be fast or efficient.

There are several reasons why impediments are not identified and taken care of. The major one is the fact that some basic Scrum recommendations are disrespected or ignored.

The Seven Icebergs

My seven favourite “icebergs” you should avoid, to sail the project safe and sound to its destination.

  1. The team did not agree on or disregards, the Definition of Ready and the Definition of Done. Misunderstandings about what is done and what is done-done will just delay the delivery of new features.
  2. Recommendations identified during the Retrospective meeting are not being applied; no follow-up actions are defined, and consequently the process does not improve. The non-immutability of the process is a constant in most of the Agile frameworks. Kanban, another Agile methodology, mention it as one of its main rules: monitor, adapt, improve.
  3. Teams are not cross-functional, or their members are not working together. One of the primary recommendation in Scrum is to break down requirements in user stories aiming at delivering features. A team approach user stories focusing on components will likely require much effort in coordination.
  4. Teams are pushed to maximise utilisation rather than the output. 100% utilisation does not necessarily grant the greatest business value. That is why Scrum mostly disregards the concept of effort and embraces non-effort related sizing.
  5. The Product Owner does not fulfil his duties. Nobody is expecting the PO to be regularly available. However, if she does not attend ceremonies and help clarify acceptance criteria, the team could get easily blocked.
  6. Ineffective or directive Scrum Master. If the SM fails in his role of “servant leader”, even senior teams could get distracted by meaningless tasks or diverted away from the project.
  7. Non-Agile contract. The most common mistake is to allow the contract to break the iron triangle. One of the three angles (cost, scope, schedule) must be flexible, or the team will receive pressure to meet a commitment that cannot comply with an Agile approach.

Too often people tend to forget that Agile frameworks are designed as problem-finding, rather than problem-solving methodologies. Once identified, impediments must be classified and solved at project or company level. Any other approach is just not Scrum.

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