Scrum Is Not Enough to Build Great Products

Scrum Nov 1, 2019

Many start-ups and scale-ups adopt Scrum at some point in time. Scrum is touted as a silver bullet that will solve all problems. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

In fact: it is impossible to deliver great products using just Scrum.

Scrum doesn’t tell you exactly how to deliver a great product. The Scrum Guide just explains how you can do Scrum. There is a big difference between the two.

The gap between doing Scrum and building a great product is huge. Scrum helps to bridge the gap towards building a great product by showing what works and what doesn’t.

As phrased much better in the Scrum Guide:

“Scrum makes clear the relative efficacy of your product management and work techniques so that you can continuously improve the product, the team, and the working environment.”

Scrum is a process framework. Scrum intentionally provides as little process as possible. Scrum leaves it up to the people that do the work to discover what works best.

This is necessary because there is no recipe for a great product that always works in every context. To deliver great work there is no step-by-step playbook to follow, so it is up to you to figure out what to do.

The Scrum process framework supports delivering great products by making transparent what is necessary to deliver great products.

In other words:

“Scrum helps in showing you the dots, but you still need to find a way of connecting the dots the right way yourself.”

For the same reason, most articles that claim Scrum doesn’t work are wrong.

They are wrong because Scrum never does the heavy lifting. Scrum works when the people that use it do all the heavy-lifting and figure out better ways of working together.

Rarely are the arguments presented against Scrum actually about Scrum. The arguments presented are how the company decided to use Scrum. So if Scrum fails, often it’s the people that fail and not the process framework itself.

This is also why you sometimes hear people claim there is no company that does Scrum the right way. Scrum gives a lot of freedom and dictates very little. In combination with the fact, it is a process framework this results in every company doing their own version of Scrum.

Use Scrum to figure out better ways of working together

Scrum is not enough to build a great product, but it does help by showing the relative efficacy of your product management and work techniques.

Scrum is not a silver bullet, but it provides a solid structure to figure out how you can do a better job delivering great products. It does so in a light-weight and non-obtrusive way.

Most of the times when people claim Scrum doesn’t work, it is actually how they decided to apply Scrum that doesn’t work. Scrum dictates very little and is simple to grasp.

This also why there are so many misunderstandings surrounding Scrum and the following passage is present in the Scrum Guide:

“Scrum is easy to understand, but hard to master.”

Scrum helps, but it leaves all the hard parts up to the people. It just makes transparent what works and doesn’t.

The combination of these two things is exactly what makes it so powerful for delivering great products. There is no step-by-step guide and it leaves it up to the people to figure out the best way of working together.