The 10 best Scrum / Agile articles I read in 2021

Agile Jan 10, 2022

The 10 best Scrum / Agile articles I read in 2021

Like in 2020, and all 4 years before that, I’ve read hundreds of Scrum and Agile articles on Medium. It’s that moment of the year to reflect and share the best articles I’ve read in 2021.

Picture by Marcel Kessler

I want to stress these posts are my personal favorites. Their selection is not based on popularity or reads.

To remind readers of this subjectiveness, I put a picture of two Kookaburras, just because I can! The Kookaburras serve to remind people that this article is influenced by my personal taste, and you might not necessarily agree with my choices, nor be expecting Kookaburras.

Without further ado, here are the 10 best articles I’ve read on Medium this year, in no particular order.

1. My 5 biggest screw-ups as a Scrum Master

Sander Dur shows his vulnerable side and shares lessons from the Scrum trenches. It’s real and not necessarily pretty, that’s the messy reality of what it’s like to be a Scrum Master. I particularly liked this article because it takes guts where most people only share their pretty successes.

My 5 biggest screw-ups as a Scrum Master
“Scrum Masters are true leaders”. A small part of the 2020 Scrum Guide. True leaders. What does that even mean, anyway?

2. What makes a good Product Owner?

Christiaan Verwijs makes the insights from 7 scientific studies available to a larger audience and shares interesting conclusions. I especially liked this one because it challenges traditional notions of the Product Owner role as described in the Scrum Guide.

In-Depth: What Makes A Good Product Owner?
Insights from 7 scientific studies into what it is that Product Owners do and what makes them successful

Jenny liberates her Scrum Team from Scrum

Sjoerd Nijland gives a cunning critique of the Scrum Guide and why you shouldn’t care about the immutability rule present in the Scrum Guide.

If you’re acting in the spirit of Scrum, you’re doing Scrum. Despite what the Scrum Guide claims. And if you don’t agree, you’ll probably agree after reading this article.

Jenny liberates her Scrum Team from Scrum
How Jenny was moved by the latest revision of the Scrum Guide.

4. Stable Scrum Teams can limit you to create value — Enter Fluid Teams

To be fair, I’m not yet entirely convinced of the advantages of fluid Scrum Teams vs. stable teams. However, what I really like about Willem-Jan Ageling’s article is that he showed how the concept could work for multiple Scrum Teams.

I still haven’t tried it out, if I find a good reason to try it out then I’ll definitely share my experiences on the subject.

Stable Scrum Teams can limit you to create value — Enter Fluid Teams
Fluid teams self-organize to manage complexity

5. Heart of Agile and Scrum

I can try to write some nice words to introduce this article by Fredrik Carleson, but I can’t top what Heart of Agile creator Alistair Cockburn wrote so I won’t even try.

Heart of Agile and Scrum
The most exciting part was to meet Alistair Cockburn. My mistake was not raising a hand.

6. Scaling is easy if you just let go

As I’ve written before:

Scaling Agile is difficult and many put all their faith in a scaling framework of choice. Scaling Agile is not about picking a framework. It’s about removing, letting go, and giving ownership to teams. Erik de Bos’s article does a great job of explaining why this is the case.

Scaling is easy if you just let go!
Scaling is about alignment. Focus on balancing alignment and autonomy and scaling will evolve organically

7. Five Reasons Why Developers Hate Product Owners

Product Owners should try to influence without authority but many don’t, and bully their teams instead to do their bidding. David Pereira’s write-up contains 5 common reasons why this might be happening.

5 Reasons Why Developers Hate Product Owners
A thin line between love and hate defines most relationships between Product Owners and Developers.

8. How transparency can kill productivity in Agile teams

More transparency is always better? WRONG!

As always, it depends on the context. Todd Lankford’s article contains a great story that shows how more transparency can actually negatively impact productivity, and how this may also be happening when you focus too much on your burn-down charts and velocity measurements.

How transparency can kill productivity in Agile teams
Why burn-downs and velocity slow down your team.

9. SAFe, get real with Scrum or get out!

Calling Scaled Agile Framework a scaling framework for Scrum is like calling a Strangler Fig plant a symbiote that helps a tree grow.

If you want to get rid of your tree and replace it with a strangler fig, then SAFe is a solid choice.

Sjoerd Nijland’s  article shows how SAFe dilutes Scrum and Agile through what he calls ‘Agile Terminology Hacking’.

SAFe, get real with Scrum or get out!
Agile marked the end of RUP somewhere around 2003. But they are back with a vengeance. They are successfully supplanting Agile with a…

10. “The Lean Startup” Is Outdated. Drop Everything That Comes From It

Debbie Levitt shows guts by taking on a much loved and well-known book called ‘The Lean Startup’.

It’s a great read and made me chuckle a few times. The article will make you reflect on whether you should follow everything in the book as absolute gospel (you shouldn’t).

However, contrary to Debbie, I do think the book has good ideas which influenced many people.

But… I dare you, I DOUBLE DARE YOU to call the first release of your product MVP one more time!

“The Lean Startup” Is Outdated. Drop Everything That Comes From It.
Guessing our way to product via MVPs and A/B testing is poor CX/UX, and not customer-centric. Drop 2011’s ideas on startups & products.

That’s all folks! I’ll try to do another one next year.

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