Lipstick Remover… -- Cartoon -- December 4, 2006

Good day reader,

I hope all has been well with you since the last comic has been published. An entire week. Wow… how time flies.

In addition to a weekly strip, I am now trying to add on to the existing content on the site throughout the week. Also, there will be some cool and interesting stuff coming in 2007.

Now, for the current cartoon strip. This saying, “Lipstick on a Pig,” is something that I have heard around the IT industry since the early ninety’s (and that statement is probably older than my grandfather (may the both RIP)).

The basic premise — for those unfamiliar with it — is that people try sometimes to repackage old stuff to make it look new again.

I am pretty sure that nobody worth his or her skin in the professional agile community will tell you this stuff is anything new.


What is “new” about this is the simplicity that Scrum offers. And, how easy is is to apply.

With that power comes the ease of circumventing the basic rules and principles.

This is what I’d like to address with you today, and to ask that you help me spread the word to try and help people stop applying lipstick to a pig. What do I mean by this?

In my dealings with clients today, I see a lot of implementations of what people call Scrum. A lot of it is screwy hacking. Sigh.

I get asked a lot if I have ever seen “ideal” Scrum in any environment.

The easy answer is “Yes.”

Now, with that said….

I see more “custom” implementations of “Scrum” than “pure” today. And this kinda worries me.

Think about Scrum being applied in an environment where there is:

No daily stand-up meetings.

No collocation.

No Product Owner.

No ScrumMaster.

No Story Cards.

No Tasks.

No Burn Down.

And this list can continue. On and On.


And then, when people start going down this slippery slope and messing up… People starting to tell others that “Scrum” does not work in their environment.

But… In reality… and listen… They are not doing Scrum.

This is not “Mike being a zealot.” Trust me. OK, so I do this for a living… but I also know, realize, and teach people that if something is working the way it is currently being done, don’t change it.

Really. Not rocket science.

Remember, Scrum exposes the dysfunctional environment of a team / organization / enterprise early and often.

This hurts.

And is hard.

Are you doing what I described above?

Need help?

Get it. From me or others.


Continue hacking away and stop calling what you are doing “Scrum.”

Gotta run…

Please send comments, questions, criticisms, ideas, or whatever here. You can also enter The Scrum Community to discuss this cartoon and other Scrum topics. Thank you!

Originally Published:
December 4, 2006

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  1. says

    Mike, good stuff! this is an old post but i’m using this cartoon to discuss a point at work.

    If you’re traveling down a dark cavern with your flashlight and you see bloodsucking bats you don’t turn off your flashlight and then keep walking down the cave the exact same way.

    Anyhow, I liked your article and I think we all need to get teams talking about how to follow the rules in a constructive ‘agile’ way.

    As an example, if a tester is worried about ‘having nothing to do’ at the start of a sprint. What does that mean?

    Or if a TechWriter is a shared resource with another team because there is not enough work for her to keep busy, what does that mean?

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