Modifying Scrum – You THINK you know better… -- Cartoon -- May 6, 2008

Modifying Scrum is a bad idea.

Do you hear me?  Do you REALLY think modifying Scrum is a good idea?


Scrum is a simple framework.  It works.

Yet, in most places I get called into for consulting with clients around the world, this is one of the major causes of projects failing.

People try to mess with it.  Because they know better.

OK… do that… then call me to come in and tell you to go back to the basics.  I make a great living doing this — but this is FREE advice.  Hey… if you still want to bring me in, call me and I will happily deliver this message to whoever you want (heck — I can even do this over the phone for you — what’s the worst that can happen, the receiver can hang up on me — not too bad for a five second telephone call!).

There is a reason that Scrum is a simple framework.

It’s supposed to be.

Think about it.

Most organizations — from very small to the largest enterprises — hire, employ, or contract very smart and intelligent people.  These very well-meaning very smart and intelligent people then think they can improve Scrum… before even understanding what power Scrum as a framework brings to the table.

Think about it.

Your organization is probably a political quagmire.  Most are.

If you are luck enough not to be in this situation, think of one of your favorite Dilbert Cartoons and laugh — this does happen in most places.

So… you have this political bullshit going on in the organization before Scrum.  As dysfunctional as it is, people have learned to thrive and succeed in this environment.  Actually the people that are dysfunctional created this dysfunctional system.  This could be you (ouch… hard to look in the mirror sometimes — trust me — I KNOW!!!).

Then you introduce Scrum.  And then an amazing thing happens.

Take a guess?

“Mike – Scrum is causing a lot of problems so we HAVE to modify it and make it better.”

“Mike – WE are different.”

OK.. on the first one… really really really look at what problems you think Scrum are causing.  I do a root cause analysis workshop with clients and usually almost ALL of the problems were there before Scrum was implemented.

Scrum exposes existing problems.

Get over it.  As a ScrumMaster, this is something you get paid to work with the Scrum Team, the Product Owner, and outside stakeholders to manage.  Put on your big kid pants and start having those tough conversations.


You are different.  And special.



Use Scrum as the basic framework.

Watch.  Observe.

Inspect and Adapt.

Sound familiar?

Now does this comic strip make sense?

Let me know your thoughts!

Or… do as the majority of organizations who try to implement Scrum and fail — go back to what you were doing before and blame Scrum.  It’s a cop-out the industry (read: meaning people like you and me) still allows to happen.  Sad… but true.

Grow a spine and try to have a tough conversation TODAY!

[By the way - the original posting for this cartoon is located at


  1. This post is nothing less than superb.
    Thoroughly enjoyed it, and agreed with every word (as painful as it it feels)

  2. I totally hear you. Keep at it and thank you for the comment!

  3. Many organizations have said they would like to be agile. However, these same execs who said that is not willing to face the truth and deal with the problem. This is one cause why scrum does not work for an organization. To make it worst, no one is brave enough to voice out the problem. I am surprise to hear senior managers in a large organization traded in the stock exchange comment this way: “We are just waiting for the first person to blink and no one is willing to come out and say we do have a problem”. Sad but true story.

  4. Randy,

    I agree that this is sad and true. I have been brought in by many clients to actually “blink” and then watch the entire effort go down the drain. Sometimes it’s the best thing for an organization and I do not like taking a bullet for doing something like this (although I am doing it more frequently now — so if anyone needs this service from me contact me!).

  5. Where is the evidence that it works? And what do you think of Jeff Sutherlands writings here:

    and here

    Agile Bob

  6. I agree it is a simple framework. I would say there are two levels of Scrum, one being the ceremonies and the objectives of each ceremony which should never be modified. The other level, which I feel can be modified, is how those objectives are met, each team is unique.

  7. We are looking to implement scrum at my branch of the company. Hosting an “Agile Mentorship” week where someone from corporate is coming in to help mentor as we pilot this on a new project. In the previous training and reading I’ve learned a lot of “what not to do”. I’m hoping to navigate through all the political bullshit here and prove that it will work.

  8. Simon Reed says:

    It is not just Scrum that is victim to this problem of individuals who think they know better. I have consulted in a few organisations who “tried PRINCE2 but it didn’t work for us; so we think PRINCE2 is rubbish”. In each case they had first “improved” it by breaking or removing key components to make it fit their dysfunctional working practices. For example, removing the business case requirement or having a committee as the project board. Yet PRINCE2-by-the-book works for others.

    Another organisation I know spent three years constructing a service catalogue so that they could implement ITIL, then never got as far as changing service management or service delivery. They then dropped ITIL saying “ITIL doesn’t work”.

    These same organisations are now failing with agile methods because of applying rigorous auditing, being “flexible” with Scrum’s inflexibility (“It will be better if you can change the length of a sprint”), using Gantt charts to plan when product backlog items will be completed a year into the future, maintaining silos, hiding failures rather than learning from them, having monthly change boards instead of a Product Owner, etc.

    There’s none so blind as those who won’t see, and you can’t help those who won’t help themselves. Dysfunctional organisations are dysfunctional because of the dysfuncctional people within them. And for some reason, dysfunctional managers tend to get shunted into change management roles, presumably because that is where the rest of the organisation (incorrectly) thinks they will do least damage.

    And these dysfunctional people always think they know best, better than high IQ academics and experienced practitioners who put centuries of effort into developing best practice frameworks. To my mind, anyone who says they can spontaneously improve a well-documented process without using it first should be put on a pension and never allowed to work again. Or beaten to death with Dilbert books.

  9. Simon,

    Great comments thank you I appreciate them — especially the last line(s)!

    Prince2, ITIL, whatever — including Scrum — will fail if people try to use these frameworks as the end-all-be-all answer to the universe (which we know is 42 right?!?).

    The only thing we can continue doing is to help people who ask. And then try.

    Fail fast.

    Might be a good thing!

    - mike vizdos


  1. [...] Published: May 6, 2008    An updated blog posting using this comic strip is available at: Posted in Cartoons,Metrics,Pigs,ScrumMaster — by mvizdos on 05/06/08 (3) comments [...]

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