Important Words about Scrum and Tools

May 28, 2020
3 minute read
Since Scrum is the most commonly misused and misunderstood Agile method (despite nearly ubiquitous training availability), I felt readers could use a kick-in-the-pants clarification on the reality of Scrum. As a consultant and trainer, I see and hear about Scrum being done badly over and over and over. This article is really about a very basic concept that most people don’t understand about Scrum. For a summary of the Scrum process, please check the appendix at the end of this book. For the official definition of Scrum please see

Ken Schwaber, the founder of Scrum, has a blog.  In it, someone mentioned that Scrum is changing (in the context of new Scrum tools).  Ken responded:

“If you change the Scrum framework you just simply aren’t using Scrum and are probably canceling some of its most important benefits.”

Thank you Ken!  I wholeheartedly agree.  Every CSM and CSPO class I teach, I emphasize the complete nature of Scrum as a single tool, not a collection of tools.  Learning Scrum is about learning the tool, not learning how to pick and choose pieces of a tool.  Let’s explore this metaphor of Scrum as a tool.

Consider a hammer.  A hammer is ideally suited for pounding nails into wood.  It has two parts: a head and a handle.  If you take the parts and use them separately, they can still be used for pounding nails into wood… but they are very ineffective compared to the hammer (although better than using your bare fist).  It is nonsensical to decompose the hammer and try to use the pieces separately.  However, a hammer is not suited to other purposes such as driving screws or cutting wood.  It’s perfection is not just in its form, but also in its proper application.  A hammer works through a balanced combination of leverage and momentum.

Scrum is like a hammer.  It has parts (daily Scrum, Sprints, ScrumMaster, etc.), but taking the parts and trying to use them separately is… you guessed it… nonsensical.  The parts of Scrum combine to be an extremely effective tool for new product development.  Just like a hammer, there are things you wouldn’t want to do with Scrum such as manufacturing or painting a wall.  (We might not all agree on the limits of the use of Scrum… that’s something for another article.)  Scrum works through a combination of pressure on the organization and “inspect and adapt” (continuous improvement).

Please.  Don’t modify Scrum.  If you must change things about Scrum, please stop calling it Scrum.

This is one of my pet peeves: people calling what they are doing “Scrum” when it is nothing like Scrum. A common example of this is a group of people working on a project where the project manager has taken on the title “ScrumMaster”, the group meets once a day for a long status meeting that they call their “Scrum meeting”, and everything else is how they would normally do a project. That’s not Scrum. That’s “cargo cult” Scrum and it just doesn’t work. (See for a description of the term “cargo cult”.)

[This article was originally published on Agile Advice on 17-Jan-2012]

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Equitable Life of Canada
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