Why is Scrum Difficult to Master?

In the fast changing digital work, the concept of Agile has become more and more popular. Everyone is talking about Scrum. There are also many different methods or approaches for agile development, including Extreme Programming (XP), Scrum, Crystal Methods, Adaptive Software Development (ASD), Feature Driven Development (FDD), Dynamic System Development (DSDM), and lightweight. RUP, Test Driven Development (TDD), and more as shown in the Figure below. Among the many agile development methods, the implementation of Scrum is the most popular one.

This article mainly shares the understanding and the implementation process of Scrum and the changes brought by the implementation of Scrum to your team.

The agile umbrella
The agile umbrella

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What is Scrum?

Scrum is a framework for developing and maintaining complex products and is an incremental, iterative development process. In this framework, the entire development process consists of several short iteration cycles, a short iteration cycle called a Sprint, and each Sprint is 2 to 4 weeks long.


In Scrum, use the product Backlog to manage the product’s needs. The product backlog is sorted according to the priority of the business value of the product. In the Sprint, the Scrum team selected the highest priority requirements from the product Backlog to the sprint backlog in the sprint planning process. The selected product backlog items (PBIs) are discussed, analyzed, and estimated at the Sprint Planning Meeting to get a list of tasks (called Sprint backlog) to be included in the next sprint. When the Scrum team completed all the selection of tasks into the Sprint backlog list, the current Sprint ends and proceeds to the next Sprint iteration cycle.

The agile scrum framework
The agile scrum framework

Why Scrum is Difficult to Master?

Scrum has great value. However, it is difficult to implement Scrum in some companies. Some people say that Scrum has no substantive effect. So why a lot of people find Scrum is very difficult to master or even implement? Recalled what Scrum is written in the Scrum Guide: 

Scrum is

  • Lightweight
  • Simple to understand
  • Difficult to master

As Scrum is demands change in culture which is difficult to achieve. If an organization adopt Scrum agile development from its traditional team, it requires a lot of skills, trainings, and coaching for all of the Scrum roles. Each of the Scrum roles has much broader responsibilities than what you would typically find in a traditional waterfall driven environment. Why Scrum is hard to master? Here the main reasons are:

  1. The roles of all team members in a Scrum process are much more difficult.
    For example, in a Scrum project developers don’t just “write code” – they are expected to take responsibility for planning, estimating, and managing their own work as well integrating their work with the rest of the team to produce an overall solution. They are also expected to work directly with business users to understand the requirements.
  2. Scrum is an adaptive process and requires a lot of skill and judgement.
    Scrum is based on an empirical process control model which means that both the solution and the process to produce the solution are continuously adjusted as necessary based on observation as the project is in progress. A lot of that skill and judgement can only be learned on the job which requires some coaching. Many people try to do Scrum mechanically without understanding the principles behind it and that is not typically successful.
  3. Scrum requires organizational transformation
    Scrum requires a collaborative partnership between the development team and the business users as the project is in progress. That typically requires breaking down some organizational “stovepipes” to develop an effective collaborative approach.

Ten Agile Success Strategies

The success strategies for transitioning from traditional to agile development approaches were derived from interviews with agile program managers and practitioners actively delivering software on a variety of projects across the world including: Interviews with agile professionals (i.e., business, IT, and management), Standards Organizations (PMI, Scrum Alliance, Agile Alliance, Scrum.org , DSDM, IEEE, etc.), Industry Case Studies, books, and research institutions (Gartner, Standish, Forrester, etc.).

(Source: Transitioning to agile: ten success strategies. by Carilli, J. F. PMI® Global Congress 2013)

  1. Secure Management Commitment – Management commitment must be secured and in place prior to beginning a program
  2. Empower Your Team – Agile provides significant transparency and reduces the need for exhaustive checkpoints
  3. Understand the Collaborative Culture – Representatives from business areas need to drive agile programs; their participation is a cornerstone of an agile approach
  4. Embrace Agile Methods – The true value of agile is best realized going “all in.”
  5. Develop a Roadmap and Initial Plans – Agile is a component of the overall planning process
  6. Acquire an Agile Coach and Train the Team – At a minimum having an experienced Agile Coach, Scrum Master, and at least 20% of the team with agile experience greatly improves opportunities for success.
  7. Start Small and Gain Early Successes – Nothing could help an agile program gain more traction than showing early tangible successes
  8. Establish Agile Performance Measures – The focus of agile is to work on current business priorities versus conforming to a set of baseline requirements that may not reflect the current business direction
  9. Create Agile Contracts – Instead of focusing on “what” will be delivered, describe in as clearly and unambiguously as possible “how” the solution will be defined and delivered
  10. Adopt ALM tools to Facilitate Interactions – Agile ALM tools integrate the agile processes and a governance structure on top of the considerations that traditional ALM tools integrate

Based on research and experience it is strongly recommended that organizations consider applying these strategies along with strong business and IT management disciplines in order to smoothly transit from traditional to agile development approach.

About Visual Paradigm
Visual Paradigm help organizations stay competitive and responsive to change faster and better in today’s fast changing environment. Our award-winning products are trusted by over 320,000 users in companies ranging from small business, consultants, to blue chip organizations, universities and government units across the globe. It enables organizations to improve business and IT agility and foster innovation through popular open standards and process frameworks.Visual Paradigm, a killer Agile feature in 2018, introduced Scrum Process Canvas for automating the way a Scrum team to create, manage and deploy software application that empowers the team to continuously improve their performance at unprecedented speed and scale.

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  • Automate the Scrum Framework in a fun and enjoyable dashboard with eye-catching updated status.
  • Manage Backlog, Multiple Sprints of different Scrum Roles with a single-page visually executable canvas
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  • Automate the Scrum events and related activities with self-explanatory instructions, samples and required document templates.

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