Scrum is like my mother-in-law; it points out all my faults. Ken Schwaber, one of the master minds behind scrum, is credited with that quote, and there’s a lot of truth to it. Scrum is an exposure model; it’s intended to highlight weaknesses in an organization and its processes. It’s then up to the organization and its people to find solutions to those problems. Unfortunately, many organization solve these problems by removing the parts of the scrum framework that cause the pain.
It seems like a silly way to solve the problem, doesn’t it? When a stranger comes to my house, I have a cat who runs to the bedroom and hides under the comforter. She feels safe because she thinks if I can’t see the stranger, the stranger can’t see me. Sorry, stupid, we can see the lump in the bed. You’re not fooling anyone. So what part of the framework do I see organizations tossing out most often?
When the team leaves sprint planning, they should have in front of them everything they’ll be accomplishing over the course of the sprint. That commitment is immutable. It should not change. Work should not be added, removed, or even exchanged for other work. Most importantly, this commitment should be made by the team without abetment from individuals outside of the team, and it certainly shouldn’t be dictated to a team by the product owner.
Of course, I write this with confidence but also some measure of skepticism. I recognize the realities of the work we do, and I recognize that sometimes things come up that cannot be put off. My argument is that we’re too quick to loosen up that commitment, and my heart burn is this:
When everything is the exception, why have the rule?
That’s a rhetorical question, but I’ll tackle it anyway. Why have the rule? What’s the intent behind requiring that the commitment remain unchanged between sprint planning and the demo? I’ll give you six reasons: