As somebody who is interested in Scrum but hasn’t yet had a chance to try it, I’ve been paying attention to the various experiences people are having with it.

I’ve been noticing something for a while, but I didn’t really realize that there was something bigger going on.

I call that phenomena “Scrumbut”. It shows up in the following way:

We’re doing Scrum but…

  • our sprints are 12 weeks long…

  • we do two normal sprints and one bugfix sprint…

  • we do all our planning up front…

  • we skip the daily meeting…

  • our managers decide what’s in each sprint…

  • we haven’t read the books yet…

  • our team has 30 people…

I’m not a strict methodologist – a specific methodology may need to be adapted to a specific situation. But most of these are anti-scrum rather than modified-scrum.

That this phenomena exists may not be news to you, and it wasn’t to me. But what I realized this last week is that scrumbut has led to another phenomena…

Namely, it has led to scrum being a naughty word. Managers are working with groups that say they are doing scrum, and then when scrumbut doesn’t work, they decide that scrum doesn’t work.

How to approach this? Well, I think you need to advocate specific principles rather than advocating scrum. If you tell your management that you are going to be “ready to release” on a monthly basis and that they get to give feedback on what has been done at what to do next every month, I think you will likely get a better response.

Comments (21)

  1. Peter Ritchie says:

    That’s hilarious: "scrumbut".  Thanks for the laugh.

  2. Anu says:

    I completely agree with the scrumbut observation! And it seems really annoying when someone says it didn’t work after ignoring one of the basic tenets!

    I dunno if advocating specific principles will work either – even in the case you mention above(mothly release only), you aren’t really doing SCRUM, but a variant of SCRUM. I would extend it and say this is a set of principles, not a single principle only. What say?

  3. Eric Gunnerson has a great post on ScrumBut . As a ScrumMaster (certified, certifiable, whatever) I agree

  4. ericgu says:


    I’m not advocating that you don’t do scrum. I’m saying that you should be careful using the word "scrum" (or the word "agile"…) to describe what you’re doing, as it may have an undeserved negative connotation.


  5. marcod says:

    Misuse and abuse of things seem to be part of life, comes to mind this other related post:

  6. Paul Hammond says:

    I see people "adopting" Scrum and calling themselves Agile, without changing anything else about the way they write software.   All that happens is that you get to see all the things that were covered up before; these usually manifest themselves in Scrumbuts…

    Deeply understand what you are trying to achieve, or what you are trying to fix first.  The rest will be so much easier!

  7. One of the core elements of Scrum is that you should re-evaluate your process at the end of each sprint, via a retrospective.  If you’re not ScrumBut, then you’re doing plain-ol-vanilla Scrum, and that would mean it is the perfect out-of-the-box process for you.   What are the chances of that?

  8. Ade Miller says:

    What really troubles me is that in a lot of cases it’s ScrumBut from day one.

    It’s a bit like baking a cake. Unless you’re a master baker you generally follow the recipe a few times before messing with it. With Scrum people seem to think they can launch into ScrumBut right out the gate.

    It can be very hard to disuade them from this. I got a lot of push back from the sprints we did. I think part of the issue is Scrum seems so simple that people think they understand it completely and want to "fix" it right from the start.

  9. Well well well says:

    The fact is that if you don’t follow _all_ Scrum rules, you are not doing Scrum.

  10. EricGu has a great post on something he calls scrumbut. It rings very true. One of the teams I was in

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  12. Kyle Finley says:

    Sorry for a post that is a quote of a quote, but this is just too good to leave out. Brad Wilson put…

  13. Plan Driven vs. Agile , ScrumBut , Good Agile, Bad Agile – there’s a constant dialogue going on regarding

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  15. Lindal Cossey, PMP says:

    Scrum, like so many methodologies, can easily become a bandwagon that everyone wants to jump on, or say they have (business development types) when in reality it simply doesn’t apply to your organization for any of a number of reasons, the most prevalant being managers who don’t want to give up control. It is scary to step back and let your people run the project but it works. There are times however when the manager will need to step in and redirect the team. Those times are not Scrumbut. Every project morphs and the team (and Scrum) must match those changes. For me, Scrum has reduced my workload, and increased our success rate. Instead of 3 hour status meetings, I can sit in on a Sprint meeting for 10 minutes and KNOW whether the project is on track or not.

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  17. Michael says:

    That happens with all agile methodologies like XP.

    "We’ve tried XP and it did not work". This is a very dangerous trend…

  18. בכל הטמעה ישנן ספקנים שאומרים לי שזה לא יצליח, שאין סיכוי שאנשים יגיעו בזמן לישיבה היומית, שאי אפשר לעשו