Scrum teams: we’ve all had those moments with agile scrum challenges. Projects drag on too long, morale starts to wane, and people start to leave. Trying to establish new sprints feel more like you’re stuck in the mud. No worries, our tips will help you get that groove back in no time. We have solutions to common scrum problems, including agile anti-patterns and how to remove them from your processes. So whether your scrum team needs to be re-energized or is on the brink of implosion, this guide can save you. Stop struggling, and take action today.
What you'll find in this article
- 1 What is Agile Scrum Methodology? And what’s standing in the way of your Scrum Team success?
- 1.1 Scrum Problem #1: Not Enough Time in the Sprint
- 1.2 Scrum Problem #2: Overcommitment
- 1.3 Scrum Problem #3: Lack of Focus
- 1.4 Scrum Problem #4: Sprint Goal Not Achieved
- 1.5 Scrum Problem #5: Impediments Not Removed
- 1.6 Scrum Problem #6: No Retrospective
- 1.7 Scrum Problem #7: Team Not Collocated
- 1.8 Scrum Problem #8: Ineffective Daily Stand-ups
- 1.9 Scrum Problem #9: Product Owner Not Involved Enough
- 1.10 Scrum Problem #10: Stakeholder Management Issues
- 1.11 Scrum Problem #11: User Story Not well Defined
- 1.12 Scrum Problem #12: Unclear Acceptance Criteria
- 1.13 Scrum Problem #13: Tech Debt
- 1.14 Scrum Problem #14: Lack of Automation
- 1.15 Scrum Problem #15: Definition of Done Not Clear
- 1.16 Scrum Problem #16: Misaligned Goals
- 2 Conclusion
What is Agile Scrum Methodology? And what’s standing in the way of your Scrum Team success?
As you grapple with a to-do list a mile long, Scrum can help take some of the pressure off! Have you heard of Agile Scrum methodology? Let us break it down for you!
Agile Scrum is an iterative and incremental framework for project management. It follows an incremental approach that allows for flexible planning, frequent inspection, and fast feedback. This results in a continuous flow of work rather than completing work in separate, distinct phases. The basic process of Agile Scrum revolves around five main principles: self-organizing teams, quick iterations of work, a collaboration between business people & developers, frequent review/inspection, and adapting to changes quickly.
Projects are completed in an iterative way with regular customer feedback and shorter timescales allowing faster development. This allows organizations to save money while still meeting their project goals.
No wonder, the Agile Scrum methodology has been adopted by a vast array of successful businesses across various industries – from Fortune 500s to smaller startups.
And now you’re asking yourself, what’s the catch? That catch comes in many shapes and sizes; last-minute scope changes, communication misalignment, and more. In order to set your team up for success, make sure that your challenges are identified before any serious projects are launched and that progress is monitored at regular intervals!
Not sure what’s standing in the way of your Scrum Team’s success? We’ve got a few ideas.
Scrum Problem #1: Not Enough Time in the Sprint
So your Scrum Problem is not enough time in the Sprint? We get it! More often than not, you have an overly ambitious Sprint, resulting in long days with no slack in your timeline. So, how do you address it? Step one is taking a look at your initial estimates and seeing if they are too optimistic. Take a deep breath and be realistic — everyone knows software development rarely goes to plan. That’s why making smaller Sprints and completing mini goals can often help keep the Scrum flowing without going overboard with tight deadlines. However, it’s important to realize when overworked employees are no longer producing at peak efficiency – a little flexibility might go a long way!
Here’s the perfect solution:
- Step 1: Avoid over-committing.
- Step 2: Schedule team check-ins during Sprints.
- Step 3: Schedule breaks during the Sprint.
- Step 4: Identify areas of improvement.
Our best tip: ensure all of the teams involved have access to necessary information from the start and double-check if the timeframe for tasks was established correctly. Give it a shot!
Scrum Problem #2: Overcommitment
Scrum team feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work on their plate? You’re not alone! While overcommitment can make it difficult for teams to meet their goals and expectations, there are ways to overcome it. It all comes down to making sure your commitments are realistic and achievable while leaving enough slack to stay agile and adaptive. In other words: stop promising too much. Try looking at the situation through a more systematic lens — setting achievable goals and re-prioritizing tasks — that can help ensure sustainable progress without adding extra strain.
One of the ways we can ensure we’re delivering quality projects is to increase transparency into what we are doing and give ourselves the flexibility to readjust when necessary. Use a tool like Trello to keep track of tasks, deadlines, and deliverables so that your team and stakeholders can have a real-time look at the work being done and know exactly where it stands in the project timeline. This can help to prevent your team from becoming overloaded and over-committing.
Scrum Problem #3: Lack of Focus
What’s the saying? If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there? If that’s the case with your scrum, it sounds like it’s time for a change of direction! Scrum is meant to be focused and provide solutions to problems as quickly as possible. Step back and ask, is the team focusing on the most valuable and highest-priority tasks first? Without proper focus, progress stalls, people are stretched in all directions, and creative output quickly fades. Getting everyone to focus on one key goal at a time ensures success is around the corner. So get that squad to identify the one most critical outcome that needs to be achieved today, and take it from there!
The best way to tackle it is to have a structured daily standup to talk about progress. This allows everyone to know the latest project status, make any mid-course corrections and prevent wasted effort. Make sure you break up your projects into measurable chunks that can be tracked over the standup session. This approach works especially well if combined with real-time feedback & continual review sessions – setting goals and then assessing if they’ve been achieved!
Scrum Problem #4: Sprint Goal Not Achieved
Let’s be honest, not all Sprints have the outcome that we hoped for, right? If you find that the work you’ve completed during the sprint does not meet the team’s pre-established goals, don’t fret. It might be helpful to identify the issue (i.e., lack of focus, difficulty in coordination, or simply miscommunication between members) so that you can adjust your workflow accordingly and stay on track in subsequent sprints.
Start by identifying the root causes of why the Sprint goal wasn’t met – often times it is related to scope creep or scope adjustment. Additionally, develop mitigation plans to manage scope in the future. Then you can use agile methods like kanban or feature flow to break up large chunks of work into smaller tasks and make sure you have full transparency and visibility.
Scrum Problem #5: Impediments Not Removed
As a Scrum master, it’s your job to keep the team rolling, but what do you do when things are starting to become a bottleneck? Don’t worry, you don’t have to become a juggler, instead, get familiar with impediments – what they are and how to remove them. Without removal, problems only snowball. When running a Scrum project, problems can quickly arise due to blocked work or overdue items that impact the whole team. These are called ‘impediments’. Not tackling your impediments could have a big impact on productivity and efficiency.
A simple framework of steps can get those pesky impediments out of your way. Start by listing all the identified impediments and identify who should be responsible for removing each one. Next, use facilitation techniques such as team brainstorming, fishbone diagram, and affinity diagrams to remove those issues. Finally, create an effective follow-up system that continuously monitors progress to make sure these impediments are solved and that everyone involved is on the same page.
Scrum Problem #6: No Retrospective
It’s something most of us have experienced during a Scrum meeting – no Retrospective! Everyone’s asking the same questions: What do we do? Where do we go from here? And then we sit there for what feels like days! It can be disheartening and demoralizing, especially when everyone is so enthusiastic in the beginning. Retrospectives provide a powerful platform for the team to discuss their successes, the things that went well, and the areas for improvement. But without this forum, it can be hard to identify what areas need work. That’s why it’s essential for leaders to create a safe environment for discussion and focus on ongoing progress rather than trying to find the one thing that should be improved.
Whether you have a problem of No retrospectives or a ton of post-meeting data to sift through, how do we deal with the elephant in the room and bring back those dreaded Retrospectives?
One possible solution is to use remote retrospective activities. This way, everyone is still engaged and accountable for their tasks but you are also creating a healthy platform for teams to collaborate on different projects and continue learning as a team.
Scrum Problem #7: Team Not Collocated
Scrum not working for your team that’s not in the same room? Well, it’s a virtual conundrum for sure! Remote work is on the rise, so having a successful team collaboration can be achieved in an online setting too. Clear communication and trusting relationships can help your team bond. The trick is to find tools that make collaboration smoother and easier. Online whiteboard sessions, videoconferencing, shared files — all these things and more can help you facilitate collaboration even when everyone isn’t in the same place.
Ensure people have a safe and private space to work from home. Put more structure around team huddles check-ins and retrospectives. Foster cross-collaboration and use tools that work across time zones. And most importantly, practice empathy at all times. Just do these things and that will get your Scrum back up and running like no tomorrow.
Scrum Problem #8: Ineffective Daily Stand-ups
It’s not uncommon for scrum teams to experience challenges around Daily Stand-ups. Many times, what should be a brief exchange of information about work status quickly deteriorates into non-value-added activities such as rants and heated debates. How to get out of this daily stand-up slump? Being prepared, concise and concisely getting to the root of the issues at hand is the only way forward – but always take it one ‘stand-up’ at a time. With the right energy levels, the daily stand-up should always start and end on a high note.
Here’s what you can do to ensure that your stand-up remains a high-impact meeting with real value. Keep the conversation on track by reminding the team of the goal of the stand-up. Create a short agenda and establish ground rules to keep people focused. Make sure each member speaks up in an atmosphere that promotes candor and positive constructive dialogue.
Scrum Problem #9: Product Owner Not Involved Enough
Tried Scrum, but got stumped? Product Owner not showing up enough to the game? When a Product Owner isn’t involved enough in a project, it can lead to major issues — from lower engagement levels to morale concerns and lack of productivity. It’s time for a refresher course on best practices for improving your Scrum flow! Sure, it might be tempting to do an episode of Intervention, but trust us when we say you should stay away from that.
Here are a few solutions that can help get everyone back on track: 1) Make sure you and your product owner are clear on the objectives of each sprint. 2) Encourage the product owner to participate more actively in sprint planning sessions. 3) If necessary, restructure tasks within the sprint to maximize team productivity.
Scrum Problem #10: Stakeholder Management Issues
What happens when you have a scrum problem with stakeholders? You make an Agile Project Charter and hope that works. As a professional working in a Scrum environment, having a handle on stakeholder management is crucial. The key is being transparent, staying in communication with stakeholders at all times, and allowing for quick resolutions of conflicts that may arise. Taking time to create shared goals, regular checkpoints, and retrospective meetings will help you identify any problems and get the job done quickly. Stakeholder management is often a hot-button issue and can present obstacles if it’s not approached correctly.
The way to overcome these issues is to be proactive and build relationships from the very beginning. That means having the Scrum team understand who their stakeholders are and mapping out all of the roles, responsibilities, expectations, and scope for the project. Once that’s been done, clear communication needs to be established and sustained throughout the project. Lastly, always keep your stakeholders in the loop and use them as resources when questions arise. Get ahead of your stakeholder management problems before they start.
Scrum Problem #11: User Story Not well Defined
Have you ever been in a Scrum and experienced the struggle of not having well-defined User Stories? What happens? Your development team spends lots of time planning out things they don’t understand, lots of misinterpretation, and everybody has to move one step back in order to move forward. And let’s not even get started on debugging later down the road. No need to struggle through that anymore!
First and foremost, it is important to understand the nature of your User Stories. A user story should explain the desired outcome, why the task should be accomplished, and who will benefit from it. Next, develop Acceptance Criteria – or criteria to define what must happen for the user story to be considered done. If a story is missing details, look at surrounding user stories to determine any gap in information that needs to be filled. Of course, you should always validate with the stakeholders too! Solve these challenges and see the results quickly.
Utilizing a process called Backlog Refinement, teams can break down each story into smaller stories, making them easier to define and develop. Once the stories have been decomposed into smaller ones, they can be assessed and estimated individually. This allows teams to prioritize their work with precision. To get started, create stories no larger than 1/8 of the full goal – that should make things a bit easier.
Scrum Problem #12: Unclear Acceptance Criteria
Have you ever been in the middle of a Scrum project and hit a wall because you weren’t sure what you needed to do to finish it? Unclear Acceptance Criteria can be one of the biggest problems you run into with Scrum development. How do you ensure the end product will meet the customer’s expectations if you aren’t even sure what those expectations are? Make sure the stories in your sprint backlog are written correctly and clearly, without ambiguity. Then take each story and develop an example of what would constitute an acceptable outcome of that story. Clear acceptance criteria and effective documentation from your Scrum Master can save the day – and even make Agile seem fun again!
If you’re stuck, there are a few ways to help. First, take a step back and use structured conversations with your team to determine project goals and clarify expectations. Second, start using specific acceptance criteria templates or checklists as guides to ensure an understanding of customer requirements and to align stakeholders. Lastly, ensure that each feature is thoroughly tested prior to delivery to get stakeholder approval.
Scrum Problem #13: Tech Debt
Scrum is a great tool, but do you know what happens when the problem you’re trying to solve is too complicated? Well, you can easily get stuck in Tech Debt, an accumulation of unfinished tasks that continue to slow down your project’s progress. Tech debt happens to the best of us! To help get to the root of the problem, try the approach of Scrum Problem-solving. The key is to focus on tackling one small issue at a time and constantly refine your backlog with timely improvements.
You could start by proactively refactoring code before a problem even arises. You could also establish a pattern library or keep tech debt logs so your team can always see what they’re dealing with. Ultimately, though, the most important step is getting everyone involved in preventing and resolving tech debt. That way, you’ll all be working towards a more streamlined development process!
Scrum Problem #14: Lack of Automation
You know you’re in for a long night when your scrum is hit with a lack of automation! Just think, the manual steps alone could probably fill your whole working week. Automation is key when it comes to Scrum methodology, yet too many teams suffer from problems due to a lack of automation. Automating your software tests can be hard to keep up with, but if you don’t it will cost you in the long run. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to get creative and get the job done. From delegating responsibilities and developing a solid strategy to engaging experts who can lend a helping hand – if you tackle your Scrum problems head-on with these strategies, your test automation efforts will get back on track!
To solve this problem, why not consider investing in DevOps practices such as continuous integration and continuous deployment? These techniques enable you to increase your development velocity and deploy quickly — something you definitely need in this age of digital transformation.
Scrum Problem #15: Definition of Done Not Clear
Do you feel like you’re stuck in a Scrum never-ending loop? If so, the problem could be that your Definition of Done is not clear enough. This means your team has fallen into a rut of relying on their own judgment to assess progress when there are no set criteria for done. A Scrum master should intervene to provide a specific and achievable goal that each team member can focus on, making sure to include quality checks at various stages of the sprint. Clear communication and input from each team member are key to establishing a reliable Definition of Done, which will help improve agility and streamline processes. After all, failing to define success only leads to frustration!
To tackle this Scrum problem head-on, first identify the impediments in terms of identifying an actionable, unambiguous list of what tasks need to be completed before declaring it done. Next, you must ensure all parties have full visibility of what tasks are completed and by whom. Finally, communicate the same language and vision throughout the project. Keep your Definition of Done relevant to all stakeholders – get it clear in writing, and collaborate for success!
Scrum Problem #16: Misaligned Goals
Tired of playing scrum charades every other day in a misguided attempt to figure out your misaligned goals? Then here’s a suggestion: it may be time for you to realign your expectations! Make sure your team is crystal clear about the common goals you’re striving for so that you can scrum forward together. After all, life’s too short for mistaking questions and answers on your journey. The truth is, misaligned goals often start with communication issues that may or may not be at the root of all the problems. But what happens when the real issue goes unresolved? What can be done to realign a Scrum team’s goals and get back on track?
This is a common challenge with Scrum projects, but luckily there are some tactics to help tackle it. Here are four tips to get your goals back on track:
1. Review & set realistic expectations – clearly outline each team’s individual goals, as well as the common objectives they need to achieve together.
2. Meet regularly – get the team together frequently to align objectives and strategies.
3. Track progress – track the team’s performance on regular basis, helping the group understand their success or failure with each task and better manage their time for better results.
4. Embrace open communication – encourage feedback and foster an atmosphere of mutual understanding and respect between everyone on the team.
Find ways to build camaraderie amongst your team. When teammates are better connected, collaboration will come much more naturally.
What’s the best way to ensure your scrum team functions at peak performance? Whether you’re diving into backlog refinement or kicking off a sprint, it’s best to always have your whole scrum team in tow. We all know that having the entire team present leads to smoother operations, faster outputs, and better communication overall. But why does the togetherness of a scrum team matter so much? So that, they can build a stronger working relationship and establish trust. That way, if problems do arise you know who to turn to! So even if your team might groan at the suggestion, don’t underestimate the power of a good ‘ole team-building exercise.