• Volodymyr Kis

Should Scrum be done by the book?

So should Scrum be done by the book? Yes and no. If you're new to Scrum and Agile, you might want to first check my other articles like What Agile really means or 5 reasons why Agile is better than Waterfall, otherwise read on to see whether it's a good idea to always follow the Scrum Guide.

When it's OK to implement Scrum by the book

Imagine working with the software development team that has low level of ''agile maturity'' meaning they're new to agile practices you're going to offer them and don't have much experience with any agile framework, e.g. Scrum. Maybe they do have some experience with Scrum, but you feel like their mindset is far from ''agile'' one or they interpret some agile practices in a wrong way due to their past experience when they've got used to ''modified'' Scrum which could have been far from real Scrum.

Scrum is ''a way of controlling teams by their management'' or ''stand-ups are status meetings'' - are just some examples from many that I've heard from those teams that experienced wrong implementation of Scrum (not their fault though).

As you might be guessing now, all such teams will benefit from ''reaffirming'' Agile by going back to the ''core''of it and Scrum framework. Those who're new to the framework will need someone to teach them how to do Agile well. Before teams can break rules, they first need to follow them. Only by following them first, they can then retrospect and conclude if Scrum works for them or not. Only by following the rules first, teams can then adapt the process if and where they see it's needed.

When it's OK to adapt the process and break some rules

If your team is not just following agile practices blindly, but is agile, i.e. behaves according to agile values and principles, is mature enough, you can then go for adapting the process as your team sees best. As their Scrum Master you will most likely stop acting as a teacher or mentor, but rather start playing a role of a coach helping the team navigate through the process to reach even higher performance. You know that the team is experienced in terms of working together and being agile, so you trust them to find their own path to greater performance by asking powerful questions and just advising them when and if needed. So in this case it's totally OK to be more flexible with the process and find even better approaches based on past experience.

When rules can't be broken

There is a rule in Scrum that sprints have to be finished with some done working software. Teams can't take credit for half done work. There shouldn't be any trade-offs here and this rule can't be broken since otherwise there would be no sense in this ''sprinting'' approach and ''delivering value on a regular basis''. So this is the rule for both mature and immature teams trying to become agile and leverage Scrum framework.

Now, here's an example what things can be adapted if needed. There is a regular sprint review (demo) meeting normally conducted at the end of each iteration to showcase done work and get feedback from project stakeholders. Some teams might find it beneficial to conduct several smaller ''feature'' demos throughout the sprint instead of one big demo meeting at the end. That can be an example of Scrum process adaptation even though Scrum Guide says there is one sprint review meeting near the end of the iteration. If something's done earlier and Product Owner is available, why should we wait if we can get feedback right away?

So these are two examples for you to see the difference between what can't be modified and rule is a rule, and something that can actually be altered to adapt team needs even better.


Setting up the team delivery process from scratch, or working with immature teams, you'll certainly begin with introducing a ''container'' which is your agile framework of choice, and ask the team members to follow the rules.

When your team is mature enough and have some experience with agile frameworks, feel free to allow your team adapt the process as they see it.

Hopefully, this article helped to shed light on when it makes sense to ''do Scrum by the book'' and when it's wise to break some rules and adapt.

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P.S. Looking for additional guidance on Scrum framework as a whole? I’ve created Agile Scrum Master training course for beginners with everything from A to Z needed for you to succeed with Agile. You can get it for a discount within the next 5 days only!

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