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Agile Coaches' Corner shares practical concepts in an approachable way. It is for agile practitioners and business leaders seeking expert advice on improving the way they work to achieve their desired outcomes. If you have a topic you'd like discussed, email it to, or tweet it with #agilethoughtpodcast.

Apr 14, 2020

In this episode, Professional Scrum Trainer Sam Falco answers the questions: Are there any types of work which aren’t suitable for Scrum?

Scrum is for Complex Work

Scrum lives in the area of complexity, where more is unknown than is known--about requirements, about how to fulfill them--and we have to apply an empirical approach in order to discover what we need to know and how to solve the problem.

Scrum is Unnecessary for Simple Work

Scrum would be unsuited to very simple work domains, where cause and effect are obvious to everyone, and all needed information can be known. This is the realm of "best practices," meaning there is one way to solve the problem; it is known to everyone involved, and following the known process will provide the expected result. As a concrete example, think of an oil change. In simple work, Scrum is unnecessary.

Scrum is Overkill for Complicated Work

For more complicated work that is not complex, more is known than unknown about the problem to be solved. This is the realm of "good practices." The problem is not as precise or easily defined as in simple work, and there are likely a few different ways to solve it. The example I always use is when I had to have a new roof put on my house. Everyone agreed on the requirements: Make my roof water-tight! But there are multiple types of roofing technologies, and my house's roof has a peculiar design. Those complications required analysis before we could decide on the appropriate approach. But my roofers could still use a predictive, plan-driven approach. For complicated problems, an empirical approach like Scrum could work, but it is likely to be overkill.

Scrum is not Suitable when we Know Nothing

Finally, Scrum is not likely to be suitable for a chaotic environment, when almost nothing is known about the problem to be solved or how to solve it. The classic example is a natural disaster, but I've also worked in an environment where no one could agree on what was wanted, and any plan we made could be invalidated at a moments' notice.

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