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ScrumBut & Dysfunctions

Author: Dmitry Ro
Updated: 2023-06-01


ScrumBut is a clever technique that exposes the underlying dysfunctions in implementing Scrum. It is a verbal construct used to highlight the dysfunctions that occur during the Scrum process. Scrum Masters can utilize this technique to bring these dysfunctions to the team's attention, sometimes even injecting a touch of satire or humor into the discussion. Through this lighthearted approach, the team begins to recognize the extent of the dysfunctions present within their own dynamics.
ScrumBut have a syntax:

  • "(We use Scrum, but) (having a Daily Scrum every day is too much overhead,) (so we only have one per week.)"
  • "(We use Scrum, but) (Retrospectives are a waste of time,) (so we don't do them.)"
  • "(We use Scrum, but) (we can't build a piece of functionality in a month,) (so our Sprints are 6 weeks long.)"
  • "(We use Scrum, but) (sometimes our managers give us special tasks,) (so we don't always have time to meet our definition of done.)"


Typical Scrum dysfunctions are:

Daily Scrum as Status Call

Daily Scrum is not a status meeting, its an event to encourage communication, if we only need to know status of some task we can take a look into a Jira or other project management software and check the status. Daily Scrum have to be used to scratch impediments and bring on top problems that blocks as in way to the Sprint Goal.

ScrumBut: We use Scrum, but our Daily is lasts of unknown amount of time and everybody just telling their statuses of the current tasks.

ScrumTeam isn't self-managed

If a ScrumTeam is always relies on external guidence and do not understand the next steps it is not the ScrumTeam it is a sign if dysfunction. Example here is very simple: If there is a final person who decide this is not a self-managed team.

ScrumBut: We use Scrum, but we need to wait for our CTO to make a decision

This is very sensitive topic because it requires certain level of organization maturity

Missing Sprint Goals

It's a very common situation described by organization claiming practicing Scrum, from "We don't have a Sprint Goals", to "Our goals are changed", "Its too many different tasks in the sprint we cannot define single Goal"

ScrumBut: We use Scrum, but we are not following Sprint goals and do nothing if Goal become obsolete

No ScrumMaster

You can play football without being trained by a proper trainer, but you cannot practicing Scrum without proper ScrumMaster. What is happening very often is that organization became using parts of scrum at best, and using made up terms and events at words. This is ending up like "We tried baseball it didn't work".

ScrumBut: We use Scrum, but we don't have any as ScrumMaster

There is big list of ScrumBut sentences, I'll be updaing this article with a table or list of ScrumButs.

How to use ScrumBut ?

Identify Dysfunctions: Observe and identify any dysfunctions or deviations from Scrum practices within your team. These dysfunctions could include common issues like incomplete sprint planning, frequent scope changes, or lack of transparency.

Define ScrumBut Statements: Formulate ScrumBut statements that highlight the dysfunctions in a satirical or humorous manner. For example, "We're doing Scrum, but we don't have a Product Owner, so our stakeholders magically appear in our daily stand-ups."

Facilitate a Discussion: During a team meeting or retrospective, present the ScrumBut statements to the team. Encourage open discussion and ask team members to share their thoughts on whether they resonate with the statements and if they recognize similar dysfunctions occurring.

Reflect on Dysfunctions: Facilitate a conversation about the dysfunctions highlighted by the ScrumBut statements. Explore the impact of these dysfunctions on the team's productivity, collaboration, and overall success. Encourage team members to share their perspectives and experiences.

Identify Improvement Opportunities: Use the discussion as an opportunity to identify areas for improvement. Discuss potential solutions, process changes, or actions that can help address the identified dysfunctions. Encourage the team to take ownership and propose actionable steps towards resolving the issues.

Implement Changes: Collaboratively decide on the changes to be implemented to address the dysfunctions. Assign responsibilities and set a timeline for implementing the agreed-upon improvements.

Monitor Progress: Continuously monitor the progress of the changes and evaluate their effectiveness. Regularly review and adapt the team's practices based on feedback and outcomes.

Remember, ScrumBut is not meant to be used as a means of ridicule or criticism. It should be employed as a tool to foster open communication, self-reflection, and improvement within the team.