Why does Scrum implementations grow stale?

Even after having worked with Scrum for many years, it is still interesting and exiting for me to see that it is able to move the goalposts. However, I keep wondering why the process so easily grow stale, why it is it so hard to hang on to? What is it that has such a stronghold on organizations, drawing them back to old habits? I do not have a bullet-proof explanation, none the less, there are a few things that come to mind:

  • First of all, it is simply the second law of thermodynamics that entropy constantly grows; meaning that anything left on its own without any energy given to it will slip into disorder and chaos.
  • Secondly there is something almost seemingly unnatural about repeating the same pattern over and over, refining and refining. Most of us would rather want to invent something new. Scrum has some of its’ roots in “Lean” with inspiration from Japanese practices. The Japanese admire the master, who, through a lifetime, perfects something or shapes it down into its very essence. We in the West – perhaps lead by the Americans – tend to think that it cannot be the case that we have to make too much of an effort, there must be an easier way.
  • In the same way we have a natural skepticism towards systems where things have to be done a certain way; “Certainly I can do it just as well using my own way.” It is sort of the same thing here. Scrum has proven to actually work, let’s not fiddle with it too much.
  • A completely different issue about Scrum is that there does not seem to be much prestige in such a ‘string and chewing-gum’ pattern, using simple means and being able to start within a few days. For some people it simply does not provide the sufficient status-upgrade. No, then let’s rather have a more complicated system that other people can not simply enter and understand.

What to do about it then? First of all we have to face the fact that Scrum, like any other pattern, has to have energy added continuously to it in order for it to work. Another thing is that we in the organization needs to make sure that it is crystal clear what has real value.  The most important thing is that gradually a critical mass of conviction is piled up, what really counts is: progress, visibility and simplicity.

we, who like to make new things, have to realize that by sticking to simple rules of prioritizing tasks, done-is-done and constant targeting, we actually free up mental space for inventing the other ‘cool stuff’ we also want.

— kbn