The black sheep of the agile family

agile-black-sheepNew methods and frameworks are being developed around agile almost every day. There is Scrum of Scrums, Scrumban, LeSS, SAFe, Nexus, DAD, Spotify Model, DSDM, Kanban or XP and many more. But do you understand and implement all of them? There are a few black sheep in the agile family that cannot be cataloged, albeit are very interesting because of their extremely disruptive and unusual features. Let's take a quick look at some of them.

1. Breaking Scrum

When Scrum is introduced in your team, you must overcome the usual challenges. As the speed increases from sprint to sprint, the team must implements its user stories regularly to the satisfaction of its stakeholders. However, scrum might not be as successful in every set-up since it often hinders with a familiar culture, moreover, the limitation become evident after sometime.

Breaking Scrum can be used in such situations at any time without engaging too many prerequisites. In many cases, it happens organically. When the product owner is promoted or moves to another project, they often find it challenging to find time for the team. The team members become reluctant to participate in daily stand-ups because the cooperation works so well that the formal exchange of information promises little value-add. Instead of delivering the developed product and receiving feedback, clients prioritize user stories with low business value.

The magic word here is entropy. With Breaking Scrum, we no longer follow the rules, we let them slide, the disorder in the Scrum universe inevitably increases. The learned and already used concepts are lost, the procedure becomes a template that cuts corners. With this we can show the team and the environment how a few small changes are enough to see the effects. This downward spiral is not very fruitful but helps us realize the importance of taking agile principles and framework rules seriously again at a later stage.

2. Lean Scrum

This comes after Breaking Scrum. The team applies the rules formally, but with little concrete content. To warm up, it is best to do one or two sprints where the team is not working at full capacity. After that, the sprint backlog is reduced even further. 

It is always possible to add a user story during a sprint. There isn't a need to have them already specified, understood, and appreciated by the team during sprint planning. There is possibility of bugs in the future, for which enough time buffers have to be provided. An empty sprint backlog is the best way to ensure this. This way the organization can save valuable time and effort to plan, inspect and adapt. There is no need to work out measures in retrospectives, the retrospective is done quickly. If the Scrum Master is not happy, the retrospective holds less importance considering other advantages.

However, one phenomenon can be observed - a daily scrum with an empty board takes longer and threatens to exceed the 15-minute limit. Due to the lack of available tasks and tasks that enable a streamlined process, there is a widespread information transfer wherein everyone can contribute to their preferred topics. The structural enabling of this communication is another advantage of Lean Scrum.

3. Scrum for Zen

Scrum for Zen eludes general logic. It cannot be explained and is independent of word and character. It is about attitude, intuition, and it means to live in harmony with Scrum. In fact, Scrum and the wisdom of the Far East are not that different. Shu-Ha-Ri, the Japanese concept that states "first learn, then detach and finally surpass" is known to agile teams. Scrum for Zen is the result of the consistent continuation of the practices of Lean Scrum.

It enables the dissolution of team boundaries and scalability to a single person, which facilitates team planning in large organizations. Attentive observers recognize it by the always present Scrum-Zen-Board, a whiteboard, an empty wall, without lines, columns or headings. The Scrum-Zen-Board can be anything, the Master finds it inside himself.

The Scrum events become Scrum ceremonies. During sprint planning, stand-ups and retrospectives; the participants pay attention to breathing and posture. In silence they meditate in order to experience Scrum completely, free of distractions of everyday project life. In refinements they prepare themselves for their recurring exercises. Companies that change their culture in the direction of Scrum for Zen can curb employee fluctuations in the long term after a transition phase since they take care of the individual development of their employees as well as consider the holistic aspects.

4. Scrum Nirvana

Scrum Nirvana is more of a goal, the end of suffering, the withdrawal from the repetitive failed projects, the letting go of unfavorable frameworks, goals and deadlines. The Scrum Buddha awakens and understands, often only after an endless chain of efforts, how to implement professional requirements in software development to ensure client and customer satisfaction.

On the noble twelvefold path of agile principles, he goes as Agile Coach, Agile Catalyst or Scrum Master. He teaches by example, by doing, by starting. Scrum Nirvana is a state to be achieved, not a framework, not a method. The road to it is long and arduous.

5. Explorative Requirements Engineering

If you do not achieve your goal of bringing a good product to the market with the chosen approach, you can opt for a traditional one. Explorative Requirements Engineering is particularly well-suited to create an urgency for change. It is a method that doesn’t need a lot of preparatory work, which would only burden the implementation. You can create requirements spontaneously, without context, and follow a pattern that only you can recognize. You can keep the content and statements varied, create a piecework, and limited verifiability.

It is an intuitive process, a technique with which you can start at any time, regardless of the maturity level of your organization. You can rely on honest and direct feedback from developers, testers, and business analysts. Irrespective of methodological standards and established process models, you can quickly achieve a measurable impact in your organization.



For every new method, every framework, every procedure there are suitable application purposes. Consider carefully which method you want to use. If you want to design and customize everything yourself, it can be a challenge to find the Philosopher's Stone. Nevertheless, it is always better to stick to Lean principles that can be discussed in detail. My recommendation - Identify the black sheep quickly and stick with the Scrum as intended. Keep it unchanged even after setbacks and celebrate successes before trying to take too many steps at once when introducing agile thinking.