Choosing to adopt the Scrum framework to manage your projects is the easy part. After taking the plunge and moving to the new system, there will be lots of issues that crop up.

There are many advantages of using Scrum; it’s important to be prepared for the pinch points too. We’ll look at five of challenges you’ll face using the Scrum framework, and explore:

  • Initial challenges of Scrum
  • Ongoing challenges to look out for
  • Tips to make a Scrum go smoothly

So that you’re ready to take on the issues that are coming your way.

Common challenges of the Scrum framework

As a project manager, you’ll know that no change ever goes perfectly. Introducing Scrum into your projects can throw up teething problems such as:

  • Resistance to change
  • A drift back to waterfalling tasks
  • Lack of experience in team
  • Lack of management commitment to the process

These, and most other issues, can be ironed out as you implement the framework. Of course, managing change across an organisation isn’t easy, but you should have processes in your management toolkit to succeed.

You’ll come across challenges that are specific to Scrum too, and these are going to need some different tools from your box.

Five common challenges of Scrum and how to manage them

1.       Disruption to team work

In a Scrum project, processes are laid out and it’s up to everyone working in the Sprint to deliver. That’s in an ideal world. Product Owners try to introduce new requirements, and even the Scrum Master can start to interfere too much.

Keep a lid on disruptions to the Sprint by having the Scrum Master be strict in protecting the process. They must push back on extra requests and additions to the Sprint Backlog and not micro-manage the team, either.

2.       Inadequate Sprint duration

The jury is still out on the perfect Sprint duration. Some studies suggest that week-long Sprints have more difficulties, whilst others reckon that lots of fast Sprints keep a process vibrant. The Scrum Master sets the Sprint duration using their expert knowledge.

Time management skills are needed to keep Sprints on track. Introduce time-boxing to make sure nothing drags on too long; A time box should ideally be no more than three days. Breaking tasks down into manageable chunks will also help manage the Sprint duration.

3.       Lack of knowledge and training

As with anything else in your organisation, you should train your Scrum practitioners well. It doesn’t always happen; lot of the time it’s assumed that the team will pick up the process along the way. It’s not as common a project management framework as waterfall or other agile processes so don’t assume prior knowledge.

Everyone working within the Scrum must know how the process works. You need an experienced Product Owner and Scrum Master, but knowledge should run across the team. Scrum works best with a team of engaged experts.

4.       Backlog management

Elements of the Scrum framework are immoveable, such as the Daily Scrum and the role of the Scrum Master. There is a lot that’s left for the team to sort out themselves, like how to actually complete the work in the backlog. Scrum comes with a list of prioritised items in the backlog, but no guidance on how to actually complete these.

Encourage your Sprint Team to design their own processes. Scrum is about collaboration, so allowing some freedom on how to deliver the product is empowering. You can also instruct the team to ask everyone if they need help with their tasks before picking up a new item from the backlog.

5.       No best practices

As well used as Scrum is, it’s a simple framework that you can plug in your own team, you need some of your own processes too. There’s no handbook with technical practices or a troubleshooting guide.

It’s possible to design your own best practices for the Scrums in your project remit. You can choose to have this done by team or across the whole project department.  

The take home

With good management and an awareness of why problems can arise, you can confront these five challenges of the Scrum framework. A Scrum project will be successful if:

  • You keep disruption to the Sprint to a minimum
  • You’ve an expert Scrum Master who understands project challenges
  • You commit to training your Scum team regularly
  • You allow you team to work out their time management and workflow
  • You figure out how you want the missing pieces of Scrum to work in your projects