The Metaphors of Scrum


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Scrum's Metaphors
Now we will discuss some common metaphors that we find in the Scrum language. These metaphors are not necessarily right or wrong - they are just ones that we have found that work for us when reasoning. Our goal here is to consider them and the strengths and weaknesses of each.
Scrum as a quot;Gamequot;
The metaphor quot;Scrum as a gamequot; evokes a sports concept in our heads and brings up the notion of competition or struggle. [4] This might cause us to ask: quot;What are we competing or struggling against?quot; or wonder if we are trying to create space in the organization by locking arms and keeping quot;intrudersquot; and quot;peddlersquot; out. [5] Another way of thinking of this metaphor is to evoke the notion of agility as a quot;cooperative gamequot; as popularized by Alistair Cockburn. [6]The most obvious pitfall of this metaphor is that one might conclude that our job is to fight against the organization or against other people.
We have found that it is better to use this metaphor to mean that we are competing against the complexity of the universe to bring a product to life. Our opponent is the universe - not other people or the organization. Indeed, in various conversations we have found this is often closer to the dominant model at work in the author's heads.
Product Backlog is a quot;Pile of Work To-Doquot;
The metaphor quot;the product backlog is a pile of work to-doquot; evokes a concept that we have a specific product with lots to do that is not being done. It sets up a sense of urgency by the very use of its name quot;backlogquot; and encourages a product focus. This is powerful as it focuses the team on the needs of the product. The other deeper issue that gets highlighted as the deep struggle of quot;managing the workquot; [7] becomes apparent.
We have found two common pitfalls in using this metaphor. The first is that the team is often late and must be pushed to clear up the backlog. This force to produce often leads to technically unsound work, resulting in systems that quickly become brittle.
The second common pitfall is the use of the word product. When people hear quot;product backlogquot; they often conclude that there exists an actual product and only things that actually produce part of the product go in the backlog.
This second pitfall is actually the worst. Often we see teams struggling because they have not included things in the backlog, and thus must get them done as lsquo;overhead,' if they get done at all. For this reason we have a simple rule for detecting if two things belong in the same backlog: two items belong in the same backlog if they compete for resources. We also refer to it simply as quot;backlogquot; rather than quot;product backlogquot; in order to remove the bias that excludes work simply because it does not produce product directly.
The Sprint is a quot;Burst of Energy to Cross a Finish Linequot;
This is what a sprint is in track and field, and leads to the notion that Scrum's Sprint creates a constant sense of urgency. But do people conclude that they will run out of breath by running as hard an absolutely possible for the duration? What about sustainable pace? We have seen people shy away from this language when they are thinking that work is now going to be a series of exhausting breathless races.
We prefer to think of the sprint not by the speed, but the track. You can see the

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