21 Feb

How Scrum is Like Marijuana

Category:General PostTag: :

At the higher levels of discourse on the subject of Scrum, there is a raging debate on whether Scrum is good, bad, has outlived in applicability, or is the answer to all the world’s ills. As sometimes occurs, I had an aha moment on the subject that others haven’t really embraced. In this case, it is the similarities between Scrum and marijuana.

It’s Been Around for, Like, Ever

Scrum is approximately 10 years old as a formal prescriptive methodology. Many teams are using it effectively and it is by far the most popular formal Agile process methodology out there.

Yes, there are documented abuses with bad outcomes. More often than not, these failures occur in the rare  teams that had little hope of success regardless of what they going to try.

People have been using Scrum since ancient times (since the 90s). The old Scrum Masters are often revered. A few have a small cult following, in fact. The Scrum gurus travel with a supportive band of merry followers spreading the good word to anyone who will still listen.

The message on Scrum from the gurus tends to be far more spiritual than latecomers to movement are looking for. The first questions many people ask are not about how it feels, but whether it is performance-enhancing.

Even if you don’t use Scrum yourself, you can’t deny that:

  1. Lots of people are using it
  2. It is basically harmless
  3. It is a lot better than many alternatives

It is a Gateway Drug

The chief complaint detractors have about Scrum seems to be that it is a gateway drug. Proponents of other methodologies argue that Scrum is fine, but if you want a real kick, you need to set up a Kanban and focus on Lean.

Sure, Lean is extremely effective, but the team has to first be ready to deal with effects of constant motion. Scrum is a great way for teams to dip their feet into Agile without snorting up something their systems won’t be able to deal with.

If you are a team looking for your first Agile experience, you should really consider Scrum as a first time Agile user. Yes, there are more powerful things out there, but are you really ready for them?

That guy you met at the club who talked incessantly about how you had to try XP didn’t necessarily have your best interests in mind. Great, it works for him, but XP can be fatal if ingested incorrectly or all at once. Scrum can condition you to layer in a little XP over time.

Scrum is Totally Relaxing

Of the teams that try it, few have negative reactions to Scrum. Even when they decide it was an interesting experience but not ultimately for them, the experience often opens minds up to new experiences.

For teams steeped in the uptight world of plan driven development, good Scrum can cause a tremendous emotional release. It isn’t uncommon for virgin Scrum teams to come away from their first retrospective feeling a bit confused (what happened here?), a bit more confident (that wasn’t as weird as I thought it would be), and ultimately with more peaceful regard to their fellow team mates (I love you, man).

The Best Scrum is Organic

Scrum is commonly tried within teams because of a team member.

“C’mon guys, let’s just try it once.”

In fact, when teams bring Scrum to the table instead of being coerced into trying it, the results are often far more satisfying. Genuinely self-organizing teams have the option to reject the Scrum, although I freely admit that peer pressure can play a large role here.

If teams are forced to ingest Scrum, it can be a negative experience. This can poison their opinion of Agile in general and cause a negative reaction to trying new things later. Be careful about forcing people into Scrum. Deliver it in a way that allows them to choose for themselves, don’t just bake it into something and surprise them with, “Guess what you just ate?”

For Medicinal Purposes

Scrum can help with a lot of common ailments. The list of afflictions Scrum is known to help with include:

  • Missing Customer Syndrome
  • Communication Deficit Disorder
  • Ambiguous Completion Disease
  • Inability to Commit-anosis
  • No Measurable Progress Syndrome
  • Regression Deficit Disorder

Scrum doesn’t cure anything, but it can be a positive treatments for many common conditions that tend to resist other, more western, approaches. When the team feels better using Scrum, it can often be more readily accepting of changes to other things that really lead to long term healing.


Scrum isn’t the most powerful thing on the street you can use, that’s been hashed out elsewhere. It can, however, be an effective curative and prepare teams for future experiences with more open minds.

Scrum is relatively inexpensive to try and what’s the worst that could happen? You can always choose not to use it again. It isn’t like it’s going to kill you.

6 thoughts on “How Scrum is Like Marijuana

  1. Now *THAT* is an analogy can live with. Can I be on your team, please? I am a much better coder when I am on Scrum rather than when I am on nothing at all.

    You better be sharing the Scrum if ya got it. Pass that daily stand-up over here.


  2. Great analogy! While I cannot make clothes out of scrum, working in a scrum environment gives me the munchies and provides me an opportunity to enjoy those 40 minute drum solos from the myriad Dead shows I have archived on my external hard drive.

  3. Always give attention to the scrum member to your left! Thank you for making this parallel.


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