Scrum Myths

‘Non-mandatory Agile accessories’ – Part 5 of the Scrum Myth-Buster Series

Posted by Ilan Goldstein on August 27, 2015

Last time we spoke about the anti-documentation myth so let’s stick with the same theme and explore another related myth, that being the belief that if you do Scrum, you must utilize the User Story format to document requirements. True, this format has no doubt become a defacto standard and is certainly the most common format that I see being utilized by our clients but no one says that if you want to do Scrum or be Agile that you MUST use this format. Further, no one is saying that even if you do choose to use this format that you must only use this format for all types of requirements be they functional, technical or defect in nature. User Stories are just an option.

I think that generally they are a good option as they help us to establish the right amount of detail at the right time. However, while I certainly like them to communicate end-user functionality, I don’t personally utilize them to represent defects, for example, and there’s no problem with this. The Product Backlog can certainly be cosmopolitan with a variety of different formats if you feel that it makes more sense to do so.

Other high profile agile accessories

There are a couple of high profile agile accessories that have managed to tightly couple themselves to Scrum to the extent that most folk I come across believe that they are fundamental to Scrum. These are Planning Poker, and the Sprint task (Kanban) board.


Planning Poker, putting relative estimation into practice.

Now let’s start with Planning Poker, which of course is the technique utilized to put relative estimation into practice within Agile teams. Just like User Stories, I am a fan of relative estimation but Scrum certainly does not mandate its usage. In fact Scrum does not mandate that teams conduct ANY form of estimation if they don’t want/need to. Estimation at both a Product Backlog and Sprint Backlog level are completely optional.

Similarly the perceived symbol of Scrum – the post-it note dominated task board, is a tool that is highly synonymous with Scrum and in fact, I don’t know of one Scrum team that I’ve worked with that hasn’t utilized some sort of visual task board, be it physical or digital to help track of the progress of their Sprints. Again, similar to User Stories and relative estimation, I think they are very helpful but they are in fact optional, and teams can certainly do Scrum if they really like without them.

task board

The post-it note dominated task board is highly
synonymous with Scrum.

Onto the next one!

Once again, I thank you my fellow mythbusters for joining me on the fifth leg of our truth-revealing journey. See you next time when we tackle the next Scrum myth!


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