Lack of Scrum Success stories a Growing Concern?

Scrum is nearly 20 years old and has enjoyed significant popularity in recent years. But that popularity has not manifested itself in terms of visible success.

There have been repeated requests, for success stories, both here on my blog, as well as on Agile Scout.

However, amazingly, no reports of success have been forthcoming as of this writing.

Look for a big pullback in 2012, especially related to Scrum, as the lack of tangible success reaches a tipping point relative to the hype.


About postagilist

Architect, Manager, Developer, Musician, Post-Agile thought leader
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24 Responses to Lack of Scrum Success stories a Growing Concern?

  1. Eh… we’ll see how it either grows… or fails …

    • PostAgilist says:


      Aside from your attempts or my attempts, there are no well published, unbiased success stories, that I am aware of.

      The fat lady has sung. 20 years and no success stories == #FailingWithScrumOil.

      The industry has (mistakenly but with good intentions) given Scrum far too much elbow room and credibility when little to none is warranted.

      You can’t keep waiting forever for something to be successful; 10 years ago it wasn’t bringing identifiable success, and 10 years later the situation is the same. This is Godot 3.0.

      Everyone has to make a cutoff decision at some point, and I’m convinced 2012 will be the year Scrum implodes.


      • Man oh man! What would our world look like if in 2012 it does implode? I would have to see… well… maybe we’ll just wait and see.

      • PostAgilist says:

        Oh snap. When it implodes the world be a better place, the angels will sing, a new day will dawn, for those who stood long, and the forests will echo with laughter.

        When scrum is dead, the industry can start worrying about important things like talent and compensation levels, offshoring and operational efficiency, versus creativity and innovation.

        Nurturing talent or just getting replaceable cogs to screw through the next sprint.


  2. GeekTieGuy says:

    Could it be that scrum is seen as a competitive weapon, and thus companies don’t want to go public about their successes using it? Don’t want to give competition clues…?

    • PostAgilist says:

      Could it be that Bigfoot really exists, but the government is suppressing the evidence? It could be, but it’s unlikely. Ditto with your allegations that some “vast corporate conspiracy” is suppressing information about the scrum successes.

      It’s sad that the apologistas (not saying you are one) have to tell us that big foot really exists, it’s just that it’s being suppressed.

      Far more likely is that big foot doesn’t exist, and Scrum isn’t successful.

      Think about it: Do any ACCREDITED Universities teach a course in Scrum? No? Why not? Because there is no evidence it works…

      True Believers might believe stuff like that, but I don’t think most independent minded people would go along with that theory. It’s a nice try though…


      • Mark says:

        Hi PostAgilist

        I’m interested in knowing how you propose people should develop software, as a person that is quite obviously opposed to it.

        By the way, has scrum been proven to not work? Otherwise, its a bit unfair saying it doesn’t because there aren’t massive studies showing that it does.

      • PostAgilist says:


        I’ve answered the first question in other comments but I’ll collect it into a top post since I get asked that a lot.

        Has Scrum been proven to work? If not it’s wildly unfair for people to make claims that it does.

        Has it been proven not to work? To me — yes. In my experience, it does not work (certainly not for all things).

        There is more evidence of failure than success (see above re SFDC, Yahoo, etc).

        Schwaber says Scrum fails to deliver the desired results 75% of the time. The Forbes article claims 70%. Are you saying Schwaber and Forbes got their numbers wrong?

        I would say that conclusively, Scrum has FAILED to deliver the desired results, even though 20 years have passed since it was introduced.

        Sutherland likes to say that Scrum will help you “overwhelm” your competition — and many Scrumists claim the software “delights” customers.

        If there are so many delighted customers and so many overwhelmed competitors — then it shouldn’t be like finding Bigfoot for evidence.

        Thus, Scrum is failure to deliver demonstrable, meaningful success, and I can walk into any CIO’s office in the country and tell them there is scant to no impartial evidence that Scrum is any more effective than placebo with a straight face. I can also say there is evidence that Scrum is more harmful than placebo (see Yahoo, Myspace, etc above).

        With a track record like that, no drug company would introduce a new drug as a remedy; at least they have standards in Pharma…


  3. GeekTieGuy says:

    I wasn’t trying to say that there’s a vast conspiracy to suppress it. I was merely trying to add to the conversation. Putting a theory out there. I see that you’ve taken Occam’s Razor to it.

    By the way, I’ve heard of one university in/near San Francisco starting to teach scrum, mainly because I know the teacher who has been invited to do so.

    Apart from that, let’s talk a little more about scrum and large corporations. Scrum has a history of being a grassroots kind of effort. As such it usually starts very low down in the organization. Small teams start adopting it “under the radar”, perhaps with a little support from their direct manager. For it to reach upper levels can indeed take decades. I’ve been part of an effort at my employer since about 2004 or so to bring agile software development into the culture and it hasn’t really taken off fully yet. It’s not an easy task. My own team has been practicing under my guidance for about four years now (very successfully, by the way, using scrum as the overall framework), and only recently have I been successful at getting formal training for the entire team approved and scheduled. That means the manager above my manager (with the budget authority) is now supportive. There’s still a long way to go to the top…

    Another thought on corporations: even if there were a lot of success with using scrum, how many companies would bother to bring out a formal success story report, let alone several of them? If something works, they just use it. There really is no need or motivation for a big corporation to say “look at us, we’re using scrum here, here and here” because, really, who would care? There’s no vendor to ask corporations for case studies or to produce customer success stories. Or maybe there is and I just haven’t heard of it.

    Most really large corporations, I would guess, are also too fragmented to be able to produce an organization that evangelizes and teaches scrum, collects success stories and makes sure things stay on track. And if there’s no organization within the corporation to do such a thing, where would the officially sanctioned success stories come from?

    By the way, I’m not sure that a call for success stories among agile bloggers will pop up on too many corporate manager’s radar screens. They’re too busy with other things (mostly badly middle-managing their organizations) to notice. That could be another reason there are few stories out there.

    And one final random thought: what about Scott Ambler’s regular survey? Does that count for anything? He works at IBM, as far as I remember.

    • PostAgilist says:

      What Univ? Please be specific — I’d be curious.

      Scrums so called grassroots is mostly astroturf — at least when it comes to blog sites — I rarely see anyone but CSM’s or ScrumMaster wannabes say anything positive about Scrum. In organizations that I’ve seen that have adopted it, it’s always been the “ScrumMaster wannabe” that wants to introduce Scrum, not rank and file engineers. and Yahoo! Both wrote lengthy papers on their Scrum adoptions, so yes, there is a track record that large companies are in fact willing to do this.

      SFDC was a success, Yahoo! and Myspace were not, at least going by their stock price results.

      The best evidence I have is that by a 2:1 ratio, Scrum is failing to deliver. Not really good odds, and not good that there is only 1 company in 20 years, that most people have heard of, that has reported any kind of independent success with the methodology.

      It’s not good either that the companies listed above that failed, saw their stock price decline by up to 90%.


  4. Hi

    surely for scrum to be deemed a success of failure, it first must be implemented correctly.

    there are a lot of companies who say they are doing scurm, but, IMHO, I would say they are still in the transition, rather then “there” (where ever there is)

    for example, one of the companies I know, has no concept of a product owner, has silo’d teams and little or no automation, yet considers that they are “there”….

    if Scrum is implemented as suggested, and then we dont see results, then I agree, time to look for something else, however are we assessing the transition to scrum or scrum implemented ?



    • PostAgilist says:

      All of the companies I listed above, Yahoo!, Myspace, Salesforce, had multi-year transformations, and had high powered agile coaches, and they seem(ed) to be doing it by the book.

      Hence, even given your concerns, by a 2:1 margin, Scrum is losing. If you include Nokia, and they would tend to be a by the book shop (eg, the famous “Nokia test”), it’s 3:1.


  5. Ioan Vintoiu says:

    PostAgilist I am affraid you are completly wrong. Scrum is a huge success…in selling it.

    • PostAgilist says:

      Indeed. They sell sugared water in ways that would make Pepsi blush. That’s right all you need is Scrum Cola, no vegetables or protein. It won’t lead to success but it will surface all your dysfunctions, many brought about by Scrum Cola itself, like Diabetes, Tooth Decay, and Brain Rot


  6. When I did my Scrummaster training in 2005, I actually asked the same question to the facilitator, feeling the same concerns. There was no marquee project or company that was highlighted, but rather a deferral.

    I feel scrum and other agile processes have a real place in some organizations, but most that I have seen either customize scrum into a solution specific to them by taking what is helping and dropping what is hindering, or move away from it completely. This leaves a void where methodologies such as six sigma end up getting the case study fodder.

    It has it’s place, but it doesn’t solve all ills for all projects.

  7. softwaretrading says:

    A company’s stock price is dependent on many factors outside of what project managment methodology is used, so it’s probably not the best proxy for whether a particular scrum implementation was a success. It would a little more fair to look at net revenue growth, where scrum helped redo or expand a product line, as it purports to do. That said, scrum sets the bar rather high, at least by Bas Vodde Nokia Test minimum standards, so it’s hard to find companies that are really doing scrum. As a result it’s even more difficult to assess whether scrum is any good, if so few of them actually exist.

    • PostAgilist says:

      I’m glad you brought up both Nokia and revenue. Since Nokia stock is not listed, I looked into their revenue, at the time I wrote this article, and it was down 50%. They invented the famous scrum nokia test right? And their revenue is down. Myspace’s revenue is down. If you check Yahoo’s revenue, I’m sure you’ll find it’s also down since their introduction of Scrum.

      Do you have any examples (besides Salesforce) of revenues and/or stock price increasing since a scrum adoption at any well known companies?


      • Mike Pearce says:

        Careful PostAgilist! It sounds like you’re implying scrum is responsible for the drop on share price for these companies!

      • PostAgilist says:

        There certainly is a correlation. Whether scrum is responsible for the drop in share price I can’t say, but it’s clear that it didn’t visibily help their share price. If it’s not efffective, it’s not effective. That’s my thesis. Whether it’s harmful is a different subject (it may well be).


      • so how will you identify it its scrum or its implementation ? it is possible to answer these questions:

        When is a company actually really doing scrum ?
        what needs to be in place for that statement to be considered true ?
        is it just the agile ceremonies ?
        what about culture change ?

        I have witnessed all to many times agile / scrum / getting the blame for what is really a failed implementation.

        People love the outcome of a diet but dont want to put the hours in to get the results, they are looking for a magic pill : companies love to sign the cheques for the outcome of agile / scrum but rarely want to put the cultural changes in place to get the results.

        just my 2p.

      • PostAgilist says:

        I’ve mentioned many times that these companies WERE doing Scrum, as much as can be expected of anyone.

        Yahoo! had scrum changes at the highest levels of the organization; Nokia invented the Scrum test! They all failed.

        People claim that “scrum is an empiracal process” — yet when the empiracal evidence shows that it doesn’t work, they deny it and say they didn’t do it right.

        This is intellectually dishonest, and part of the pseudoscience aspects I cover in other posts.

        Sorry, at some point the Scrum folks have to either admit that the empirale evidence does not support it, or demonstrate that by failing to do so that they are dishonest.

        Even if the problem WERE due to adoption (which they are not in the cases I quoted) that STILL would be a failure in my book because it was a failure to reap succeess.

        If the process is so difficut or fickle to adopt, then the chances of successful adoption are low. The therapy only then works in vitro and not in vivo, and is thus useless.

        So either way, failure is failure, lack of success is lack of success, and in all cases, Scrummists deny the reality.


  8. Pingback: Lack of Scrum Success stories – its about the people not the process… | Enterprise and Personal coaching

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