How to customise the Scrum Framework for your organisation or project - a ‘how to guide’

July 31, 2023

In an increasingly complex and rapidly changing business environment, organisations are striving for methods to streamline processes, improve collaboration and deliver value quicker. Agile Frameworks, particularly Scrum, are increasingly gaining traction due to their flexibility and adaptability. 

Often, organisations want the benefits that Scrum brings - transparency, rapid visibility of a developing product and highly collaborative, value-driven teams - but without letting go of legacy processes and structure (e.g. doing detailed requirements documents up front, or mandating rigid approval gateways, or providing the ability for someone senior to direct teams to work on something at any given moment).

We’re often asked by would-be Agile transformationalists to embed with their teams and coach them to deliver using the Scrum Framework, but with a specific added extra: “Agile won’t work in our organisation so you’ll need to customise it to fit our ways of working”.

Whilst this is not an unusual ask, nor is it a criticism of anyone making that statement, it is one that sets off our Agile transformation alarm bells. 

Get in touch with us for a free consultation if you would like to explore any of the topics discussed below, or to find out how our enterprise Agile coaches could help your business to deliver faster, better and cheaper.


The tl:dr of the rest of this blog is basically: if you want the benefits of Scrum, it is crucial to approach implementation in the right way - embracing it, rather than attempting to customise it. Sounds silly to say, but it’s true: starting out with the intention of not implementing Scrum will result in you not implementing Scrum.

Here’s why…

Understanding the Essence of Scrum

Scrum is a lightweight, simple-to-understand, yet difficult-to-master framework designed to help solve complex adaptive problems, while delivering high-value products iteratively and incrementally. It consists of Scrum Teams and their associated Accountabilities  (Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Developers), Events (The Sprint, Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review, and Sprint Retrospective), artefacts (Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog, and Increment), Values and guidelines that bind them together.

Every element of the Scrum Framework has its purpose and value, and each interacts with the others in specific ways. This holistic structure is what makes Scrum an effective tool for managing and solving complex problems. Tweaking any part of this framework risks the overall functionality and efficacy of the Scrum process.

Preserving Scrum's Integrity

Attempting to customise Scrum may appear beneficial in the short-term or on a superficial level. However, it often leads to what is known as "ScrumBut" or "Scrum in name only". This occurs when organisations claim they are using Scrum, but have altered or omitted certain aspects of the framework to suit their context. The result? They rarely enjoy the full benefits that Scrum promises.

It's crucial to understand that Scrum is not a prescriptive methodology offering a step-by-step guide, but a framework. It requires organisations to embrace a mindset shift towards transparency, inspection, and adaptation. It's about developing an understanding of complexity and uncertainty and fostering an environment where learning and adaptation become second nature.

Implementing Scrum: The Right Approach

While it's crucial to adhere strictly to Scrum principles and practices, this does not mean that Scrum cannot fit into different organisational contexts. Instead of trying to tailor the Scrum framework, the key lies in understanding how to effectively implement it within the context of your organisation.  Scrum has been successfully implemented in a wide variety of domains, including emergency services, military manufacturing and corporate procurement functions.

First, ensure everyone involved has a thorough understanding of Scrum. Invest in comprehensive training for your Scrum teams, stakeholders, and leadership. Education is a critical step in ensuring a successful Scrum implementation.

Next, foster an Agile mindset across the organisation. This involves understanding and embracing the values and principles behind Scrum: respect, openness, focus, commitment and courage. At its core, Scrum is about delivering a valuable and usable version of the product (known as an Increment in Scrum) to customers/users/stakeholders at least once per sprint.

Finally, Scrum requires a supportive environment to thrive. This means creating an atmosphere of trust, fostering team autonomy, and encouraging transparency and open communication. These cultural shifts may seem challenging but are essential for Scrum's successful implementation.

Conclusion: Embrace Scrum, Don't Tweak It

The path to Agility via Scrum is not about tweaking the framework to fit existing ways of working. Instead, it's about understanding the fundamentals of Scrum and moulding the organisational mindset and culture to accommodate it. The terms should not be “ScrumBut” but “ScrumAnd”.

In the face of change and complexity, organisations that choose to embrace Scrum in its entirety, as laid out in the Scrum Guide 2020, will reap benefits including improved productivity, enhanced product value, and increased team and customer satisfaction.

At Agility Arabia, we are passionate about helping organisations understand and implement Scrum in its purest form. Let us guide you through this transformative journey to realise the full potential of Scrum and true business agility. Book a free 30-minute consultation today to explore how we can help implement Scrum in your unique business environment.

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