Immutable – a Recipe for Scrum?

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You may have heard or read that Scrum is immutable. Strangely, a lot of people find it difficult to understand what immutable actually means. What is it? And what makes it so important?

The confusion comes from a statement in the Scrum Guide which says that Scrum, by definition, is incomplete, and hence there are things you can do outside of the Scrum Guide to help the team become Agile. And now a problem. We can’t change Scrum because it is immutable and therefore if we change it it just won’t be Scrum. But.., we can extend Scrum and it’s still Scrum.

If this sounds strange to you, read on!


Let’s first address the issue of immutability. Scrum is a framework that demonstrates real and proven results in helping teams drive execution and continuous self improvement. This in turn provides return on the investment of adopting Scrum – a framework that makes things move faster, more accurate from needs perspective, and at better quality. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Absolutely. Scrum’s implementation of Agility is the key to being performant. Scrum states that if you follow the Scrum Guide and implement it as prescribed and are disciplined in following it, then you can expect the benefits and performance results that the Scrum framework offers. However, if you do not follow Scrum Guide and take it as a set of suggestions that can be cherry-picked and/or partially implemented, the framework will be incomplete and hence will not be Scrum. Anything that does not follow the discipline of Scrum, also cannot guarantee to deliver the benefits that the correct Scrum implementation will deliver. 

You can think about Scrum immutability as baking a cake. Scrum is like a recipe. If you follow it, you too can bake a yummy cake. However, if you don’t follow the recipe and especially if you skip steps, mess with amounts or types of ingredients, then you may still get a cake, and it might even taste similar, but it just won’t be the same thing.

It means you may still be successful in establishing an Agile process that works for your team and works uniquely and well, but it’s just not Scrum at that point. The risk of developing your own Agile framework is investment in time, resources, experimentation, learning, and more. Can your team do it? Well, that depends. Most teams don’t have an end goal of developing a better Agile process. Most want to apply an Agile process in order to attain much larger goals.

Is it worth building a unique Agile process for your team vs adopting a proven one that’s already been vetted? Well, that’s up to your organizational appetite. Spotify is known as the best example of a company that decided to implement its own Agile process and invested lots of time and money to get it right. They’ve learned a great deal and have been recognized in the Agile community as innovators. However, time has shown that while they did great to create a growth-oriented company culture, the end result was not better than traditional Scrum. Although Spotify has become an inspiration for an emergence of Scrum@Scale

So if the Teams must implement Scrum precisely in order to get the maximum value, is there anything in Scrum worth changing that would yield better results? What can Teams adopt and what can Teams change?

Enhancing Scrum

Scrum, as a framework, describes the steps and the process that make it Scrum. However, this still leaves a lot of room for adapting it to fit the culture and the environment of your organization.

Many “Extreme Programming”, “Lean”, “Flow”, “OKR” and other principles can be integrated into Scrum to influence behaviors and change. It’s even possible to mix things like Scrum and Kanban into a ScrumBan methodology. Although it’s no longer Scrum at that point per se, but for certain teams, it may offer a better structure and flexibility over Scrum. 

If we follow baking of the cake analogy, you can think of it as following the recipe of a multi-layer cake, but put some cherries on top. It’s still the same cake, but it’s made with a flavor that is most enjoyable and pleasant for you and your guests. 

So go ahead and experiment. The goal of becoming Agile is not to be perfectly certified by a certain framework. The goal is to establish an environment of self-improvement and learning that drives improved performance and continuous delivery of value.

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