Whenever I’m coaching a new team toward Scrum adoption, probably the most common objection I hear goes like this:

“Yeah, well… Scrum is fine for you. But my (team/project/company/product) is really incredibly special and completely unique in the world.  An out-of-the-box solution like Scrum just wouldn’t work for us.”

I think this objection most often comes from the common misconception that Scrum is somehow tied to a technology, a type of product, or a certain pool of customers.

While it’s true that most organizations successfully applying Scrum today are software engineering firms, it’s equally applicable to the local chapter of the PTA, automobile manufacturing, and biochemical research. At its core, Scrum is a set of three characters, five rituals, and three artifacts that each team contains or produces. In much the same way that basic traffic laws apply equally to all motorized vehicles, these nine pillars of Scrum can be applied to your team. It can launch your team toward hyperproductivity, improve the lives of team members, give everyone a deeper sense of accomplishment, and make your customers happier than they have ever been.

I had a conversation with a colleague who insisted that his team could never utilize Scrum because they do research. We happened to be standing beside a whiteboard when he raised the objection so I interviewed him about his tasks and wrote them up on the board.

“What are you researching?”
“Are there several research items waiting for your attention?”
“Can you describe to me how you go about your research?”
“How do you know if your research is heading in the right direction?”

In under ten minutes of interviewing him, I quickly learned that he was already applying a basic set of rules and processes to all of his research items regardless of the goal or subject. When I enumerated them on the board for him, his eyes widened and he said, “You mean those are my Scrum stories? Wow. That’s so cool!” Once he understood that Scrum wasn’t trying to dictate  or micromanage his tasks, his mind opened and he saw how useful it can be to create the transparency and collaborative atmosphere that Scrum brings to a team.

So if you, like my colleague, have been struggling to understand how the rules of Scrum apply to your product, take a deep breath and relax. The fact is, they don’t. They do, however, apply to the team that creates the product and the way they go about their work.