TL; DR: Scrum Anti-Patterns GPT

Can a Custom Scrum Anti-Patterns GPT align teams with Scrum principles? Dive into how leveraging custom GPTs might offer a novel path through Scrum’s common hurdles, focusing on creating actual customer value in the face of organizational and team-level challenges.

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The Idea of a Scrum GPT

Exploring Scrum in the real world often uncovers a tangle of anti-patterns‚ÄĒthose practices that, despite best intentions, stray from agile principles and hinder progress. From gold-plating projects with unnecessary features to misaligned incentives prioritizing output over outcome, these patterns can profoundly impact an organization‚Äôs agility and product value delivery.

But what if there‚Äôs a tool that could help navigate this complexity? Enter the concept of a custom GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer). This session delves into the organizational roots of common Scrum anti-patterns. It proposes a novel solution: leveraging a custom GPT to realign incentives, enhance decision-making, and ultimately steer teams back to the core of Scrum‚ÄĒdelivering actual customer value.

Join me as I explore the potential of a custom GPT based on my Scrum Anti-Patterns Guide book in cutting through the maze of Scrum challenges.

Setting up the Session for the Scrum Anti-Patterns GPT

Disclaimer: I ran the session on the Scrum Anti-Patterns GPT on Sunday, February 25, 2024, from 11:05 am CET to 12:25 pm CET on the model GPT-4. (This requires upgrading to ChatGPT Plus.) I did not apply Grammarly to ChatGPT’s answers.

As a first step, I uploaded an early version of the Scrum Anti-Patterns Guide book to my ChatGPT, comprising 15 chapters and about 100,000 words. Providing the content was a simple process and only took a few minutes. I was surprised that ChatGPT did not require some processing time, as it claimed it would be immediately available.

I. Original Prompt

As a prompt for the comparison session, I picked a topic that is not immediately answerable from the Scrum Guide but requires some form of elaboration:

What are typical Scrum anti-patterns that result from organizational issues? Group them into categories such as culture, process, or organizational structure.

Scrum Anti-Patterns GPT’s Answer

Organizational issues often lead to Scrum anti-patterns that can hinder the effectiveness and efficiency of Scrum Teams. These anti-patterns can emerge due to a variety of reasons, such as resistance to change, lack of understanding of Scrum principles, or misalignment of organizational practices with Scrum values. Based on the provided documents, here are some typical Scrum anti-patterns that result from organizational issues:


Fear of Change: Resistance to abandoning existing hierarchies and comfort with the familiar, leading to a rejection of Scrum values and principles‚Äč‚Äč.Resistance to Learning: Intimidation by the learning curve required to adopt agile practices, coupled with an insufficient offering of training and coaching‚Äč‚Äč.Command-and-Control Culture: A culture rooted in traditional management methods, leading to top-down decisions without team consultation‚Äč‚Äč.Fear of Losing Control: Organizations and stakeholders may fear losing control over projects and outcomes, leading to a reluctance to fully embrace Scrum values and practices, such as empowering teams to be self-managing‚Äč‚Äč.Misalignment of Goals: Sales teams and other stakeholders may have goals that do not align with agile methodologies, fearing that direct interaction between developers and customers might undermine sales strategies or targets‚Äč‚Äč.


Fixed Scope and Deadlines: Insisting on fixed scopes and deadlines for projects, which conflicts with Scrum‚Äôs empirical process control‚Äč‚Äč.Misaligned Incentives: Tying management incentives to traditional performance measures incompatible with Scrum or agile principles‚Äč‚Äč.Variable Sprint Length: Extending the Sprint length to meet goals, undermining stakeholder inclusion and collaboration‚Äč‚Äč.Forecast Imposed: The Sprint forecast is driven by individuals or imposed by stakeholders or management, undermining the Developers‚Äô prerogative to forecast their work and violating the principle of self-management‚Äč‚Äč.Regular Emergency Work: Regularly prioritizing emergency work based on non-existent features sold by stakeholders can derail the focus from the Sprint Goal and lead to a reactive rather than proactive working environment‚Äč‚Äč.

Organizational Structure:

Lack of Transparency: Not being transparent about vision and strategy, hindering Scrum Teams from becoming self-managing‚Äč‚Äč.Siloed Structures: Preserving functional silos for political reasons, which hinders cross-functional collaboration‚Äč‚Äč.Lack of Stakeholder Engagement: Failure to involve key stakeholders in Scrum events, leading to misaligned expectations‚Äč‚Äč.Resource Constraints: Not providing Scrum Teams with necessary resources, tools, or training, impeding their ability to deliver value effectively‚Äč‚Äč.Reassigning Team Members: Frequently moving team members between Scrum Teams disrupts the building of trust and undermines the stability and effectiveness of teams‚Äč‚Äč.Sprint Review as Approval Gate: Utilizing the Sprint Review as a gate for product release undermines the iterative and collaborative nature of Scrum, indicating a lack of understanding or acceptance of agile practices within the organization‚Äč‚Äč.

Additional Anti-patterns

Gold-Plating: Expanding the scope of the Sprint beyond the Sprint Goal without consulting the Product Owner, leading to misallocated development time and a deviation from prioritized objectives‚Äč‚Äč.Lack of Focus: Requiring teams to address multiple, unrelated issues simultaneously, which prevents the creation of a cohesive Sprint Goal and dilutes the team’s effectiveness‚Äč‚Äč.Copy & Paste Product Ownership: The Product Owner merely breaking down requirement documents from stakeholders into Product Backlog items without a deeper engagement in refining and prioritizing needs, reducing the role to a scribe and missing the opportunity for value-driven backlog management‚Äč‚Äč.

Each of these categories represents a different aspect of organizational issues that can hinder the successful implementation of Scrum. Addressing these anti-patterns requires a comprehensive approach that includes cultural change, process improvement, and organizational restructuring to better support Scrum practices.

Comment SW: We are off to a good start; all of these anti-patterns are addressed in one way or another in the book. Let’s dig deeper to see whether this Scrum Anti-Patterns GPT is more than a fast parrot.

II. Follow-up Prompt

Why is Gold-Plating an organizational issue?

Scrum Anti-Patterns GPT’s Answer

Gold-plating, which refers to adding unnecessary features or enhancements to a product that were not requested by stakeholders, can become an organizational issue due to several underlying factors rooted in the culture, process, and structure of an organization:

Misaligned Incentives and Rewards: If an organization’s reward system incentivizes over-delivery or prioritizes the utilization of resources over the delivery of value, developers may engage in gold-plating to showcase their productivity or technical prowess. This misalignment encourages developers to add features they consider valuable without consulting the Product Owner or stakeholders, leading to wasted efforts on unneeded functionalities.Lack of Clear Prioritization and Decision-Making: In organizations where the prioritization process is unclear or where decision-making authority is ambiguous, teams might resort to gold-plating as a way to fill perceived gaps in the product or to preemptively address potential future requests. This can stem from a lack of clear communication channels and decision-making processes regarding what features are truly necessary.Cultural Emphasis on Technical Excellence Over Customer Value: Organizations that place a higher emphasis on technical excellence or innovation for its own sake, rather than focusing on delivering customer value, may inadvertently encourage gold-plating. Developers, motivated to demonstrate their technical skills or to use the latest technologies, may add features that are not aligned with customer needs or the product vision.Insufficient Feedback Loops and Stakeholder Engagement: When organizations do not establish regular and effective feedback loops with stakeholders, or when stakeholders are not adequately engaged throughout the development process, development teams might lack the necessary guidance on what is truly valuable to customers. In the absence of this feedback, teams may engage in gold-plating under the assumption that they are adding value.Fear of Underdelivery: In some organizational cultures, there may be an underlying fear of underdelivery or not meeting expectations, leading teams to add more features than requested as a form of insurance. This can be exacerbated by past experiences where stakeholders had unspoken expectations or where the team was penalized for not delivering perceived value.

Addressing gold-plating as an organizational issue requires a holistic approach that involves aligning incentives with the delivery of customer value, clarifying prioritization and decision-making processes, fostering a culture that values customer feedback and lean development, and ensuring regular and meaningful engagement with stakeholders. By tackling these root causes, organizations can reduce the occurrence of gold-plating and focus on delivering products that meet or exceed customer expectations without unnecessary features.

Comment SW: Now, this turns out to be much better than anticipated; we are moving into new territory. (I should consider this analysis of the origins of the gold-plating anti-pattern for the next revision of the book.) The Scrum Anti-Patterns GPT identifies multiple organizational issues, from misaligned rewards to the fear of disappointing management expectations, as the origin of the anti-pattern. Next step: Let’s figure out what we can do about the issues.

III. Follow-up Prompt

Regarding your previous response, what countermeasures to these organizational issues do you suggest? How can we overcome these issues?

Scrum Anti-Patterns GPT’s Answer

To counteract the organizational issues leading to gold-plating and other Scrum anti-patterns, organizations can adopt several strategies to foster a culture, process, and structure that support the principles of Scrum and agile methodologies. Here are some countermeasures:

Align Incentives with Customer Value:

Shift Reward Systems: Modify reward and recognition systems to prioritize customer satisfaction, value delivery, and team collaboration over individual achievements and over-delivery of features.Set Clear Goals: Establish clear, value-driven goals for teams that are aligned with customer needs and organizational objectives, ensuring everyone understands the criteria for success.

Improve Prioritization and Decision-Making:

Empower Product Owners: Strengthen the role of the Product Owner to ensure they have the authority and support to make prioritization decisions based on stakeholder feedback and market needs.Implement Agile Governance: Create agile governance structures that support rapid decision-making, prioritization, and resource allocation based on the evolving needs of the project and organization.

Foster a Customer-Centric Culture:

Engage with Customers Regularly: Encourage and facilitate regular engagement with customers and stakeholders to gather feedback, understand their needs, and validate the product direction.Promote Learning and Adaptation: Cultivate a culture that values learning from customer feedback and adapting plans accordingly, rather than sticking rigidly to predefined feature sets.

Establish Effective Feedback Loops:

Incorporate Stakeholder Feedback: Systematically incorporate stakeholder feedback into the development process through regular reviews, demonstrations, and validation sessions.Use Metrics Wisely: Employ metrics that focus on customer satisfaction, usability, and value delivery rather than purely technical achievements or feature counts.

Address Fear of Underdelivery:

Cultivate Psychological Safety: Build an environment where team members feel safe to express concerns, admit mistakes, and ask for help without fear of blame or retribution.Embrace Agile Principles: Reinforce agile principles of iterative development, where the focus is on delivering small increments of value and learning from each iteration, rather than attempting to deliver everything at once.

Train and Educate:

Provide Continuous Learning Opportunities: Offer training and education opportunities for all members of the organization on agile and Scrum principles, focusing on the importance of delivering customer value and working as a cross-functional team.Share Success Stories: Highlight and share examples of successful agile projects within the organization to demonstrate the benefits of focusing on value delivery and customer feedback.

By implementing these countermeasures, organizations can address the root causes of gold-plating and other anti-patterns, creating a supportive environment for Scrum Teams to thrive and deliver maximum value to customers.

Comment SW: This is an excellent response to the prompt. First, the Scrum Anti-Patterns GPT addresses all five previously identified issues with detailed suggestions on countering them. (I particularly like moving from a technology-centric to a customer-centric culture.) Moreover, the GPT points to the importance of training and education. Let’s dive deeper into one of the suggestions.

IV. Follow-up Prompt

Could you elaborate on your suggestion in the category ‚ÄúAlign Incentives with Customer Value?‚ÄĚ How would you go about it in practical terms, hands-on, so to speak? What would you do to initiate change? Also, who needs to be involved in the decision process and later during the change process?

Scrum Anti-Patterns GPT’s Answer

Aligning incentives with customer value involves rethinking how success is defined, measured, and rewarded within an organization. This process shifts the focus from traditional metrics, such as feature completion and resource utilization, to metrics that reflect real customer satisfaction and value delivery. Here’s how to approach it in practical, hands-on terms:

Steps to Initiate Change:

Define Customer Value: Start by clearly defining what constitutes value for your customers. This could involve direct customer interviews, feedback analysis, and collaboration with stakeholders to understand customer needs and pain points.Review Current Incentives: Analyze the current incentive structures, including performance evaluations, reward systems, and recognition practices, to identify misalignments with agile and customer-centric values.Develop Value-Based Metrics: Create metrics that reflect the delivery of customer value. These could include customer satisfaction scores, usage metrics of delivered features, customer feedback on new releases, and the business impact of delivered work (e.g., increased revenue, reduced costs, improved customer retention).Align Incentives with New Metrics: Adjust incentive structures to reward behaviors and outcomes that contribute to delivering customer value. This might mean team-based rewards for achieving high customer satisfaction levels or recognizing individuals for contributions that significantly impact customer experience.Communicate Changes Clearly: Ensure that everyone in the organization understands the new incentives and metrics, why they are being implemented, and how they will be measured. Transparency is key to gaining buy-in.Implement and Iterate: Roll out the new incentive structures in a controlled manner, allowing for feedback and adjustments. It’s crucial to treat this as an iterative process, where the approach is refined based on results and feedback.

Who Needs to Be Involved:

Leadership and Management: Senior leadership must champion the change, providing the necessary support and resources. Middle management needs to be involved to understand the changes and help communicate and implement them within their teams.HR and People Operations: These departments play a crucial role in redesigning performance evaluation and reward systems to align with the new metrics.Product Owners and Scrum Masters: As the key figures in translating customer needs into actionable team objectives, their input is vital in defining customer value and appropriate metrics.Development Teams: Their feedback is crucial in understanding the practical implications of the new incentives and ensuring that the metrics are realistic and motivating.Customers and Stakeholders: Engaging with customers and stakeholders helps ensure that the defined value metrics are truly reflective of customer needs and expectations.

Initiating Change:

Workshops and Training: Organize workshops and training sessions to educate everyone on the importance of customer value and how the new incentives will support this focus.Pilot Programs: Consider running a pilot program with one or more teams to test the new incentive structures and metrics before a wider rollout.Feedback Loops: Establish mechanisms for regular feedback from all involved parties to monitor the effectiveness of the changes and make necessary adjustments.

By involving a broad cross-section of the organization in the decision and change process, you ensure that the shift towards aligning incentives with customer value is comprehensive, well-understood, and supported across the board.

Comment SW: Great, now we have the outline of a ‚Äúchange program‚ÄĚ to align the incentive programs with a focus on creating customer value. Of course, we are now moving out of Scrum‚Äôs home turf; nevertheless, it is a helpful start. Let‚Äôs close this first excursion of how to set up a useful Scrum Anti-Patterns GPT with a final deep dive prompt.

V. Follow-up Prompt

Could you elaborate on one step to initiate change: ‚ÄúAlign Incentives with New Metrics?‚ÄĚ

Scrum Anti-Patterns GPT’s Answer

Aligning incentives with new metrics involves creating a direct link between the rewards an organization offers and the behaviors or outcomes it wishes to encourage, specifically those that deliver real value to customers. Here’s how to approach this step in more detail:

Step by Step Process to Align Incentives with New Metrics:

Identify Key Value-Driving Behaviors and Outcomes: Based on the definition of customer value established earlier, identify specific behaviors and outcomes that directly contribute to this value. These could include rapid response to customer feedback, successful deployment of features that meet customer needs, or innovative solutions to customer problems.Develop Clear, Measurable Metrics: For each identified behavior or outcome, develop clear, measurable metrics that can be tracked over time. These metrics should be directly linked to customer value, such as Net Promoter Score (NPS), feature usage rates, customer retention rates, or time to market for new features.Evaluate and Revise Current Incentive Structures: Analyze existing incentive structures to identify where they may conflict with or fail to support the new metrics. For example, if the current system rewards individuals based solely on the number of features developed, regardless of their impact, it may need revision to focus more on the quality and customer impact of those features.Design Incentive Programs Around New Metrics: Create incentive programs that reward individuals and teams for achieving high scores on the new metrics. This could involve financial bonuses, recognition programs, professional development opportunities, or other rewards that are valued within the organization.Ensure Transparency and Understanding: Communicate the new metrics and incentive structures clearly and transparently to all employees. Ensure that everyone understands how the metrics are measured, how they contribute to customer value, and how they can influence their incentives.Implement Supporting Processes and Tools: Put in place the necessary processes and tools to track the new metrics accurately and efficiently. This might involve new software tools for gathering customer feedback, dashboards for tracking progress, or regular review meetings to assess performance.Monitor and Adjust: After implementing the new incentive structures, closely monitor their impact on behavior, customer value delivery, and overall organizational performance. Be prepared to make adjustments based on feedback and observed outcomes to ensure that the incentives remain aligned with desired behaviors and customer value.

Comment SW: The initial reply is a bit superficial but still useful. However, we can easily dive deeper into any of the suggested steps and have the Scrum Anti-Patterns GPT suggest, for example, workshop formats or a corresponding stakeholder communication strategy.


The insights from the Scrum Anti-Patterns GPT underscore its remarkable utility in addressing agile challenges. By dissecting anti-patterns and proposing actionable strategies, this tool offers practitioners a powerful resource to support their teams and organizations better. Embracing its guidance can lead to more aligned, efficient, and customer-focused Scrum practices, marking a significant step forward in becoming agile for the benefit of your customers.

Have you built your own GPT to support your efforts? If so, please share your learning with us in the comments.

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