Does it work?

Scrum and no-vaccines or how to survive the fear of Scrum and of vaccines

Hopefully you’ve been attracted by the title of this post and you are wondering how can Scrum be related to the vaccines quarrel.
Actually they both are related to how we tend to behave as human beings of the information era.

About the Vaccines Quarrel

Why am I talking about Vaccines in the first place?

I recently read posts and articles of people vehemently explaining why the no-vaccines supporters are completely wrong in their reasoning.

It turns out that what makes people angry is the somehow pseudo-scientific approach on which some no-vaccines acolytes base their reasoning. This approach causes negative biases that in turn cause approximate counter-objections in the people on the other side and the quarrel keeps growing.

Let’s set apart my disagreement for the way this discussion is driven on the social-networks and mass-media. I would like to focus on the observable human dynamics, since I see similarities with some issues that emerge during Scrum adoption.

Scrum masters facing an imperfect Scrum adoption

One of the Scrum master services is:

Leading and coaching the organization in its Scrum adoption

Ideally a Scrum Master joining a company could start the journey by making herself available for training or for helping find solutions to pain-points.

The hard part comes if you find an imperfect Scrum adoption and identify issues and dysfunctions caused by this imperfect adoption.

It can be hard to drive a change if the context is not ready for this. Doing things too much ahead of time you can find yourself in any of the following challenging situations:

  1. When citing Scrum values and practices, you could be challenged because “talking about ‘by the book’ things” and “because theory is different from reality”. The latter was surprising enough for me to hear.
  2. When proposing changes and explaining the rationale behind them, you could experience more dialectical challenge than interest.
  3. You could be pointed to many articles about “why scrum doesn’t work”, “the real way to be agile without scrum”, “the downsides of agile in companies like ours”, “how ‘Famous Company X’ succeded removing retrospectives or POs or daily standups or whatever”.

All this stop signals could make you have a hard time.

What I experienced actually is the need for the Scrum Master to invest a strong effort in gaining credibility before being able to contribute effectively on non-minor topics.
Much time and many things must happen before colleagues really trust what the scrum master says about sensitive aspects of company life and organization.

Ok then. Why were you talking about vaccines?

Trying to understand what was going on I realized that, more often than not, resistance comes together with lack of formal education about scrum, comes from persons who did not read scrum guide or any other book about scrum. I realized how much a previous experience with Agile or in following an agile community of peers would have helped building a different bias.

In this I saw resemblance to the ‘no-vaccines’ behavior. Let me explain how:

No-Vaccines seen from the outside

What many people consider odd about “no-vaccines” reasoning is the fact that many people on that party are not domain specialists and seem to base their knowledge on web or mass-media information only.

What sounds really wrong is the strong dialectical challenge towards both medical and legal decisions, coming from persons apparently with no domain experience in those fields. The lack of trust in people with formal training and domain experience seems to be somehow biased by the sources of knowledge available.


A friend of mine was really scared about vaccines and he was going to take a decision for his sons.

He then started looking for documentation, scientific papers and official statements by WHO, medical institutions and countries. He found a great amount of information about why and how. He understood the rationale behind the decisions taken by institutions.

All this information did not drive him to a straightforward choice.

But he was there to learn from experts and all that information helped him take an informed decision.

I cited this episode since I find it to be a rare behavior. I did not find others citing the same official sources during public quarrels and this seems to me curious enough to be underlined.

Back to Company organization and resistance to change I noticed that sometimes the same persons can consider odd the “no-vaccines” approach while having a similar attitude towards Scrum and their Scrum master.

This observation led me to the hypothesis that this reaction probably is reasonable.

Why an initial ‘No-Vaccines’ approach toward your Scrum master is reasonable

It’s no surprise that we are blind to our stereotyped behaviours even when we can easily spot them in others.


There’s an overwhelming amount of information available in our era. It has become really tough to filter out relevant pieces of information or even truthful ones.
On the other side we need to gain more and more widespread knowledge to deal with everyday challenges.

Information overload and the need for widespread knowledge can easily reinforce our bias to overestimate our knowledge in the areas in which we actually know less while undermining our confidence in our area of expertise (Dunning–Kruger effect).


We’re exposed to an increasing number of relationships nurtured via different channels.
We all need to learn different patterns of communication, each with its own uncertainties.
The need for trust is ever growing and we’re becoming more and more demanding with other persons, even after we’ve “accepted” them.

It’s no surprise that we tend to challenge other’s thoughts more than ours.

If all of this is true and unavoidable, what can we do?

Two lessons I learnt from my errors or: how to survive the no-scrum effect

Here is what I think I learnt from my errors.

Usually I approach every new situation trying to listen and learn as much as I can.
I try to be always there in order to be ready to help as I can. When a new or existing need becomes evident I jump on the train and learn how to help in this new context.

I keep thinking that this is a valuable approach but, this approach by itself does not automatically help me to enable big changes.

The first lesson I learnt is that: no matter how strong you push, human relationships has their own timings.

Trust is influenced by many factors but even in case of special affinity there’s no shortcut for time.
Even when we like working together and somehow trust each other from the very beginning, still we need time to make trust grow.
Things must happen and go well in order to build the sense of shared responsability we need to move one step further and work as a team.

Second lesson is that, for people impatient like me about results, there are good news from science now.

It was already known that Dopamine release makes us “feel good” and this is what happens when we achieve a goal. The novelty in this article is that our impatience is somehow expected.

What they found is that Dopamine influences the way in which the brain decides to allocate working memory. In this way the release of Dopamine can make us feel less cognitive effort in doing something and help us keep pursuing our goal.

What then?

We can outlive our impatience if we visualize relevant sub-goals.
Those intermediate goals could tell us something about the bigger goal and help us move forward.
Achieving the sub-goals will fire the Dopamine that will help us keep cognitive control active.
Sub-goals will help us feel that the direction is taken and reinforce our brain to keep working towards the goal.


That said, there are for sure environmental factors influencing trust and obviously the context can completely change your situation as a Scrum Master.

But those are the 2 things that you can do on your own:

Invest time for relationships to grow and identify intermediate goals for you in the meanwhile.

Those intermediate goals are not only valuable as results in themselves but in building your own trust in what you are doing.

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