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You have a pilot that is going well, but the rest of the organisation don’t understand scrum which causes problems. What do you do?

You have a pilot that is going well, but the rest of the organisation don’t understand scrum which causes problems. What do you do?

Welcome to part 35 of our scrum master interview questions series where John McFadyen answers common questions asked of scrum masters in interviews and client engagements.

This happens quiet frequently.

As a scrum master or agile coach, you come in to launch a small scrum team and get the ball rolling in terms of agile product development. Things go well and pretty soon, everyone around that initial team are wondering what is happening, why the team are so successful, and how to replicate that success.

They hear strange terms like sprints, sprint retrospectives, and so forth which is all kind of confusing.

Instead of a calm, orderly environment they see lots of engagements, heaps of post-it notes up on the walls, and Kanban boards making work in progress visible for all to see.

It can be a touch intimidating and downright odd.

Good, we’ve got their attention through the results we have achieved and it sets a great foundation from which you can build future scrum teams.

How do you approach the problem of integration?

The first element is to help people understand what is happening and why it is happening.

We have a great pilot under the belt and so we can point to what has been done, how that has been achieved, and why it is successful. We don’t need to evangelise anything, the evidence of what can be achieved is right in front of them.

We don’t need to go into technical terms and throw jargon about, we can speak in very plain and simple terms. We can reference events, artefacts, and processes in ways that make things really easy to digest and understand.

Start with the sprint review.

I explain how the team are coming together to celebrate the success of what has been achieved in the past sprint, and we have customers and product stakeholders coming into the review to talk to the team about what has been built and provide feedback on how well that serves their needs.

The sprint review also provides a great feedback mechanism for where the product could go next. Stakeholders and customers review what is planned for the next sprint and provide both insight and feedback on the upcoming items, which informs what the team tackle next.

If you are going to introduce someone to scrum, someone not from the scrum team but from a different department that wants to explore scrum, the sprint review is a great place for them to be a fly on the wall and witness what happens.

Once they see the value of transparency, collaboration, and cocreation that scrum harnesses, it is easy for them to want to explore how this is achieved.

They witness the enthusiasm from customers and stakeholders who have just received their latest batch of goodies, and they witness how those customers and stakeholders play an active role in helping the team decide what is most important for the next sprint.

It is a powerful tool in helping the new person understand the value in scrum, the unique mindset that scrum embodies, and the style of working that leads to breakthroughs and continuous improvement.

As a scrum master you can take some time after the review and explain:

  • This is how we started.
  • This is how it works.
  • This is how we got there.
  • This is where we go next.

And so forth.

Simple. Straightforward. Effective.

A pilot that is going well, but the rest of the organisation don’t understand scrum which causes problems. What do you do?

Build momentum slowly.

Many people think that you walk into the new environment, train everybody, and the lights switch on for everyone. It doesn’t work that way. It takes time. It takes evidence. It requires trust.

We are asking people to make fundamental shifts in the way they think about work.

Understand that people are busy, so anything that looks like extra work or major disruption to the work they are currently doing is going to send off alarm bells. We can’t expect them to take a major leap of faith based on what we have told them, we need to show them and we need to demonstrate how this works and why it is more effective than what they are currently doing.

We need to show them the evidence that supports that new way of work.

Where possible, bring them into the successful pilot program and allow them to kick the tyres and look under the hood. Allow them to ask the pilot scrum team questions and gain some insight into what the transition looked and felt like for the pilot scrum team.

Allow them to find their feet and develop an appetite for adopting scrum based on what they have seen, heard, and understood.

Build Scrum teams, one at a time.

As you get buy-in from new departments, slowly build out the scrum team in that department and get it working effectively. Invest the time to ensure that the team are in full flow and have mastered the basics well.

At this point, you can point to the new scrum team and demonstrate that you have scrum working well in two areas of the organization. At some point that will become three, and then four, and so forth.

Each scrum team becomes a case study for the team that follows. Each successful adoption becomes the inspiration for the departments that have yet to adopt scrum. Each member of a scrum team becomes an advocate for scrum and an ambassador for the benefits of that style of work.

Take your time, get it right, and only consider taking on the next scrum adoption once the adoption you are working on is complete.

If you create centres of excellence, you have something to point to.

You can show executives and leadership what has been achieved, how that impacts both the customer and organization, and how it has elevated employee satisfaction.

That is something that leaders are interested in.

Evidence of success. Evidence that this will solve their problem, in their unique context, without breaking what has been built so far.

About John McFadyen

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