Getting management support is one of the top concerns for attendees coming to class to learn Agile says Certified Scrum Trainer and Project Management expert, Scott Dunn.
There are several ways to answer this, and the thought process alone is worth the time.
Getting Management Support
First, this is a great problem for you. If you’re able to persuade them, especially if they’re initially against it, you are learning the powerful tool of influential leadership. Positional authority enables you to just tell people to do something, but that only works with people below you. Influential leadership, though, allows you to get things done with peers and those above you. That’s a sought-after talent in the workplace, so consider this a learning opportunity that will turn into opportunities later. The conflict that you face, and how you changed while overcoming this obstacle, is the stuff of off-hours stories, job interviews and conference presentations.
Step 1 – Seek first to understand your management, then to get them to understand your view. Borrowed from Steven Covey, this principle will help you build empathy and connect with management in a more meaningful way that gets results because they know you understand their concerns and motivations. Can you make a list of the top 3 – 5 pain points of theirs? Most companies are looking for Scrum to help them with: shorter delivery time, better quality, improved predictability and visibility, better product/customer satisfaction, and/or lower cost. Have a discussion with management to confirm and/or uncover other concerns. Depending on your knowledge of Scrum and agile, you may be able to address those issues then and there, but you might do well to research some first. I prefer to lead with what other experts say. Full-time employees can sometimes have their opinions discounted or even ignored completely. I also prefer to include several stories or case studies, preferably from companies in similar fields or otherwise relatable. I do this because someone might argue about theories or opinions, but you cannot argue that that company had that success, and I try to find similar companies because I’ve often heard management say, “Well, we’re different from other companies because….” You know what? They’re all different, but the people and their problems are very, very similar.
Step 2 – Do you know the personality types and individual motivators for these people? Does it have to be their decision? Is it all about the teamwork? Or a process view? Or how people feel about it? Are they more motivated by facts, big picture, trends, historical results? Whatever it is, you’ll go a lot further speaking there language, and not waste near as much time and frustration wondering why they don’t “get it.”
Step 3 – Expose them to ideas and seed conversations. One way that combines some of the previous points is get at least some management to an agile conference. That way, they’ll go to sessions that they can relate to or are interested in, and hear experts tell stories of challenges and success. Consider Scrum Day, the national Scrum Gathering in Phoenix, or largest conference – Agile2015 in Washington DC. There are many other great conferences as well. A lighter touch approach is to send links to videos from these conferences or other explanatory videos, that are focussed on concerns you heard voiced in Step 1. Blogs, books and other articles might be great for you and technical people (who typically love to learn), but I’ve found management to more often be more relational or people-oriented, have less time and shorter attention spans. If you do send something from a blog or book, just highlight the key point or areas. Help them to get the core message that you’re trying to communicate.
Step 4 – This is optional, but based on the the book Switch – How to Change when Change is Hard, consider finding some team or project that could be given a trial run. Ideally, the Scrum team description as being co-located, cross-functional, and not matrixed. The effort should be visible, important, but not critical or high risk. Once you get success with that group, it’s a lot easier to get management to agree to expand the adoption by pointing to these “bright spots.”
I hope these points give you some ideas and help in getting management support. Enjoy the journey!