I recently had lunch with a manager and his boss who wanted to get started with Scrum, or some approach, that was agile. They didn’t have a lot of executive support (they’ve been working on this for five years), nor a lot of team support, so they had to be confident that their next steps would really move them forward. If, instead, they ended up spending money, stirring up things and then got no real results, it would be squandering what little political capital they had and waiting again for who-knows-how-long for another chance.
The questions they asked were: how many people do we start with (they have over 40 products and hundreds of engineers), which ones, and how to kick-off the transition.
I asked what success looked like for them, their executives and teams, what the pain points, how long the company had been around, their success in the marketplace and competitive landscape. We discussed whether Scrum was even right for them (versus kanban, SAFe or other approaches), and then sprint lengths, future scaling issues and tooling.
In the end, rather then hosting Certified Scrum Master and Certified Scrum Product Owner for a lot of people and have them wait for their turn in the roll-out (which wasn’t formally approved, no mandate and no guarantee teams will choose to transition on their own), we went with finding a team that was interested, sending their ScrumMaster and Product Owner to the public classes and have the whole team go through Agile 101 training and perhaps related management go to an Executive Overview. Of course I mentioned several times that having an agile coaching, or getting some coaching, would go a long, long way to helping apply the principles and values.
The approach they’re going with represents a change pattern I call “bright spots” (from the book Switch), where we’re looking to get success at your company doing your stuff in your real world. What I’ve found is that when you get this kind of success, it takes away a lot of the arguments from others. I often hear “Scrum won’t work here – we’re unique.” Yes, you and the other hundreds of companies we’ve worked with. “Management doesn’t support it.” Right, and if I had dominated our market space for a decade and you come to me asking for massive disruptive change that most management didn’t understand or support and it should work here in theory…I wouldn’t either. When people see (even on a small, non-critical project) that Scrum yields great results in productivity, quality, visibility, predictably, morale and engagement, then they step aside the concerns and arguments (that are also theory) and move forward with support and often even excitement (which is a big ingredient of success).