This is a wonderful statement for any Scrum coach to hear. And over the past few years I have heard this or a version of this statement a lot. It’s the inevitable follow up question that has grabbed my attention over the last few years. ’How do we get the rest of the organization to start using Scrum?’ After hearing this often enough, we at Collaborative Leadership Team started changing our approach to serving our clients. We now begin our conversations on changing the way teams work by starting with Leadership. Rather than begin with a team, a pilot, a proof of concept or whatever the group was calling it, we start with Leadership. What problem or need is there that is driving a need for change? Then the question is; what does success look like and how are we going to measure it? Ah ha! Now we know why we want to change and we know how we will know we are successful.
If change is needed in an organization so that the organization can; deliver business value faster, increase quality, respond quickly to changing customer needs and stay on top of changes in the market then the changes need to be understood, supported and planned for - starting with the organizations Leadership.
This means our next step is to train Leadership on Scrum and what is needed to support the necessary transformation. In the past, we would come into the organization and work directly with a team or product to create and support a Scrum team. Word would get out that something different was happing with so-and-so’s group – looked like it was working and maybe we should try it in other areas. As the external coach, my job just got much more difficult. I now had to back track and meet with Leadership and gain their support after the fact. And what if Leadership didn’t want to change? Well, then teams slowly reverted back to their old ways of working – ones supported by Leadership. In most cases talented folks would choose to leave the organization to be a part of another organization using Scrum. Time and again it happened like this and in most cases it was completely avoidable. If Leadership is engaged from the beginning, change is much better managed and received. Planning for continuing change, continuous improvement and growth occurs with the needed people from the start!
Now, I’m bias. I have seen the Scrum framework successfully meet (and exceed) the needs for change many times, first hand. There is also plenty of research out there that also proves the success of teams and organizations using Scrum. It’s why over 70% of all self-identified Agile organizations are implementing Scrum or a Scrum hybrid1.
The conclusion from my past experiences and studies lead me now to only coach organizations where the conversation about change starts with Leadership. In addition to the benefits I’ve already mentioned, we can also include how we will plan for and be ready to support scaling Scrum. Yes! Scaling! Before we even begin with a reference model?!?!? Of course and this is why. Whether your organization actually chooses to scale Scrum, you will still need to have the support of Leadership to try Scrum. Once Scrum is successful, and it will be, your organization is positioned to seamlessly move forward with scaling. And, you will have a plan to do it! How? Join me at the next Scrum@Scale class to learn how to do so by using Scrum to scale Scrum!
Dee Rhoda is an Agile Coach and Trainer with Collaborative Leadership Team. Her credentials include, CSP®, ICP-ACC®, CLP, Scrum at Scale Trainer®. She is the second Midwest trainer approved to train Dr. Jeff Sutherland's Scrum at Scale class.
Dee lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She is married with two sons. Dee is an avid golfer, constantly seeking the elusive lower handicap (and little white ball). When she is not on the golf course, she enjoys spending time with family and friends over a game of cards.
1. 12th Annual VersionOne State of Agile