Setting organizational expectations when implementing Scrum

ScrumWhen a team first transitions to an agile delivery model, the team experiences challenges and frustration as they adopt a new way of thinking and new processes. Often times, teams are told that they are making the change to agile in order to deliver software faster and cheaper, but find that during the change it actually takes them longer to accomplish what they usually do.

Time to blame the new process, right?

Wrong. I’ll tell you why…

The real problem

The issue here is not the process, it’s the expectation that has been set. Just like any new team, you will go through the standard four stages: forming, storming, norming, and performing. Until you hit the last stage, you can’t really compare against your previous processes.

What expectation should be set?

Moving to an agile framework like Scrum will not make your team faster. It will not make it cheaper for you to deliver software. It will not immediately change problems within your organization. What it does is provide you with a framework to help you prioritize, schedule, and react to change. It also provides you with a framework for regularly reviewing processes and refining them.

Within this scope, the only real expectation you should have when initially switching to a Scrum-like framework will be that you can begin to track a history of team performance (velocity) and that you can accommodate change more easily.

But management wants results!

Yup. That’s true. However, if agile is being implemented in a way that will succeed, management is also adopting an agile mindset and is not just thrusting a buzzword on your team and telling you to move faster. Hopefully, the entire organization is going through agile training and learning what it means to make the change.

Some quick points for management:

  1. Agile does not mean faster.
  2. Agile does not mean cheaper.
  3. You will not see results immediately.
  4. It could take a significant period of time before you reach your previous level of performance.
  5. There will be a lot of uncertainty in your teams as they form and storm.
  6. You may lose valuable employees along the way during this transition.

What to do next?

If you are starting this process in your organization, make sure that all levels of the organization understand what the impact of change will be. Sometimes, saying “change will be hard” is met with lots of nods and agreement, but until this is actually quantified as to the impact on delivery most organizations won’t actually get it. Try to estimate the actual cost of the change and show what the initial loss in productivity will do to software delivery timelines.

Setting expectations up front will make sure there will be less disappointment when your team is going through the forming and storming phases!

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