Using a Change Team to Roll Out Scrum

Executive Summary:

During a management workshop we came to the conclusion that we needed a new product, and thus we launched a new project. This project was critical for the company because it was the basis for a strategic reorientation of the company. The new product had the following characteristics:

  1. Use of new technology: there was no experience within the team and since it dealt with cutting edge technology, there was limited possibility to bring in help from outside.
  2. Extremely tight time frame: within 4 to 5 months the system had to be ready for the start of sales and marketing.
  3. Unclear scope: the scope was only defined on a very high level. To put it in Scrum terminology: the vision was clear, but we had nothing more than that. There was no chance of getting a more detailed scope at an early phase of the project.

We had two managers who could work on the project: Walter, who had been with the company for some years, but was not familiar with Scrum, and Thomas, who had already introduced Scrum, but was new to the company.

The company was used to working with a waterfall approach with several releases per year. Thus we tried to approach the project the traditional way even though the necessary information for a project plan à la waterfall was missing at the project start. This turned out to be hopeless – a situation that led Thomas to the suggestion of trying Scrum.

A change team was formed and Scrum was rolled out in a way as to respect the Scrum principles as closely as possible.

Key Takeaways:

  • The result was quite impressive:
    • We got very good feedback from our stakeholders and all of the other people who saw the newly developed software.
    • The quality was good in all aspects: number of bugs, functionality, user experience and usability, architectural quality, automation of nightly builds, reporting and automatic test execution and so on.
    • The number of features developed was very high.
    • The team was able to deal with very strong changes to the goals from sprint to sprint (e.g.: a complete switch of the device for which the software was developed and then back again in the subsequent sprint). The team was also happily working with Scrum; all initial reservation was gone.
  • See that middle management is part of the solution, not part of the problem.
    • Seek alignment within the involved management and resolve conflicts of views or interests within management.
    • Make sure the decision to introduce Scrum and the approach concerning how it is introduced is mutually agreed upon. Otherwise the management disharmony will be inherited by the team and it will chronically disturb the team’s work.
    • Make sure that you have no “losers” within the management team when you introduce Scrum. If your peers are not part of the change team, keep them well informed to create trust in you and your actions.
  • Use resistance and uncertainty as a resource: take the time and the challenge to discuss your approach with those key players in your organisation who are hesitant to employ agile methods. You will find out a lot about leaks in your approach and whether you really know enough to make a well-founded decision.
  • Trust the team: select the right team members, and then trust them to find their own way. If you don’t trust them to do so, don’t start Scrum with that team (yet).
  • Help the team where possible: Scrum is a methodology which involves the team and its members having to define the details of their methodology themselves. But if you as a manager see from the outside that something needs to be improved, you should help the team while respecting its self-organisation.
    • One way is to be a mirror for the team and reflect what it is doing and what it should think about. Support it along its path to finding its own methodology and if you want to correct something do this by asking the right questions and by pointing out the right observations.

Full Case Study:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Prove you are human *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>