Project Management

Stop beating people with the Scrum stick!

4 min. read

Have you ever considered an Agile transformation for your organization and heard it will not work, because of how you are set up? Do you believe that only IT departments can benefit from Agile Transformations?  Do you feel that Agile can only work with tools like Confluence and DevOps?  You may find that it is more encompassing than you think!

Most people introduced to Agile, or Scrum, come from the world of software development and technology.  This is even more rigid when applying Scrum to team management, which is only one element of Agile.  Processes are key over relationships and so much of how success is defined is dictated by the ability to produce within the confines of DevOps.

That’s not to say there is no benefit to making those changes, in fact the opposite.  The structure offers clear guidance to apply the fundamentals of Scrum.  But what happens when those specifics do not reflect the business and their needs?  It’s not that Product isn’t important, or that technology cannot guide a transition. Instead, it begs the question… How can those who understand the importance of Agile values help provide a framework for the transition that is at the core of Agile?

What Agile is, and is not

Agile is transparent, iterative delivery.  It is a framework used to help identify the changes that provide the most value, and lead areas of the organization to work towards that change. So how do we, as Agile practitioners, stray so far from our values?  Many of my colleagues want to impart change through a strict structure that often does not reflect business needs and leaves their partners out of the conversation.  

How do you answer questions about your product or process using Scrum or Agile terminology if you haven’t been trained in that world?  You can’t.  It’s a failure of the practice to recognize this disconnect and working with partners to help provide the support and language necessary to communicate your needs is essential.

Many Agile practitioners will focus on process and ceremonies over goals and iterations.  Most will even push the purity of the framework over the goals of the business.  One of the biggest offenders is Scrum.  At its core, Scrum is a stable framework that allows for the release of product iteration that provides value to its end users.  At its worst, it is a rigid and unforgiving framework that does not recognize the nuance of business.  Does this mean that Agile can’t support the business?  No, instead it’s important to find an Agile coach that can work with you to address your needs and take the right approach for your business.  There are a few things to consider to find the right partner to help you through an Agile transformation without having to sacrifice the business of your business:

1.  Identify someone who is willing to learn your business

So often, Agile practitioners focus on the specifics of Scrum and Agile, and they neglect to hear when you give vital information about your business.  These practitioners will focus on how they can immediately translate items into a language easily recognizable within their field.  That is NOT how Agile works. Instead, find someone who can invest in a deep understanding of how you do work.  This can be the process or policy of articulating the level of your requirements.  Good practitioners can help you translate these into your technical requirements and help give you the guidance and language needed to impart the change you are seeking.

2.  Find someone willing to lean into people over process

Anyone who has worked with “Linda” in HR knows that learning a new language is off the table.  Instead, find someone who is willing to learn your language. Agile is a diverse and all-encompassing framework with room for everyone.  If Scrum doesn’t work, explore a new idea.  The values imparted can positively impact anyone who is interested in learning.  Let your Agile transformation be people driven.

3.  Find someone who embodies the values of Agile, not just the ceremonies

Agile processes are important, especially when you get into rigid frameworks like Scrum or Kanban.  But those elements are based on ideals.  There is lots of information about the values of Agile. It’s important to find someone who embodies and supports your organization through the transition by setting the example.  You are not “bad” at Agile or Scrum if you are learning how to use those tools.  Instead, you should feel a sense of accomplishment when meeting your goals using practices that feel foreign or uncomfortable.

And finally…

4.  You are never bad at Agile

If you are interested in being Agile, you can not be bad at it.  Everyone has a unique perspective that can help guide the changes you want to see.  Sometimes, people find that the past experiences of their Agile Coach doesn’t align with the needs of their business, and that’s ok.  That doesn’t mean Agile is bad, or that your organization cannot benefit from it.  Instead, find someone who can help guide you through the necessity of the activities and help your department grow from the experience. Remember, you will always be the expert in your business.

Final thoughts

If you find yourself wondering if you are not a candidate for Agile transformation, think about how the approach is working for your team and find out how you can change it.  It may just be that you need a partner who can hear your needs, separate from any other client, and guide you to the true nature of Agile.  Or at the very least, give you the tools needed to be a more Agile department in general.  Agile is for everyone, not just IT.  Do not give up in your search for someone who can assist in your transformation.