What would have been your approach?

Last post 05:51 pm May 5, 2021
by Jamie Yates
6 replies
09:09 pm April 29, 2021


Recently I've joined a reputed company as a scrum master. What I was told before joining and what I see here is completely different.

In a nutshell, they have 100+ people working in 6 to 12 months projects working in build/test/UAT mode. I'm only scrum master there. They have a vision to adopt scrum framework one day. After my discussion with my reporting manager, I have realized, this is a release manager role for waterfall project. And they need my advise to instill scrum 'practices'. No adoption of values/principles/team structure etc. As of now, I've shared few suggestions around some practices. The standard reply was, that's our maturity goal and we can't prioritize it now.

My question is - as a scrum master I've responsibility to teach scrum as defined in scrum guide. If the environment itself is not there, how a scrum master can make that happen. From your experience, if possible, can you share some insight how to operate in such ecosystem? 


05:50 pm April 30, 2021

And they need my advise to instill scrum 'practices'.

The best single thing they can do is to communicate the requisite sense of urgency for agile change, so organizational gravity can then be overcome.

So who's the sponsor for this? Who actually wants Scrum "practices" in the company, and what outcomes are they looking for?

07:08 pm April 30, 2021

Hi Mitch,

Thanks for your input. The organizational gravity is too high to overcome (35 years old practices).

CIO is the sponsor. Their business case to go agile is 'faster time to market' and 'innovate'. After spending some time here, my take is until significant number of middle layer people retries, CIOs agenda can't hold ground. Because this layer has been assigned to drive this transition. They are leaving no stone untouched to make it unsuccessful. They don't want to learn new working philosophy or come out of their comfort zone. My paygrade don't allow me to be too courageous. Any practical suggestion, how to throw spread the awareness to the highest level? Thanks in advance. 

08:16 pm April 30, 2021

Hi Deslai;

If I understand the issue you are facing, it sounds as if the CIO wants to implement the Scrum framework. However, this is a transformation that best takes place at the organizational level, rather than the team level. Does the CIO understand that the business/stakeholders will have to adjust alongside IT for Scrum to take effect properly? It would be critical for the CIO to get buy in from the stakeholders' leadership and have them support this change as well. 

Back to your original question and what you can do personally; maybe the CIO just needs a model team before he can sell the rest of the XCOM on a larger transformation. 

Are you able to identify a single product or application that could have a scrum team built around it? In other words, take a small group of developers (about 5) and a stakeholder who could act as Product Owner and see how they do supporting that product/application? If you can stand up a functioning team, let it run a few sprints (5-6) to smooth out the process, and report on some critical metrics like commitment (committed points vs actual) and quality (testing efficacy), that may help with adoption.

Let me know if this helps.

09:12 pm April 30, 2021

Sounds like a bottom up approach. That kind of transformation doesn't work. Change has to come from the C-suite and enforced by HR business partners. The best you can do is sell the value to product development best practices to the C-suite if you can get an audience with them. If it doesn't happen, then you continue to do the best you can.

09:18 pm April 30, 2021

Based on your original question and your response to Ian, I would suggest that you work with the CIO to help them better understand that this isn't as simple as getting a team to do Sprints.  They may not fully understand what it takes to become an agile organization and to use the Scrum framework.  Too many times I have talked to people that claim to have read the Scrum Guide but only walked away with there are 3 jobs involved (Scrum Master, Product Owner, and Developers) and that you do work in 2 week increments. They fail to realize that it requires the entire organization to change some behaviors and expectations. Your CIO may think that this only applies to how the individual contributors work so he thinks it will be simple.  After all, who doesn't want their daily work to be simpler and have less stress? 

Since you are the only Scrum Master in the org and the CIO wants to use Scrum, I would focus all of my efforts on the CIO's understanding and help them to gain the support needed.  Notice I didn't say to help the CIO tell people how the work is going to happen.  That defeats the premise around delegating authority to people closer to the work, self-organization/self-management. of teams.  

If the CIO wants this to happen, then they have to start leading by example. 

11:59 pm May 4, 2021

Sounds like its going to be a long game if its 35 years old practices to truely implement Agile business wide.


If you have the CIOs ear I would find out what they are truly looking (proof of concept, example to sell to others, etc) and coach them on Agile and it being more a mindset at all levels instead of just 2 week cycles delivering stuff with a board (seen this thinking so many times :/).


Other thing I've seen work is what Percy mentioned above, find a willing team for an experiment and use the findings (good and bad) to take back to CIO and/or upper management to show what success looks like and what needs to change to make it more successful


Common failures I have seen is agile people trying to change the org all at once (big bang) while still preaching to the teams small increments. We need to practice what we preach and make incremental changes