Deciding to Go to Scrum

The Battle Between the Old Way Versus the New Way

12 December 2013


In the current economy, project teams are faced with many challenges. In some companies project teams are made up of long-tenured senior members. At first blush the reader may think this is an advantage for these companies, but in the move to Agile it can also be a disadvantage. The majority of these companies still employ the old Waterfall method in their project execution and still find solace in the old method of building silos in the organization.

The challenges of migrating to Agile with a seasoned team

The Agile philosophy brings a sense of urgency to the work that is being accomplished and moves the ownership of the project work to the project team. Many long-tenured project members have found their success in the organization in playing by the old rules and using the older, slow-moving mechanisms to provide cover for them in that area. Their mind-set is the biggest challenge the Agile crusader has when attempting to convert the organization.

The Waterfall method, though successful 10 to 20 years ago, is not a method conducive to listening to customers and being responsive to their daily-changing needs. The organization still employing this method is also likely to have neglected the core infrastructure needed to ensure that projects are being executed with maximum efficiency. Waterfall stresses that the team must watch the process and ensure that it is fully documented so that items are not missed in the build process. The major issue is that Waterfall enforces the belief that the project manager should build a plan and baseline that plan on a given day. However, once the project manager has hit enter, the plan has already changed!

These disadvantages should be forcing these teams and companies to search for an alternative method to accomplish their work. However, the teams still seem to be stuck in a middle area. They're wondering, do we make the full turnover to Agile, do some projects with Agile, or fall back on old processes?

How do we force a decision to go or not to go Agile?

The state of the Agile transformation may be stuck in the mud, with senior managers debating whether the Agile culture is worth it and whether it will even succeed. This state of indecision is understandable, but if it lingers it can do irreparable harm to the true value of Agile. One of the underlying values of Agile is that once the company has made the switch, it has committed to a new era of transparency and dedication to clients. The firm realizes that the years of missed project deadlines and promising new dates have only accomplished one thing: the loss of credibility with clients. The change not only affects how the firm will do its work but also how the company culture will change as a whole. This culture change can be shocking to senior management, but it can be earth-shattering to the project teams.

The Agile crusader will need to work closely with the senior management team and ask a series of questions to push the decision to go Agile.

The questions are as follows:
  1. In the last three years, has your company struggled to meet deadlines for a majority of your projects, and have the critical ones been rescued by the personal heroics of one or a few team members?
  2. The clients of the company really should answer this question: Do you have faith in the project estimates given by the company?
  3. Is there true commitment to change the culture of the company, and does senior management truly understand what has been decided and what the challenges ahead are?
Once these questions have been asked and senior management has decided to go ahead, the decision must be communicated quickly, to all parties that will be impacted. The expectations of the project teams must be fully expressed so there is no question that the new culture is coming.

In my next article, I hope to discuss the actual implementation of the new company culture.

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

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