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Tips for Scrum Adoption

03/19/2014 by Marcelo Acosta Escañuela

A lot has been written regarding how to successfully deploy Scrum in teams and organizations. Of course, people do not seem to agree on what the key factors are for a smooth and successful deployment, and that is mainly because each person that achieved success had to tailor his way to the needs of his organization at a given moment in time. Rather than listing an extensive set of considerations, the aim for this article is to share four tips that, in my humble opinion, will help you walk toward Scrum adoption starting with the right foot.

Manage your expectations

Scrum is not a method for creating software. Scrum is not a lifecycle. Scrum is not a prescriptive set of practices and rules that need to be followed to be successful. Scrum is way beyond that. Scrum is a framework that needs to be tailored to fit your organization and project needs. Scrum rules are seamlessly straightforward, and the framework has very few components to be deployed. Scrum looks a lot like chess: The rules are simple, but playing it well is a very challenging task. You need to keep this in mind.

Scrum will not resolve the challenges that your organization faces on a daily basis, and will not be the silver bullet for your projects. Scrum will not do the heavy lifting for you.

The purpose of Scrum is to reveal the challenges that are present in your organization and project. It will start the conversation around them and make sure they are visible to everyone in the room, so you can't argue that you are not aware of the problems. With that said, Scrum will not resolve those problems for you. The team will have to work hard on those issues in order for them to no longer be a concern for the team, and in doing so they might be able to leverage some good practices from the industry. But, at the end of the day, the team will find themselves doing the dirty work for themselves.

A matter of trust

The main change that needs to happen for any Scrum adoption is not related to engineering practices or the artifacts we use. Scrum recommends practices that have been available long before Agile values were written. Organizational culture is the area where most of the changes need to happen -- and you can't simply change a culture, you need to grow a new culture from inside the existing one. This is one of the reasons why some Scrum adoptions have failed in the past and will keep failing in the future.

Change needs a starting point, and in this case that point is . . . you. In order for your team to leverage Scrum's benefits, you need to shift your focus. You need to own your tasks and your work. You need to speak up when something does not look good. You need to show the world that there's no place for micromanagement on your team. You need to show everyone, even the client, that you want to be a trusted partner, and that you can be trusted. This is one common topic across the whole Agile community: In order to be successful, you need to build trust relationships in all directions (with your peers, clients, reports, managers, etc.). Everywhere. The tricky thing about trust is that it can't be bought. Trust is earned, and in order to earn trust, we'll be pushed outside our comfort zone on a daily basis. If you're willing to take the leap, you will find out the benefits outweigh by far the cost of investment.

Embrace learning

The concept of continuous improvement has been embedded in the very core of Agile software development. We all understand that people are not perfect, and that all of us can make mistakes that can have a negative impact in projects. As a healthy team, we all need to learn from each other and recognize that each of us brings a distinctive component to the project. The key about successful Scrum adoptions is the need for people to speak up when things can be improved, in order to deal with any challenges out in the open. We all understand that people do the best they can, based on the information and knowledge available for them at the time they make a decision. Unfortunately, great intentions are not a warranty for success. On the other hand, the ability to think about our own behavior, to reflect on how to do things better, and the courage to implement those changes as a team provide a very good success rate. There is plenty of evidence on this.

Enjoy the ride

Scrum will help you become a better team member, and it will also help the team become way more efficient than before. Not because of magic but, rather, by creating a platform that allows people to focus on the real problems at hand, removing unnecessary complexity from the equation. Some days this process can be challenging, and you will find yourself struggling with ways of making progress. It is during those times that you need to remember the reason why you are going through this process: Because you care. Because you know your team can be better, and you can have fun while still delivering incredible amounts of business value to your customers. Change can be fun, and it all depends on how you approach it.

You will find Scrum adoption to be a road that runs parallel to the changes in your organization. You are never done deploying Scrum; you can always be better. You can always have more fun.