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How Social Marketing Helped Me Be a Better ScrumMaster

29 March 2016

Sandeep Paudel
Switchlane Inc.

Contrary to popular belief, social marketing is not about using social media, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., for the marketing of a company's products or services. In fact, social marketing was born many decades before social media. Social marketing is about using a commercial marketing approach (commonly known as the four Ps: product, price, place, and promotion) for changing the behavior of target audiences. The change in behavior of your target audiences through social marketing is as important as profit is to a business.

As many of you might have experienced, changing the behavior of people is not that easy. Social marketing begins with understanding who you want to change and what is preventing them from changing. The toughest time I had as a ScrumMaster for one of my previous projects was when I had to transition my team from Waterfall to Agile (specifically Scrum). People do not want to come out of their comfort zones and try something new. I understood it very well, because it is a natural response. People do not easily believe in something that they have only heard about.

After two months of conventional effort, I was unsuccessful in self-organizing my team. This failure reminded me of the days when I had worked as a project manager (not in a software-related project) on a social marketing campaign. I thought of experimenting with my team members and helping them go Agile by taking the social marketing approach. It worked very well, and now I admit that the social marketing approach worked best in adopting the Scrum discipline among my team members. I brought most of the team members to the "Shu" stage of the Shu-Ha-Ri model. As a previous social marketer, I identified my target audiences, understood their barriers to adopting Scrum, and tailored a plan to help them to thrive in a Scrum environment.

I also implemented a few of the following social marketing basics:

Apply frequent messages and consistent communication while transmitting the main message.

I always said "Scrum," not "Agile," while communicating with people. I needed them to speak the Scrum language and did not want to confuse them with other jargon. I narrowed my scope and got a quicker turnaround when trying to influence members (including stakeholders).

Incentivize for good behavior.

Though Scrum is about teamwork, I wanted members to choose the best performer in the Scrum team during sprint reviews, while also providing them with certain performance parameters. The team members were very happy doing that because it helped them self-organize and self-assess how well they did during that sprint.

The team member who was widely accepted by most of the team was incentivized with a few non-monetary rewards, like a fancy notebook and dinner with the director. This provided an opportunity for the team members to showcase their personal support toward ultimately succeeding as a team.

Measure the impact.

I prepared a dashboard that compared lines of codes, number of test cases, number of bugs reported, attendance of team members at Scrum ceremonies, velocity, etc., and determined how our team was doing compared with other teams in the industry. As I revealed the impact of their work, team members became excited and motivated to work better. I let go of this practice after a couple of sprints when team members started self-organizing, as I didn’t want to micromanage the team.

Remove barriers.

People do not change their behavior if a conducive environment is not created for them. As a ScrumMaster, my main goal is impediments removal, so I drew from the Barrier Removal approach used in social marketing whereby social, attitudinal, behavioral, and environmental barriers are removed.

One example is how I avoided conflict among team members by clearly defining a proper communication channel. All internal and external communication via email was copied to the group distribution list. Acceptance Criteria and Definition of Done for each team member were clearly communicated during the sprint so that the team could work toward achieving excellence.

Continuously monitor the team’s performance.

Ask questions of each team member on ways to make your information radiators look great.

Encourage team members to maintain the changed behavior.

Recognize everyone who is living by the Scrum values and basics that they learned during their training period.

The following summarizes my social marketing approach:
  • Knowledge: Increased Scrum awareness within the organization by holding brown-bag sessions, sending weekly Scrum newsletters, and speaking about how Scrum could be used in various scenarios.
  • Attitude: I understood stakeholders’ emotion, culture, and resistance. Internalized Scrum on a personal level; however, I demonstrated how Scrum would deliver a greater value to the client and increase ROI for the organization. These activities helped set a positive attitude.
  • Interpersonal communication: I encouraged people to find best practices around Scrum and to talk to each other in various Scrum ceremonies. I reinforced the concepts and encouraged team members to live by Scrum values. The conversation really helped them better understand Scrum.
  • Barrier removal: I enforced Scrum to make sure each team member is at the Shu stage of Shu-Ha-Ri. Information radiators were well explained; updated the team every day. Training was provided to newcomers.
  • Behavior change: After six months, I was able to check off most of the boxes on this ScrumMaster checklist. I felt that the social marketing approach brought value to the administration of Scrum within the organization.


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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