What are some of the common problems with Scrum adoption?
During the recent past, it has been a rat race that many organizations wanted to go the agile way of working, irrespective of their ability to change and work towards being agile. Often, organizations try to adapt to Scrum (since it is one the most popular framework in agile), but fail miserably due to several reasons. Some of the common problems are listed below.
- No support from the senior executive Leaders
Often, senior leaders may be willing to go the agile way, but they turn negative after they fully understand the effort it takes for an organization to become truly agile. Senior leaders like CIO must be willing to issue mandates and follow up on the transition regularly and provide necessary support whenever their help is needed. It is also likely that senior leaders may not be capable of naturalizing the effect of job losses, if any, during the agile transition. Sometimes, senior leaders do not communicate enough with the employees during the change, this provokes employees make their own assumptions and falling apart without supporting the change.
- Existing Organizational Structures and Hierarchies
Existing structures sometimes may play the spoil sport in scrum adoption. The biggest pit fall is the organization leadership tries to tweak Scrum to force-fit into the existing organization structure and hierarchy. Some of the tweaks that are like to happen are; Manager jumping to role of Scrum Master still using command and control, individuals work into silos without a team concept, the Product Owner is someone who is pushed into the job without knowing his roles and responsibilities. Few times, you will also notice that Scrum Master will be controlled by managers. The existing process overhead in the organization may be too much for the team to carry on every sprint. No one really bothers to simplify the existing processes to the extent that the team starts self-organizing and delivers working software. The teams selectively apply scrum principles and eliminate the one which are difficult to adapt given the circumstances. The Product owners are often overridden by someone sitting up, and they become very weak at making necessary decisions for the team and stakeholders.
- Distributed teams
Scrum works well for co-located teams, however there are costs associated to adopt Scrum to distributed teams. Distributed teams are today’s reality, however it is recommended that organizations must make teams that are co-located teams and make them accountable for the results. Senior leadership face a stiff resistance in breaking the distributed team culture, since managers below do not trust the remote teams completely. They also fear that they lose control over delivery, if someone located near, are not involved in the day-to-day delivery. Perhaps the biggest challenge with distributed team is that they don’t behave as ONE team. It is very much important that frequent contact among the team members, may be very effective, even though it is electronic. To make scrum adoption successful, it is a prerequisite that organizations must invest in high fidelity communication equipment infrastructure to enable smooth communication between the distributed teams. Added to that, organizations may also understand the necessity of tools for continuous integration, code reviews, unit testing and automation. Scrum may not work well if tools that improve the quality of the product are not in place. The desired results may be disappointing until the necessary tools in place to helps the teams to become distributed teams hyper productive.
- Regional Organizational culture
Regional culture always plays a dominating role deciding the Scrum adoption. Most of the agile cultures like India, Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, China, Japan, Malaysia, and Singapore struggle to adapt Scrum as per Scrum guide. These cultures are particularly inclined towards hierarchy status and titles. When promoting agile methods, which warrant high transparent team breakouts, it is very difficult to keep the team hit the ground running, since most of the times the team hesitates to speak up. In some Asian cultures the word “Servant Leader” has a negative meaning of lesser social status. Added to the chaos, imposing performance appraisal bell curves also make people to show case their individual heroism than the team work.
- Unavailability of human skills
There is a dearth of agile skills in the open job market. Since the demand is ever growing exponentially, scrum/agile practitioners are wanted everywhere. Especially, skills like servant leadership and effective facilitation are some of the rare skillsets which very few individuals possess. The supply of Product Owners who are responsible for the ROI of the product too is very less given the high demand scenario. There are many organizations that might be a using ScrumBut, those similar experiences and skills may be of little/no use in the organizations who truly want to go the real agile way. The availability of Enterprise Agile Coaches with necessary experience in the open job market is also diminishing, which prompt some organizations to compromise on the quality. Agile methods also embrace the need for specialized skills like test automation, build automation, devops. These skills are very much in demand in the marketplace, and so every organization out there is competing to attract people with these skills.
Suggestions to overcome common problems:
- Executive management need to understand that, being Agile may not be the right end goal for any organization, in fact agile is an enabler for accomplish business goals.
- Engage enterprise Agile Coaches with significant experience in facilitating the right outcomes. Fully leveraging these coaches will make a huge difference to organizations rather than trying to solve these issues with internal staff.
- Executive management need to understand that Agile transformation is a major organizational change and not merely project level coaching. So every support functions in an organization need to support agile transformation.
- Lot of executive support and direction may be required for agile adoption, to push the change top down the layers and they have to continuously monitor the progress and remove organizations impediments that surface time-to-time.
- The past transformation approaches show that, some organizations take a top-down approach while others take bottom-up, however, the results show that no single approach works perfectly, it largely depends on how organizations absorbs the change within its culture.
- There needs to localized strategies made for every country culture, given the regional cultural differences, to make the agile transformation successful, while keeping the end goal same.
- Not having the right human skills in an organization, may impact the agile transformation significantly. It is important that organizations keep their skilled people on standby, before they start the transformation.
- Do not force-fit agile into the existing organization structure and hierarchy, in fact there are many organizations out there, who tweak agile frameworks that fit into their existing structure and hierarchy, which is the biggest pit fall.