(This article is part of the Beyond Scrum series)
We’ve all experienced the pain of having someone impose a change on us – it doesn’t work.
Forcing change conflicts with the essential human need for autonomy – No one likes being told what to do (if they didn’t ask to be). Whichever model for understanding human behaviour you use, all of them recognize autonomy — to work in the way we see fit — as a central feature of human psychology. So when an organization imposes an approach to work, whether it be Scrum, Kanban, or another Agile framework, it is unsurprising that the result often is team members feel discouraged and resist adopting the change.
As your organization evolves to become more effective (remember, Agile is not the goal in and of itself) and you want your teams to follow and take ownership of the changes happening, instead of telling them, “we’re switching the whole organization to Scrum, Kanban, or another flavour of Agile,” invite them to join you on the transformational journey.
Invite, Don’t Impose
Start with explaining the business need – what are the business goals and objectives you’re attempting to achieve and why. Frame it in terms of the required outcomes you are seeking.
As an example, you could start with, “The business needs working, integrated, tested product every two weeks that delights the customer. We don’t need the largest number of features, just ones that solve the customer problems.”
Explain there are two major approaches (and many supporting practices) that you believe would be suitable: Scrum and Kanban.
- Scrum is focused on building high-performing teams who build great products.
- Kanban improves the flow of work while building great products.
- Any other approach that achieved the outcome “The business needs working, integrated, tested product every two weeks that delights the customer. ….”
In many cases, each approach can be used to complement and enhance the other. Help your teams understand that success with Scrum, Kanban, or other Agile comes in large part from their self-discipline, focus, courage, respect, and willingness to experiment continuously.
Choices Are Just Experiments
All choices that teams and organizations make are just a series of experiments. Each choice comes with a set of trade-offs. Instead of just picking one choice or another, explore both/all to gain a deeper understanding. Once you’ve made a choice, run an experiment to validate your learning. Whichever you select, keep on studying other, alternate approaches and borrow ideas from them.
You Can’t Impose Agile
Agile can’t be imposed on people and still be effective. Agile is a journey you invite your team to join you on, which includes being open to the possibility that your team may favour a framework that you had not previously considered. At the end of it though, your teams can confidently say that they participated in the decision and joined you on the journey. All our study so far has been in this vein.
a) Create the vision
b) Create a strategy for change
c) Involve the team(s) doing the work of implementing your changes
d) Focus on the outcome, i.e. the organizational benefit you seek to achieve, not on the individual practices
e) Keep the team(s) involved in decisions around the change
Follow these easy steps and you won’t be inflicting anything onto teams, they’ll be embracing it.
 SCARF – is Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, and Fairness. See: “David Rock on Neuroscience, Leadership and the SCARF Model” by David Rock
 ARC – is Autonomy, Relatedness and Competence. See: Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work…And What Does by Susan Fowler
 AMP – is Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. See: Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink
Mark Levison has been helping Scrum teams and organizations with Agile, Scrum and Kanban style approaches since 2001. From certified scrum master training to custom Agile courses, he has helped well over 8,000 individuals, earning him respect and top rated reviews as one of the pioneers within the industry, as well as a raft of certifications from the ScrumAlliance. Mark has been a speaker at various Agile Conferences for more than 20 years, and is a published Scrum author with eBooks as well as articles on InfoQ.com, ScrumAlliance.org an AgileAlliance.org.