Overcome Resistance to Agile in Your Organization

A Simple Approach to Overcome Resistance to Agile

The biggest obstacle to successfully transition to agile is resistance to change. People resist change for many reasons, including fear of the unknown and job insecurity. If you are a proponent of agile development, then you need to overcome fear and uncertainty in order to get buy in.

If the desire to become agile begins at the highest levels of the organization, it’s the software development team that must become agile, so that team holds the key. If the desire to become agile begins with development team, management must agree to this new approach. Top to bottom, all levels of the organization must embrace the agile mindset.

How can you overcome fear and uncertainty? Make it easy for everyone to get on board.

  1. Explain how agile fits into the existing structure
  2. Start with 1 team
  3. Educate everyone involved
  4. Commit to working out the kinks
  5. Prove that agile works better

Before you suggest that even 1 team convert to agile, make you truly understand agile and the agile mindset. Get trained on agile scrum. Then test the water by asking your manager to pay for your training as part of your professional development. We recommend you read our post How to Get Your Boss to Pay for Scrum Training.  If your manager won’t pay for it, pay for it yourself. Show your commitment to the cause.

1. Explain How Agile Fits Into the Existing Structure

This seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised to learn most companies that transition to agile do not even think about how agile fits into current business processes. If you want to alleviate fear and uncertainty, figure out:

  • How the new team’s roles and responsibilities map to existing roles and responsibilities.
  • How agile teams plan with and work with traditional teams.
  • How will status reporting occur? The agile teams must be able to report progress in much the same way traditional teams do.
  • How agile teams fit into the existing project management or product development structure.

Put together a proposal. Show that you are prepared and serious about taking action.

2. Start with 1 Team

Agile scrum is a software development method. Only the development team really needs to change. We suggest starting the transition with only one team. This lowers the risk to the organization, gives everyone a chance to get used to the idea, and also gives you a higher chance of success.

But, you must start with the right team. In addition to the Scrum Master, we believe you need a Product Owner, Business Analyst, Tech Lead or Architect, Developers and Quality Assurance.

You need a committed Product Owner, not an Executive Sponsor. Make sure that person is respected by the product team, understands the requirements and can prioritize the work. The Product Owner must be available to attend daily Standup, Story Writing and Grooming, Sprint Planning and Retrospective. That’s a much bigger commitment than that of Executive Sponsor, who periodically attends Steering Committee meetings.

The reason that you need a Business Analyst is because the Product Owner may not understand how to translate business requirements into stories and acceptance criteria. Business Analysts are well suited to team up with the new Product Owner and help out.

The transition to agile does not mean architectural design is no longer needed. Quite the opposite is true. Because the team is delivering functioning application code at a much faster rate, the role of Tech Lead or Architect is critical to team success. The team needs someone who understands the big picture, can build a development framework and ensure all the small pieces of functionality fit together at the end.

Choose the right developers. Yes, make sure you have all the skills to code all aspects of the application on the team. However, don’t pick developers who don’t want to switch. Just like with the Product Owner, pick developers excited to learn something new and who are willing to attend the required meetings: Story Grooming, Sprint Planning, Standup and Retrospective.  

Finally, scrum dictates that you cannot close a story until the acceptance criteria has been validated working as expected by Quality Assurance. Make sure that you have the right number and mix of testers.  

3. Educate Everyone Involved

Now that you have the right team, you need to train them. To minimize risk and to validate management commitment, get everyone on the team the proper training. The team must start with a good understanding of scrum and an agile mindset.

If you cannot get management to provide adequate training for your team, do not attempt the transition. Seriously, don’t even start. Agile scrum is way too different from traditional software development. You at least need enough management commitment to ensure everyone on the team starts with the tools needed to succeed.

To get even more buy in, ask management to attend the training. They more they know about scrum, the less uncertainty they feel about the transition.

If you can hire a coach, even better!

4. Commit to Working Out the Kinks

As they say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” The same is true for the transition to scrum. It’s a big change. Before you begin, get assurance from management that you have at least 6 months to get the team fully functioning.

Let’s be clear: We do NOT advocate a slow or partial transition.

What you need to do: Rip off that bandaid and practice every aspect of scrum from Day 1.

Because you are switching cold turkey, you need time to get in the groove. We know. Planning, building a backlog and sprinting are new processes. The team may be a bit awkward in the beginning.

Keep up all scrum practices. Don’t skip a step.

Use Retrospective to improve the way you work together.

5. Prove that Agile Works Better

There is no better way to prove that scrum is better than when the team delivers higher quality products to your customers in a much faster timeframe than before the transition. Agile provides you the opportunity to show off your excellent work at the end of every sprint. So, demo often to your customers. If the customer wants or needs a change, pivot.

Practice scrum, meet your team commitments and deliver high-quality products to your customer.

Walk your talk.

That’s how you prove agile works better.

GSD Scrum Training

Do you need some help with your agile transition?
Then come to our next GSD Scrum Training or call us for a consultation.

 

Cynthia Kahn

Cynthia Kahn

Cynthia Kahn
CynthiaK@gsd.guru  503.799.5500