10 Reasons You Won’t Be Successful Adopting Scrum


1. You don’t understand the problem you are trying to solve.

There are some types of problems that scrum is very good at solving. There are other problems that scrum can not help you with, no matter how bad you want it to happen. Understanding the core problem(s) you are trying solve and how scrum can help solve those problems will go a long way toward helping you to have a successful adoption.

2. You have unrealistic expectations.

Better, faster, more! But not yet. For now, you have to crawl before you walk, and walk before you run. For companies adopting scrum, it is very similar to learning how to walk again, with the emphasis on LEARNING. You need to give your teams time and space to learn the new way of working and allow them to work through the process. Don’t expect to get the results without putting in the work.

3. You have no strategy or vision

While scrum can help you rapidly iterate through ideas to help you decide tactical direction, it will not give you a strategy or a vision. To that end, if you are attempting to superimpose scrum on top an organization that lacks strategy, you are setting yourself up for a lot of pain and frustration.

4. Your leadership is not supportive

In situations where leadership takes a “wait and see” approach and only waits to support the effort after it is already successful, it will never be successful. What is needed is for leaders to lead from the front, and to be the primary evangelists and cheerleaders for the transformation.

5. You are not willing to change

If you are looking at scrum to help fix some things in your organization, you recognize there are some things the could be improved. Improvement is change. In order to improve, you have to be willing to change. If you are not willing to change, then you can’t improve. Willingness to change is a critical component of a successful adoption.

6. Your teams have single-function members, and have no desire to become cross functional

With single function teams, communication depends on hand-offs. Hand-offs are a form of waste, and communication gets muddier with each hand-off (think about the telephone game). Cross functional teams are able to help each other outside of their job descriptions. Its useful for team members to have specializations and strengths, but building general skills can help the team in its overall objectives.

7. You have no product ownership

The product owner is the key stakeholder of the project. (S)he owns the vision and is responsible for communicating this to the team. The product owner is also the person responsible for prioritizing the work of the team. If you have an absentee product owner, or no product owner, then you have a gap that will prevent a successful adoption.

8. You have no patience

Even the most successful most aggressive companies ave a learning curve of about 1 year. For companies who expect drastic change overnight, expect to be disappointed. Patience is a necessary ingredient for a successful transition.

9. You are not willing to invest in training

The most successful scrum adoptions combine training, coaching, and a relentless pursuit of improvement (kaizen). I have seen situations where an unfortunate project manager was tasked with “do a scrum transformation” only armed with Google searches and forum postings. While these are great ways to get information specific to your environment, its a horrible way to get started in the right direction.

10. You think you can do it all yourself

Cristiano Ronaldo, Lebron James, and Jon Jones are some of the most talented, successful, and hardworking athletes of our current generation, and they all have coaches. Having a coach doesn’t make you a failure, it helps you get an outsider’s viewpoint and avoid your own blind spots.

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