Is there hope?

There is an interesting discussion on the CSM LinkedIn group, about rolling out Scrum to an organization. See here.

Tom Mellor gives a realistic but somewhat depressing prognosis for many Scrum implementations. Tom is a good guy and a friend. It is OK if he and I disagree a bit on this one thing? Below is my post in response, slightly edited.

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Many good comments [in the discussion chain] and a great issue (as in, big and difficult).

I guess I am a bit more of an optimist than Tom. I have more hope, and I believe also realistic.

First, let me mention two books: “Fearless Change” by Manns and Rising, and “A Sense of Urgency” by John Kotter. Lots of good ideas in those.

OK, so to start, someone in the organization has to have that “oh, merde, we’re screwed if we don’t change” moment. (You?) And then that person needs to ‘pull together’ others who share that view. Not intellectually so much as emotionally, or in the gut.

There are lots of ways to ‘pull together’ others to the cause, but, of course, many things in the existing organization culture will fundamentally resist change. Even quite illogically sometimes (e.g., the demise of the firm is quite clear to virtually everyone if they don’t change, yet the organization may resist change). But, if you get enough people (see Egypt), change can also be hard to resist. Miracles can happen.

Now, some groups of people and some organization cultures allow more change to happen faster. Many factors. I agree with Tom that the ‘leader’ (CEO) is actually more of a follower. Far less control than he (usually a he) or they (the people in the organization) tend to think — far, far less — but, if that person helps set up a culture that (partially) wants change, then usually change-oriented people tend to gravitate (more) to that organization, and so change becomes easier.

So, before you try to change something (an organization) assess its ability to change. This is very hard to do, but at least try.

Now, also assess your willingness to use every trick in the book to make miracles happen (see American Revolution, 1989, Tunisia, South Africa, etc., etc.). Are you willing to work hard and wait for a little luck?

Sometimes the strategy needs to be: “I am OK if only my immediate group (team) is doing Lean-Agile-Scrum for one year.” That actually can be a lot of change that you can feel very proud of. Then, maybe you get lucky and it starts to spread.

You [people in the discussion] have already noted that smaller organizations tend to change more easily. It is also useful to recognize in oneself that change can feel threatening, and have more sympathy (up to a point) with those who are afraid of change.

Remember also: Surely we will all change with time, and we have some influence on that change. While time may seem an enemy, you can also make it an ally.

No doubt most of you know this one: If you can’t change your organization, then you must change your organization.

Finally (for now): “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.” There really is no other choice. If you want to be alive. (Yes, of course, our dreams sometimes need clarification.) We cannot wait for that perfect day when change will be easy.

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Let me add this: Every new product development team I have seen has needed Scrum. It is a crying shame that it has not been implemented more and more effectively. Real lives (of team members and customers) are far less happy than they should be.

So, I think it is fair and just to hope that firms that cannot adopt Scrum will soon be defeated by firms that allow far more change (i.e., to Scrum, in my belief). Yes, this creative destruction will be painful for some, but it is necessary in the long run.

Your comments are welcome. The next post is a bit more practical, but I hope you will note its limitations.

 

 

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