Change Management: How To Ensure Successful Implementation of Scrum

When it comes to organizational change, whether that is new development techniques or company acquisitions, it is imperative that companies manage the change appropriately to ensure successful implementation. That said, as the Agile rebellion gains more and more traction across industries, it has become even more important for companies to integrate Scrum into their way of working. However, when this is executed poorly, it can have a significant negative impact on a company.


For example, in 2011, Ron Johnson took over as CEO of JCPenney and kicked off an initiative to target a new audience. In his efforts, he orchestrated a store-wide redesign and adjusted the pricing model to attract younger customers. The result was a 25% loss of revenue. Failed change management was a major contributing factor to the failed implementation, especially considering the existing issues with JCPenny’s online ordering site.
What Johnson and the J.C. Penny team should have tested out these ideas before rolling them out to ensure success and make sure the employees and customers would have fully understood the new model.

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Although, when change management is done right, it can be a positive game changer for companies and reap great results. Here is an introductory look into how change management works.

Traditional Change Management

Change management traditionally works like a checklist moving from one item to the next in a linear way, much like Waterfall development. Requirements are gathered, plans are drawn up and executed sequentially until the entire change is installed. This can work when there’s a little complexity in the delivery, such as how a large customer or employee-base may react. 

The process to make the changes for an operating system upgrade is fairly straightforward. Here is a look at what that looks like:

  • Define the purpose of the upgrade.
  • Map the key stakeholders who benefit from the upgrade
  • Establish a communication plan
  • Schedule activities and tasks to perform the upgrade
  • Upgrade the operating system on the involved computers
  • Measure the impact of the upgrade

This type of approach alone can work with change that is predictable or has predictable results.

Agile Change Management for an Agile Company

With change management focusing on the “people” side of change, it requires some additional shepherding to ensure the change is accepted. Scrum is a framework driven by people, so when thinking about implementing Scrum in an organization, your biggest challenge will come from the people involved. If people do not accept the change, the change will fail. People don’t upgrade like a computer. When change is forced upon the workforce you can expect pushback and non-compliance. 

Many organizations think sending a group of people to a Scrum class will transform their company into an agile company.  However, they usually neglect to give those students the purpose behind the training and an explanation of how the company intends to use Scrum. Students retain little and end up confused and resistant during and after the training. 

Organizations that use adaptive Change Management frameworks will more likely succeed in incorporating Agile development ideas into their business. Specifically, adopting Scrum is a big change with a focus on people. 

Change management can be used to effectively manage people’s expectations and proactively address resistance to help get the most from Scrum in an organization. To build a world-class agile company, change management teams must ensure that the need for Scrum and how it works is understood throughout the company, not just within the Scrum team. Before any training begins they would do well to raise awareness and build desire change. 

Successful Scrum Implementation

Our team here at Responsive Advisors sees change management issues constantly- companies assume that employees will adapt to this new framework simply because they are told to or they took a two-day class. The fact of the matter is that it takes a lot more work to ensure it sticks. Simply hiring a Scrum Master and implementing daily stand-up meetings does not ensure that employees are working in tandem with the new system. It most certainly does not mean your organization will be more successful. Here are some change management steps you can take to ensure successful Scrum implementation within your team:


Internal Lunch and Learns: This can help you outline the value of Scrum to everybody within the company regardless of position so that you are all on the same page moving forward. Building awareness and desire is the goal of these presentations, so be sure to address the source of any resistance early. Ensure the business you serve and the management team fully understands their role in your transformation as they are common sources of friction.


Start small: Some companies see success after getting just one highly-motivated and fully-functioning Scrum team delivering releasable versions of new products every few weeks. When the rest of the organization sees what a successful team looks like, they’ll want more of them. It’s hard to argue with success.


Gather Feedback: Learn from your employees on how they are feeling about the change and adjust your methods to make your developers’ lives easier. For example: some people enjoy working in small teams so Scrum feels natural to them. However, many who have worked in waterfall for years have grown used to more isolation, therefore working in small teams is uncomfortable. Be mindful of the people involved and be sure to address their concerns as individuals.

Slowly Employ More Complex Ideas: By slowly implementing the more complex aspects of Scrum such as Impact Mapping, Scaled Scrum, etc., you can generate small wins for your entire company which can help Scrum gain some ground and build momentum. Think of building an agile company like getting fit as a person. It’s an ongoing process that’s never really finished. It’s more about the habit of learning, getting better and growing than the destination.

How It Can Impact Companies In a Post-COVID Society

COVID-19 has left many companies in all industries falling back on the e-commerce side of their business. In other words, companies have become heavily reliant on their IT development teams to provide a consistent and smooth experience for their customers. 

This has opened the door for companies to optimize their e-commerce, mobile reliant services. For those trying to act fast, Scrum is the ideal solution.

Here are some tips to help you integrate Scrum smoothly:

Get Started With Responsive Advisors

Integrating Scrum is a necessary “sink-or-swim” framework in the software development industry. That said, it isn’t easy and it doesn’t happen overnight. It needs to be well thought out from beginning to end so that you can effectively execute the integration.

The best way to do this is with the help of Scrum expert consultants with the authority to train a skilled Scrum Team. Our team at Responsive Advisors offers an extensive online training program to help you get your team up to speed, even in a remote environment. 

Robert Pieper

I like Metalcore, and cupcakes.
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