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June 26, 2024
8 min read

Why Scrum Transformation Fails for Many Organizations?

Scrum eradicates many traditionally followed project management practices and brings in unique and customer-centric practices. Despite clear benefits, Scrum transformation can fail due to various challenges.
Anton Versal
Anton Versal
Let's look into The Importance of Continuous Improvement in Scrum Agile Methodology

Scrum has attracted hundreds of thousands of organizations to shift from traditional waterfall methodology to incremental product releases. However, Scrum transformation isn't successful for many organizations due to different reasons. Some fail due to a lack of commitment to transform, while others fail due to misinterpreting Scrum principles. Therefore, this article will discuss in detail the top reasons contributing to Scrum transformation's failure.

What Does it Take for Scrum Transformation?

Before we jump into the reasons that can lead to Scrum transformation failure, it is vital to understand how a typical Scrum transformation is carried out.

Scrum transformation is a strategic approach that demands the willingness of team members to shift the processes, mindset, and culture according to the Scrum Agile framework. So, a typical Scrum transformation goes through the following main stages:

  1. The higher hierarchy of an organization should start with endorsing Scrum values and principles and showing commitment to making the change.
  2. Train all the team members properly about the Scrum framework, including its processes, events, roles and responsibilities, best practices, etc.
  3. Trigger the cultural shift by ending the command-and-control culture to a collaborative, self-organizing, and continuous improvement culture.
  4. Assign roles and responsibilities to team members as per the Scrum framework.
  5. Empower teams to be self-organizing and make their decisions autonomously.
  6. Set key performance indicators (KPIs) for the transformation.
  7. Test the transformation at a smaller scale and improve the shortcomings.
  8. Embrace adaptability and responsiveness to improve Scrum-based efficiencies with time and effectively address changing customers/market conditions.

In short, Scrum transformation requires knowledge, commitment, and a continuous improvement culture. This way, the team can gradually transform from a hierarchy-based culture to one that values incremental releases, continuous feedback, transparency, and self-organization.

9 Reasons Why Scrum Transformation Fail

Around 66% of businesses using Agile are executing their projects with the Scrum framework. Scrum's popularity is continuously growing, bringing in many more organizations under its umbrella. However, many organizations are not successful in transforming to Scrum.

There is no one common reason why organizations fail in Scrum transformation. So, we have compiled below the top reasons that contribute to Scrum transformation failure for most organizations:

1. Lack of "Scrum" Understanding

One of the main reasons Scrum transformation fails is due to the lack of proper Scrum understanding. Scrum concepts look easy to grab, as there are five main events, three main roles, specified development practices, etc. However, Scrum isn't easy when it comes to implementing it.

Teams need proper training in Scrum, which includes an appropriate understanding of concepts, best practices, and solutions to mitigate common challenges. Without proper understanding, the team can start facing many challenges once it begins its transformation journey. For instance, they may not estimate backlog items effectively with the right estimation technique (like Planning Poker, Async Poker, etc.), leading to complications when working on those backlog items in Sprint.

A lack of proper understanding can also make the team unintentionally resort to old habits and incorporate irrelevant practices in Scrum. Therefore, proper understanding and training of Scrum is essential for successful transformation.

2. Existing Organizational Structure and Its Resistance to Scrum Transformation

Scrum transformation means eradicating all the traditional methodologies and rearranging operations to an iterative-based, collaborative model. But this requires time and commitment. Often, the traditional silos will resist the team's efforts and force them to stick with the traditional practices they have mastered. Due to this resistance, some organizations fail to embrace Scrum rightly, which leads to complications and, eventually, a complete failure.

The traditional silos resistance will be there no matter what you do. All it takes is patience and commitment throughout the transformation process until you are in a position where Scrum practices start to outperform traditional practices. Once a team reaches this stage, the resistance factor starts to demolish.

3. Copying Others Scrum Transformation Practices

Many organizations just simply copy the Scrum transformation practices of other organizations. Mostly, they hire Scrum coaches who will provide a transformation roadmap using the practices they used for other organizations. Doing so is another reason why Agile transformations fail.

Every organization has different requirements and priorities, so copying the exact same transformation practices is not beneficial. Scrum is about doing small transformation experiments and gradually improving the processes. So, an organization should implement Scrum transformation from fresh as per its unique requirements, build internal coaches who understand better, and gradually proceed with the transformation journey.

4. Assigning Roles to Scrum Team Members

Scrum has many dedicated roles and responsibilities, such as Product Owner, Scrum Master, development team, etc. What mistake some teams make is they assign the roles to the team members instead of letting them pick the role. This is another reason behind Scrum's transformation failure.

For instance, the team may make the current manager a Scrum Master and the current architect as the Product Owner. If this happens, the manager may still act as master and dictate work instead of acting as a Scrum Master who coaches the team. Similarly, the architect, as the Product Owner, may not be able to fulfill the responsibilities effectively.

When a team is transitioning to Scrum, it is recommended that team members pick the role they want. However, they must ensure they have the proper knowledge and training for their chosen role.

5. Not Effective Communication and Collaboration

Communication and collaboration are among the core practices of Scrum. However, ensuring effective collaboration in large and distributed teams is not easy. So, when this factor is underutilized, it can compromise the entire Scrum transformation process.

For instance, underutilized communication and collaboration lead to misalignment, lack of transparency, reduced innovation, low morale, etc. In fact, the team members may start to operate in silos, each using their own understanding of project goals and priorities.

If your team struggles in effective communication and collaboration, you should find solutions to reduce those gaps. For example, the product backlog estimation meeting requires the participation of all development team members. Often, teams use the Planning Poker estimation technique, which requires the presence of every member during the meeting. However, if some members are located in different time zones, the team can use Async Poker, which is similar to the Planning Poker estimation technique but allows all members to participate in the estimation process remotely.

6. Challenges from Other Departments

The influence and impact of Scrum transformation are not just restricted to the development team. It also impacts other departments, such as marketing, contracting, sales, etc. So, if those departments are not well-educated about how Scrum transformation will influence their work, it will bring chaos and failure clouds.

Scrum demands that the transformation journey be an organization-wide exercise, not just confined to the development team. If the organization proceeds with this mindset, there will be fewer challenges from other departments and a more pleasant journey.

7. Project-oriented vs. Product-oriented

Traditional project management methodologies emphasize projects over products, forcing the team to think more about the delivery time and budget. However, Scrum wants the product to get more priority over the project. If the team still remains project-oriented while transforming to Scrum, it won't achieve the full benefits of the Scrum framework. Limited flexibility, lack of customer-centricity, and short-term focus will exist. So, when the expected Scrum outcomes don't show up, it leads to demotivation and failure.

A Scrum product-oriented mindset requires the team to shift the focus from project completion to delivering iterative value throughout the project lifecycle. This also involves the practices of continuous feedback, continuous improvement, cross-functional teams, and product ownership. Once the team embraces product-oriented development, the Scrum transformation journey will show its colors.

8. Changed Rewards and Recognition Process

In traditional methodologies, rewards and recognitions are mostly individual-based, where a single team member takes all the credits. However, Scrum is all about team efforts and team achievement. So, the rewards and recognition are about the team, but the team can internally reward an individual for his/her efforts.

This change in reward culture is also a setback for individuals who like to be appreciated for their hard work. If such concerns arise in a team, it can impact productivity, may trigger chaos, and compromise the transformation journey.

9. Layoffs & Transformation

Some organizations do layoffs and Scrum transformation at the same time. This increases the fear of losing the job, which causes team members to dislike the transformation and resist the changes. Once this environment is triggered, the effectiveness of Scrum vanishes, the morale gets lost, and the organization suffers badly.

If an organization wants to lay off workers and also wants to begin the Scrum transformation journey, it should do it one thing at a time. It can first lay off workers before initiating transformation, or it can lay off workers after successful transformation. The choice depends from organization to organization, depending on their situation and requirements.

Wrapping Up

Scrum framework has become the best companion for organizations needing faster products in the market and coping with the ever-changing customers' demands. However, the uniqueness of Scrum principles and processes might make the transformation challenging for many. The above reasons showcase how minor issues or mistakes can compromise the whole transformation process.

Therefore, it is recommended that an organization heads for Scrum transformation with proper knowledge and training. Afterward, they should gradually transition into Scrum practices with a strong emphasis on agility and continuous improvement. To sum up, issues will occur during the Scrum transformation journey, but organizations can mitigate those challenges if they proceed with the right mindset and commitment.

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