Change Management & Agile Ways Of Working

Eva Kasiak January 25, 2021

The Scrum Team identifies the most helpful changes to improve its effectiveness.


This is Scrum Guide update from November. Here is the reality ;)

In the old "management" we had change management with different methods such as: Lewin's Change Model, Kotter, Adkar just to mention few. 

There is ongoing debate how to approach and lead the change in Agile environments to drive the transformations. Some say best is bottom up - engage the Scrum Teams, some say mix the bottom up with top down. 

What's your opinion on how to lead the change when the Scrum Team is all but following Scrum values and pillars?

  • closed
  • not willing to experiment
  • don't see the reason for the change
  • say "it's good as it is no point changing"
  • don't trust anything can change
  • highly resistant

What one can do to actually overcome these and start implementing changes? 

Should there be method used - anything you can think of and suggest?

How to create buy in for those who resist the most?





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Bill Sheboy
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January 25, 2021

Hi @Eva Kasiak 

Thanks for your thoughts on this topic.  To me, it doesn't matter if improvement approaches are top-down, bottom-up, inside-out, etc.  What matters are expectations, accountability, incentives, and partnership.

Leaders lead, and that includes clearly expressing their expectations, based upon what "North" means to a organization; consistently working with people to provide timely feedback and support accountability; incentivizing behaviors and actions resulting in desired outcomes; and partnering to experiment toward progress.

Without expectations, people don't understand what is valued.  Without accountability, people get stuck or backslide into old patterns.  Without incentive changes, "heroes" and dysfunctional team members will cause stagnation/collapse in team formation.  Without partnership, people will become order-takers, without the drive and capacity to improve.

Best regards,


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Eva Kasiak January 27, 2021

@Bill Sheboy thanks for sharing your perspective - I appreciate that. I love how you refer to the expectations and accountability. This is part of leadership focused on supporting people's and organizational growth while balancing the management part. The leader is the one who creates the next leaders. The leader needs to know how to connect the group of people around a common, understood vision, and "north"-star to create teams which are having a common purpose and goal. And the leader needs to walk the talk - just do it ;) 

The courage to talk about what changes and why they need to happen in the organization is yet another attribute of good leadership. It's like providing feedback - you do not always get to provide or receive positive one ;) yet the way of doing it makes you either shut down or think and grow from it. It's equally vital to be able to explain the vision, draw a future state, build common understanding, gain confirmation. 

I hope that we get to see more and more leaders who are holding a vision, the courage to speak out, are capable to set up expectations (even if it means making the decision to pivot and taking the risk).

I think what happened in the "agile world and agile transformations"  is the misconception about self-organization, self-management. In the worst-case teams (heroes and dysfunctional team members) think that self-organization means deciding what to do, why to do it, and almost like working in a silo with no context whatsoever with the organization, they are part of.

Having a good idea of the shape and landscape of the company leaders can nurture the change and invite to it (on clear terms) team members. To hopefully mitigate such atoms and thrive in growing the teams that are capable to develop not the individuals who are capable to reject. 

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Bill Sheboy
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January 27, 2021

Yes, your thoughts on "misconceptions about self-organization..."  Leaders can get caught up in the belief in silver bullets from vendors who do not explain the hard work to improve cultures and the basic idea that time-takes-time, yet small steps can still make things better.

I found this book on the topic (self-organization versus self-management) an interesting and holistic view on improving practices: Agile Leadership Toolkit: Learning to Thrive With Self-Managing Teams, by Peter Koning.

Eva Kasiak January 27, 2021

thanks for the book recommendation @Bill Sheboy  will for sure put it on my virtual bookshelf ;) 

Samie Kaufman - Your Gal at Gliffy
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January 29, 2021

Hi Eva!

I'm coming at this from a different angle as I wrap up my MBA this year (finally!) and just thinking about change management in general. First, a question for you: do you think that a scrum team or a team working with Agile requires a specific or specialized solution? 

My gut says that this team being "stuck" is the same issue as any other team being stuck — that scrum pillars are just the framework being used to describe it. Does that make sense?

If that assumption is right, there are probably a zillion articles available like the one I recently read from Harvard Business Review, Four Ways to Create a Learning Culture on Your Team.
They are:

  1. Reward continuous learning
  2. Give meaningful and constructive feedback
  3. Lead by example
  4. Hire curious people

With those four items as examples, you'd want to look at whether or not they're occurring to understand their contribution to the current situation. Sooooo that would look like asking...

Has this team seen people who embody a learning culture get laid off, passed over for promotions, or penalized for their failures? Sounds like it's time to build back some trust.

Is the feedback they're getting actually clear and meaningful? When they "don't see the reason for change" is it because they're being told that their product has "opportunities" or because they're being told that the product's position in the market/profitability/other metric is threatened by a competitor? If the conversation around what can be better is hidden under a bunch of euphemisms, it'd make sense that they don't see a sense of urgency to change. These are hard conversations, but they do help a team embrace that drive and willingness to change that shows up in the values and pillars.

Do the leaders in your organization and of this team directly actually lead by example? Or are these values and pillars just part of their vocabulary to keep executives happy? It's hard to apply external pressure on a team to execute in a certain way when its leader doesn't also follow suit.

To be considered last, do you have the right (or wrong) people? If you take an honest look at 1, 2, and 3 and can completely and honestly say that your organization is doing everything they can, then you might simply have employees who don't match your culture. It could be a small group of people or bad apples influencing the rest of the team against these factors. The red flag here is that I think a lot of leaders tend to jump straight to this point and try to hire people to create their desired company culture, but if you put a new hire into a company that's still full of incentives against learning, unclear or unproductive feedback, and leaders who don't actually support curiosity, you'll burn them straight out of your organization.

I'd love to hear your thoughts as to whether this framework "fits" or if there's instead a particular nuance that should be applied to scrum teams. :)


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Eva Kasiak February 2, 2021

Hello @Samie Kaufman - Your Gal at Gliffy  first of all congrats on your MBA ;) I'm sure you earned it!

I agree it's about any other Team not only the Scrum one...The truth is that culture and values are fundamental here. I love what you wrote about when you take an honest look and evaluate 1,2,3 ...this framework is actually great and something which could be cultivated to shift the culture a little bit. Now the general question is are we open enough and our culture support such critical thinking.

It's quite difficult to get the result here "quickly" and I am thinking that having this framework supported by champions, in the beginning, could help. So people would lead by example and they would become the natural reference for others. This way the critical mass would be built and the culture would change over time ;) 

Samie Kaufman - Your Gal at Gliffy
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February 3, 2021

I agree that giving the framework a big boost via champions and people who influence (not necessarily the leaders) would be a better way to "plant its seeds." :) Changing culture is soooo hard, and you can't just hire the right people to bring it.

I've worked on projects where I feel like #2 is the problem... I am based in Minneapolis, which has its own language I had to learn. For example, if you share an idea and someone says "oh, that's interesting," they're most likely meaning that your idea is too weird or that they don't understand where you're coming from. In other places, you might hear "that's interesting" and think they mean that you're onto something and should continue exploring it.

Because the language we use here in the Midwest of the US can be less direct, it can be hard to feel a sense of urgency or understand when you're really, really far from a target or goal. I'm sure the same culture and communication trends make a difference elsewhere in the world.

I'm also glad you agree that how to handle this challenge for a scrum team wouldn't require many unique solutions — I wanted to make sure I was thinking about the leadership challenge correctly!

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James John June 21, 2021

Hello @Eva Kasiak

A debt of gratitude is in order for your considerations on this point. As far as I might be concerned, it doesn't make any difference if improvement approaches are hierarchical, base up, back to front, and so forth What makes a difference are assumptions, responsibility, motivations, and association.

Pioneers lead, and that incorporates plainly communicating their assumptions, in view of what "North" signifies to an association; reliably working with individuals to give convenient input and backing responsibility; boosting practices and activities bringing about wanted results, and cooperating to try toward progress.

Without assumptions, individuals fail to really see what is esteemed. Without responsibility, individuals stall out or lose faith in old examples. Without impetus changes, "saints" and useless colleagues will cause stagnation/breakdown in group development. Without association, individuals will become request takers, without the drive and ability to improve.

Best respects,

James John

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