Challenges of Scrum in established enterprises

Posted on Dec 6, 2018

Although Scrum has already been more than two decades around, only recently it has become a major trend in established enterprises. Many old enterprises are now talking about agile and Scrum approaches, but only few allow their teams to fully reorganise the work in an agile way. I have identified three major challenges that my larger enterprise customers have faced with Scrum:

  • Old processes die hard. Traditions are hard to change and all organisational support and material is based on decades of carefully crafted process-driven work methods - all managed without Scrum. In this kind of environment teams should have courage to leave the old material and processes behind and plan their work from an empty canvas. Teams need a lot of courage to lean on Scrum framework if they haven't done it before. Otherwise agile approach becomes a blend of old and new, usually containing too many contradictions.
  • Managers try to control Scrum team as a project. Scrum Masters are easily seen as project managers and product owners as product managers. This leads to situations where product owners approve strict deadline requirements scheduled as in a waterfall process. Scrum masters then try to manage teams' work to meet those deadlines. This forces Scrum teams to work in artificially created iterations that are not based on incremental nor empirical development.
  • Scrum is seen as younger generation’s playground. Senior managers feel that Scrum teams need to be managed somehow from the top. Titles are there, such as Product Owner, Scrum Master and Developer, but people’s roles are based on completely different expectations. In your business card it probably still says Business Analyst for Product Owner or Project Manager for Scrum Master. This attitude leads to top-down management and kills the team's capability to perform as a self-directed team.

Scrum requires courage to surrender. It is based on decades of hard discussions and experience. If you don’t allow it to happen, you have to reinvent the wheel in every small detail again and again. Or you might just follow the old practices and pretend to be agile.

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