Scrum Skeptics: How to Address Leadership’s Most Common Concerns

July 21, 2014

Scrum Inc. COO Alex Brown explains how to address one of the most common knee-jerk reactions from senior management when it comes to implementing Scrum: “We can’t do that here.”

If you’ve ever tried to convince a skeptical senior executive to give Scrum a shot then you’ve likely experienced a fair amount of pain and frustration. In worst-case scenarios, it can feel as though you’re repeatedly banging your head against the wall.
Unfortunately, anti-Scrum bias can exist, and it’s often the byproduct of poor understanding or misinformation. Typically, it boils down to one of two concerns: Either the company’s product is too complicated to fit into a short Scrum sprint, or the business lacks the manpower to perform all the testing that needs to be completed in a sprint.
The good news? Both objections are fallacies. And Scrum Inc. COO Alex Brown shares a couple of simple tips for overcoming them in the video below.

How to Address Management’s Common Scrum Concerns


Key Takeaways

1) It actually takes longer to test after a sprint than during one

It’s not unusual for one of the core concepts of Scrum — that sprints should conclude every 1-4 weeks with a fully “shippable” product iteration — to be met with scrutiny. After all, that means testing included, and for some companies accomplishing both that and development in a month or less might not seem possible. In fact, it might not be possible — at least not by doing things the way they’ve always been done. For many companies, this is where they run smack into the ultimate challenge of Scrum — it’s about doing things differently, and that often involves changing not only processes, but mindsets, as well.
Luckily, staring at cold-hard data can help. According to Brown, it takes somewhere between 12 and 24-times longer to conduct product tests outside of product sprints. The reason: The tester has to flashback to their mindset when they wrote the original code and sift through countless lines of new code to find the root cause of a bug. By conducting testing within the sprint, teams can far more efficient, and release much faster.

2) Overcome objections by offering to try Scrum as an experiment

Don’t frame Scrum as a locked-in-stone commitment. Instead, offer to try it for a period of time and measure whether output goes up or down. Typically, Brown says the results make it hard for management to ignore the value of Scrum.


Image courtesy of Lisa Brewster


<strong>Alex Brown</strong> is a partner at <a href="">Recon Strategy</a>. Prior to this role, he was the Chief Operating Officer of Scrum Inc., a firm specializing in agile strategy and rapid new product innovation. Before that Alex spent 6 years at BCG, where he was a leader in the healthcare and consumer strategy practice areas. His engagements included re-envisioning high performance network design for a major national PBM; and designing a "nudge unit" leveraging consumer psychology to improve patient outcomes for a leading retail pharmacy. Prior to BCG, Alex led demand forecasting of complex transportation networks for major public investments. Alex graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. and Masters in Engineering, and earned an MBA from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.