Spreading Scrum Beyond a Dev Team

How you can encourage your organization to adapt scrum beyond the development team
by Milos Zekovic
Spreading Scrum Beyond a Dev Team

Scrum is awesome, right? You have success in the dev team and there is so much more success to create, yet your organisation does not seem very eager? I can certainly relate to that - spreading scrum beyond the dev team can be quite challenging. So how do we make that happen?

How to Make Scrum Happen 

Actually, we don't make it happen. Why? Scrum and agile involve complex change, and we cannot forcefully make others change. What we can do, however, is to change how we engage the organisations in order to increase the chances of scrum spreading. 

Step back, examine the context, and reorient. Ask yourself: 

  • What is your role and mandate in this organisation?

  • What is the intended direction of spreading scrum?

  • What are the key strategic steps?

Your Role and Mandate

The most common reason for not spreading scrum beyond dev teams that I’ve seen (and was guilty of) was an agile coach not understanding their role and mandate and thus generating a lot of resistance. In short, they tried to change what is “not allowed” or what others did not expect.

Scrum masters for a single team are especially exposed to this risk. Your team knows you/your role and how you support them, and they trust you based on experience gained during working with you. Most people beyond your team do not know you. When this is taken for granted, others see us as pushy, “always complaining,” an agile/scrum dogmatic or someone “stepping on their toes” - and these become obstacles to spreading scrum. You become the obstacle.

So, first step: Think about how you (and your role) are perceived beyond the dev team and how scrum is perceived. Knowing this, you have a better chance at creating meaningful connections and alliances in your organisation. This is key to influencing the change.

Direction of Spreading Scrum

What is your or organisation's intent in regard to spreading scrum beyond the dev team? Are you spreading scrum to:

  • another dev team

  • other functions by including them into the dev team

  • different types of teams (marketing, HR, ...), or

  • the leadership team?

Direction of spreading scrum tells you the right people to engage with and how to engage with them. Ask yourself: How can scrum benefit them? Which pains, concerns, and goals do they have? Which communication channels are important?

Answers to these questions may be rather different between an HR team, a sales agent, CEO and a QA engineer. So should your approach to engaging with them.

Related Article: How Healthcare, Education And Marketing Organizations Are Using Scrum To Thrive

Key Strategic Steps You Can Take

At its core, the principle of spreading scrum is rather simple. It's a change, and people do not like change. However, if success is in sight, if I trust you understand me, if others have changed and generated success that resonates with me, I will be more willing to change. If you push me to change, I will be less willing to do so.

Key things here are trust and relevant success. The catch is that you and your team understand scrum, change, benefits, pains, and success differently than the rest of the organisation. So the key questions are:

  • What about dev team success is relevant to others?

  • How do we make that more transparent to others?

  • What is important to others that scrum can help with? 

Regardless of your role, mandate and intended direction scrum is spreading, strategic steps for address these are the same: 

  • Be a coach: listen, ask. Understand. Avoid direct promotion

  • Agree on what relevant success is

  • Catalyze the creation of success

  • Support the promotion of success 

Be a coach. Do you enjoy a pushy salesperson telling you what is good for you and why? Probably not so much. Avoid being that salesperson when trying to spread scrum. Avoid telling others what you or your team think success is. Instead, try asking and listening to what others find valuable (or painful). If scrum does not help with that, back off. If they do not want your help, back off. You might be surprised how backing off may help you.

Agree on relevant success. Your team may be thrilled that they write great code now, that they are more focused with less interruptions. Your CEO, sales and marketing team may see that as a waste of time and opportunity, and that this scrum thing is for making engineers happy while slowing the business down. They might, however, be very interested in how to rapidly verify marketing strategies for different customer segments or how to quickly test a concept. So, what about your team's success is relevant to their interests? Could they apply or experiment with those? Share some stories? What would they agree that a successful scrum team is? Improve transparency of what success is, see what happens.

Bonus: if you’re looking to spread scrum to absorb more different specialists in your team, this is where you make transparent how joining a team helps everyone. A Value Stream Map may be a great tool for that.

Catalyze. If you agree on what success is, it’s time to make it happen for people beyond the dev team. You’ve done it in your dev team, you know how it’s done. Help, support, guide, coach, and teach when appropriate - and celebrate success along the way.

Support. If I tell you to try what I’m selling, how likely are you to try it? If someone else tells you that what I’m selling is great, how likely are you to try it then? The latter is usually more impactful, so rather than directly promoting scrum and its benefits - try supporting others in promotion of their success. If their goals are met, relevant pains are diminished and benefits are gained. People are natural promoters. Facilitate that process. 

You may ask them: How did scrum help your team? Who would be interested in hearing that? At what forum? In what form? Making or engaging a Community of practice might be a good place to start this process. Getting some numbers on the organisation success monitor visible might also help.

So, listen to needs, generate shared understanding of what success is, help success happen and then support promotion of that success.

Increase Chances of Spreading Scrum Across the Org

To increase the chances of scrum spreading beyond the dev team, consider your role and mandate in this organisation, and the intended direction of spreading scrum. This tells you whom to engage, why, and how. 

Once you know this, you can apply key strategic steps to spreading scrum beyond the dev team: understanding what moves others to change by being a coach, increasing transparency of what relevant success with scrum looks like, catalyzing the spread of scrum and its success, and finally, supporting the promoters. 

Keep in mind the complexity of humans: benefits, costs, pains, and success are different things to different people. The creative part is how you approach that complexity. So, how will you approach it in your context?

Looking for more agile resources in your inbox? Subscribe


Related Article 

Artilce: Compassion is at the Heart of Agility 


About The Author


Milos Zekovic is a Scrum Alliance Certified Team Coach, cognitive behavioral coach and Certified LeSS Practitioner with experience in multicultural environments, different industries, organizational types and a variety of teams. He combines professional coaching, agility, system thinking and mindfulness to support individuals, teams and organizations.


Stay Connected

Get the latest resources from Scrum Alliance delivered straight to your inbox