Webinar, January 14, 2021: Scrum Pain in Large Organizations


How can large organizations effectively implement Scrum or other Agile methods in view of their operational realities?



January 14, 2021, 14:00 – 15:30 Eastern time (e.g., New York), UTC-5.

The Agile movement started in earnest around the beginning of the century. Since then, it has been extended to all kinds of organizations of all sizes in all industries. The most popular Agile-compatible process framework is Scrum. Almost all Agile initiatives are centered on implementing Scrum at the team level.

The framework was originally designed to support new product development by a small, autonomous team that had direct access to key stakeholders with decision-making authority, and no external dependencies affecting delivery. The main use case was to explore potential solutions in collaboration with customers and/or internal users. The Product Backlog was seen as a list of ideas that may be implemented rather than as a to-do list of predetermined features that must be implemented.

As larger organizations have attempted to adopt Agile methods, and Scrum in particular, they have experienced friction between the realities of their environments and the original use case for Scrum. They have gained some benefit from using a scaling framework like SAFe or a de-scaling framework like LeSS, but challenges remain.

In large organizations, individual software teams are not autonomous, do not (usually) have direct access to “real” customers, and cannot deliver to production without engaging other teams or work groups in the organization. Other business units besides software development decide what products are needed and how the company should interact with its market.

In addition, some of the work has hard delivery dates that are difficult to change – regulatory changes with fixed start dates, product features for which customer expectations have been set through marketing campaigns, physical products with embedded software, etc. Individual software teams have no say in this; they are not exploring a potential solution space, but rather delivering software features that have already been decided.

These factors, as well as human resource considerations such as individual performance assessment and defined roles/responsibilities, and management issues such as accountability and ownership, often cause confusion and churn in large organizations that want to obtain the benefits of Agile methods.

In this session, we’ll explore these issues and more, and discuss practical ways that large organizations can adapt Scrum to their reality to obtain most of its putative benefits without resorting to a full-scale return to 20th-century methods.