Can you create a Scrum environment in a company that isn’t Agile?

Yes, you can. In fact, if it were not for people who did create Scrum pilot projects within companies that do not embrace Business Agility, the Scrum framework would never have grown as advanced and prolific as it is today.

Read: “Stealth Agile” for more information on how to incorporate Agile into non-Agile environments.

A Scrum team, in essence, is a small group of creative, intelligent people who collaborate toward achieving specific goals and objectives.

Regardless of the company you find yourself working in, nobody is going to be opposed to the creation of a small team of people who are committed to solving complex problems and creating products and services that delight customers.

I would go as far as to say that if most companies truly understood the concept of Business Agility and how several groups of small, hyper-productive and creative teams can adapt and respond to any business challenges, we would not have any trouble with Agile adoption.

So, it boils down to you.

Creating a small Scrum Team

You are the person who has identified that there is a framework that supports how you would like to work and has proven effective in multiple applications within and outside of your own industry. Kudos. You have business support for your idea and evidence that you are not taking excessive risk.

One thing worth remembering is that Scrum is built on Empiricism. Empiricism simply means that you know what you know because you have observed it to be true. You are building on a base of evidence rather than theory.

For that reason, you should have a lot of support for your small Scrum environment when it gets going. Everything that the team learn over each sprint (a short period of time, often a week or so, in which you achieve a short-term goal or objective) is documented and available for learning.

You are either going to find out how to achieve your short-term goal within that short sprint or you are going to find the impediments to progress within that time frame. Either way, you learn, and you have evidence of what you have learned from which to build on.

If you want to assemble a small Scrum team, you simply need to find people within the organization that think along the same lines and are organised around a common goal, vision, or purpose.

Ideally, you are looking to assemble a development team with complimentary and cross-functional skills to achieve the goal of doing twice the work in half the time. If the team do not have all the necessary skills, they simply need to commit to learning or acquiring those skills.

Again, a philosophy and commitment that should not pose a threat to managers and teams outside of your small Scrum team. So far, so good.

Building Support for your Scrum Team

As you progress through each sprint and turn out a working solution, feature, product, etc. at the end of each sprint, you are probably going to start attracting the attention of others. People who would like to achieve the same results that you are.

Those people will potentially begin to observe your progress a lot closer and seek to emulate you over time. In their eyes, what you are doing is a pilot project that provides them with the evidence they need that those things can and should be done differently.

Over time, even the most outspoken critics will agree that what you are achieving with your small scrum team beats the results you used to achieve using a waterfall-style of project management or product development.

That does not mean you will transform the organisation overnight, but it does mean that you will win the support you need to continue with your Scrum team and potentially even start a new pilot project with a different Scrum team.

When an organization is misaligned with Business Agility values and principles, you often find that legislation, internal policies, etc. can play havoc with what you are doing and how you are trying to achieve your objectives.

Expect that to be the norm. Sometimes, there is simply a misalignment between organizational values and team values. You may find yourself constricted, bumped and a little bruised at times when you come up against the organization and other departments but that is to be expected.

Hopefully, over time, your small team outperform all expectations and you slowly start to transform the department or organization from within. One small scrum team at a time. It is simply a matter of patience and resilience before you achieve your goals and objectives.

Scrum is not the perfect match for every organisation and application so it may mean that you find yourself with a few small Scrum teams performing within an organization that operates in the more traditional ways of working but that should not stop you from embracing your new way of working.

Nor should it stop you from progressing, evolving and continuously improving.

So yes, you can create a Scrum team within an organization that does not embrace Agile or Business Agility. If you are interested in becoming a Certified or Certified Scrum Product Owner to help you with your transition, visit those course pages.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked Training and Certification questions

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John McFadyen Managing Partner
John McFadyen is an Executive and Enterprise Agile Coach with proven experience working on some of the UK and Europe’s largest, most complex Agile Transformations. As a Certified Scrum Trainer, John brings a wealth of experience as an Agile coach, Agile practitioner and software developer into each of the four core courses he provides. The war stories, the insights into successful Agile transformations and everything he has learned from coaching high-performance Agile teams combine to provide course delegates with a unique, compelling training experience that transforms as much as it empowers.

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