How to sell scrum and agile in Indonesia?
One question that always pops up during my trainings and workshops is ‘how to sell agile and scrum?’. Now there are 2 versions of this question: A. How to sell scrum to your management? and B. How to sell scrum to customers (who are in a waterfall/fixed big mindset)?
I’ll dive into A in this article.
The Impact Of Culture On Agile Adoption
I’ve moved to Bali a couple of months back, so I want to dive into the question with one extra element: culture. Culture is one of my favorite topics as I’ve had plenty of challenges making European customers work with my Indian teams. If you google the question, you’ll come across plenty of articles, the majority written by Westerners referring to their own culture. I have always believed that culture is a big influencer on the success of agile. In order to decide the right approach to ‘sell agile and scrum’, we must understand the background of our ‘system’.
I came across an interesting graph, based on a tweet by Alistair Cockburn. The graph shows the average of 5 scores from Hofstede’s model for different countries.
It’s is probably not scientifically validated, but here’swhy I like it. I have always thought that the key to succesfull agile adoption is the attachment to hierarchy (power distance) within a country (or company, or team). The more people are used to hierarchy, the more they are inclined to wait for ‘orders’ from a ‘boss’. If on top of that, it’s not welcomed to contradict a boss, people have a hard time sharing their ideas. Agile is all about empowering teams to self organize. There is no boss, just some people facilitating the team. To get to a mature level of self organization, the road is longer in a country with high power distance.
PDI = Power Distance Index
IDV = Individuality
MAS = Masculinity
UAI = Uncertainty Avoidance
LTO = Long Term Orientation
|United Arab Emirates||80||38||52||68|
As an example, let’s compare the Netherlands with Indonesia. The Netherlands scores 38 on power distance, Indonesia 78. This causes longer adoption cycles for Agile, because we need to change behavior (if we can). On individuality The Netherlands scores 80, Indonesia 14. This might actually be a stimulant for Agile, because people value teams over individuality. In the Netherlands, people tend to be very outspoken, pursue their own interests. In Indonesia, people feel as if it’s one big family and they are used to operate within larger groups.
A second lense we can look through is the company culture. This is influenced by the country culture, but can obviously also differ. I found this article by Paul Ellarby of SolutionsIQ helpful in this context. Look at below picture, based on the model by William Schneider:
You can use this model to put your company into one of the quadrants. Then you wonder: how can this help or block me from selling agile to my management team. The article gives more background on how each quadrants makes it easier or harder to become agile.
Tell Me How To Sell Agile
The above illustrates there is no proven path to selling agile to a management team. Every situation is different and things change. Fortunately, if you’ve bought into agile, you’ll understand that. So if you’re dedicated to the cause, you’ll jam with different practices and experiment, adapt and keep going.
Before I move on to the practical stuff, there are 2 points I want to make about your starting point:
A. YOU have to go for it!
Here’s the most important thing: YOU have to do it. I’ve ran many trainings and workshops and the larger a company gets, the more I hear this: ‘yeah these are great ideas, but it’s too hard to implement in our large firm’ or ‘if I come with these ideas, management will just put it on the pile and let it rot’ or ‘our policies are too much based on project based work with written processes we need to comply to’. Being an entrepreneur I always feel a knot in my stomach when I hear this. I think we all need to rebel, we need to determine our cause and then go for it, letting nothing stop us. If we don’t act because we see roadblocks, nothing will ever get better in the world. So before you start asking management for change, pledge to go for this 100% yourself.
B. A two-day training is a rockstart!
The creators of scrum; Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber, both designed certification programs. In both programs, the ‘entry level’ training is ‘Certified scrum master’. They have thought about the above extensively and came to the conclusion that the scrum master is the ‘evangelist’. The below picture from Roman Pichler shows how this evangelising role works:
Although there is a commercial taste to the whole certification program, I have the following experience. I heard about scrum some 7-8 years back. I thought ‘there we go again, another hype’ (I’m never an early adopter). Then I kept hearing of scrum and decided to read some books about it. That triggered my curiosity and I decided to take a CSM training. The two-day training was a turning point for me. After that, I was fully convinced that my development company needed scrum to service customers better. I started sending some of my Indian colleagues to the CSM training and from then on, we gradually moved towards scrum and agile completely.
Now Some Practices That Can Help
Because I like practical ideas, I’ll just shoot some that I’ve learned or stole from others. You can figure out how to jam with them. And remember, this is a change process, which takes time, patience and practice (I like this short article from Jeff Sutherland about selling change).
1. Proof That It Works
2. Talk About Value And Profit
If you’re working on a custom software product for a customer, you could ask customers to give you a biweekly ‘grad e’ on a scale of 1 to 10. The question could be ‘how satisfied are you with our collaboration‘ and/or ‘how satisfied are you with the software we shipped to you‘. Or use the NPS score.
If you’re building a product for users, you can use the Skype approach (after every skype call, you get a popup asking you to rate the quality of the call).
3. Show What Management Is Missing Out
4. Show How His Life Gets Better
One thing managers don’t like is ‘micromanagement’. If your manager is still in the old style of managing tasks, strong project control and hierchy, you might show him how your team plans to move towards self organization. The core of agile is about self-managing teams. Product owners show what has priority in terms of customer demand and value. Teams figure out how to deliver that value. As a manager, I would love my team to come up to me telling ‘from today onwards, you don’t need to tell us how to do stuff anymore, we’re going to show you the results. The only thing we need from you is priorities and clarity on what problem you want us to solve.’
5. Go Beyond Scrum
6. Take Them To a Training Or Conference
7. Start Putting Stickies All Around The Office
Now this may seem awkward, but I believe it’s incredibly effective. Buy some big flipchart papers, a lot of stickies in different colors and markers. Turn your office into an agile cockpit. You can start by creating scrum boards for your software team. But you can also take this beyond software. Make a board for ‘office improvement plan’, ‘ideas’, ‘complaints’, ‘management improvement plan’. Then ask all your colleagues to put their ideas on those boards using stickies. I am sure your manager will love the information he’s going to get from this. And it’s all visible and out in the open. I’ve seen offices where all the walls are covered by special glass to enable everyone to post stickies everywhere. I’ve seen office where people even make boards for their personal improvement plan (like: go to the gym every day to loose 10 kilos). And it works.
I’m sure with some of the ideas above you’ll think ‘naaaah, no good’. That’s ok. The key is: commit to your cause of changing the way work gets done (call it agile or scrum or whatever you want). Then use your imagination to come up with ways to get buy in from your management team. And keep going, keep going untill people either start changing or start calling you a nutcase (that’s when you’ve got their attention and you can really get going!).