Helping an organization learn how to change means getting an organization to learn that “the way we’ve always done it” works but doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve found the BEST way to do something, or even a reasonably good way to do something. As a ScrumMaster and change advocate, you’ll need to teach your organization how to consider new possibilities, how to experiment with new approaches, and how to recognize the important learning that takes place when an experiment doesn’t work out.

There are seven things you can do as a ScrumMaster to help your organization embrace change as a normal way of life.

  1. Create an open environment for exchanging and sharing information within and across Scrum teams. For example, Sprint Retrospectives are a great way to share information within a team. Why not hold a Project or Release Retrospective or an Organizational Retrospective to see how multiple teams are doing?
  2. Create an impediment list (which, of course, the Retrospectives could feed into) and recommend the formation of a team of management and stakeholders with the authority to deal with impediments (which also means that they have some amount of money to spend when necessary). Impediments unresolved at the Scrum team level can move to the management team for resolution.
  3. On a regular basis, review the goals and vision of every team, the product, and even the organization. By reassessing the driving elements of the organization regularly, the organization remains open to change from both external and internal factors.
  4. Don’t allow crises to be an excuse for not considering new ways of getting things done. A Chinese proverb says, “The greatest opportunities are created out of crisis. Crisis forces people to change and change often brings new opportunity.” When organizations wait until after the crisis is passed, the importance of making a change fades with time.
  5. When considering ANY change, assume that something will probably go wrong. Make sure that everyone understands that fixing an organizational problem may require a couple different experiments until the right answer is found. Set up proper governance (gather metrics, measure what’s happening as compared to what used to happen) and determine steps to take should the desired result not occur – and remember, there’s a good possibility during any change that something unexpected will happen.
  6. Make sure you can answer the typical employee’s unspoken question: “What’s in it for me?” This isn’t an inappropriate question and the reaction is very human. Don’t judge. All of us want to work on something that’s important and that changes the human condition in some positive way. When a team member asks (or likely doesn’t ask), “what’s in it for me?” make sure you can answer the question. Once you’ve got the answer to that question, here are a few others you’ll want to be able to answer (hint: the order of the questions is important; one answer affects the answer to the next one):
    • How will the change affect me and my job?
    • How will I be evaluated?
    • How will this change be conducted?
    • What are the benefits?
    • What will the overall impact of the change be?
    • How can I help others with the change?
    • How can we implement improvements?
  7. Communicate constantly. Explain what’s changing, why it’s changing, and what your metrics are showing throughout the entire process of instituting the change.


Change is never easy. Your organization is probably already successful to some degree. Trying to explain that we’ve found a way to get something done that is effective, but we should change anyway, is a tough sell. But let’s consider some of the companies that are a shadow of their previous selves (or gone entirely) because they couldn’t change

  • Blockbuster – industry leader in DVD rentals; until Netflix began streaming.
  • Xerox – where the idea for Windows and OSX was born; but they relied entirely on their photocopy technology while Apple and Microsoft made billions.
  • Borders – a bookstore that couldn’t adjust with the times. Amazon moved to online books (and created their own device, the Kindle).
  • Blackberry – remember the first hot smartphone? They were so impressed by their success that they completely missed Apple’s iPhone until it was too late.
  • Yahoo – used to be #1 in online advertising market. Now they’re #4 behind Google, Facebook, and Microsoft. In fact, Yahoo has made a habit of missing opportunities:
    • In 2002, they almost bought Google, but got cold feet.
    • In 2006, they almost bought Facebook, but they lowered their price during negotiations and Facebook backed out.
  • Polaroid and Kodak – they missed the digital camera trend. Polaroid filed for bankruptcy in 2001; Kodak followed in 2012.