The 3 Biggest Challenges of Adopting Scrum

challenges adopting scrum

Scrum does not define how an enterprise or business unit operates, and it is typically not the only development process present in a large organization. As a result, “Scrum projects” must interface with the rest of the enterprise in a graceful fashion, which comes with a unique set of challenges.

Are you struggling with adoption, but not sure why? You’re not alone. Here are three of the most common challenges faced when adopting scrum.


1. Corporate Culture is Putting up Roadblocks


A strong corporate culture not accustomed to the Agile mindset can be a hard environment for implementing Scrum methods.

According to a recent survey conducted by VersionOne, an agile management software manufacturer, the “inability to change organizational culture” was considered a barrier to agile adoption by over half the participants. Even after going agile, 24% of the companies admitted their agile projects failed because the “company philosophy or culture was at odds with core agile values.”

It’s easy to see how adopting Scrum processes can be a challenge if the Agile philosophy itself isn’t fully embraced. In some cases, the company’s incentive structure may reward non-agile benchmarks while inadvertently discouraging agile success. That’s a tough one to manage because philosophy and “the big picture” tend to pale in comparison to the biweekly paycheck.

In many cases, roadblocks are actually a symptom of a larger cultural issue within the organization or a failure to truly commit to going agile across the board. If you are running into this issue, you may benefit from this popular online training course: Overcoming Impediments to Agile Transformation . It speaks directly to best practices for implementing agile into corporate culture.

2. Team Members are Resistant to Change


Closely related to the organizational culture, but perhaps bringing it down to a more personal level, 42% of respondents in the VersionOne survey stated that “general resistance to change” created a barrier to going agile. Change is inherently difficult and uncomfortable, especially for veteran team members who have a long history of waterfall successes to look back on.

The average Joe sitting at a workstation in the Engineering Development team can throw a monkey wrench into a transformation when he maintains a stubborn “this is how we’ve always done it” attitude.

Even if you’re lucky enough to have top-level support for Agile transformation, it’s hard to achieve success if team members aren’t on board with Scrum methods.

3. We’re Putting a Round Peg in a Square Hole


Unfortunately, when a company maintains a non-agile framework and tries to shoehorn agile practices into it, they end up accomplishing less, being less productive, achieving lower quality results… and somehow deciding that it’s Scrum that doesn’t work.

Large, complex projects with multiple communicating subsystems that depend on each other require choreographing the right pieces and parts. For example, Large IT organizations are accustomed to tracking progress against predictive schedules and Gantt charts and milestones. Each milestone has a specific set of activities, planned for completion by specified dates. The Project Manager tracks actual progress, notes deviations from the plan, and responds to the deviations as needed to begin work, get the project back on schedule, or modify the schedule.

Scrum projects do not have the same kind of milestones. Instead, a long-term project is divided up into short-term development cycles (Sprints). Within each Sprint, the Scrum Team typically implements several small-scale features (Stories), all the way from design through testing and bug fixing. The elapsed time from start to finish per individual feature is usually 2—5 days. In Scrum projects, progress is tracked by task or feature completion rather than against a predicted schedule.

If the framework for this concept is not in place, Scrum adoption is very difficult. In fact, the third biggest barrier to adopting Scrum according to 35% of survey participants was “trying to fit agile elements into a non-agile framework.”

What to do?


While transformation is not easy, it is possible. Whether you need help with change management, team building, training or overall strategy, a tailored approach to Agile Adoption can simplify the process. Here are a few ways to make the move to Agile go as smoothly as possible: