Achieving a Successful Scrum Implementation – Making the Red Pill-Blue Pill Decision (Published at ScrumAlliance)

Sharing my recent article publish by Scrum Alliance today, Tuesday 25th of August 2015.

Again its a very interesting article regarding one of my past experience that I called “Achieving a Successful Scrum “Implementation – Making the Red Pill-Blue Pill Decision“.

It’s amazing how often movies are my source of inspiration for talking about real themes related to Agile.

Some time ago, a friend and I were discussing previous Scrum implementations. What could make them successful? This conversation was really productive, because we shared our opinions and past experiences. Also, we agreed that often Scrum or Scrum implementations don’t work due to people’s lack of understanding and their concerns, motivation, and beliefs.

What I’m trying to say here is that Scrum, as everyone knows, is not the silver bullet that is going to solve software development issues. Implementing Scrum sometimes means changing mind-sets, and to do that, people need to believe in what they are doing. They must free themselves from old ways of thinking.

I remember the dialogue from the 1999 movie The Matrix, in which Morpheus offers the main character, Neo, a choice between taking the red pill or the blue pill:

“You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” [1]


To give you context, the red pill represents the human desire to discover the reality hidden in the fabricated world that they are living in (the Matrix). As soon as Neo takes the red pill, it triggers his desire to free his mind and wake up from continuous sleep as a prisoner in the Power Plants. That is, it bolsters the will to wake up and be free from the old mentality. Embrace new methods and frameworks that allow us to learn, adapt, respond to change, deliver faster with high quality, search for real customer satisfaction, and have tools that help us continually improve.

What about the blue pill? Let me explain why I believe that people’s understanding, concerns, motivation, and beliefs are key to a successful Scrum implementation by using Morpheus’s pills as an analogy.

Some time ago, I was approached to help some teams in their Agile transition and Scrum implementation. During this time, I discussed ideas and approaches with everyone on the team to elicit feedback about how we should do it and what benefits the teams could realize from this transition. Everything looked OK at first; team members were motivated and interested. So we started following the steps as agreed.

In the beginning, everything was going well. We hit some bumps in the road, but that’s normal when changing mind-sets and old ways of working. But suddenly things started to slow down and issues surfaced regarding how the work was submitted to the teams and how the teams were performing. In that moment, we felt that something was wrong, something that was causing all this distracting noise and continuous interruption. The teams became confused. So we decided to investigate a little further to understand the root cause.

My biggest surprise was when we realized that this was coming from a group of people who were concerned with their sudden lack of control. How could things work if we had no control over what was happening? What would we do if all the information became so transparent that everyone could see the issues that we had been suffering from for a long time?

The irony was that this was coming from people who said that they believed in the transition to Agile and Scrum implementation. They were so concerned about making noise that they started doing what they were used to doing before the transition. You know what I’m talking about: working under the table, micromanaging, transforming the ceremonies in status reports, etc.

You might be asking yourself how this issue could be solved. That’s a great question. The first thing that I did was ask everyone to join me in a face-to-face meeting. I started the meeting by asking the following difficult questions, without pointing any fingers:

  • How do you think the transition is going?
  • What are your concerns about the transition?
  • What can we do better to improve the transition and adoption?
  • Why do you think that making the issues transparent is a bad thing?
  • What can we do to help you gain a better understanding of what we are trying to achieve, and why?
  • Can I count on your full support and commitment?

In the end, everything went well. I’m not saying we had a 100 percent shift in attitude and mind-set. Keep in mind that changing the familiar mind-set and, as a consequence, familiar attitudes is a difficult thing to do. It takes time and patience. But these team members saw that we were there to help and support them all the way.

The final statement and question during the meeting was the hardest one for them to accept. I told them that to have a full and successful transition to Agile and Scrum, all meeting participants had to think hard and decide whether they really wanted to achieve success in the Agile transition and Scrum implementation.

In other words, I asked them which pill would they take if Morpheus had offered them the choice.

Please let me know of any similar experiences you have had. By sharing we can learn together.

[1] IMDb | The Matrix

See more at: | Achieving a Successful Scrum “Implementation – Making the Red Pill-Blue Pill Decision

One last thing, I hope that you like reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing.

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