His descriptions of organisations that were ad-hoc (reactive, unplanned) or analytic (bureaucratic, rigid) were very familiar to me and provided a good backdrop to thinking about what are known as organisational impediments in Scrum.
Organisational impediments block or slow progress – just like other impediments – but are very difficult to resolve because they are baked into the wider organisation’s structure and processes. There are good lists on the Scrum Alliance website and elsewhere but ones that chime with me include:
- Focusing on utilisation and ignoring productivity (an uncharitable but evocative term for this is busy fools)
- Unsuitable office accommodation discouraging collaboration and/or causing distraction
- Lack of organisational drive and (perhaps as a result) individual enthusiasm for getting great at developing software
Understanding what kind of organisation you are dealing with in terms of the Marshall Model categories (ad-hoc, analytic, synergistic, chaordic – or in transition from one to the other) is certainly not a silver bullet but it does help flesh out the business context. For example, an analytic organisation may have invested heavily in separate functions for business analysis, development, and testing and find the idea of cross-functional teams mystifying. Their whole mindset is reductionist – they believe that breaking things down into parts is the right way to make sense of them – so mixing it all up again can sound like heresy. Even suggesting that they try a different approach can run counter to the analytical idea that it is possible to solve an issue completely upfront by researching the problem, breaking it down, and designing the “perfect” solution.
There’s no easy way to break these organisational impediments down. I think the best approach is to go a little native – get inside the organisation, understand where it is coming from, and try to win hearts and minds. For example, in an analytical organisation, explain that the Agile approach is empirical rather than chaotic, its effectiveness is backed up by research and – above all – demonstrate that it works, even if at first that needs to be on a very small project. It is hard to argue with good results, and if you can carefully direct an organisation down the Agile path, remembering to inspect and adapt continuously, the payback in productivity, quality and morale should be plain to see.