Guerilla Scrum: How to force organisational change



Many organizations do not dare to change themselves although everyone knows that things do not work well. Usually real working employees have a good feeling that things are going wrong. Unfortunately they do not have the power to trigger change but expect middle management to do so. Usually top management expects everyone to do the best job and will ask questions to middle management if things go wrong. Therefor middle management is sandwiched with expectations – this is a hard job to handle and needs explicit skills.


People tend to keep an organisational status quo for several reasons:

  • Why change anything? Never change a running system.
  • A change would have impact on many parts of the organisation, we just can’t do this.
  • We do not have time for changes.
  • We do not have budget for changes.
  • We can’t change anything due to laws and external regulations.
  • We already tried to change things but it didn’t work.
  • My boss forbids change.
  • I do not change anything so that I am not responsible for any fault.

Analysing any single reason not to change an organisation leads to the basic cause: fear-driven management avoids organisational change.





Four phases as follows are needed to overcome fear-driven management and force organisational change.


1. Guerilla Scrum


Guerilla Scrum is about just starting to change things in your own local scope of influence. Simply start your next project by applying scrum. Even if you have to deal with scrumbuts like missing product owners or an unprepared team you should start scrumming. Try to live scrum with all the few details it prescribes. Just do it and the results will prove your right decision.


If you can’t setup a scrum team or if you are bound to a running project, then try to apply as many of the following:

  • Inspect and Adapt: setup timeboxes of several weeks in your project and bring together all team members on a regular basis to do retrospectives of these timeboxes. Do this to find obstacles and impediments and remove them as soon as possible.
  • Direct Contact: bring people together. Make people communicate with each other. In many projects people talk to the project manager only instead of talking with the co-worker in the neighbour room. Force them to work in direct contact.
  • Show Progress: use the mentioned timeboxes and give a project presentation at the end of such a box. Make the team responsible to demonstrate what they have achieved. Try to invite your product manager or whoever is the major project stakeholder from the business point of view. Convincing this business guy is important for the next point.
  • On-site Customer: bring in the convinced product manager to talk to the team. Use this direct contact to clear requirements and get a better understanding of each other.

You will see huge overall improvements after repeating these things two or three times.



2. Push into Organisation


Visit the barber, jump into your best suit and get ready for marketing: make your improvements visible to other parts of the organisation.


Do not promise the silver bullet! Do not promise infinite ROI and do not promise vast improvements by presenting the theory of a new method!


Simply present the real, measurable improvements of your guerilla scrum. Just mention a few words about “agility” and “scrum”, just give an indication of doing things differently than before.


You should explain some details of your scrum to the next neighboured managers: show them the daily micromanagement, the tracking of all things, the planning, everything – and let them be both surprised and confused. They will need time to think about what they saw.



3. Expect Growing Interest


The word will spread through your organisation: the product manager will talk to her colleages, your manager will mention improvements of his department with a new method. Other people will take notice of you and your team.


Members and managers of other departments probably will contact you to learn more. Use this chance to give a presentation on agile methods. Set a date for a workshop on timeboxing, agile estimating, or any other interesting agile topic.


Don’t forget: always include step 2. and continuosly present your real improvements!


Persuade as many stakeholders as possible.




4. Use Multiplicators


Time will come when someone will have entered the agile train. Maybe another project manager read a book, joined a conference, or actively went into agile in any other way. There will be people getting the big picture and have their eyes opened.


Use these people, they are your allies! Let them spread the word for you. Support them and get supported in return.


Ideally some of these people are from top management – these are your wanted multiplicators! Try to sandwich your middle management organisation with agilists: persuated managers and successful, improving project teams.


When enough people are on your side, being agile becomes common sense and will not be questioned any longer.





Every organization is able to achieve major improvements. Overcome fear-driven management by proving results of guerilla scrum. Do marketing and present your real improvements and results. Persuade as many people as you can, so that being agile becomes common sense.


The most import agile principle of “Inspect and Adapt” will help your organisation to embrace change – so finally you reached your goal.


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