Picture of Stephan van Rooden

Stephan van Rooden

How to prepare your management team for Scrum?


How to run a workshop with your management team and get them on board with your Scrum implementation? Which topics need to be covered and which should be skipped? Why shouldn’t such a workshop be about Scrum?

Over the last couple of weeks, I have run several workshop for management teams planning on adopting the Scrum Framework. In this post, you find a format that might help you kick-start the implementation.

Why Agile?

Before diving into the process of setting indicators for success or creating a transformation backlog. The first question to be asked is: Why Agile?

Sometimes you just know that this management team doesn’t want to become more Agile, they have been told by senior management or suffer from the ‘ everybody is doing it, so we should do it to’  syndrome.


Why Agile? This should make the drivers for change clear . This process can take up quite some time. Usually a team states they know why they do it. When trying to see the key drivers, that is where the real discussion starts. So, be aware that you do not assume to go through this step in a few minutes.

Once you get a clear reason for change, you are already halfway! Now it is time to explain what Agility actually means.

We work in a complex environment

First model to share is the model by Ralph Stacey. This is a often used model to clarify the complex environment in which software development takes place. This is a crucial element that each manager should acknowledge that the environment not only they, but their organization is operating in. After this, we explain the ‘rules of the game’ by introducing the values and principles of Agile.

Now we have 1) a reason to change and 2) an approach to deal with change. Next question to ask, ‘What’ do we need to change? This is an easier question, but be aware, we are not looking for solution here! Just the aspects of running the company, business unit or department that interfere, slow down prevent us in achieving our goal.

And remember: Agile is not the goal!

Last question to ask: ‘How are we going to do that?’. This shouldn’t be a problem. I have never seen a management team short of an answer to a question starting with ‘how’. So there you have it, we are ready to go! Or aren’t we?

Our role as a management team

Most of the time the elements that need to change will deal with culture, governance and to move from demand driven software delivery to supply driven software delivery. In 9 out of 10 cases a management team will not state they will need a change in their own role.

This is where we introduce a great exercise on self-organisation like 60-steps or triangle forming.  Confronting management the complexity of the environment they manage and what their (most of the time) directive approach does to a system.

To emphasize this we tell the story from the book (in Dutch and being translated) by Rini van Solingen called ‘De bijenherder’ (literally: the bee shepperd) about how to manage self organizing teams.


from: Henny Portman

The point of the book and this section of the workshop is to explain that as management team, you need to create an environment and context in which people can excel! Nice exercise is to ask the managers themselves why their role isn’t relevant anymore and why it is relevant. This is a great step towards the grand finale of the workshop.

Change the smell

We now know we need to manage the environment. The question arises, how do we do that? The great video by Prof. Sumantra Ghoshal about the smell of the place creates a great angle on influencing the environment.

After watching the video, we ask the group to split up in teams of 3 and find one or two smells in the organization and asked them to answer 3 questions:

  1. What is the smell
  2. How do I, as a manager, respond to this smell
  3. How do I, as a manager, want to respond to create a good smell

Closing Statement

This is the point where the management team is inspired and ready to go, but not until we connected all the dots and warn them from making a huge mistake.

These are the 4 takeaways for this session:

  1. Agile is not the goal
  2. We work in a complex environment
  3. As a manager we are the caretakers of the environment and we need to create a nice smell starting with our own behaviour.
  4. The influence a complex environment there is only one way to do this, the empirical way.

Stay away from writing big plans, procedures and don’t try to get a complete overview of all the smells. Just inspect (smell) and adapt.

Interested in running this workshop for your management team? Contact me


For workshop I used the following elements of inspiration:

More to explore

De nieuwe Scrum Guide!

Ik zou helemaal niet verbaasd moeten zijn dat een framework dat permanente verbetering nastreeft eens in de zoveel tijd zelf met een

Do you believe in magic?

And after 15 minutes, to my surprise, all items were estimated and I had 6 items in my hand that needed further discussion. The entire meeting lasted 30 minutes and my team member could return to his project.