It can be easy to mistake a saboteur for a skeptic—after all, some amount of uncertainty about any change can be a good thing. I made the mistake of confusing a saboteur with a skeptic while teaching a class at a search engine company. Elena, a participant in the class, was asking a lot of good, challenging questions. I didn't know her role in the organization, but because many class participants were deferential to her, I figured she was important in one sense or another, and so I spent a lot of time answering her questions. If I was right and she was an opinion leader, and if I could convert her by overcoming her objections one by one, I knew that would be a big step forward for this company.

At the end of the day, I met with the director who had invited me to teach that class in her company. We talked about how the class went and I told her how I hoped I'd made progress helping Elena to see the light.The director said,"I should have warned you about her. She hates Scrum. She runs a shared user experience design group and is completely opposed to everything about Scrum. She's been fighting it since we started six months ago. I was surprised to see that she'd signed up for your class."

Elena was a saboteur—opposed to Scrum and actively resisting it. Like most saboteurs, she had been soliciting others to her cause. Despite mounting evidence within her company that Scrum was helping create better products more quickly, she continued to argue that it would not. I asked Elena directly why she was so strongly opposed. She said, "I have the best stateroom on the Titanic and I'm not moving!"

In addition to some of the tools offered for overcoming the resistance of skeptics, the following tools have proven useful with saboteurs:

• Success. As long as there is any doubt about whether Scrum is the appropriate approach, saboteurs will use those doubts to spread resistance. "Yes, it worked on our web projects," they may grudgingly offer, "but, it won't work on our back-end projects." Success on many different types of projects is a surefire way of weakening those arguments.

• Reiterate and reinforce the commitment. Saboteurs need to know that the company is committed to the transition. Any sign of weakness and—like a lion eyeing a tasty-looking antelope—the saboteur will attack. Faced with a large number of saboteurs, a strong message from as high up the executive chain as possible will at least let them know resistance is futile.

• Move them. If possible, find another team, project, or division and move the saboteur there. Unless you are a small organization or are doing an all-in transition, it is quite likely that a saboteur can continue to be a productive team member elsewhere—until Scrum starts to permeate that team, project, or division, that is.

• Fire them. This is the extreme end of moving someone. But if someone is opposed to a stated corporate direction and is actively resisting it, then this is quite possibly the appropriate action.

• Be sure the right people are talking. A thriving set of communities focused around topics of special interest can be invaluable in producing enough momentum to overcome resistance. Hearing how others within a community of practice are succeeding with Scrum can lessen a saboteur's resolve to continue resisting.

Elena was fortunate to work in a large organization in which she could be moved to a different department that was still taking a wait-and-see attitude toward Scrum. She eventually came around to the point where she is again a productive team member, though even today she will admit she is secretly waiting for a change back to the old way of working.

Source of Information : Pearson - Succeeding with Agile Software Development Using Scrum 2010


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