How to decrease team resistance against new practices with Hypothesis story for Scrum master and agile coaches

Last updated on: Published by: Asad Safari 1

Several years ago when I was a junior scrum master, I used to push my practices to my team, and always it created resistance against me and practices. I want to tell you the truth, It decreased my courage to test new practices in my team.

Our organizations and teams are CAS(Complex Adaptive Systems), CAS is unpredictable, emergent, and it always makes you surprise. If you don’t experiment with new practices based on your context, you will fail. You should act based on context, you can’t predict everything, and you need to experiment. This kind of system needs a fail-safe-environment, but the resistance of people can create fear in scrum masters or agile coaches to lose their courage to test new practices, especially novel practices.

After several years, I got a great idea from the concept of user-story, to help, my teams create a fail-safe-environment.

Start with Why?

Let people know why we need to implement this practice? Let’s consider some examples:

As a uber user, I want to be able to share my live location with my family,
So that I can feel more secure

or my favorite user story template :

In order to feel more secure during a ride, 

I want to be able to share my live location with my family

In this example, you can notice that “Share my live location ” is a feature, but the user’s need is “to feel more secure during a ride “. So as an agile team, we are going to create a sense of calm for our users. There are other alternatives to satisfy this need too:

For example “Ride Check” feature, With this feature, Uber is constantly monitoring every ride; from when it starts to when it stops, the app is paying attention to what route the driver is taking, the ride’s speed, and how long these rides are stopped for. It’s designed to pick up on abnormalities, like if a ride’s stopped for too long.

From user story to Hypothesis story as a tool to run improvement experiments

The idea is so simple, Again start whit why like user stories? Let finish pushing fantasy and buzzwords to the team. Let the team know the need and engage them in it.

A sample Hypothesis story:

It will help the team to understand why we are going to try a new experiment and what is the success criteria and If that doesn’t help to reach our goal, we can throw it away and try something else.

Don’t fall in love with practices. If that doesn’t helped us to reach our goal, we can throw it away and try something else.

The objective is a kind of north-star or desired state for us. On the Hypothesis criteria side, there are two things: Current condition, and Next Target. The current condition is our current state against our objective, This should be fact and not just judgment. for example, today we have 40 bugs per week, and this is a fact.

The Next Target is a kind of milestone that shows a small win. We need small wins to create a continuous improvement culture. Maybe zero bug state is a far target, but 4 bugs per week, looks like a reasonable target based on our current condition.

Gruanility of Hypothesis Stories:

Just like a user story you can breakdown these Hypothesis stories into small but valuable stories too, it will help you to run small experiments in a short period of time.

Let the team engage in the emergence of practices

It’s important to let the team engage in process of emerging practices. Retrospectives are a great chance to facilitate this engagement. You can raise an issue for the team, for example, show bug reports as fact and creates scenes of urgency, so set it as north start and facilitate them to find the shortest path to our north start.

Hey guys, What practices can help us to reach our target faster?

There are different facilitation techniques. For example, I used Miro as a board, and let my team write their idea, and after that with dot voting, we selected our shortest path to our next target.

Based on my experience, If you start with why, and let them engage in the emergence and selecting practices, it will decrease the resistance level and at the same, it will create a safe-fail-environment for the team to test their selected practices.

Don’t hesitate to share your experiences with me here


Asad Safari