How we onboarded 4 newly formed distributed teams to Scrum

How we onboarded 4 newly formed distributed teams to Scrum

May 2020 - Aug 2020



Google Workspace

How we onboarded 4 newly formed distributed teams to Scrum

Project results


Creatives practicing Scrum


Remote teams onboarded

Project Objectives

We developed an adapted version of Scrum I like to call Creative Scrum to be implemented in the creative department of a large non-profit. Now it was time to onboard multiple teams of creatives, teaching them how to practice Scrum in their creative teams. This change would help the whole department work more effectively but would require changes to what team people were as well as how they were assigned work.

We knew it would be a big change, and it was at the beginning of a global pandemic, so we wanted to be as intentional and empathetic as possible.

The key objectives included

  • Establishing four new creative teams
  • Onboarding about 40 creatives to the concepts and practices of Creative Scrum
  • Both creative teams and leadership feel like we have made a positive change

Project Execution

Strategic and Business Management

We needed our onboarding process to disrupt work in progress as little as possible. This requirement and everyone having reduced emotional and work capacity from the pandemic meant we needed a lightweight onboarding process. We needed to move all the teams and all the work over simultaneously. We didn’t want to run two systems concurrently.

Technical Project Management

The process required significant facilitation, coaching and scheduling.  Everyone was working from home, so all communication was done in a distributed way.

I also did a lot of stakeholder management to ensure our stakeholders were aware of some of our changes and how it might affect them and their projects.


I wanted people to own the new system and processes, which meant I needed to lead in a way that invited them to co-create. Instead of rolling out a fully developed process, we went with a minimum viable process. We looked at onboarding as a journey rather than an event and asked, “What questions do our teams need to be answered right now?” We then staged our onboarding content accordingly.

Being new to many of these teams, I knew for both relational and logistical reasons, I didn’t need to be the person delivering all the content and answering all the questions. We looked through each stage and identified who would be best to communicate. We also looked at what context would be best. Some communication occurred on all-department calls, some with their old teams and some on their new teams.


Don’t try to do it all at once

Something I love about Scrum and Agile is that it doesn’t expect you to be perfect or complete on the first try. We knew people would need to hear things more than once, and we would need to adapt our process as we got started. Scrum isn’t thrown off by this but instead expects it and makes space during the retro for evaluation and adaptation. Expectations make such a huge difference in how people experience change. We were very communicative about this being something we would adjust together and even referring to some aspects as a test for the summer.

Cultivate space for discovery.

Experience is an excellent teacher, but it takes time. As a production team, it was easy to get frustrated at the beginning when people didn’t understand or buy into the process. But a commitment to transparency, inspection and adaptation paid off as team members would discover something we had explained multiple times over the past few weeks. Eventually, when it seemed clear a team was struggling with an aspect of Scrum, we would discuss, “How can we create a situation where they can discover the answer on their own?”

Project Outcomes

Here's how we staged our minimal viable onboarding:

Changes Coming.

Context: All department call

Key Communicator: Creative director


  • Forecast that changes are coming
  • Give a 50,000 foot overview of the process
    Explain the changes in teaming.

What will these changes look like?

Context: The current geographically based studios

Key Communicator: Production Team


  • Review reasons for changes
  • Review teams & workflow
  • Overview the Scrum meetings in the context of the workflow
  • Q&A
  • Explain how creatives will be able to preference which creative team they join and how that will be taken into account in building those teams.

How do we get started?

Context: New creative teams

Key Communicator: New Scrum Masters


  • Chronologically walk through workflow and meetings
  • Explain user stories, sizing and definition of done
  • Set up tools (Asana, Slack)
  • Practice by conducting the first selection and planning meeting

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