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How Agile helped Unilever deliver hand sanitizers faster during Covid-19

scrum case study Unilever

This is the story of how Unilever was able to deliver hand sanitizers to the market faster than expected using agile. With the goal of delivering value to the customer quickly, agility involves quick iteration, continuous communication.  Moreover, it involves problem-solving, taking accountability, and adjusting to new circumstances. This method challenges established rules and norms and allows for course correction, even after making mistakes. The Agile approach has proven to be extremely valuable in the software industry, causing its rapid adoption into various functions and companies.

It is rare for a company to move so quickly and work in such a different way when it comes to meeting the needs of its customers. In early 2020 Unilever never had plans to make sanitizer for North American market. Prior to COVID-19, Suave was their only brand for the U.S. market.

It is amazing to see how they transformed their organization and adapted agile methodology in midst of crisis. They moved from concept to market in just six weeks. In less than a day, their inventory had been sold out. How did they do it and what challenges did they face?

For adoption Agile ways of working, they followed 5 steps.

1. Project Prioritization:

A clear ordered Product Backlog creates transparency to stakeholder and helps the developer know exactly what they need to work on. Being ruthless of managing your product backlogs to keep the absolute needed items. It’s like spring cleaning your garage every day. Organize, clean and actively throw things that you don’t need.


2. Requirements and Information:

They actively ensured that each team members read all requirements and documentation. Additionally, each team was also asked to prepare a detailed brief for each project. Besides assigning responsibilities and deadlines, it clarified who was in charge of what tasks and when.

3. Focus on Delivering Value:

Unilever focused on delivering value.  They started to build the product as soon as possible and delivering increments at the end of each sprint. They employed a fast-fail approach, adjusting their plan in each sprint based on what they learned. The daily scrum served as a collaborative event where each team member shared updates on their progress, assigned tasks, and identified any obstacles. Sprints were not just about collecting requirements, but about actually delivering value.

4. Involving Key Stakeholders Early On:

Unilever actively involved key stakeholders in the process by identifying and engaging them early on. They achieved this by sharing demos and actively seeking their feedback.

5. Conducting Retrospectives:

Unilever demonstrated the positive impact of agile teams by conducting surveys that showed an 8% increase in positivity and improved efficiency in their work. Although few changes were made to the company culture during COVID-19, communication was still maintained. As a result of retrospectives, the teams were able to improve and adapt significantly. Throughout the pandemic, Unilever used chat, video, Kanban boards, and online retrospectives to communicate and collaborate.



Michael Clementi, an Executive Vice President of HR at Unilever says, “Consumer behaviors change, particularly now, as we have all got used to experimenting with everything from new product variants to new channels of purchasing. So, if you’re working on longer cycle times, you’re going to miss trends and growth opportunities. We have to capture insight fast and deliver value quickly.”

What you need to start a sprint? According to Ripley and Tod, all you need is product owner and developers and few high-level product backlog items. “Learning is part of the game of Scrum. Sometimes the team has to fail in order to learn to deliver high quality software. Failures give team members an opportunity to learn why they didn’t get to done during the current sprint, and they can make changes that will them improve during next sprint.”

Retrospective is not an optional event. It is the most important opportunity for teams to share information. If done right teams can share important and valuable information that no amount of planning and studying could give.


source: How Agile Is Helping Unilever Go Forward Faster (

Additional resources:

Scrum Case Studies

Fixing your Scrum Practical Solutions to Common Problems, Ryan Ripley and Todd Miller

Scrum, Product Management, and DevOps: Simplifying the jargon

The internet and social media are full of Agile, Scrum, Product Management, and DevOps jargon, including incorrect and misunderstood concepts. This could be problematic for a learner seeking knowledge. Without a course with Scrum Alliance,, or DevOps Institute, this knowledge is difficult to achieve.

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