Scrumptious

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Scrum is the most popular framework used within an agile environment to convert complex problems into valuable products and services. In this blog, we will examine all things Scrum to shed light on this wonderful organizational tool that is sweeping the globe. There will be engaging articles, interviews with experts and Q&A's. Are you ready to take the red pill? Then please join me on a fascinating journey down the rabbit hole, and into the world of Scrum.

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The Scrum Cold War

A cold war is all about bluff, threats, posturing, propaganda and one-upmanship. The purpose is to leverage one's influence, especially in the mind of public opinion, but always stopping short of engaged warfare. However, even if we don't use the heavy bombs, and instead use slings and arrows, the damage to the project can still end in a death by a 1000 cuts.



Quite often in organizations, we have several of these cold wars between colleagues, managers and subordinates, and between departments. In Scrum projects, if the team is not in harmony, then a cold war can brew to the surface between the two most notable protagonists within the Scrum Team; the Product Owner and the Scrum Master.

Product Owners have a tough job. They are usually the face of the Scrum project and exposed to stakeholders more than anyone else on the Scrum Team. Therefore, in addition to their role of maximizing the product value by managing the Product Backlog, they also have to play a political game with stakeholders who have their own agendas. Sometimes this dynamic can produce pressure for the Product Owner to perform at a higher than optimal rate, and that pressure invariably trickles down the Development Team, often in the form of pushing extra work onto the team, or in some way compromising Scrum values and principles.

This is a common way for conflict between the Product Owner and Scrum Master to occur. The Scrum Master's role is to protect the team from obstacles and also the integrity of the Scrum framework. Obstacles could be a technology the team needs but doesn't have yet, other departments fulfilling their requirements before the team can proceed, training requirements, protection from stakeholders who distract the team unnecessarily, and also the Product Owner who tries and buck the system by slipping in some extra work or some other form of anti-Scrum pattern, since after all, they (like customers) value results over following Scrum protocols.

The Scrum Master is also not immune from starting the initial fire to a cold war. Conversely to a Product Owner, sometimes the Scrum Master is so obsessed with the Scrum framework, that they often lose sight of the purpose of the project, which is to continually produce value, in the minds of the customer and the Product Owner, after each Sprint. The Scrum Master is also supposed to assist the Product Owner with the Product Backlog and convey the project vision and goals to the Development team. Ultimately, although the Scrum Master's role is more inward looking, it is also responsible for ensuring that the organization effectively adopts Scrum in the most beneficial manner. This can only occur if the Scrum Master works hand-in-hand with the Product Owner, since as I stated earlier, the latter has such an influence within the organization, especially with the stakeholders and customer of the project.

A practice that I always try and promote is for the Product Owner and Scrum Master to sit down at the start of the project and delineate the boundaries of their roles and responsibilities. Further, and very importantly, they should achieve agreement on the right balance between ensuring the value of the project is maximized, and adhering to the values and principles of the Scrum framework.

Conflict in business is often necessary, but war is never so. Neither is the threat of war, nor a death by 1000 cuts that a cold war invariably brings. Healthy conflict between people and philosophies can strengthen the team, project and organization, provided it is handled in a mature and non-destructive manner.

"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few." - Winston Churchill.
 


Thank you for your interest in the Scrumptious blog. If you have any ideas for Scrum topics, please message me here. Until next time, remember, projects can be Scrumptious!
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Posted on: June 05, 2018 11:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (19)

Interview with Dave West, CEO of Scrum.org

Back in February, my interview with Ken Schwaber, the co-creator of Scrum, revealed some very interesting things about the world of Scrum. This month, we are honored to have the CEO of Scrum.org, Dave West, talk to us about where Scrum is heading, how it applies to non-software domains, and how to overcome management resistance to the use of Scrum in the organization.

1. Why do you believe Scrum is the most popular framework for delivering Agile projects?

I think there are a few reasons. 1. Simplicity - Scrum is very easy to understand. 2. Community - there are so many people who know Scrum, have seen it used and can put context to its use in their situation. 3. It’s not a methodology - For complex situations it would be impossible for anyone to prescribe a complex set of practices that apply to every context. Scrum provides just enough structure to raise transparency and empower the team to build the right process for their situation. 

2. One of the biggest problems with the implementation of Scrum is apathetic middle-management, even when Scrum has been sanctioned at the Executive level. Can you suggest ways for organizations to overcome this issue?

I have a lot of empathy for middle managers and the place they find themselves in. They are stuck between a rock and a hard place. The rock are their executives who want more ‘stuff’ cheaper and of a higher quality. They believe that agile will do that without necessarily changing any of the things that are the problem. The hard place are the teams who want to be more agile, but don’t want to be more disciplined or transparent. And the middle managers are expected to support this change without any support. So, of course they focus on the practices that they have always used in times of stress. More control, less transparency and lots of individual accountability. We need to break this cycle and that requires managers to:

  1. Be educated in understanding what the change means to them, their boss and to the teams they manage. They have a key role in creating an environment that enables Scrum to spread. Some agile change leaders say the only way for agile to succeed is to ‘fire’ all the middle managers. Instead I think they need to become a key driver for the change. And education is the start for that change, but in the context of their value.
     
  2. Look at changing the way the teams align to the work. For many agile situations that means aligning the teams to customers and products. By shaping the teams in response, not to specialist skills, but outcomes you can increase focus and improve understanding.
     
  3. Empower ‘Product Owners’ who can make decisions. For many organizations there are many decision makers which slows down delivery and builds ‘compromised’ solutions.
     
  4. Support ‘Scrum Masters’ to ensure transparency and help remove impediments. Scrum Masters support teams and teams of teams, the agile manager needs to provide the glue to support those Scrum Masters as they enable change at the team, team of team or organizational level.
     
  5. Use an agile approach to support the change to agile. It would be silly to think that agile can adopted in a waterfall manner, but for many organizations Because adopting agile is complex they should apply use an agile approach to increase transparency and drive the change.
     
  6. Adopt measures that are based on direct rather than circumstantial evidence. For example, instead of looking at velocity, focus on total time for resolve an issue or the innovation rate. By putting a dashboard up that has real business meaning and focusing on improving those numbers with agile, everyone is pulling in the same direction.


3. We all know Scrum is very well suited to IT and software development. How about non-tech domain such as construction and education? How can Scrum be applied to these and other non-tech domains?

You are right that Scrum was created in response to the complexity of software projects. But it can and is being applied to numerous situations that are outside of the software domain. For example they are applying Scrum in Ghana to help reshape how their Police Force deliver value to their citizens. In Holland Scrum is being used in education. It is also used in numerous engineering contexts building cars, jet fighters or even robotic vacuum cleaners. There are two elements that all of these situations have in common. Firstly, there is a team. Sometimes that team is not very functional, or even thinks it is a team. Scrum brings people together and helps team form. The second element is the complexity of the situation. Complex situations require an empirical approach which Scrum provides. Scrum provides a simple framework for progress through transparency ensuring that the team has a clear goal and a mechanism to review that goal on a regular basis.

4. Many of the benefits of Scrum are associated with reduced time to market which increases profits. How do you view the benefits of Scrum in the not-for-profit sector that isn't financially driven?

Value - Profit is one form of value, but it is not the only form of value. Scrum is a value based approach where the Product Backlog is ordered in terms of value. Of course the Product Owner is empowered to make the call on value, but the Sprint Review is focused on reviewing the increment in the context of value. Non-profits, like any organization should have a clear definition of value. Scrum then delivers it in an increasingly effective way. One of the major benefits of using Scrum in the context of a non-profit is that it gets everyone on the same page as to what value is and how each Sprint is incrementally delivering towards that goal.

5. What are the biggest flaws in the Scrum framework?

The biggest flaw in Scrum is it biggest strength. Simplicity. It is quick to understand, but that does not mean that it is easy to use. When people find using Scrum hard they often give up. They  decide, in my opinion incorrectly that Scrum is too simple and does not work. They then look to other things that are more complex to solve their problems. Scrum is a bit like losing weight. The actual principles of losing weight are simple, food in vs energy used. But losing weight is hard because there are so many things that stop you eating correctly and exercising enough. Also losing weight, like adopting Scrum can be much harder in certain situations. How many times have you given up on a diet because it ‘does not work’ when actually the problem is nothing to do with the diet, but instead the situation you are applying it.

6. In my Q&A with Ken Schwaber, I asked him should the Scrum Master role be renamed Scrum Coach to adhere more to a servant-leader model. He thought that would be a bad idea. Can you share your thoughts on this matter?

One of the great things about Scrum is the simplicity of the role names. The Product Owner owns the product, the outcomes you are seeking. The Development Team member is part of a team responsible for developing the solution. The Scrum Master is responsible for helping the team ‘DO’ Scrum. Now, doing Scrum is hard because Scrum is being executed in the context of the environment that might be very anti-Scrum. That means that the Scrum Master has to deal with lots of challenges to help the team ‘DO’ Scrum. The expectations of the role are clear. Coaching is one ‘stance’ of the role, but so is facilitator, trainer, mentor, manager, impediment remover, etc. Barry Overveem wrote a fantastic white paper on the 8 stances of the Scrum Master which can be found here. Of course many coaches do more than coach the team, but by having a clear role that is outcome focused you encourage the Scrum Master to use any stance that is required for the team to Master Scrum.

7. What do you enjoy most about assisting organizations transition and succeed with Scrum?

There are 2 things I get out of helping organizations more to Scrum. Firstly I get to see them deliver more stuff that is of value. We live in a world of opportunity, where almost anything is possible (think flying cars, a cure for cancer or free energy). If I can help organizations realize just a little bit more potential, the world is a better place and amazing things will happen. Secondly I love to see happy, excited, motivated teams. Seeing people excited to come into work and solve hard problems is a great experience and I am VERY grateful that I get to do it every day.

8. Where do you see Scrum 5 years from now?

Unless something really odd happens (and touch wood it will not), the world is only getting more complex. That complexity will require teams of people to deliver value in more and more agile ways. Scrum I hope is at the heart of each of those teams. In five years I expect to see Scrum surrounded with more and more amazing practices and technology. These practices help Scrum Teams deliver more and more value. I hope that I am part of the community that is helping people understand and apply Scrum; A community that is building bridges to other communities to apply their ideas on top of Scrum; A community that is more professional and lives the values of Scrum every day.

To quote Ken Schwaber: "the first 20 years of Scrum was just the warm up".

                                                           ***

Based on the principles of Scrum and the Agile Manifesto, Scrum.org provides comprehensive training, assessments and certifications to Scrum professionals. Throughout the world, their solutions and community of Professional Scrum Trainers empower people and organizations to achieve agility through Scrum.
 


Thank you for your interest in the Scrumptious blog. If you have any ideas for Scrum topics, please message me here. Until next time, remember, projects can be Scrumptious!
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Posted on: April 23, 2018 07:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)

The Scrum Celebrities

Many of us know the hit song "Fame" where memorable lines such as "I'm gonna live forever", "Baby, remember my name" and "You ain't seen the best of me yet" reached millions of listeners. It's a song about a strong inner desire to not only achieve at the pinnacle of our skills, but to also get the fame and recognition from our peers and superiors. One might be forgiven for thinking the driving force behind these lyrics only reside in this dance classic written almost forty years ago. But you would be wrong.

The need for fame doesn't just exist in music or Hollywood, it engulfs the hallways of political power, the Boards of the Fortune 500, and even small Scrum teams inside many organizations.

Scrum Teams generally consist of a handful of developers, and then a Product Owner and Scrum Master to complete the team. The core value of the product increment is produced by the Development Team. They are the ones who commit to the Definition of Done (DoD), work collaboratively to design, code and test features, and finally demonstrate the finished feature/product to stakeholders. They are the nucleus of the Scrum Team.

But quite often it is not the developers who get the recognition of senior management. In most cases it is the Product Owner and sometimes the Scrum Master who get to sing the Fame song.

The Scrum Master Celebrity
  
Scrum Masters who seek the limelight go against everything that is Scrum and anything that resembles a servant-leader. I met one Scrum Master who always praised the Development Team during the Daily Scrums and Retrospectives, but in meetings with the organization and other stakeholders, often mentioned themselves and the Product Owner as the real "champions" of the project. At the very least, when stakeholders praised them during these closed-door meetings, I never saw the Scrum Master object.

Scrum Masters, more than Product Owners in my view, should do everything they can to avoid the limelight. Their focus should be on guiding the Development Team and the organization to adopt the very best Scrum practices, and to ensure the developers are working efficiently and productively by removing roadblocks. They should be humble, selfless and the last to seek praise and recognition, even if it is warranted.

The Product Owner Celebrity
 
Many people equate the Product Owner to the traditional project manager in waterfall projects. This isn't far from the truth since the Product Owner is ultimately accountable for maximizing value of the product or service. Further, they also have the closest relationship to the stakeholders than anyone else in the Scrum Team. Therefore, they are naturally exposed to the spotlight due to these dynamics.

While it is important to have a great Product Owner who can translate stakeholder value into the features and stories that populate the Product Backlog, it is also wise for them to understand that their prime responsibility of maximizing value can only ever be achieved through the product increments produced by the Development Team.
 
Most developers don't crave notoriety, but since I am yet to meet a Product Owner or Scrum Master ask the developers: "Do you want fame?", why even take the risk of shutting out those that need (and in my view should get) the most recognition for the success of the project? Of course I am not advocating asking such a question. I am simply highlighting that the answer should be inferred by their merits, not by their request or intentions.

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If the Scrum Team is going to be successful long-term, the Development Team needs to be nurtured, acknowledged and rewarded at the appropriate times. Even if they don't ask or want to be recognized, a simple gesture to shine a light on their accomplishments is not only good business, but could mean the difference between Fame and Famine.
 


Thank you for your interest in the Scrumptious blog. If you have any ideas for Scrum topics, please message me here. Until next time, remember, projects can be Scrumptious!
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Posted on: March 20, 2018 08:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (17)

3 Roadblocks to Scrum

Transformations of any kind within the organization are challenging at best, and disastrous at worst. Sometimes there are dynamics we can't avoid, like the time it takes for that transformation to take hold, or the strategic priorities of the organization not including a 100% full steam ahead of the Scrum implementation (ie. a never ending series of pilot projects).

There are, however, a few major roadblocks that we do have some control over. The first two deal mainly with process, and the third with mindset. We all know that Scrum has rules, events, roles and artifacts. But it also needs to have people with the right mindset, and who follow a proven process.

So, with all that being said, here are 3 roadblocks to Scrum faced by organizations all over the world:

1. Partial or Late Testing
There are some who don't mind leaving testing until after the Sprint, or partially completed by the end of the Sprint. While there are some exceptional circumstances when this may be required, here is Scrum Co-founder Jeff Sutherland's view on this:

"Do not end your Sprint without your software Done and bug free."

According to Dr. Sutherland, bugs that remain at the end of the Sprint can reduce speed of development by 50%, and in some rare cases up to 1,000%. In order to mitigate this, we need to "change engineering practices, implement continuous integration, and incorporate automatic testing into the builds". 

2. Backlog Mismanagement
Garbage In, Garbage Out! The products and services we produce are only as good as the refined Product Backlog items that find their way into the Sprint Backlog. I have spoken about this in a previous blog, but a poor Product Manager can render the backlog ineffective.

Dr. Sutherland asserts that 65% of features developed are "never or rarely used by customers" which means we are doing a "terrible job" in turning customer's needs into usable and relevant features. This wastes time, money and effort. His recommendation for this problem is to get a great Product Owner, produce a quality refined Product Backlog, and get continuous customer feedback in "30 days or less" to ensure every feature in the Backlog are only the features the customers want.

3. Management Involvement
Even when Scrum has been sanctioned at the Executive level, and is running full swing at the project level, if managers do not embrace Scrum and empower the team to work at the best of their ability, Scrum is going to be running with one engine in a two-engine plane. One major catastrophe, and the whole project could come crashing down.

Dr. Sutherland has some good advice in this area:

"Train your management team on how to run a modern corporation. It needs to be Agile and it needs to be Lean. Managers need to make a big shift in the way they think and how they work with teams."

A lot of this can be facilitated through a Scrum Master or coach to guide the organization and its management in the benefits and implementation of Scrum, but more importantly, the mindset, values and principles of Scrum.

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Remember, a pitfall is a "hidden or unsuspected danger". It can also be defined as a trap; a trap for those who wish to sabotage the implementation of Scrum. We need to navigate the transformation minefield and avoid those pitfalls in order to reach our destination: a product or service that is fast-to-market, bug free, and what the customer really needs.


References
Sutherland, J. (2012) How to Avoid the Most Common Scrum Pitfalls. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KEu-YEv1LVo


Thank you for your interest in the Scrumptious blog. If you have any ideas for Scrum topics, please message me here. Until next time, remember, projects can be Scrumptious!
Sante Vergini Signature
 

 

Posted on: March 01, 2018 12:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (18)

Q&A with Ken Schwaber

With Scrum being by far the most influential and pervasive framework for delivering Agile projects, I thought it might be interesting to find out why Scrum has been so successful, any challenges it may face when scaling, and how it might evolve in the future.

To investigate these topics further, who better to ask than the co-founder of Scrum itself. Ken Schwaber, who also founded and chairs Scrum.org, graciously accepted my request to answer the following questions.

1. When you first created the Scrum framework, did you believe it could become as widespread as it has?

No, I didn’t. I knew it worked for me at the organizations and on the projects where I used it. I knew waterfall was draining the life out of software development and angering our customers, so I thought I would share it with others. But, as life is very complex, who can ever predict outcomes (empiricism of Scrum).

2. Why do you believe Scrum is the most popular framework for delivering Agile projects?

It is very simple. Every person adds their interpretations, so they can use it in their context and it becomes pretty universally applicable. It is just really, really hard to use; Scrum makes transparent facts that are contrary to human nature’s desire for good things to happen. Scrum sometimes makes really unpleasant things visible. The choice is to figure out what to do to solve the problems, or to “modify” Scrum so the unpleasantness is again hidden.

3. What do you see as the major challenges to scaling Scrum at the enterprise level?

Enterprise cultures are very different from Scrum’s culture. The Scrum Master has to make Scrum work as well as possible, regardless. For instance, a customer demands that something be done by a certain time. Scrum may disclose that is impossible and trade-offs have to be made. The power structure in a hierarchical organization (only tell me good news) often finds that unacceptable. So the customer is caught between desires and possibility.

4. Should the name Scrum Master be changed to Scrum Coach to adhere more to a servant-leader relationship?

I think that is a bad idea.

5. How can non-development projects benefit from Scrum?

Whenever something changes, that is development. When water acidifies, that is the water developing from one state to another. To understand the greatly needed applicability of Scrum, read Tomas Friedman’s book, “Thank You For Being Late.”  Our world is getting more complex, not less. Scrum is needed more, not less. Scrum is a way of dealing with the significant cultural upheaval that we are going through.

6. Where do you see Scrum 5 years from now?

To deal with greater complexity, we may develop infrastructures that describe how to manage risks and better tolerate R&D. Scrum will be right in the middle as meaningful possibilities emerge.

                                                               * * *

I wish to thank Ken Schwaber for his great insights, and Lindsay Velecina at Scrum.org for her assistance during the Q&A process. The world is a little wiser about Scrum as a result.
 


Thank you for your interest in the Scrumptious blog. If you have any ideas for Scrum topics, please message me here. Until next time, remember, projects can be Scrumptious!
Sante Vergini Signature

 

Posted on: February 26, 2018 04:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (27)
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