# Friday, 11 March 2016

I once asked a friend of mine ‘What would be the one thing you would change about Scrum?’ He pondered with that question for a short time and then responded. ‘I would change the name of the Sprint Review’.

This intrigued me and followed a conversation that reminded me of a few core principles that I had pushed to one side in my mind.

Quite often I hear teams refer to these sessions as a ‘Show and tell’ or a ‘Demo’. I had never felt passionately about a name before until I had spoken to my friend. I thought back to the sessions that I had been seeing recently and wondered, were they just a demo or were we truly collecting feedback?

The Sprint Review is actually a form of retrospective.

It is about:

  • The Product Owner telling the stakeholders what it is we have achieved against the Sprint Goal
  • The Product Owner advising of any key decisions that have been made in the Sprint
  • The team facilitating what changes have been made to the product
  • The stakeholders asking questions and providing feedback. With the team and Product Owner filtering changes back through the Product Backlog
  • Confirmation of when the Stories will be shipped
  • Any discussion on the future strategy of the Product
  • The Product Owner closing down the session and advising the candidate stories for the next sprint

In preparation of the review the team would have completed the Sprint to the Definition of Done and spent no more than an hour or two preparing for the Sprint Review (depending on length of sprint). These are informal sessions and there is no expectation to create flashy power points.

Work that is NOT DONE is NOT SHOWN…..

As with all ceremonies, they should be a regular heartbeat and the customers know when to expect them. The same time and the same place every 2 weeks is the dream, but sometimes tough to achieve.

As a ScrumMaster I would expect the team to self-organise over the Sprint Review. I might add a task to the Sprint Backlog during planning as a reminder to the team that this needs to be prepared for.

I have once let my team fail here. In one company I got fed up of reminding them to prepare for the Sprint Reviews and so one day, I just didn’t. Let’s just say that didn’t happen again Smile

When running large reviews, it is critical to be prepared. Often I book the meeting room 15 minutes before the allotted time so the team can go in, set up the machines and open any tabs that they might need. I am always conscious that we have lots of people and so avoiding time spent on waiting is something we can always do with removing.

If you find that you are not getting people attending the Sprint Review , then think about your advertising. As a ScrumMaster I have put up posters, gone to visit stakeholders 121, sent mails around the office, floor walked inviting people that might have an interest or dependency.

In larger organisations where multiple teams rely on the same people, then you need to collaborate and find out what would work best for your attendees. You might need to experiment with this.

Ultimately, I do what it takes to get people to the Sprint Review.

Once the team have shown the fruits of their labour, we then need to do the most important part. The part that is always forgotten……collecting the feedback.

In an organisation recently I experimented with giving them post it notes and the format

  • What did we like about these features?
  • What didn’t we like about these Features?
  • Great ideas to improve?

They did look at me a little crazy as this was something radical to them, but it ultimately got them to think about what we had just shown and enabled the Product Owner to get valuable feedback on where to head next.

How do you collect feedback in your Sprint Reviews?

At the end of the meeting the Product Owner should then give the attendees a view of the candidate stories for the next Sprint. I impress the word ‘Candidate’ on you because they are not confirmed until you have completed Sprint Planning.

Remember, the Sprint Review should not be the first time your Product Owner has seen the work. They should be looking at this regularly during the sprint, as with bringing in stakeholders to get early sight. Nothing in a Sprint Review should be a surprise!

I am often asked ‘What do we show, if there is nothing to show?’

This is an interesting question and a great one to exercise the 5 whys on:

  • Why do you have nothing to show?
       - Because the testing was not completed
  • Why was the testing not completed?
       - Because the developers did not get the work to us until the last day (hopefully you spotted the dysfunction there!)
  • Why did the developer not complete the work until the last day?
      - Because we did not get everything we need from the PO (Dysfunction)
      - Because the story was too big (Dysfunction)
      - Because the PO changed their mind mid Sprint (Dysfunction)

You get the picture. Remember what I about the ScrumMaster remorsefully looking to establish and remove dysfunctions of the team? There are visual and verbal clues over everything you do.

Other things to watch out for is where teams are not vertically slicing and so just delivering component parts. I also had this at an organisation recently. The question I ask them is ‘If I pulled the plug on your feature right now, what value have I got for my money?’ Because if I was truly being iterative and incremental, I would have still got something I could sell…right??

If I pulled your Sprint right now, do you have something that could still be used?

On the odd occasion there is a small config or non-client facing change, then assume your attendees don’t want to see physical code. Remember they are likely to be from the business. In this instance it is perfectly acceptable to just explain in plain English the change you have made and move on.

Another beautiful technique I saw a team do was story cards. One of the developers created it and used it to explain to clients complicated technical code changes that sat deep in a system. It was his way of articulating what they had done.

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See the blog here for more details: http://tlaalt.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/describing-value-using-situation-cards.html

Other tips

  • Consider if your stakeholders are distributed having two way video so you can see what they are doing and reactions to the product.
  • Consider actually getting some interaction from your stakeholders. Invite them to play with the product in real time.
  • You do not need to tell your stakeholders how many story points you completed.
  • You don’t have to justify why stuff was not done.
  • As ScrumMasters we can help this practice to be clear, transparent and engaging to the attendees. Use the walls and visualisation to help the session.
  • If the Product Owner cannot facilitate the Sprint Review as they are out of the office. Ask for a volunteer to do this the same as any other the session.
  • NEVER CANCEL! I have only ever cancelled 3 in eight years and 1 of those was because it was Christmas.  If you are cancelling these, its probably because you are hiding something.

If you take one thing from this blog, then that should be.

‘The Sprint Review is more than a demo, it’s about gathering feedback, inspecting and adapting’

My friend suggestion for renaming was ‘Sprint Product Retrospective’

My friend, is the funniest man in Agile….Nigel Baker

Finally….

I asked Paul Goddard for a tip of the week. He said ‘Listen with your eyes closed, you hear much more!’



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Tags: Agile | Coaching | Sprint Review

Friday, 11 March 2016 08:57:09 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]


# Friday, 04 March 2016

Did you know that in original Scrum books by Ken Schwaber he talks about one of the roles of a ScrumMaster was to get enough chairs for the Daily stand up?  The first pilot company also used to take significantly longer than 15 minutes also. Oh how we have evolved Smile

If I said to you ‘The Daily Stand Up’ what words immediately pop up in your mind?

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The words or phrase that pop into my mind are:

  • Synchronization
  • Swarming to release value

It is so easy to forget what the key outcomes of a Daily Stand Up meeting is and get caught up in the mechanics of it.

In a nutshell we want:

  • Team members to talk to each other and collaborate on the work that has been committed to.
  • To understand what problems are impacting us and what any potential upcoming risks are.
  • What value we need to unlock from the board.
  • Whether we can complete everything still we set out too. If not, there are expectations to be managed.

Did you know your most valuable pieces of work are actually the items that are waiting to be tested and deployed?  This is because we are only potentially a short stop away from benefits realisation or important feedback.  As teams we need to be focusing on ‘Finishing’ things, rather than starting new work. This might even mean that developers have to test!.  So a key outcome for me as an ScrumMaster is about teams swarming on getting whole items across the board and releasing the value early. 

There are a number of different ways to run them.  If you are in the early stages of Scrum you are quite possibly using the three questions:

  • What did you do yesterday?
  • What are you doing today ?
  • What stands in your way?

Over time I expect teams will alter this for their needs rather than slavishly following rules.

I vary the technique depending what traits I see the team exhibiting.

  1. I alter the three questions to just be.
    - What is everyone working on today?
    - What impediments or risks have we?
    - Can we still meet our commitment?  Handy to have your burn down on the board to aid this conversation.

    I tend to drop the ‘What did you do yesterday?’ questions as I trust that people come to work to do their best and that they are talking as a team where dependencies arise.  They do not need to justify to me what they did.  People shouldn’t feel as if they have to account for every minute of the day.
  2. Walking the board is also a great technique and useful when you have non-technical people wanting to know when their stuff is going to be done.  This technique really helps with swarming.  This is the practice that Kanban teaches. Typically we work from right to left looking at what it is going to take to complete this work. It is an opportunity for the team to pair together to get items over the line.
  3. If I have a team with lots of blockers, then I might just get the team to talk about these key items to see what we can do as a team to keep things moving.

I might vary running these meetings in different styles on a daily basis to get different information shared. You don’t have to do the same style every day. 

In whatever technique you run a key thing I see happening time and time again is ScrumMasters being reported to or ‘Running the meeting’

We need to think about how we can stop this from happening, They are not there to report to you!

Top Tips

  • Did you know that the ScrumMaster doesn’t even need to be at the Daily Stand ups?  The team should be able to facilitate this for themselves and manage their impediments.  Pop off for a cuppa and see if you team springs into action!
  • Don’t stand in front of the board.  We should be as standard facilitating from the back of the room and so the focus is not on us.  If you have not heard of facilitating from the back of the room….find out!
  • Don’t call out the name of the person who you want to speak.  Use ‘Who’s next?’
  • Use a prop such as a ball to get the teams to throw around and speak.  This helps them to decide who they want next to speak.  No one is looking at you either, because they are focusing on the person with the ball, and then not dropping it.
  • Rotate the role of facilitator around the team, let them all have a go.  I used to play ‘Spin the pen’ and if it lands on you, then you are facilitating for the day.  If some people are nervous of this, then it’s a perfect coaching opportunity for you.  Always ensure that you give the facilitator positive and improvement feedback.

The meetings should be in a regular heartbeat and so teams know the time and the place of the meeting as standard.  The time to update the board is NOT during the meeting.  People should be doing this on a regular basis throughout the day and not just saving it up.  This will help you to keep it to the recommended 15 minutes per day.

Did you know you don’t have to run these in the morning?  Teams can actually choose whatever time is best for them.  You can even have more than one a day if you are working on critical tasks. Some teams even have them last thing in the evening so that they are set up for the day to come in and get cracking. The key is whatever ever you do the team is getting value from these sessions.

A technique that I adopt to validate this, is to ask the team members to raise their hand of they feel they are not getting value, because maybe the conversation has diverged into problem solving.  This is a sure fire way to make sure that you keep things on track.

We keep the sessions to 15 minutes to promote valuable synchronization. The chances are if they are taking longer, it’s because you are problem solving or not talking about relevant items.  One team I had used to take 20 minutes to complete their stand up.  This was fine, because the value they got was worth the time they spent together.  Try and avoid extending it out much further Smile

If you do have lots of problem solving, then maybe your need to book 15 minutes after the Daily Stand up so the team can then brainstorm what they need to, but have a clean finish to the previous meeting.

The most powerful tools we have as ScrumMasters is observation and facilitation.  Observe what you are seeing and always challenge whether we can improve the way that we work.  Use your facilitation to guide the team and to help them decide and achieve for themselves what needs to be.

We are there as ScrumMasters to grease the wheels of the teams, reduce lead times, protect the values, principles and practices and to ensure that we continuously improve ways of working.  Quality is also at the heart of everything we do.

So reflecting on your daily stand up meeting today, what could  you do differently.

 

 

I want to thank: Nigel Baker, Geoff Watts, Bazil Arden and Alex Gooding.   I asked them all what their lesser known top tips or facts were in preparation of this article and they provided their input.

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Friday, 04 March 2016 17:14:45 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]


# Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Had another glorious day out with my nephew last week. This time I took him to Blakeney for a picnic, more crabbing and then we went out on Beans Boats to see the seals at the point. I love animals and going to see the seals has become like a pilgrimage each year for me. Disappointedly we did only catch 5 crabs, but I blame my brother who forgot the bacon. Fish heads just did not cut it!

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We also had the Agile Coaching Exchange (ACE) with Nigel Baker who presented his Optimus Prime and Change session. It addresses organisational evolution towards a Scrum Method. Nigel is one of the funniest people in Scrum I know and he didn’t disappoint me on the night, his humour was on form. Most amusing had to be the teaching of the pisello technique. Well you have heard of the pomodoro technique of time boxing for 20 minutes, well this is the time boxing of 20 seconds. It translates to Pea!

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So on the topic of changing organisations I want to talk about one of the key challenges that I tend to come up against.  When people ask me what the best part of my job is I say ‘people’. Ask me what the worst is and I say ‘People’

Every coach has faced people who are happy with status quo and don’t outwardly support the way the organisation is heading with its delivery method. So as coaches, how can we help them on the journey?

A few years ago I was introduced to the 3 zones model.

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The Comfort Zone

The comfort zone is where we are the majority of the time. It’s the location of the skills and abilities we’ve built up over our career. In the comfort zone we are the most ‘comfortable’ . However we cannot develop ourselves and build new skills when we are in this zone. It consists of the abilities we can already do easily.

The Panic Zone

Have you ever become so worried you can’t focus? Then you’ve probably been in the panic zone at some point of your life.  Activities in the panic zone are so tough that we don’t even know how to approach them. The overall feeling of the panic zone is that you are uncomfortable and possibly discouraged. Like the comfort zone, we can’t make progress or learn in the panic zone.

The Learning Zone

Between the panic zone and the comfort zone is the learning zone. You only develop yourself further by embracing activities that are in the learning zone. The skills and abilities that are just out of reach are in the learning zone; they’re neither so far away that we panic nor close enough where they’re too easy.

So how does this relate to organisational transformation?

When we go into organisation as coaches and come across resistance, it means that we have possibly pushed people into the ‘Panic’ zone. We have to identify what their panic is and then work with them to resolve it. Here are a few examples of ‘panics’ that I come across most frequently:

  • What does this mean to me? Will I still have a job?
  • What if I cannot do this new role?
  • I do not want to dilute my skills
  • I was a manager, am I not anymore?

There are many more examples, but we need to consider how we approach the change and not push people into ‘Panic ‘ and shut themselves down. We need to articulate the change through a vision and ensure that we know what the current end state is anticipated to be, and how people fit into that picture.

We need to anticipate that certain people will need 121 coaching to help support them through the change and consider how they can be incorporate into the change to help influence others.

People are at the core of our business and so we need to invest the appropriate time and effort supporting them through the change and our lives as coaches will be easier.

There is another category of people who do not openly show their fear with reluctance or negativity. These are the ones who claim to get and support Agile, but their behaviours tell you otherwise. They think they are being cunning to disguise their true feelings, but it’s pretty apparent. The above won’t work for them, but I reckon that's another blog in itself!

Final thoughts

I want you to consider your approach to working with individuals, teams and organisations and how you can coach them to be in the optimal place of the Learning Zone.



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Tuesday, 27 August 2013 14:06:31 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]


# Friday, 12 July 2013

One of the best bits about working in London is the number of restaurants you have at your disposal. Being from Norwich I have pretty much been to every restaurant in the city so it is exciting to be faced with so much choice in London.

My most recent quest has been to find the best steak in London. Luckily, I have a couple of friends who help me indulge in this pleasure and we have been working our way around them.

Part of the experience at the end of a meal is a retrospective on where we think the restaurant rated on the Meek Scale. The scale is based on:

  • Taste
  • Cost
  • Ambience of restaurant
  • Service
  • Portion Size
  • Value for money

Taking all of these into account we rate the restaurant out of 7 and I have formulated my list of favourite restaurants. Being a geek I have not just done this for steak restaurants, but for all restaurants I have visited in the last 15 months I have been in London. As you can imagine it is quite a list Smile

I guess this information would be valuable to the restaurants as I would expect they continually look to improve the experience for the customers and best practice for their staff.

So why do we not do this for the teams we are working with?

Well firstly we would never want to rank teams or have the information used as a stick to beat them. But the concept of holding a team retrospective based on the best practice we see in really high performing Agile teams sounds useful.

At my last client I introduced something called Evolutionary Stages to of the teams. I cannot take sole credit of this as it was initially created by Steve Garnett, however the other RippleRock coaches and I certainly drove it to the next level of adoption.

The concept is a tool that enables teams to self-reflect on where their Agile, development and testing practices are compared to best practice and taking it one level further to the company’s long term goals.

I have written a user experience report on our journey and findings for your enjoyment.

Final Thoughts

Continuous improvement is vital in the tough and changing world that we live in. If organisations are going to continue being profitable and market leading we cannot afford to rest on our laurels. We need to be continually thinking about evolving ways of working.

Evolutionary Stages is a great tool to help you focus on team and organisational practices, tracking from start to the end point of your journey. We often forget about our starting point and fail to celebrate our successes along the way. Let’s stop and celebrate what we have achieved.

If you happened to be interested in my list of ratings for restaurants I have visited – then drop me a line and I will send it to you Smile

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Friday, 12 July 2013 09:39:58 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]


# Wednesday, 26 June 2013

It’s been a pretty interesting couple of weeks with my adventures taking me to Kingston for a new client (note don’t get on slow train!), holding the Agile Coaching Exchange with Liz Keogh, and waving good bye to a client I have spent the last 15 months with.

For those that couldn’t make the exchange this month you missed Liz talking about complexity theory, and I have admit she managed what two others couldn’t do and that was to really help me to understand what Cynefin is. I think the breaking point was the inclusion of an exercise that made it seem real to me, and working in groups that helped to reconfirm the learning. I am not sure I am ready to write a blog about Cynefin yet, so I have included a few photos of the event and a link to Liz’s blog who covers it a whole lot better than I would. Thank you Liz!

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Next week I am pretty excited to be attending the David Anderson Train the Trainer Class as part of the Lean Kanban University. It will be the first time I have met David and I am hoping to extend my knowledge further to really support driving good Kanban in organisations. It doesn’t hurt either that it’s in Turkey. I am sure I am going to have loads of good stuff to blog about on my return.

Photo of actual place of learning (wooooooooo!)

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So my topic of the week is something that my colleague Mark Summers and I presented recently at both Scrum Gathering Las Vegas and XP2013 Vienna. It is also something that we both are very passionate about Growing ScrumMasters for the Future.

The challenge we faced was an organisation that was growing vastly in size and with an enormous intake of new ScrumMasters, who had a varied degree of experience and knowledge. We wanted to be able to support them in their knowledge and create a safe learning environment for them to put key skills into practice. From that point forward the ScrumMaster Education Programme was created.

Over the 6 month period that we ran the programme I put together an experience report of what we did and learned. I wanted to share with you that report so you can read and see the success that we had. Building this programme and watching our ScrumMasters grow was something that I took great enjoyment from and something that I am pretty proud of.

 

Click here for the ScrumMaster Education Programme Experience Report

Click here for the ScrumMaster Competency Framework

 

Even though I am leaving this client, I am happy in the knowledge that we have built a strong community of practice, and that they will continue to educate themselves without me. I have no doubt that we have been nurturing the Agile Coaches of the future.

Good bye guys, I am going to miss you all.

Final Thoughts

Learning is often something that gets pushed to one side when all hell breaks loose in the office. We practice Continuous Improvement in our teams, so why do we fail at doing this personally?

My mission for you is to learn something new this week.

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Wednesday, 26 June 2013 21:05:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]


# Monday, 17 June 2013

I love being an Agile Coach! However it has its ups and downs, such as you inevitably end up coaching yourself into something you didn’t want to do or face.

My latest self-coaching started when ‘The boss’ brought up again about me blogging. I found myself making the usual excuses and moving on the conversation swiftly. It was only on my end of the day self-retrospective I asked myself ‘What am I afraid of?’ and so here I am blogging.

Damn I’m a good coach!

On further reflection I started thinking about all the good and bad experiences I have had and so this is the start of me telling you about them, but firstly I want to tell you a little bit about me.

So where did it all start? Well on June 3rd 197x…..…only joking!

My history is of an IT Project Manager working in a large insurance company. I was there for 12 years and I am thankful for the people I met and everything that I learnt. It was on one of these cold Norwich mornings that one of my developers said to me they wanted to do iterative development on my 'traditionally' led project. I look back and laugh now at my dismissive response and realise now how much I have grown and changed. I was that command and control Project Manager, a pretty fierce one at that.

It was a year later that I was introduced to the woman who would become my Agile yoda and change my belief of myself, how we deliver projects and how to structure organisations forever. It's through the coaching and mentoring of her and many others on my journey that have got me where I am today. I think that everyone who knew old & new Helen will testify to the massive change in me and it’s something I am very proud of. Who said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks :)

So fast forward to 2012 and I was fortunate to become one of the Ripple Rock family and be given the opportunity to go out and do what I love and feel passionate about.

So what am I passionate about I hear you ask?

· Shopping  - I am obsessed and had to snigger when ‘The Boss’ told me I was thrifty this week. He has obviously not seen my designer bag collection or the massive wardrobe I am now building myself.

· People - My mission is to meet as many people and teams as possible and to really coach them to be the best they can be, Agile or personally.

· Organisations - I want lean mean feature team machines (nice ring to it!) My mission is not to sell Agile to organisations but to coach, guide and mentor them to realising the benefits that are important to them and their customers.

· Community - I am all about the Agile family and actively look to bring people together, share knowledge and to have fun. So I am one of the co-founders of the Agile Coaching Exchange (ACE). Look this up for now, but no doubt I will be telling you all about it in the near future.

So that’s a little taster of quirky ole me, hopefully you are still reading and might even want to pop back every now and again to see what’s going on in my world.

Final thoughts
I have faced my fear today. What fear do you need to face?

Helen



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Monday, 17 June 2013 10:57:18 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]