Archives: June 17, 2015

Being a ScrumMaster

People don’t always understand the role of the ScrumMaster……..What is more shocking is ScrumMasters don’t always understand what their role is!

The Scrum Alliance in its literature and certified course material gives us good guidance.  I guess it’s then up to individuals and organisations to interpret it for what they want.  But all to often I meet mini project managers or people so laissez faire that the team is running rings around them!

People are obviously getting a little lost along the way.    As a coach my belief is ‘I am here to help people and organisations realise their full potential’   I do this by pulling on my experiences and a number of different methods that I practice.  When I meet ScrumMasters my mission is to make them coaches of the future. 

I started thinking about myself as a ScrumMaster and the different parts I play in the team.   I have broken these down to the different ceremonies and wider elements of the role.

I wanted to share this with you.   Naturally this is my interpretation based on my experiences of what being a great  ScrumMaster and a coach of the future is.  I am sure I have missed out many points and feel free to shout them out.

Here goes……

 Change Agency

  • Seen as an Agile ambassador for the organisation – the go to guy for coaching and mentoring help on Agile values, principles and practices
  • Understands trends across teams and actively looks to remove waste from the whole value stream
  • Works at all levels in the organisation to remove organisational impediments
  • Works with other ScrumMasters to ensure that organisational changes make sense for all teams
  • Develops communities that will grow/share knowledge and skills across the organisation
  • Works to grow his/her own skills, knowledge and competence that will benefit the organisation
  • Remorselessly eliminates waste
  • Coaches the team towards continuous improvement of quality and performance

User Story Creation

  • Promotes The 3 C’s (Card, Conversation & Confirmation)
  • Promotes INVEST (Independent, Negotiable, Estimate-able, Sizeable and Testable)
  • Encourages use of simple language to encourage conversation
  • Understands the relationship between Epics, Themes and Lower Level User Stories
  • Understands Minimum Viable Products and Minimal Marketable Features
  • Facilitates (if required) User story workshops using techniques such as User Story Mapping, including persona gathering techniques
  • Supports creation of well written, vertically sliced and valuable stories. Facilitates & teaches how to do this using their understanding of different patterns
  • Ensures User Stories are written from a customer view point
  • Works with the team to drive well-formed testable acceptance criteria
  • Ensures that functional & non-functional are covered
  • Understands & can coach the value Behaviour Driven Development
  • Looks to identify issues, risks, constraints, assumptions and dependencies from user stories. Uses techniques such as blocker clustering and adding to sprint backlog
  • Drives out when a Spike is required and ensures this is a time boxed activity
  • Ensures that continuous story refinement happens and that a team has seen a story at least 2 times before it gets accepted into a sprint
  • Works with the Product Owner to ensure that the team has 2 or 3 sprints worth of stories ready in advance of Sprint Planning

Story Estimating

  • Understands and able to articulate different ways to estimate, such as Story Points, Ideal Days & T-Shirt sizes
  • Uses multiple techniques to facilitate estimating activities, such as Planning Poker, Affinity Ordering, Ouji Board estimation
  • Drives conversation to deepen knowledge and bring estimate to a consensus
  • Looks to establish Calibration Stories with the PO, revisiting these as work changes
  • Drives the team to have stories smaller enough to enable rapid flow across the team board
  • Understands when User stories need to be re-estimated as new details have emerged or been clarified
  • Ensures that estimates are end to end effort – not just development

The Product Backlog & Release Planning

  • Makes sure there is a Vision and all work aligns to that vision, encouraging the team to question value
  • May facilitate visioning workshops with the Product Owner, stakeholders and teams
  • Has techniques for helping stakeholder discuss the value of the work
  • Has sight of the Product Backlog and the priority of work, working with the PO to ensure the team has enough work based on their velocity. Aims to have 2 or 3 sprints worth of work prepared at any given time
  • Understand and can coach a PO on the creation, value and use of the Product Burn down
  • Understands ‘Dark Matter’ and how it effects the Product Backlog growth/forecasting over time
  • Collaborates with the PO to create an Agile Release Plan. Regularly feeds into plan to keep it up to date and it is shared with the stakeholders and team

Sprint Planning

  • Helps the team and PO to establish the sprint length. Understands the benefits and negative aspects of having between 1-4 week sprints
  • Protects the sprint length and understands patterns on why requests would arrive to break these, such as not being able to break work down and so we need a 3 week sprint
  • Understands the different ways to facilitate a Sprint Planning session to get the most interactive and collaborative session as possible
  • Establishes a team capacity and monitors trends
  • Draws out issues and risks, following up on the resolution of these
  • Ensure the estimates are agreed within the team and that no task is greater than a day to enable flow
  • Ensures the delta between commitment & delivery is at the right tolerance
  • Empowers the team to reduce reliance on the ScrumMaster
  • Guides on uses of different visualisation techniques to ensure the team board radiates as much information as possible
  • Empowers the team to make a reasonable commitment, educating them that they will need slack to be able to deal with uncertainty, as you start to do the work you discover more things

Every Day Working and Daily Scrums

  • Promotes the Agile Manifesto, Values, Principles & Practices at all times
  • Practices the use of time boxes to keep activities focused
  • Makes sure the team has a Definition of Done that is reviewed at least every three months or when the nature of the work changes
  • Call out and makes visible any team working agreements
  • Works with the team to ensure they have everything required to complete the sprint
  • Understands, resolves or escalates impediment. Impediments to be visible to the whole team and the wider organisation
  • Understands and mitigates day to day risks with the team
  • Monitors and removes wasteful activity by using a method to categorise, such as 7 categories of waste, waste snake, Kanban categories of waste
  • Promotes collaboration and cross learning
  • Continually understands if the work in the sprint is achievable using charts to support. Such as the burn down or the cumulative flow diagram
  • Encourages swarming as a practice in the team to ensure the team is focussed at all times on delivering the most valuable story first, to the definition of done
  • Protecting the team from outside distractions
  • Facilitates the Daily Stand up Meeting using the traditional three questions or walk the board style
  • Encourages team ownership of the visual board and recognises if flow or blockers are happening across the board
  • Understands and can coach when engineering practices can best be used
  • Is mindful if the team is creating technical debt. Working to eradicate this and to reduce any existing in the team/organisation
  • Understands and monitors the quality of the work.
  • Observation is a key tool to understand the dynamics of team
  • Coaches and supports the team towards the goal of the Sprint

Reviews

  • Creates an environment where the review is a collaboration of all team members
  • Enables the space for the team to prepare the session, providing guidance on how effectively they can use the time and make the sessions valuable
  • Works with the PO to advertise and promote stakeholder attendance, such as posters, emails, social media, dragging people away from desks to drum up attendance
  • Actions and additional stories are capture for consideration and actioning
  • Ensure the team receives the required recognition for the work they have achieved
  • Drives cross team knowledge sharing by publishing the teams achievements
  • Understands root cause analysis of any potential delta between committed and delivered stories and supports the team to put actions in place to reduce this.

Retrospectives

  • Keeps the format fresh and provides the appropriate type of retrospective for the situation at hand. Such as deep dive, broad, milestone
  • Facilitates the session to include the maximum amount of participation from the group. Get them up and active and gather insight
  • Facilitates from the back of the room to utilise reading body language and tone of voice to drive out things left unsaid
  • Practices root cause analysis such as the ‘5 Whys’ to help the team drive to what the challenges really are.
  • Practices ‘Powerful’ questions to drive out learnings and improvement opportunities
  • Drive the team to continuously improve working practices, taking actions from each retrospective to complete in the next working period
  • Makes a record of the outputs of the session and ensure that points are not just forgotten, but banked for future retrospectives. Such as creating an improvement backlog or agreeing with the PO to have these in the main backlog
  • Works to remove actions that are low hanging fruit to support the team
  • Monitors team trends and shares these with other teams to identify organisational trends

You can see there is lots and I am sure I could have kept on writing Smile

Final Thoughts

I want you to thinking about the role you play as ScrumMaster and ask yourself:

  • Do you do the majority of these things?
  • What can you do differently to maximise your contribution to the team and the organisation?

ScrumMasters need to continuously improve, the same way we expect our teams to. ScrumMastery is a leadership role and we all need to step up to that.


Living on a Prayer!

For my sins I love Bon Jovi!  Maybe not so much the recent stuff, but they have some real classics.  I have seen them in concert many times and I have to admit they are a real crowd pleaser and play for about 3 hours.

Whilst thinking about my teams retrospective this week and the fact I like to inflict upon them my sad hobbies and obsessions, I decided to do one on Bon Jovi.

I am going to keep sharing these with you because I want people to experiment and try different ways of helping teams to continuously improve.  They can also be fun if the sprint has been a hard slog.

Here are the headings that I used.  

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I rated moral as follows:

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I did have the music playing to motivate, but we did have one anti Bon Jovi fan.  I might do AC/DC next as that is his favourite band.

I gave the team extra kudos if they could get song titles in their thoughts and comments.  Ultimately we ended up with a set of actions for us to take forward in the next sprint.

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If one was not enough…

I did a second retro this week for a different team.

The team has recently merged together with another team and are still looking to refine their ways of working together, and so I wanted the retrospective to be based upon how they work as a system.

I used a Scrum Image and asked them to use sticky dots to put where they thought the problems lie. They got two green dots and a red dot with signified a major problem. Green dots are still issues in this example, just not as bad as red.

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I then got them to give me the headlines of the problems they encountered. An example of this might be ‘User stories are not coming in regularly enough from the clients’.

I got the team to then break into three groups and we used A3 thinking to look at the problem and come up with potential counter measures.  A3 thinking is great because it means we can post them on the team wall and then validate the learning’s at the end of the next sprint.  I also wanted to teach them a different technique and really get them thinking about the challenges we have have.  Quite often the problem in front of us is a symptom of a deeper root cause.  Techniques such as the 5 whys can help the team delve down.

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All in all I had a great couple of retrospectives this week.    I will need to keep an eye on the teams as sometimes actions do get overlooked, but a little poke every now and again ensures that they keep driving them forwards.

One of my ScrumMasters come across this great website on retrospectives. It is worth checking it out for new idea.

Keep improving people!!


The ‘Risk’ Factor

It was the annual event of ‘Meek Week’ last week. This means it was my birthday and made all my friends treat me like a princess for the whole week. I am pleased to confirm they did not let me down!  We had lots of meals, giggles, mini golf and of course cocktails! A few photos of my besties Smile

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Every now and again I get the opportunity to be a ScrumMaster, rather than just the coach.   I actually quite enjoy this because it means that I can try out new things with my teams and there is also something exciting about being part of a delivery. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a coach and trainer but sometimes I believe we have to go back to the battle grounds, just to remember how hard change can be in organisations.

In one of the teams I was looking after I was fortunate to be able to kick off a new project with them.   As we are client facing we are often asked to look at ideas based on little information and give them a rough size of effort. I had been talking about using risk factors for a while in conjunction with story points, and so this was my opportunity to really put it into practice. We were asked to create a high level estimate and so we didn’t have anything more than potential epics at the time.

There is much misconception about what story points represent and many people believe they are based upon complexity, when really they are based upon effort.  I wanted to make this really clear to my team and so I introduced 2 numbers during story preparation to help signal when more complexity is involved, and to help us manage these and the risks and impediments that might follow.

I created a simple scale, though you can use whatever words work for your team.

1 – Low risk (there is never none!)

2 – Moderate

3 – Increasing

4 – High

5  – Significant

I then asked the team to discuss each story, vote using story points and then vote on the risk factor.  Due to the fact that we were very early on and some of the stories were just high level ideas  I made sure that any assumptions were captured.

I was then able to ask them on any items with a risk factor greater than 2 to articulate the risk, so we could then look to mitigate it.  A example of a couple of entries.

SnipImage

After completing the exercise the Product Owner and I were instantly able to look down the list and understand what items were large due to lots of unknowns (so high risk factor), and them systematically work through them until the team was happy to split and reduce the complexity.  We could also tell which items were just big, but understood in how were are going to deliver it.

I also had a list of assumptions that we could have to aid conversations with clients and what’s  as equally important is I had a list of risks and technical decisions that we needed to have sight of and mitigate.

On presentation of these estimates  to the architecture group and the CTO the team was told ‘These are the best I have seen to date’ We were even taken to the pub to celebrate.

So a very simple technique that has made discussion, understanding, risk and potential decisions far more visible than the previous way they were doing things.

As a ScrumMaster it is important to me that I understand all the areas that could become a potential impediment to me. ScrumMasters often to forget to manage the risk and so then just fire fight impediments.

Final Thoughts

However your organisation decides to estimate and understand risk (trust me they are all different). It is important that you have the conversations to stimulate actions and visibility.  Whilst Agile is about flexibility, it doesn’t mean we don’t have to exercise some level of control.

Ask yourself and your team today  ‘Do you know what the risks are of what you are delivering?’