# Friday, March 4, 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?


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.


Friday, March 4, 2016 5:14:45 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

# Tuesday, February 16, 2016

I have been working with a new client over the last 3 months. This has been really fun as it has meant that I get to explore Whitstable, meet new people and of course kick starting the teams on the right path to agility. If I am being honest, working with teams is a real passion of mine and the one thing I miss being an Agile Coach.

The teams and leadership here have got it in such a short time and they have come so far in the time we have had together. I always jokingly say to them ‘we have all the major impediments of a theme park and a zoo’ to quote Jurassic park, but that’s all part of the journey.  When I start panicking, you start panicking Smile

We have had some pretty major projects going on at the same time as the move to Scrum and naturally this caused some unease about when things are going to get done.

Now I am not a tools person, I actively avoid using them on the basis that people change their behaviours around how the tool works rather than what is in the best interest of the team, but my mind has been changed recently by one particular chart.

For those that know me, know that I am not very good with excel and I always envied coaches like Dan Brown who can whip out a beautiful spread sheet full of charts and useful data. Meanwhile I am trying to work out how to add up three cells (slight exaggeration there!) So what I am about to show you is an absolute pipe dream for me.

I introduce you to…..

The Project Burn up!

Yes I know it’s not new, but it’s something that coaches and ScrumMasters have to craft themselves on spread sheets and export data from old systems…often having to access the deep dark depths that no mortals query can reach. Each person then has their own version with different formulas and there is no consistency.

The boys at ripple rock have been beavering away for the last 6 months building something that plugs into your TFS or Jira installation.

This means my clients, with a flick of a button on VSTS  can now have access to be able to forecast based on data and understand where the optimistic and pessimistic date ranges are.

They can run this on the whole backlog and for specific projects.

This has been revolutionary to them and helped them to make decisions about client interactions and live dates. It is also something they can run repeatedly as and when the backlog changes and the teams complete their work.

Here is an example.


Key points about this chart

  • It provide stakeholders with a realistic expectation of when they can expect delivery of a release. It clearly shows that there are two key variables that determine the ‘Landing Zone’ for a project.  The orange bar represents the optimistic and the purple represents the pessimistic landing zones
  • I can clearly see the scope of the work and the through put rate that we are completing at.

As no two teams are the same, I am given the option to change the chart settings.


To name a few things, I can change:

  • The date ranges
  • Sprint length
  • Throughput rate
  • The Scope
  • Overwrite fields

This is exciting for me and for my clients and it truly is ‘Plug & Play’

So boys, you have converted me with this chart alone….(Waves good bye to excel!)

I also want to say I am proud of what you have all achieved in a short period of time.  

So thank you for creating it Smile and my clients are already loving it.

Looking forward to the next evolution!!

(Images are taken from ‘SenseAdapt’)


Tuesday, February 16, 2016 2:46:50 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

I wanted to share with you one of my latest retrospectives.   Well, it’s not that new I just forgot to tell you about it Smile

Continuing my theme of movies from the 80s, I was having a think about other movies that I love and how I could use them to drive continuous improvement in the team. 

Ladies and gentlemen, I want to introduce you to ‘Alien’. A retrospective that looks at the gestation of the creature in comparison to the sprint cycle.  You are probably thinking I am a little crazy,  I like to think its about pushing the boundaries and keeping it fresh.

Typically I print off my images, but I thought I would hand craft this time.  In the name of complete transparency I did not draw the end Alien.   I thank Richard Arpino for this.

2015-06-23 12.19.39

I had 5 different stages:

  • Laying the eggs – Sprint Preparation
  • Sucking on face and putting in the Alien – Planning
  • Everythings ok! – Sprinting
  • Chest Explosion – Sprint Review
  • The final Alient product – Delivery

I asked each member of the team to brainstorm their thoughts around the key themes. I used the following ‘Film relevant’ questions to help them when they got stuck.


We then themed, discussed and agreed on the final actions.  Bonus points were awarded for each film line they managed to get in.

Overall appreciation for the retrospective was high and there was definitely jealousy amongst the floor about my team always getting the best retros.

With all my retrospectives they are fun, people want to join in and we deliver real actions out the end.

Keep you retrospectives fun people!

Do let me know if you create any fun ones for your team  Smile


Tuesday, February 16, 2016 1:32:28 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

# Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The joy I get in my job is through seeing other people flourish. This means that coaching is something that I am very passionate about. When I train or mentor ScrumMasters I teach them how they can coach themselves and others for success. The skills I learnt myself and teach have come from years of practice, reading the right books, knowing the right people and going on courses.

Whilst my job title is an Agile Coach and I am there to help an organisation evolve using my experience, a great part of what I actually end up doing is dealing with peoples behaviours. This is something that an Agile method wouldn’t teach you. So where do you get this?

I came across a new book recently as I saw the author speak at The Agile Coaching Exchange. I purchased this book but didn’t immediately read it as I wanted to save it for my holiday Smile 


Coach's Casebook: Mastering The Twelve Traits That Trap Us – Geoff Watts & Kim Morgan

The book takes a look at 12 traits that as coaches we see every day. We most certainly will have some of these ourselves, I know I do!

The structure of the book lends itself to easy reading with each chapter kicking off with a true life dialogue between coach and client. What I love about this book is that you can clearly see the coach is in a learning role themselves, because they too have a coach who they share with and receive feedback from. This to me shows the authors vulnerability and authenticity.

Once the author has established the case study, plus their thought process. They explore different models and methods to help the client, which they later consolidate in fantastic matrix to help you to pull out the right tool for the right situation.

They then conclude with an interview with someone in the public eye, who also displays one or many of the traits and how they have got where they are today.

I literally read this book on my flight back from Croatia because it was an easy read and something that I was engrossed in.

Whilst the book is not agile, the content is most certainly relevant to what we do in our profession. So those that do not get the same opportunities to learn to coach like I have, should consider this a great place for them to get insight and techniques to use.

I have a reading list that my mentees tend to work though, this is most certainly one of them moving forwards.

A great and worthwhile read!

You can find out more about Geoff here http://inspectandadapt.com



Wednesday, September 30, 2015 2:35:56 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]

# Tuesday, August 4, 2015

One of the questions I am often asked is ‘How do I sell an organisation agile? The answer is I don’t… The business has often decided they need to change because something is no longer working for them, or because their current way of thinking is no longer meeting the needs of the organisation or the customer. As an Agile Coach I do not go into a client with the mind-set of a particular method, more that I need to hear what their motives and their problems are to help them lead them to the right solution. Sometimes that might not even be agile or the method they initially asked for.

Much of the work I do is helping clients change. I am careful not to use the word ‘transformation’ because many companies do already have good practices in place as well as good people. It’s my job to help them to evolve the way they work and think in a more Agile and Lean way.

I never really know what I am going to arrive to find, and each and every organisation is different in the way it runs and is structured. Saying that I still have a thought process that I follow as an Agile Coach and I wanted to give you all a glimpse into what that is.

The easiest way for me to do this is to show you a mind map. I may not do all these items listed, but they serve as a reminder for me to think broadly about what I am trying to achieve.

The mind map that I am sharing is very much based upon a Scrum evolution. I would have different ones for different methods, Kanban for example. My mind map is also based upon my experiences and will naturally have holes.


Evolving organisations is a tough job and involves blood sweat and sometimes tears. It is important like any project you are running to have a vision. That vision will evolve over time and will likely be in stepped increments. You can’t go from zero to a hundred in one swoop. So I have a vision of all the different aspects. A vision to maybe prove that we can run Scrum in their environment, we call this a pathfinder team. The vision might also be to advance the principles and practices of your existing team. I use Evolutionary Stages for this as my vision and end goal.

Whatever change you embark on with an organisation, it is important to make sure that you understand where you want to end up and make small incremental and iterative changes along the way, banking the items you want to maintain and learning from any failure you have.  You will see one of the items on the mind map is how you communicate progress of what you are doing. This is absolutely key and one of the the things people fail at early on.  Good news needs to be published and shared.

So there is lots to think about in the mind map and so over to you. If there is something specific on there you would like me to blog about further. Leave me a comment and I will get on it.



Tuesday, August 4, 2015 4:25:57 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]

# Friday, July 31, 2015

I was getting my usual taxi to work this morning and I got a driver I didn’t know. We exchanged pleasantries and then he asked me what I do for a living. I normally way up my answers, if I say Agile coach I then have to spend the next 10 minutes explaining what that is and if I say project manager for ease, that is really a lie. Today when he asked me I said ‘I help people change their lives’.

I did not say this for reasons of arrogance, I said this with a sense of pride.

There were two things that happened to me yesterday that has left me a little emotional. I am not usually one to show much emotion, but there are times when I struggle to keep it contained.

Event 1

I have been working with my client for about a year now. I call this ‘Going in deep’. Rightly or wrongly as a coach when I am in deep I form strong emotional bonds with people I coach. This is part me being their mentor, coach and then eventual their friend and peer.

I work closely with these people challenging the way they think about the work they do and how they do it. Most importantly I challenge the beliefs they have about themselves.

My overarching belief about everyone I meet is that they are a bundle of potential that just needs to be released. I will not make assumptions about them and I asked the same about me.

Most of my time my work is about building confidence in them and giving them the knowledge, tools to do their work and support.

I love to champion the wildcard and the underdog, I look for that spark in people that I know I can work with. I can teach you everything you need to know, but you have to want it and work hard for it.

Richard and Doug at my current client are my wildcard and underdog. Richard is the wildcard because he came to me as a developer with partial ScrumMaster experience and Doug as the underdog because he was very vulnerable when I met him.

I am so proud of both of them. I have seen Richard grow so much and there is so much potential there. We certainly have a coach of the future here.

But my story is about Doug, that unsure person who I first met a year go, who did not really know where he was heading or even if he was on the right path. The Doug I know today is knowledgeable, confident and completes his role with ease. Yes he makes mistakes, but so do I!

I have been watching Doug grow now for over a year and I knew it was a matter of time before he is ready to fly the nest and find his new challenge. Sometimes people need to change something to develop confidence further and to extend knowledge in a different environment.

Doug has found a new nest to fly to and I am so proud of him and the journey he has made. It makes me so happy when I see this happen, but it also makes me sad at the same time because I am seeing him go. This is why coaches should not get as attached as me, but it is part of who I am and part of how I teach, coach and mentor.

I know Doug and I will remain friends and I will always be here for him. He doesn’t know this yet, but I am going to ask three things of him.

1) Always be confident in yourself and your abilities

2) Never form beliefs about people

3) One day you will meet someone whose life you can influence. Don’t walk away from that.

My life was influenced by Margaret Morgan, my Agile yoda. Without her I would have not been an Agile Coach and I would probably still be working at Aviva.

Event 2

It was the Kanban Coaching Exchange in London last night and was facilitated by my good friend Dan Brown. I had seen this talk before and so I had one ear open, while quietly working in the background. His talk was about coaching and the comparison to what we do as Agile coaches and what they teach him as a rugby coach. I have to say that 20 minutes in I had to close my laptop and listen because in what he was saying was true nuggets of inspiration mixed with him being humble about his journey and his belief about himself as a coach. He laid himself bare and vulnerable to the audience as he talked about his experiences coaching. So why did this hit an emotional chord with me? Because I had forgotten how much influence coaches have on peoples lives. How our beliefs, behaviours and moods can influence people for the positive or for the worse. To quote a film ‘With great power comes great responsibility’

Both of these events made me take another look at my life and be thankful for what I have. It also makes me think about my behaviours and the influence I have on others.

The best bit about my job is not Agile, it is watching people flourish.

Have a think about how you influence others around you?

PS: Not forgetting my other fledglings: Ben Cooke, Gareth Waterhouse, Chris Houlden and Duncan Smith.


Friday, July 31, 2015 5:39:06 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [2]

# Wednesday, June 17, 2015

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


  • 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.


  • 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.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015 11:30:37 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [1]

# Friday, June 12, 2015

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.  


I rated moral as follows:


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.

2015-06-10 15.20.522015-06-10 15.21.162015-06-10 15.21.252015-06-10 17.03.53

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.

2015-06-12 11.54.25

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!!


Friday, June 12, 2015 12:14:13 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]

# Tuesday, June 9, 2015

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.


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?’


Tuesday, June 9, 2015 2:43:20 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]

# Monday, May 25, 2015

You will all know by now my love for cheesy 80’s films and how they often appear in my retrospectives.

I have now created one based upon the film the Karate kid.  I thought this film was epic when I was younger and used to watch it all the time.   All these remakes don’t do me any favours in the old age stakes when I say ‘I remember and prefer the original!’  As usual I have downloaded the soundtrack and plan to use it for activity time boxes. Naturally the music is very motivating and I am hoping to get the team up and active.  The main song is…’You're the best!’

I am still waiting for my all female team to bust out a retrospective on ‘Grease’ or ‘Dirty Dancing’! I suspect I will be waiting for some time.

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I couldn’t resist having a little tweak of the wordings on this poster ‘She taught them the secret to scrum lies in the mind and heart. Not the hands’

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One tip I always teach my mentees about running retrospective is ‘Never be the one at the front with the pen or post it notes in your hand’   You want your people up and active and get them to write, group or theme the post it notes or even write the actions. As a facilitator your biggest tools in the box is observation and the art of powerful questions. You need to be focussing on these.

If you want to learn more about running kick arse retrospectives, then feel free to get in contact with me, or ask me about when my next retrospectives course is running.


Monday, May 25, 2015 3:42:19 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]