Use Mob Programming to maximize your learning

In every Scrum.org Professional Scrum Development class, we touch upon both technical and collaboration practices to help improve the development teams explore new options. In a recent class, we had two teams that, after two sprints, hadn’t been able to deliver any “Done” increment to show at the Sprint Review. They were plagued by all kinds of issues, merge conflicts, refactoring gone bad, lack of automated tests and everything else that happens in real life. I decided to introduce Mob Programming to see whether that could help them.

The first experience with Mob Programming is usually total chaos and I tried to prepare the team accordingly. Trying out any new technique – anything that’s out of your comfort zone – can result in initial chaos, it requires a bit of courage to move onward. For those of you that don’t have any idea what Mob Programming is, I recommend reading our recent article in XPRT magazine which gives an overview of it or watching a recent recording of Woody Zuill’s presentation.Read more →

Scaling Scrum to the limit

You’re likely to have been asked the question: “we need to go faster, how many more people do we need?” Most people naturally understand that just adding a random number of people isn’t likely to make us any faster in the short run. So how do you scale Scrum to the limit? And what are those limits?

Meet Peter, he’s a product owner of a new team starting on the greatest invention since sliced bread. It’s going to be huge. It’s going to be the best. Peter has started on this new product with a small team, six of his best friends and it has really taken off. In order to meet demands while adding new features, Peter needs to either get more value out of his teams and if that is no longer possible, add more team members.

He and his teams have worked a number of sprints to get better at Scrum, implemented Continuous Integration even to deliver to production multiple times per day. It is amazing what you can do with a dedicated team willing to improve. But since their product was featured in the Google Play Store they’ve found themselves stretched to their limits. Peter has found himself in the classical situation in which many product owners and project managers find themselves. How do you replicate the capabilities of your existing team without destroying current high-performance teams? He contacts a good friend, Anna, who has dealt with this situation before and asks for her advice.Read more →

Physical and Digital tools for Scrum Masters and their teams

About 40 people gathered at the nlScrum meetup dedicated to physical and digital tools for the agile workspace. Tools that help developers, coaches and trainers to survive in the toughest environments.

We broke the evening up into a hybrid between an Open Space and your local Farmers’ market with people displaying their wares and the tools they use. Rosenboom showcased their office solutions including interactive smart screens and high-quality whiteboards among the usual assortment of markers and post-its. And Plantronics brought their collection of noise cancelling headphones for much-needed concentration or a well understood remote collaboration as well as a couple of their conference kits that link up to a phone or laptop to turn any room into a reasonably good conference room.

I had taken possession of one such tables to show the little things I carry around or have in the back of my car in case I might need them.

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Agile Toolkit

  Pull coaching

Traditional Agile Coaching goes like this: we take a look at what you are doing and we advise you what we think is a good next step in your growth and Agile Maturity. These next steps are supported by exercises, simulations, insights and experience that come from our own personal Agile Backpack. At my last assignment, we wanted to learn the teams how to become more self-organizing and self-learning, to take initiative in their own growth path so that they really become owners of it. We decided to support the teams by pull coaching instead of push coaching. The Agile Toolkit was created to support this aid.

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Overburdening: how to cope with it and work is irrefutable

Sometimes teams must take up work that exceeds their capability. Consider a company policy that says ‘The call desk picks up calls within 60 seconds’. This policy forces a call desk team to pick up new calls within 60 seconds. Saying ‘No’ to new work would be a sensible thing to do. But just not in this case. When in such a position what can you do to overcome overburdening and still keep happy customers?

In this blog post I’ll show that by looking at the workflow one can discover new options to overcome the overburdening and still not say ‘No’.

Alternative ways are described in The Business Support Team Pattern and Help! Too Many Incidents! – Capacity Assignment Policy In Agile Teams.
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Improving a Team’s Collective Intelligence. Feedback Please!

It seems all over nowadays. Teams do it, peers do it, managers do it. Feedback here, feedback there, feedback everywhere. Feedback seems here to stay. Why? Because it makes people stronger. They learn how they behave and how their behaviour affects others. This transparency enables individuals to change and start experimenting with more effective behaviour. Wouldn’t it be great if we could apply a feedback instrument to the whole team? Improving team feedback!

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Is Scrum Agile and is Agile Scrum?

2 minutes read

drawing by Alexander Koffeman

(drawing by Alexander)

 

The short version: yes and no! Scrum is Agile but Agile is not (only) Scrum.

 

Future Fit Organizations

Organizations want to become flexible and Agile or as we like to call it at Xebia: Future Fit. Just like when you go to the gym and want to become fitter. Yes, there are more ways to achieve that.

You can see Agile as a container for multiple ways of working. In case of the gym there are many sport activities you can do. Scrum is one of the frameworks that could help you to become more Agile. Besides Scrum there are more sport programs (Kanban, DSDM, XP) that supports the organization to become Agile.

That`s just the basic explanation, but Agile is a lot more than just a container. Agile is about mindset, the way you think, the values that you live by. You can read more about Agile in the Agile Manifesto.

Experiential Learning

Scrum is simple to understand and difficult to master. In practice this means that it will take time to really understand why each component within the framework serves a specific purpose and is essential to Scrum’s success and usage. With Scrum you work in short iterations named “Sprints”. At the end of every Sprint you deliver a potentially releasable product increment. The core of Scrum is based on empiricism. That means that you will decide on actual experiential learnings what you will do next. This will show in Scrum on the following three pillars: transparency, inspect and adapt. Everything within Scrum is interwoven with these aspects. For example the Sprint Retrospective is the moment for the Scrum team to look back at the Sprint (inspect) to see if they can improve (adapt). You can read more details about Scrum in the Scrum Guide.

In my next blogpost you can read more about Scrum. Hope that this helps you to explain the difference between Agile and Scrum!

Please let me know if this helps you and drop a comment below!

Scrum Master Q&A Fulltime Scrum Master Role

In my Scrum Master training courses, I get a lot of questions about the workload of a Scrum Master. One question I hear frequently is this:

Is the Scrum Master role a full-time job?

The answer is yes! In my opinion, the Scrum Master role is a full-time job. As a Scrum Master, you support the Development Team, the Product Owner, and the organization. You help others understand and master Scrum, and to achieve their potential at different levels.

Scrum Master activities can include any of the following:

  • facilitating Scrum events
  • working on the Scrum process
  • helping teams to become better
  • supporting empiricism
  • promoting inspecting and adapting
  • facilitating teamwork
  • removing and solving impediments,
  • assisting the Development Team to become self-organizing
  • help the Scrum Team to live by the Scrum values,
  • and observing team dynamics.

You will have your Scrum Master radar on at all time. You watch the things that are not being said, and you sense the things that are not on the surface. You can’t do that if you’re not there.

With this in mind, here are some answers to some other frequently asked questions.

Can you combine your Development Team role with the Scrum Master role?

No, you will lose focus and will not be able to excel in either role.

Imagine yourself as a developer, you are in the zone, minding your own business and delivering value. Then, suddenly, another developer has an impediment – the deployment to the acceptance environment did not go well because this environment is down. Your team member has tried everything to get it back up again, but it doesn’t seem to help. He asks you if you could help him. If you do not help your team member right away, he is not able to continue. So you leave your current coding and help your team member. When you finally have solved the impediment, you return to your work and continue. You have to connect with the subject again, since you were distracted for a while. Your focus is lost.

What if your company requires you to combine your Development Team role with the Scrum Master role?

If your company requires you to combine your team and Scrum Master role, make clear agreements with the Development Team about how to interact in the event of an impediment. Make it explicit agreements which role has priority.

Can we rotate Scrum Mastership amongst Development Team members?

No, you can’t rotate Scrum Mastership amongst Development Team members because not everyone on the team is a capable Scrum Master. The Scrum Master role requires certain capabilities, skills, and behaviors. Some of these Scrum Master characteristics can be learned, coaching, listening, facilitating, mentoring, observing, intervening but others are innate, such as servant leadership and being pro-active. If you have a role on the Development Team and you are also the Scrum Master, you will lose focus.

What if your company requires you to rotate Scrum Mastership?

If your company requires you to rotate Scrum Mastership, make sure that you are the Scrum Master for more than one sprint (e.g. three sprints) so you can start developing SM skills before you switch.

Can you combine the Product Owner and Scrum Master role?

No, it’s not a good idea to combine the Product Owner and Scrum Master roles because it creates a conflict of interest.

As a Product Owner, you’re busy with your stakeholders, changes in the market, exploring what delivers the most business value and helping the Development Team understand the requirements you have. As a Scrum Master, your focus is on supporting the Development Team, the Product Owner, and the organization. So, the people you contact the most are different and have different approaches.

 

As a Product owner, you want to deliver business value at the right pace. You can challenge the Development Team to take up a lot of items in the Sprint Backlog. As a Scrum Master, you protect the Development Team from overly demanding Product Owners (believe me, they exist). You do this by helping them asking challenging questions, like: Do we really believe we can finish this? Do we understand what is being asked? It is difficult to approach the team while wearing two hats. You will lose focus.

 

What if your company requires you to combine the Product Owner role and the Scrum Master role?

If your company requires you to combine the Product Owner role and Scrum Master role, make sure you have a clear distinction between them.  It’s also important to clarify which position you’re coming from with those with who you interact.

 

Can you work as a Scrum Master at a different location from your team or the Product Owner?

No, it’s not possible to function effectively in the role of Scrum Master if you are not onsite with the Development Team. You need to be present to sense the things unsaid or feel the vibe in the room. If the Scrum Master and Development Team work at the same location but the Product Owner and stakeholders are at another location, the necessary contact and collaboration are lost.

 

What if logistics require the Scrum Master and Development Team to work in separate locations from the Product Owner and stakeholders?

If you can’t work in the same onsite location, interact with each other as often as possible. Make an all-day video connection if possible. Ask Development Team members who work on different locations to work together in the same location for a period of at least one month. The team members will get to know each other a bit, this will help to build trust in the team.

If you’re still stuck in a situation that prevents your Scrum Team from performing at its best, please contact us: info@scrumboosters.com

 

SPACEMAP – organising a motivational environment

Introducing the SPACEMAP! A ‘map’ to gain insight into motivational problems within an organization/department, so that coaches and managers no longer have to talk about vague motivation problems, but instead tackling the lack of autonomy within the teams.

The map consists of generic ‘work factors’ that are required to create a motivational environment.

SPACEMAP - organising a motivational environment

the SPACEMAP was developed by Xebia coaches

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Using Specification by Example / BDD for your refinements

When I’m joining new teams at clients it often becomes clear that the added value of refinements is not always seen. Team members complain that hours are wasted. The refinement sessions shouldn’t be long draining meetings with endless discussions. Refinements should instead provide a clear added value in the form of requirements that the whole team can work with to deliver added value. How do you shape your refinements in a way that they add value? Read on to see how BDD / Specification by Example can help you!

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