BONUS: From journalism to Scrum Mastery, collected lessons on working with teams by Ian McGrady

Ian’s journey from journalism to becoming a Scrum Master is a testament to his adaptable mindset and persistence. His transition stemmed from a unique start; he secured his first job due to his fast typing skills and a desire to meet Peter Jennings. Ian’s persistence in seeking a meeting with Jennings honed his tenacity. The introduction to the Scrum Master role came through recognizing the news industry’s agile, continuous delivery setup. Despite challenges, like sending out 400 resumes for just 3 interviews and a job offer, Ian’s honesty on his resume and his ability to relate his existing skills to the software field were pivotal. In interviews, he remained coachable, acknowledged his learning curve, and emphasized genuine interest in others. He underlines the importance of not striving to be the smartest person in the room, instead focusing on collaboration and curiosity.

From TV News Deadlines to Agile Leadership, learning how to work under pressure

Becoming a Scrum Master has brought about significant changes and personal growth for Ian. Inspired by Jeff Sutherland’s book “The Art Of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time,” he realized the value of efficiency. Transitioning from TV News, where deadlines were paramount, he leveraged his experience to provide leadership to his team. Ian’s principles and vision became guiding forces, focusing on extracting the best from individuals and incorporating it into the work. He emphasized stepping back to allow the team to shine and maximizing their value without personal dominance. His journey exemplifies transformation through collaborative leadership and value-driven mindset.

Building the Foundation: Key Steps for Launching Effective Teams

Launching new teams is a crucial process that Ian has garnered valuable insights from. Key lessons involve the necessity of team formation events, despite potential resistance from upper management. Addressing this as a communal effort, Ian suggests socializing the idea of team formation through specific activities. Four critical steps include creating a working agreement, establishing a workflow, defining a Definition of Ready (DoR), and a Definition of Done (DoD). These artifacts can aid in resolving conflicts. Ian recommends the book “Liftoff” by Diana Larsen and Ainsley Nies and advises using timeboxes to identify and address conflicts during team formation.

Empowering New Teams: Strategies for Maximizing New Team Potential

Addressing challenges faced by new teams in attaining maximum value from Scrum events, Ian shares insights and solutions. He recounts an NGO team’s bureaucratic hurdles that hindered effective team startup events. Ian emphasizes the importance of focusing on delivering the essence of Scrum events and the Scrum Master’s role in ensuring team value. He recalls an example where a team failed to update the board during the daily scrum, suggesting the live update approach to enhance visibility. He advises keeping work consistently on the board and centering the daily scrum on “done” work. Ian also recommends incorporating refinement into the workflow for improved outcomes.

Turning the Tide: How Effective Team Formation Revolutionized Scrum Outcomes

Ian shares a transformative case study highlighting the impact of team formation. He joined a team of talented individuals struggling with teamwork. After obtaining buy-in for a startup event from his boss, the team’s performance improved drastically. Shifting from completing 3 items per month to 22, Ian recommends focusing on metrics that emphasize “done” work. Addressing the challenge of team composition, having reliable contributors was vital. Open communication and transparent norms facilitated tough discussions. Challenges during formation included gaining buy-in from all stakeholders and addressing pushback from senior management. Ian emphasizes that while some individuals may be natural stars, teams require nurturing for success.

In this segment we refer to the OTOG mnemonic (One Team, One Goal) as a team effectiveness maximizing strategy. The One Team, One Goal approach is depicted in this blog post by Vasco Duarte.

Ian wrote a companion article to this episode, you can find it here: Team Formation article by Ian McGrady.

About Ian McGrady

Ian McGrady started in IT as a co-founder and Junior Project Manager at Blue Lotus Systems Integration and Data Conversion. There he co-authored an internal book about project management. He has worked as a Scrum Master in wagering, banking and healthcare.

You can link with Ian McGrady on LinkedIn.

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