Mili Shrivastava: Help your team be more effective with the KALM Agile Retrospective format

One of the most common, and sometimes forgotten, sensors for a Scrum Master is the daily meeting. Mili asks us to consider how the team members show up for the daily. Are they excited about the day that is starting? Or happy about the results of the day that is ending?

How are you using the Daily stand-up to assess your impact on the team?

Featured Retrospective Format for the Week: KALM

Keep your teams focused on the problems they want to solve with this simple format. KALM stands for Keep, Add, Less, More. These are the keywords that Mili asks the team to consider when reflecting on the previous Sprint.

About Mili Shrivastava

Mili has more than 12 years of experience in the software industry. Loves to spend time with her family and is a big fan of outdoor activities like hiking and biking.

You can link with Mili Shrivastava on LinkedIn and connect with Mili Shrivastava on Twitter.

Mili Shrivastava: Helping Scrum teams improve their Sprint Planning

Planning for a Sprint is not an easy task. There are many unknowns, even at the Sprint level, and team members justifiably feel uncomfortable discussing commitments, when they know there will be unexpected events during the Sprint.

How can Scrum Masters help teams learn the value, and the mechanics of planning? That’s what we discuss in this episode.

About Mili Shrivastava

Mili has more than 12 years of experience in the software industry. Loves to spend time with her family and is a big fan of outdoor activities like hiking and biking.

You can link with Mili Shrivastava on LinkedIn.

Mili Shrivastava: using Agile retrospectives to help Scrum teams get out of their anti-patterns

Inevitably, teams will bump into problems over time. It is how teams and their stakeholders react to those anti-patterns that matters. In this episode, we explore the importance of retrospectives in helping teams identify, understand, and ultimately resolve the anti-patterns they fall into.

Featured Book of the Week: Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well

In Thanks for the Feedback by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen, Mili found a good tutorial on how to give, and receive feedback. Handling feedback, whether it is giving or receiving, is one of the most common tasks Scrum Masters deal with, and help team members deal with. Therefore, this book should be part of the reading list of all Scrum Masters.

About Mili Shrivastava

Mili has more than 12 years of experience in the software industry. Loves to spend time with her family and is a big fan of outdoor activities like hiking and biking.

You can link with Mili Shrivastava on LinkedIn .

Mili Shrivastava explains how Scrum Masters can help teams finish more stories in a Sprint

Often, teams get too eager to deliver. So eager, they end up planning too much for one Sprint. What usually follows, is that teams leave a lot of stories unfinished at the end of the Sprint, which in turn affects the next Sprint.

In this episode, we explore how Scrum Masters can progressively get the teams to understand what creates that anti-pattern and how to overcome it so that teams start finishing more, if not all, the stories during the Sprint.

About Mili Shrivastava

Mili has more than 12 years of experience in the software industry. Loves to spend time with her family and is a big fan of outdoor activities like hiking and biking.

You can link with Mili Shrivastava on LinkedIn.

Jassy (Jan-Simon Wurst): How to help the PO feel “ownership” of the product

We explore the Product Owner anti-pattern of using the Scrum Master as a secretary, and the pattern of a PO that feels the ownership of the product

The Product Owner pattern for the week

The relationship between Scrum Master and Product Owner is absolutely critical for the success of the team. When the PO treats the Scrum Master like a helper, rather than a collaborator lots of things go wrong. We also discuss why this anti-pattern happens, and how to prevent / overcome it.

The Product Owner anti-pattern for the week

The Product Owner title tries to guide to a person in that role to “own” the product. To feel the responsibility and ownership of the product to a level that helps them identify with the product and customers. The goal: to have a PO that pushes the boundaries of what’s possible.

In this episode, we discuss how we can help PO’s feel that ownership.

 

Are you having trouble helping the team working well with their Product Owner? We’ve put together a course to help you work on the collaboration team-product owner. You can find it at: bit.ly/coachyourpo. 18 modules, 8+ hours of modules with tools and techniques that you can use to help teams and PO’s collaborate.

About Jassy (Jan-Simon Wurst)

Jassy moved from developer to being a Scrum Master and then a freelancer. He calls himself:  the person to contact for help in On-Boardings, as well as a friend of bottom-up, power to the people! No top-down, no micro-management. No despotism in agile software development.

You can link with Jassy (Jan-Simon Wurst) on LinkedIn, or XING and connect with Jassy (Jan-Simon Wurst) on Twitter.

Get hired as a Scrum Master: 10 Techniques to Get 10x More Views on Your LinkedIn Profile

This is a guest post by Estelle Liotard. A fresh perspective on LinkedIn for Scrum Masters and freelance consultants.

If we look at the most popular social networks, Facebook still reigns supreme, leaps and bounds ahead of LinkedIn. However, from a business standpoint, you can gain more benefits from optimizing your LinkedIn profile compared to optimizing your Facebook profile.

Why? Because unlike all the other social networks, LinkedIn was designed specifically for professionals and B2B connections. When signing in on LinkedIn, users aren’t looking to check out what their friends have been up to. They are investing their time looking for suppliers, business partners, clients, and employers.

A post on the LinkedIn marketing blog reveals that 80% of B2B leads come from LinkedIn. Additionally, 43% of marketers say that they have sourced a customer from LinkedIn.

When a platform can play such a big role in gaining exposure for your services or business, getting more views is worth every effort. Follow these 10 techniques to boost your visibility on LinkedIn and take advantage of everything this platform has to offer:

1. Complete your profile

There are about 450 million registered users on LinkedIn and, if you want to stand out, you need to cross your T’s and dot your I’s on your profile. If you leave some sections blank, your profile automatically becomes less attractive to visitors, so take the time to fill in every detail about yourself. Remember, sharing builds trust upfront!

From the headline and previous jobs to skills and samples of your work, you should take full advantage of every profile section. And don’t forget to upload a professional photo of yourself! LinkedIn users are more likely to reply if your profile photo is of an actual person, not a business logo.

Pro Tip: many LinkedIn users polish the description for the job they currently hold, but neglect the previous ones. Those are relevant too, so optimize your previous job titles to make them SEO-friendly.

2. Join LinkedIn groups

Groups are one of the most powerful LinkedIn features when it comes to gaining visibility and exposure for yourself and your services. This is because groups help you widen your network with 2nd-degree connections, gain influence, and interact with other industry professionals. In groups, you can post meaningful articles about your industry, discuss interesting news and trends, even find answers to difficult business problems.

Keep in mind that groups aren’t created randomly on LinkedIn. Each group is built with a specific demographic in mind, and you need to know what that demographic is before posting.

Which groups should you join?

  • Look for groups containing specific keywords related to your field. It can be something general, like “Scrum Masters”, or more specific, like “Scrum Masters in San Diego”.
  • Always join active groups where new discussions are started every week.
  • If you’re not a member of any group, start by joining one small group (<100 members), one medium group, and one large group (>1000 members).

Research the group to get a feel for the style

Before posting anything in a LinkedIn group, lurk around and take a few hours to get to know the members and the topics they talk about. What positions do they have, what style do they use and what is their angle on approaching industry-specific issues? Are they friendly and informal or are they formal and professional? Do they prefer short articles or long-form content? Do they encourage debate?

Bring a valuable contribution to the groups you joined

A LinkedIn group is no place for spam and irrelevant self-promotion. To position yourself as an expert in your industry, you need to bring a valuable topic and start a productive conversation, not just post for the sake of posting. People will only click on your profile if they like what they read.

If you agree with someone, don’t just say “I agree with you.”. Explain why you agree and bring your own point of view. If you disagree, friendly debate is always encouraged, but be polite.

You can promote your services and your brand, as long as it is relevant to the conversation. Follow the 80-20 rule: 80% of your contribution has to be valuable information, 20% self-promotion. Let your expertise speak for itself.

3. Start your own discussion

After you’ve contributed to a few discussions in small groups, it’s time to start your own. Share some interesting news about your industry, some research you conducted, or ask the other members about their experience with a certain problem.

Just make sure no one has discussed the same topic recently and, if they have, give that topic a fresh perspective. Once people start answering, reply to every comment to show you are involved.

4. Get as many connections possible

The LinkedIn algorithm places profiles with more connections higher in search results, so don’t limit yourself to a handful of workmates and former colleagues. Expand your network with 2nd and 3rd level connections too. Use these tricks to make more connections:

  • See if your high school or college has an alumni group you can join
  • Connect on LinkedIn with professionals you meet at conferences and other work-related events
  • When adding new contacts, don’t use the Connect button from the People You May Know field. Instead. Click on their profile and use the Connect button there to send them a personalized request.

Remember: asking for recommendations, testimonials, and endorsements is key in growing your LinkedIn network!

5. Replace the default URL

When you first create a LinkedIn account, your profile URL is made up of a string of numbers. If you change this URL to display your name, your profile will pop up sooner in search engines when people search your name or company. Besides, a custom LinkedIn URL is easier to remember and looks better on business cards compared to the default one. Here’s how you can change your LinkedIn Profile page URL.

6. Promote your LinkedIn profile to get inbound links

Although adding more connections and being active in LinkedIn Groups are the two major strategies you can use to get more views, you shouldn’t forget about external promotion either.

Make sure you connect your LinkedIn account with other social media accounts and use these strategies to get more inbound links:

  • Put your LinkedIn profile in your email signature, along with your phone number, website, and Facebook page.
  • Become a contributor to industry blogs and add your LinkedIn profile in the bio. Not only will this help you drive more traffic, but also become known as an expert in your field.
  • Be a guest on the Scrum Master Toolbox Podcast, to get a high-traffic link to your LinkedIn page.

7. Get more recommendations and endorsements

Testimonials, recommendations, and endorsements are at the heart of the LinkedIn algorithm. For example, ProFinder, LinkedIn’s feature for hiring top local freelancers, ranks profiles based on the number of testimonials.

Always follow-up on your messages and ask your connections to endorse your skills and recommend you. From your work colleagues to your former boss or the clients you’ve worked with, anyone can contribute, so don’t hesitate to ask them.

Remember: if you become a power user, endorsements will come on their own. Be professional in everything you do and everyone from colleagues and fellow group members will recommend you.

Pro Tip: A good way to start a request for an endorsement is to write one for your colleagues first, and then ask them to write one for you. Reciprocity is a very powerful unwritten rule between people who trust each other!

8. Content is key

Apart from group contributions, LinkedIn articles are another excellent way to make your voice heard on LinkedIn and drive more traffic to your profile. In fact, LinkedIn is one of the best platforms for content marketing. Follow these tips to create high-quality, relevant content that your connections actually want to read:

  • Focus on long-form content (over 2,000 words) that includes actionable tips and advice
  • Give your unique perspective on an industry topic
  • Write a killer headline that captures the audience’s interest
  • Be a good storyteller. Don’t just enumerate facts, present them in a way that connects with the audience at an emotional level
  • Stay relevant. Professionals go to LinkedIn for professional content, the kind that they can only get from an industry expert, so don’t settle for low-quality posts that don’t provide any real value.
  • Be SEO-friendly. Include relevant keywords in your LinkedIn articles so they show up in search engine results pages. Don’t know what keywords to write about? Use a tool like BuzzSumo, which helps you find the most shared content on the Web.
  • Use images to make your articles look more appealing in the LinkedIn newsfeed.

9. Repost your content (Post multiple times per day)

On your company’s blog website, and other social media platforms, reposting content is something you should avoid, but you won’t have this problem on LinkedIn. If you wrote a high-quality, insightful article that you’re proud of, don’t be afraid to promote it, because Pulse (LinkedIn’s personalized newsfeed) won’t penalize you for it.

To increase the chances of being noticed,  even more, you can post updates at different times of day, so that they reach more users in different countries.

Pro Tip: when reposting a link to a LinkedIn article, write a new description every time.

10. Combine articles with long-form status updates

Many LinkedIn users have reported that status updates show up on their feed more often than articles and, while this doesn’t mean you should stop sharing articles, you can think of it as an opportunity to share both types of content.

In a status update, you have 1,300 characters to capture your audience’s interest (~300 words), which is not enough to offer the full perspective, but it’s enough to write a compelling introduction. Plus, you can always post a link to the article in the first comment so your followers can read more.

Whether you want to recruit, find investors, or gain leads, LinkedIn is a fantastic social network. Experiment with the strategies above to get more views, but remember that you will only get consistent results by posting regularly on LinkedIn. Be active every day and you’ll notice not only a surge in views but also an increase in your number of connections.

About Estelle Liotard

Estelle Liotard is a seasoned content writer and a blogger, with years of experience in different fields of marketing. She is a content editor at Trust My Paper and loves every second of it. Her passion is teaching people how to overcome digital marketing obstacles and help businesses communicate their messages to their customers.

 

Jassy (Jan-Simon Wurst): How to run an agile retrospective meeting that generates insights

Continuing the thread from Monday’s episode with Jassy, we discuss how feedback from the team is a critical source of information and inspiration for Scrum Masters. In this episode, we discuss how to collect feedback from the team, so that the feedback is not biased by your presence, and what are the 4 dimensions of Scrum Master success for Jassy

Featured Retrospective for the Week: Games that inspire insights

Jassy calls himself “not a friend of retrospectives by the book”. He claims to rarely use a “vanilla” format from somewhere else, but prefers to facilitate retrospectives that feel like a game, like a fun thing to do. We discuss metaphor games, and how they help teams find insights they would not find otherwise.

About Jassy (Jan-Simon Wurst)

Jassy moved from developer to being a Scrum Master and then a freelancer. He calls himself:  the person to contact for help in On-Boardings, as well as a friend of bottom-up, power to the people! No top-down, no micro-management. No despotism in agile software development.

You can link with Jassy (Jan-Simon Wurst) on LinkedIn, or XING and connect with Jassy (Jan-Simon Wurst) on Twitter.

Jassy (Jan-Simon Wurst): how stakeholder engagement drives change in Scrum teams

We reflect on the time it takes to effect meaningful change, and how Scrum Masters can help teams learn to be patient in the process. We also discuss some critical tools that help change take hold. Specifically, how transparency and customer/stakeholder engagement can drive change in a team.

About Jassy (Jan-Simon Wurst)

Jassy moved from developer to being a Scrum Master and then a freelancer. He calls himself:  the person to contact for help in On-Boardings, as well as a friend of bottom-up, power to the people! No top-down, no micro-management. No despotism in agile software development.

You can link with Jassy (Jan-Simon Wurst) on LinkedIn, or XING and connect with Jassy (Jan-Simon Wurst) on Twitter.

Ethics over rules – An agile retrospective gone wrong, an #ExtremeContracts blog post

This is a guest blog post by Jacopo Romei. Author of the Italian version of the book Extreme Contracts, and author of an upcoming book on the same topic in English.

Simple rules frequently assessed are at the core of Extreme Contracts. In my experience, I observed that a contract filled up with rules won’t necessarily be fairer than a simpler agreement in which we pragmatically and iteratively assess the actual behavior of all the parts. Even more crucial: I am not interested in partners respecting the rules in a dull way as much as I want them to act ethically. In this article, I am going to show a key principle of Extreme Contracts, and a core aspect of Agile in general: Ethics over Rules.

It’s not about the law, it’s about trust

Have you ever thought about the difference between “legal” and “ethical”? To help you a bit, I will honor my Italian roots with an example based on football (some call it soccer ;).

When a football player gets seriously injured during a match, football rules don’t force the opponents to stop from exploiting the temporary one player advantage. Despite this, usually at that point, the ball gets kicked over the sideline to allow for the player to be cared for and give the injured player’s team time to re-organize. Football rules alone then dictate that the game is resumed with a throw-in, but again, despite this, usually the favor is returned, the ball is kicked out on the side one more time and the throw-in is reversed. They call it “fair play” and it’s a set of rules narrower and blurrier at the same time.

As Extreme Contracts practitioners, we care more about those unwritten rules than the rules we can capture in a contract. We reject a collaboration style which starts from nasty negotiations and ends up focusing on enforcing a set of rules instead of addressing the real ever-changing needs of all the parties involved.

There may be many ways to follow the rules and still take advantage of a weaker partner, customer or supplier. Especially in knowledge work, where requirements and the value to deliver can be so hard to grasp, it is very easy to end in a bad collaboration even when playing by the rules.

Let me give you an example in the following story.

A (not so) agile retrospective

I was standing in the meeting room. In front of me ten people: six non-developer employees of a bank and four outsourced IT consultants—three developers and a project manager. The developers and the project manager were from the same supplier. We were deep into an agile retrospective, held after the latest release. We had already listed and clustered all the good and bad things that had happened in the previous iteration, and we were about to dot vote those clusters to select and prioritize the following actions.

On the whiteboard, among many other small clusters, a prominent group of post-its was labeled “deployment”. Seven post-its had been written to raise an issue about the broken deployment process used for the last few releases. The deployment process was labeled buggy, unstable, unreliable and slow. Considering the group in the room, despite the anonymous gathering of the post-its, we could say that at least one person from the supplier company had written a post-it about the quality of the deployment process: seven post-its and six bank employees were enough to tell at least one IT consultant raised the issue about the deployment process.

When an agile retrospective goes wrong…

When I asked all the people in the room to vote which cluster to focus on in the remainder of the retrospective, Elena, the IT project manager, burst out. “This retrospective is broken!”, she said.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because this dot voting is useless. It is biased!”

I exchanged a doubtful glance with the two product owners from the bank.

“We wrote all the post-its anonymously, now the dot voting will be very open, so what bias are you afraid of?”, I asked.

“How can you be sure that everybody will tell the truth?”

I was quite surprised. I hadn’t even considered the chance that someone could lie or might not be interested in investigating the flaws in our workflow. The other people listening to the conversation kept silent.

I tried to reboot the conversation from the basics. “We are using this agile retrospective to improve the way we work as a Whole Team, and I am sure everybody here…”

“It’s stupid!”, she interrupted me. I caught sight of interest on the product owners’ face. “We, from the IT (the outside supplier) will never vote for the deployment issues!”

I was concerned. “Why?”

“Because we will never admit that the most critical issue here is due to us!”

One of the two bank’s product owners looked at me with a smile of entertainment and (uttered) “Gotcha!”, apparently enjoying her win on my argument.

Ethicless is pointless

What had just happened? Let’s review the whole sequence:

  1. The team was made of 10 people: 4 business experts, 3 IT developers and an IT project manager.
  2. At least some of the outsourced IT people were aware there was some problem with a very technical deployment procedure which they were accountable for.
  3. All the team members were given space to let issues emerge and be discussed in a non-blaming atmosphere, focusing on the resolution of the problems and not on trying to pass sentence on someone.
  4. The project manager said that they would never propose to focus on improving the deployment procedure because that would mean showing their weakness.
  5. As if this was not enough, the bank’s product owner—which would be the first one to be harmed by any loss of quality in the process—somehow took her side, celebrating the “strength” of her argument, and obviously shooting himself in the foot when it came to delivering working software…

So we had a customer—the bank—which had hired a supplier—providing the developers—to have a problem solved and its solution automated via some software. The contract, as too often we observe in IT market, was based on a fixed scope of features. The main consequence for the supplier was that they could simply deliver a collection of features—probably planned months before—to claim their money. The main consequence for the customer was that they had no way to compel the supplier to care about improving the whole collaboration. There was no possibility for any of the parties to go “beyond the contract”, and establish a way of working that would ultimately generate more value!

On top of this, as it showed, the rule-based mindset was so entrenched in the customer’s culture—here represented by its product owner—that they could not see how they were being deceived by their supplier: “yeah, they could be performing less than their full potential, but… they can! Cheers!”

This was too absurd. At that point, I realized that it made no sense to talk about improvement with that team. We carried the retrospective on that day, one way or another, but I quit my collaboration with the bank after a few days, because, for me, it doesn’t make sense to work in a place where rules are more relevant than the most basic ethical principles.

Contracts destroy value in the relationship

The paradox of having a supplier admittedly choosing not to create value and a customer taking their side is possible because of the contract/agreement between those parts. The rules laid down by the contract did not help to improve the quality of the collaboration itself while being only focused on an easy-to-measure KPI—the number of implemented features or the number of person-days worked on the project. No clause in the contract would allow for the customer—the bank— to get rid of a supplier that was overtly trying not to contribute in the most honest way.

Most importantly: if an agreement allows the supplier to deliberately ignore improvements just because “I did my job”… well, how can we even think of working an agile way? If the flaws of the collaboration go unnoticed by the customer who seems even to appreciate how smart the supplier is in betraying their trust… well, how can we even think of pursuing the best possible result?

Agile contracts create value and include ethical principles

Instead of contracts like this, I prefer a frequent re-assessment of what’s right and what’s wrong, which is one of the core values of agile: “customer collaboration”. When it comes to contracts and vendor-buyer relationships, if we allow our collaboration to be re-assessed frequently enough, we can create an ad hoc and ever-changing rule set to address the dynamic and complex challenges that normally happen in business.

In the story above, I would have wanted to get rid of the supplier that was not interested in constantly and deliberately improve the ways we worked together. I would have wanted to make them accountable for their attitude in addition to being accountable for the features they were merely delivering, because at that moment, in that context, their attitude was hindering the chances of success of the project we were working on. The supplier was behaving according to the rules, but unethically!

Ethical behavior goes beyond what is legal. We should care a lot about abiding the law, but that’s not enough: we want collaborations to happen in the narrower space of ethics. We need to favor agreements that allow for continuous validation of the quality of the collaboration.

About Jacopo Romei

Jacopo is an independent strategy consultant, with a strong background in Agile product development.

Jacopo is also an entrepreneur & writer. After having founded a couple of IT companies and practiced agile software development, he started as a full-time freelance agile coach, coaching teams in Italy, Germany and UK.

He has worked with eBay Italia team to set their agile process up. Product ownership and agile UX are added skills acquired in the field.

As a writer, Jacopo published a couple of books on agile coding practices and the Italian version of “Extreme Contracts: knowledge work from negotiation to collaboration“.

Jacopo is a frequent public speaker in international conferences and events about how the way of working is changing in the software industry and organizations management.

 

Jassy (Jan-Simon Wurst): the downward spiral that starts when teams don’t “own” the product

In this episode, we talk about motivation and engagement. Jassy shares with us the most common anti-pattern he has seen in teams. It starts with a lack of identification or empathy with the product. Followed by the “we are doing this for someone else” dynamic, leading to further disengagement. Finally, we talk about some of the things that Scrum Masters can do to help their teams get out of that downward spiral.

Featured book of the week: Momo, by Michael Ende

In Momo by Michael Ende, Jassy found a story about time and effort that constantly inspires him in his role as Scrum Master. In the words of the then Norwegian Prime Minister Thorbjørn Jagland, in his New Year Address to the nation on January 1, 1997: “People are persuaded to save time by eliminating everything not useful. One of the people so influenced cuts out his girlfriend, sells his pet, stops singing, reading and visiting friends. In this way he will supposedly become an efficient man getting something out of life. What is strange is that he is in a greater hurry than ever. The saved-up time disappears – and he never sees it again.

About Jassy (Jan-Simon Wurst)

Jassy moved from developer to being a Scrum Master and then a freelancer. He calls himself:  the person to contact for help in On-Boardings, as well as a friend of bottom-up, power to the people! No top-down, no micro-management. No despotism in agile software development.

You can link with Jassy (Jan-Simon Wurst) on LinkedIn, or XING and connect with Jassy (Jan-Simon Wurst) on Twitter.