As he helped leaders, Dr. Nick Horney worked hard to understand what was going on in the business world in a way that could be explained to others, and to form a curriculum for leaders in worldwide organizations. He came up with the acronym VUCA, which stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity.
In this episode, we dive into what VUCA means in practice and share insights that Scrum Masters can take and help the leaders in their organization.
About Nick Horney
Dr. Horney has written four books. The most recent is VUCA Masters: Developing Leadership Agility Fitness for the world of work, the topic of this episode.
Nick retired from the U.S. Navy (Special Operations) at the rank of Captain and has applied that experience to his work with high performance team agility. He serves as a coach for The Honor Foundation focusing on the successful transition of Navy SEALs to the business world.
Dr. Horney founded Agility Consulting in 2001 and has been coaching leadership agility and organizational agility for over 30 years.
We start this episode by talking about why it is important to have a specific focus on your first 90 days when working with a new team. The first 90 days are all about setting yourself up for success, and that requires that you take certain actions.
Start preparing before you start helping
Rahul suggests that we start preparing for our new role as a Scrum Master by asking specific questions (even in the job interview if that’s the case). Rahul suggests that to understand the expectations placed on you, you must understand what others have done before, what the team might be struggling with, but also how the context around the team works. What are the hierarchies, what do the team expect the Scrum Master to do, and more!
Do the Gemba: a critical step for your success as a Scrum Master
The gemba (a term from Lean that means “the place where the work happens”) walk is all about seeing with your own eyes, and talking directly to the people that you will be working with, or that your work will depend on. It’s important for Scrum Masters that are getting started that they not only talk to the team, but also to the stakeholders of the team, and possibly other teams that represent dependencies for the team you are trying to help.
See the system: looking beyond software development
Finally, the third step in this structured approach to the first 90 days with a new team, is all about what’s around the team that you need to deal with, even if it is not at the core of what the team does. This is “the systemic view” or context for the team. Rahul shares some critical questions we should ask ourselves (and those around the team), so that you can understand what kind of pressure and expectations are placed on the team.
Mega tips to close off this episode (make sure you listen all the way to the end)
Once we review the 3 main activities to prepare your Scrum Master assignment successfully, we dive into some of the tips that Rahul has collected over the years as an Agile Coach and Scrum Master. Rahul shares some critical insights that will help you overcome the most common challenges Scrum Masters face when taking on a new team.
Rahul Bhattacharya is currently working as an Agile Coach at Delivery Hero. He is responsible for optimizing the ways of working within the organization, coaching others on best practices while simultaneously guiding teams working on different products. Rahul is passionate about constant learning through experimentation and feedback
We start by discussing why understanding technical aspects, and having a technical focus is a key asset for Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches. It all starts with the idea that teams should get software in front of their users as quickly as possible.
We discuss Trunk Based Development, and why understanding what that is will help Scrum Masters working with teams that have difficulty releasing on a regular cadence.
For some, it might seem hard enough to release once per month (12 times a year). However, this particular company is releasing every week of the year (52) and some extra releases when necessary, taking them up to 68 unique releases in a year.
They can do this (mostly) transparently to the end customers, but also release major features that their organization uses in promoting the product.
Listen in to learn how Charles Oppermann has helped his organization reach that level of frequent deliveries, even with multiple hard dependencies and a team that can go up to 60+ people involved in the development and release process.
About Charles Oppermann
Charles Oppermann is a 30-year veteran of the software industry. He prides himself on shipping high-quality software that helps humanity; from the JAWS screen reader and making the internet accessible to people with disabilities while at Microsoft, and for the past decade; protecting people from online threats at Malwarebytes.
Hacking culture through conversations: Agile Conversations book
One of the interesting points the authors make is that the conversations that happen (or not) in an organization are what defines the culture of that organization. In this segment, we talk about why we must pay special attention to the quality of the conversations, and why talking about culture, without talking about the conversations in an organization, is a dangerous pattern.
Finding and entering the right conversations in your organization
Why don’t Scrum Masters take a more active role in the conversations ongoing in their organization? We discuss the fear that drives the inaction of Scrum Masters and suggests some techniques we can use to get ourselves, and others to take an active part in shaping the organizational culture and conversations.
We talk about how “frustration” can be a resource for Scrum Masters to find and unlock important conflicts and related conversations. Scrum Masters must take an active part in finding that frustration, and using it to move the team, and the organization forward.
In this segment, we discuss the Ladder of Inference (avoiding jumping to conclusions), and the TDD for people tool (audio).
A call to action: mine for conflict to help your team and organization grow!
We end this episode with a call to action. We discuss how mining for conflict (seeking conflict and using it to generate energy that drives conversations) can help you pave the way for a transformation in your team and in your organization.
We refer to The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, to describe how to create a safe environment where conflict is seen as an opportunity, rather than a threat.
About Douglas Squirrel and Jeffrey Fredrick
Squirrel has been coding for forty years and has led software teams for twenty. He uses the power of conversations to create dramatic productivity gains in technology organizations of all sizes. Squirrel’s experience includes growing software teams as a CTO in startups from fintech to biotech to music, and everything in between. He lives in Frogholt, England, in a timber-framed cottage built in the year 1450.
Jeffrey Fredrick is an internationally recognized expert in software development and has over twenty-five years’ experience covering both sides of the business/technology divide. An early adopter of XP and Agile practices, Jeffrey has been a conference speaker in the US, Europe, India, and Japan. Through his work on the pioneering open-source project CruiseControl, and through his role as co-organizer of the Continuous Integration and Testing Conference (CITCON), he has had a global impact on software development.
When it comes to applying Agile and Scrum to a sales team and organization, the first things we need to be aware of are the key differences to product/software development teams. And there are quite a few! In this segment, we talk about those key differences and the process that Brad developed over time to help sales teams benefit from Agile and Scrum in their work.
We talk about the 3 step process to defining what is the focus of the work, and how to measure the progress of the team. Listen in to learn what those 3 steps are, and also how to align the team’s work around improving the key metrics.
The key challenges to Agile adoption in sales teams
As we learn more about how sales teams work, the next big question is: what are the challenges we often face when adopting Agile in sales teams? We dive into some of the challenges that Brad has seen in his work and learn about his approach to bringing a goal-centric way of working, by starting to work with the sales leader.
We mention Eduscrum (an application of Scrum to education), and learn how sales teams were already remote Agile teams before the covid19 pandemic. The remote work aspect of sales brings with it a set of challenges that astute Scrum Masters will be ready to tackle. Brad explains his approach to getting sales teams to collaborate effectively, even when they are constantly remote.
Adapting the cycle of Scrum to the rhythm of sales teams
The adoption of Scrum can’t be complete without adapting the Scrum ceremonies to the reality of the sales work. Brad walks us through his ideas on how we can take advantage of what is already there (the natural sales meetings and cycle), and slowly build in the ideas of planning, follow-up, “live” demonstration, and retrospectives into sales teams. In this segment, we also discuss how important visualizing the work, and the results is when bringing a set of – usually – independent-minded folks to work tightly together as an agile team.
Aligning teams is not only the challenge we face as Scrum Masters working with remote teams. There’s also the stakeholder side, and aligning stakeholders is even harder than aligning the teams we work with.
We discuss some tactics, as well as a key metric to keep our eye on: “the velocity and quality of decisions that happen around the teams.”
Scrum team consequences due to missing alignment
When teams and stakeholders are not aligned, we can see decisions being delayed, or even ignored. All of this leads to a direct impact on the team’s ability to deliver. Luke shares with us some anti-patterns and some tips he’s collected over the years.
We learn how important it is for Scrum Masters to keep tabs on the communication, and alignment between different departments (not only between teams), and we discuss how sometimes the solution is “more meetings”, leading to the inevitable meeting overload anti-pattern.
We also discuss and describe some of the anti-patterns that emerge when teams and departments lose alignment.
Solving the lack of alignment
When it comes to helping departments and teams get aligned, Luke suggests we try what he calls “sensemaking meetings”. These are meetings that help us find answers to questions and improve shared group understanding of a topic or situation. But there’s another goal for sensemaking meetings: to build the necessary interpersonal networks that are needed to solve future problems.
Solving meeting overload: an experiment
Just like many of us have experienced, Luke also experienced moments when there were too many meetings. In this segment, he suggests we try an experiment he tried before: cancel all meetings for 2 weeks. We discuss why you may want to try that experiment, what were some of the consequences of trying that experiment, and the good things that happened once people started to realize that some meetings were actually useful and necessary.
Dealing with unreasonable expectations
There’s another aspect of remote work that leads to problems at the team level. The fact that work gets hard when remote, and that stakeholders are now more distant from the teams, leads often to unreasonable expectations. These expectations can cause problems at the team level, through high levels of stress, and between teams and stakeholders because of missed expectations. In this segment, we discuss the dynamics that lead to unreasonable expectations and what we can do to help both teams and stakeholders adjust their expectations to the reality of remote work.
About Luke Szyrmer
Luke is the host of the Managing Remote Teams podcast. Luke has managed or participated in fully remote teams for almost a decade. He has lead programs of widely distributed teams. Over the last 9 years, he has lead teams building software, running marketing and sales, and launched a bestselling book. Remotely. In many cases, with people he never met or spoke to in person.
In this episode, we have the organizing team for the Scrum Master Summit 2021, and they share their vision of how we can help form and develop the Scrum Master Community.
As our guests, we have the track curators for the Scrum Master Summit sharing their vision for the Scrum Master role. We explore why the Scrum Master role is so critical for our organizations, and how we – as the Scrum Master community – can come together to develop and progress that role.
Listen in to learn about the Scrum Master Summit live events, and community get-togethers that can help you become the awesome Scrum Master you want to be!
About Yves Hanoulle, Mike Leber, Rahul Bhattacharya, Nagesh Sharma
Yves Hanoulle is the track curator for the “Scaling Agile Beyond One Team” track in the Scrum Master Summit 2021. He’s also the author and co-host for the Tips from the Trenches – Scrum Master Edition Audiobook.
Product Manager, Scrum Master, Project Manager, Director, Agile Coach are only some of the roles that he’s taken in software development organizations. Having worked in the software industry since 1997, and Agile practitioner since 2004. He as worked in small, medium and large software organizations as an Agile Coach or leader in agile adoption at those organizations.
Vasco was one of the leaders and catalysts of Agile methods and Agile culture adoption at Avira, Nokia and F-Secure.
The Nexus Framework has been a topic on the podcast before. In this episode, we explore critical lessons for Scrum Masters that need to work with multiple teams and large organizations with the help of the Nexus Framework.
Organizing A Multi-Team Retrospective: A Key Scaling Tool
One of the aspects that gets shortchanged in the “scaling” frameworks and approaches is the aspect of learning as a whole organization. It is not enough that each individual team learns how to improve. We also need to help the wider organization learn, and for that, we need to be able to organize multi-team retrospectives.
Simon introduces the idea of the “sandwich retrospective”, and highlights that we must ensure that there is a product level and an organizational level learning loop.
Facilitating Multi-Team Planning Efforts: The Key Steps
Knowing how to help a single team is not enough when it comes to helping a set of teams succeed with planning the next increment. The “Nexus” (a group of teams working on a product) planning requires different tools to help eliminate and account for possible dependencies. One of the tips Simon shares is that of ensuring that refinement is done together with multiple teams and before a big room planning event, where multiple teams come together to plan their product increment.
In this segment, we talk about what works when helping multiple teams plan and sprint together, and how to facilitate the refinement when multiple teams are involved.
Focusing on Product Development, not Organizational Development
Every scaling framework has a different focus. In this episode, we talk about what is the reason behind Nexus’ approach to scaling Agile and differentiate Nexus from other frameworks that may focus on organizational changes, while Nexus focuses on the Product Development aspects, not on the organization.
About Simon Flossmann
Simon helps teams effectively use Scrum and an agile mindset to deliver products and services that matter! As a Scrum Master and Professional Scrum Trainer, licensed by Scrum.org, he supports teams and organizations of varying sizes in a wide range of business domains, like automotive, home appliance, energy sector, federal government agency, and insurance.
In this episode, we explore a difficult topic for many people who want to start their career as a Scrum Master in an industry where they don’t have experience yet. This can be someone who wants to move into IT (listen to Rachel’s great story on this) or someone who already has IT experience, but wants to move into Marketing, Sales, or other industries.
Being Agile, as Scrum Masters, means being able to learn and adapt to whatever life throws at us. And that means that we must be ready to learn new industries, technologies, or even new cultural habits when moving to new industries.
How to start finding the right jobs in a new industry?
Rachel shares her story, of how she moved from a manufacturing background into IT. It was a long journey, but she was deliberate about her goals and learned some important lessons about finding a job in a new industry that she shares with us.
The key lesson is: don’t trust the “application process” that many companies have. Networking with people around you, visit local meetups, participate in the community and get opportunities that way!
We also learn about some great tips to use in every interview you have as a potential hire for a Scrum Master position.
What do I invest in, when seeking a Scrum Master position in another industry?
How to get ready for a job in another industry? That’s a question we explore and share some ideas and tips based on the experience our guests have. The most important lesson is, however, to find a mentor, someone who is familiar with the industry you are in. Maybe offer to help that person in some way first, and slowly learn from them about what matters in that particular industry. When moving industries, we have to start by learning the new cultural norms, the new terminology, and of course, the companies that are likely to hire you! A mentor can help with all of that.
What have you learned about searching for a job as a Scrum Master? Share your lessons learned below in the comments and help your future colleagues get the job they seek!
About Alioscha Chaplits, Rachel Macasek and Daniel Lenhard
Alioscha Chaplits has 20+ years of experience with a large international non-profit organization as a team and project leader, mentor, coach, change agent, etc. Alioscha switched to IT three and half years ago to a QA role and since then. He’s got a great question for us to discuss in this panel discussion episode. We’ll get to that in a second.
Daniel Lenhart never knew what his dream job would be, but now that he is a Scrum Master, he loves it. I studied Biology in university and switched fields to software development. This really showed me the importance of cross-disciplinary learning and looking into new areas of interest.
Rachel Macasek is passionate about individual and team growth. She has fostered an environment of collaboration and continuous improvement in the manufacturing, biotech, and software industries. Currently, Rachel is focused on the power of an individual and recently acquired her Leadership and Performance Coaching certification.