Ajeet Singh: 2 habits that can destroy Scrum teams

There are many possible habits or behaviors that lead to problems in Scrum teams. In this episode with Ajeet Singh, we discuss 2 of those habits and the related anti-patterns that emerged.

As Scrum Masters, we must pay attention to the behaviors, understand the possible consequences, and help teams recover before it is too late.

Featured Book for the Week: Agile Software Development with Scrum by Schwaber and Beedle

In Agile Software Development with Scrum by Schwaber and Beedle (aka the black book of Scrum), Ajeet found an holistic understanding of what is Scrum which helped him adopt the ideas and practices.

About Ajeet Singh

Ajeet is an IT professional with 17 years of delivery experience in application development, system integration and software testing. He’s served as a ScrumMaster for over 3.5 years for the clients of USA, UK and Australian geographies.

You can link with Ajeet Singh on LinkedIn and connect with Ajeet Singh on Twitter.

Why Agile frameworks fail and what to do about it: #ToolsOverFrameworks, the context-aware solution

4 minutes read

I have worked at many organizations that were trying to adopt Agile using a framework as the starting point. SAFe, LeSS, or even Scrum were the frameworks of choice.
Scrum, for example, is a very simple framework. It stands to reason that it would be easy to adopt and therefore benefit from the value that Agile brings. Or is it?
If we look deeper, Scrum is a collection of patterns or thinking tools. The daily meeting pattern, the time box pattern, the single owner of the requirements pattern, etc. There are many patterns that were considered when creating Scrum, and together they form what we know as the Scrum framework.
As the Agile community, the problem we face is that Scrum (and other frameworks) did not make Agile adoption easy. The Scrum Theatre many teams play attests to that fact. Using a framework is a problematic approach for Agile adoption because it assumes a prescriptive solution would help us tackle agile adoption. However, Agile adoption is a problem that requires constant evolution and changes.
As the Agile community, the problem we face is that Scrum (and other frameworks) did not make Agile adoption easy.
We need a different approach. One that builds on what we’ve learned from others (books, podcasts, conferences), but also that adapts to our context and the specific reality we live in.

The patterns we’ve seen working before, fail later on

When we work with different teams, we start to get a “feel” for what works, and what doesn’t. We try to apply the same ideas to another team, and then start to understand what consultants mean when they say “it depends…”

When we work with different teams, we start to get a “feel” for what works, and what doesn’t.

For example, the star-fish retrospective may work great for one team, but it just bombs when we use it with another team. That’s ok. Nothing works all of the time. The good thing though, is that there’s always something that works, we just need to know what it is.

The solution is not a process or a framework, it’s a toolbox!

Having worked with many teams, I’ve come to value a few tools that I try to use often. Some retrospective formats are one example of that. But not every retrospective format will work, so I’ve collected over time a large set of “thinking tools” or retrospective formats that I use depending on the context.
As a Product Owner, I’ve successfully used Backlogs. But in some teams Backlogs get abused and create the “slave to the backlog” anti-pattern. With those teams, I’ve been using Impact Mapping and Story Mapping instead. Different situations require different tools. The challenge is collecting a good and large enough toolbox, and the stories to go with it.
Stories, when attached to a tool, help us define where the tool will work, and when it might not. Stories are our “labels” for tools.

Collect tools, not frameworks

No doubt you will be part of teams using different frameworks: Kanban, Scrum, Extreme Programming or Scaled Agile (SAFe), Large Scale Scrum (LeSS), etc.
Don’t fight the framework! Instead, use concrete tools that help you progress and achieve your goals.
As Agile Coaches, Scrum Masters, Product Owners and Team Members, we should be collecting tools, not frameworks. Our goal is to deliver something valuable to our customers/users, not be good at SAFe, Scrum or some other framework.

How we collect tools

We collect tools and stories by sharing our experiences, and listening to those that have solved the problems we are facing now.
For a while I’ve been collecting challenges and tools that product developers use to solve their most important challenges. I’ve collected those in the form of workshops that tackle specific types of problems.
In the #NoEstimates workshops, I share tools and techniques that have helped me and many others deliver on time. Sometimes you can’t fight the deadline. If the product must be out for Christmas, you just deliver. Period. How? That’s what we tackle in the NoEstimates workshop: tools, techniques and thinking models that help deliver on time. These tools are context specific, they come with stories and we practice those in the workshop. Click here to find out more and join the next #NoEstimates workshop.
In the Product Owner Success Toolbox workshop, we review, and practice tools that have helped teams deliver products and services that have a market impact. Impact for the users, customers and also the companies we work with. The biggest waste is that of human potential, with these tools we build our Product Ownership toolbox, and tackle the biggest challenges people have faced when trying to define and deliver products with market impact. Click here to find out more and join the next Product Owner Success Toolbox workshop.
In the Agile Strategy workshop (still in alpha, contact me to know more), we tackle the biggest challenges that companies have faced aligning the teams, and focusing larger number of teams on concrete value for the customers and the organisation. The Agile Strategy workshop collects tools related to funding of work, strategy definition, product strategy, strategy deployment, and progress follow-up at the organizational level. Email me to know more about the Agile Strategy Workshop.

Join the conversation

Have an opinion on the use of Tools vs. Frameworks? Join the conversation on Twitter/LinkedIn with the hashtag #ToolsOverFrameworks

Ajeet Singh: the pitfalls when Scrum Masters overly rely on the team

It is one of the mantras in the podcast: “take it to the team”. That mantra helps Scrum Masters focus on helping teams grow and learn from their mistakes. However, there’s a pitfall hiding in that mantra, and that’s when we rely too much on the team. As Scrum Masters we are also the accountability partners for the team. When we don’t pay attention, bad things can happen. In this episode, we discuss the pitfalls of relying too much on the team, and how to avoid this anti-pattern.

About Ajeet Singh

Ajeet is an IT professional with 17 years of delivery experience in application development, system integration and software testing. He’s served as a ScrumMaster for over 3.5 years for the clients of USA, UK and Australian geographies.

You can link with Ajeet Singh on LinkedIn and connect with Ajeet Singh on Twitter.

BONUS: Josh Seiden on Lean UX, a toolbox for Product Owners and Agile teams

In this episode, we explore the ideas from the book Lean UX, authored by Josh Seiden and Jeff Gothelf (Jeff Gothelf was on the podcast earlier to help us redefine the measure of success for software development).

Lean UX is both an approach and a set of tools that teams and Product Owners can use to help integrate the design/requirements/user research aspects into the team’s work.

The essence of Lean UX

Continue reading BONUS: Josh Seiden on Lean UX, a toolbox for Product Owners and Agile teams

Tilman Rumland how Scrum Masters help avoid conflicts when teams communicate in other languages

In multinational companies, the usual communication language (English, in many) is not the native language for many of the team members and even stakeholders. As Scrum Masters we must be aware of this and prepare to avoid the expected misunderstandings and possible conflicts. Tilman shares his tips on what Scrum Masters can to to handle multinational teams that don’t share a common native language.

About Tilman Rumland

Tilman Rumland is an agile coach, expert speaker, and productivity enthusiast. He just released his new workshop series: “getting shit done that really matters to you”. As a scrum master, he implemented agile structures to agrilution, a small scale vertical farming startup, ranked on the Forbes TOP 100 innovative German Startups. (www.agrilution.com)

You can link with Tilman Rumland on LinkedIn.

Tilman Rumland on the Appreciation Shower Agile Retrospective Format

As we look for a definition of success for a Scrum Master, it is also important that we identify signs that problems may be developing. In this episode, we discuss Tilman’s definition of success, but also the signs that we may not yet have achieved it.

Featured Retrospective for the Week: Appreciation Shower

The Appreciation Shower Agile Retrospective format is a format that Tilman found to have a large positive impact on the team atmosphere. He shares his tips on how to implement this format, and avoid it from being overwhelming.

We also mention the Football Agile retrospective format, where the team describes the Sprint as if it were a football match, including first-half, substitutions, red cards, etc. A fun format to get the team’s creative juices flowing.

About Tilman Rumland

Tilman Rumland is an agile coach, expert speaker, and productivity enthusiast. He just released his new workshop series: “getting shit done that really matters to you”. As a scrum master, he implemented agile structures to agrilution, a small scale vertical farming startup, ranked on the Forbes TOP 100 innovative German Startups. (www.agrilution.com)

You can link with Tilman Rumland on LinkedIn.

Tilman Rumland: how to help Scrum teams set up their *own* rules

When Scrum Masters help teams go through a change process there are few things more important than helping teams “take over”. In this episode, we explore the consequences of not helping the teams take over the change process, and also discuss approaches and tools Scrum Masters can use to help teams hold themselves accountable.

About Tilman Rumland

Tilman Rumland is an agile coach, expert speaker, and productivity enthusiast. He just released his new workshop series: “getting shit done that really matters to you”. As a scrum master, he implemented agile structures to agrilution, a small scale vertical farming startup, ranked on the Forbes TOP 100 innovative German Startups. (www.agrilution.com)

You can link with Tilman Rumland on LinkedIn.

Tilman Rumland on how Scrum Masters can help new team members

When new team members join a strong team, they may suffer from too much or the wrong kind of humbleness. In this episode, Tilman shares the story of a team member that joined a strong team, but failed to establish himself, failed to speak up and that led to a serious misunderstanding. Listen in to learn how to help team members establish themselves in a new team, even when the process might be intimidating at first

Featured Book of the Week: Antifragile by Nassim Taleb

In Antifragile by Taleb, Tilman found a philosophy that helped him organize his life in a way as to be ready for the possible problems that might appear. He also discusses two other books in the featured book of the week segment: How to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie, and The way of the superior man by David Deida.

About Tilman Rumland

Tilman Rumland is an agile coach, expert speaker, and productivity enthusiast. He just released his new workshop series: “getting shit done that really matters to you”. As a scrum master, he implemented agile structures to agrilution, a small scale vertical farming startup, ranked on the Forbes TOP 100 innovative German Startups. (www.agrilution.com)

You can link with Tilman Rumland on LinkedIn.

Top 3 challenges we face as product developers – #PDevTOOLBOX

After running a survey of product developers, I collected the following 3 top challenges that product developers face in their work.
  1. Unclear specifications with missing information like acceptance criteria, and that require large amounts of rework after we start developing a particular functionality
  2. Finding out critical use cases too late (via bugs, real-user feedback, etc), which leads to long delays in the project.
  3. We don’t have a clear and measurable definition of value, therefore it is always a fight of opinions where the HIPPO (highest paid person’s opinion) prevails most of the times – even when it goes against survey results.

A toolbox to solve these problems

Given these 3 main findings, it is easy to understand why delivering on time is hard for many teams. No matter how much goes into planning and estimating, when the agreement on value is missing, and the specifications of what to do are too fuzzy, we will inevitably find big gaps that lead to massive scope creep and delays.
But it does not need to be like these. There are simple tools I collected in my product developer’s toolbox (#PDevTOOLBOX) that can help alleviate or remove these problems. Based on your input through the #PDevTOOLBOX survey, I’ve created a booklet (15 min read) you can download and read while on the run in your mobile phone or tablet.



Tilman Rumland on Anti-Patterns of Scrum adoption

Scrum adoption, just like any other process or framework, is not free from troubles. Especially when organizations are already in the middle of a problematic situation.

In this episode, we review several anti-patterns of Scrum adoption, including hierarchic struggles, abusing the Scrum roles to make them just another set of titles, the extreme attention to the Product Owner role, and many others.

About Tilman Rumland

Tilman Rumland is an agile coach, expert speaker, and productivity enthusiast. He just released his new workshop series: “getting shit done that really matters to you”. As a scrum master, he implemented agile structures to agrilution, a small scale vertical farming startup, ranked on the Forbes TOP 100 innovative German Startups. (www.agrilution.com)