Developing Teams the Scrum (and Lean) way! by Lean.Org’s The Lean Post

I’ve been working on a collection of great blog posts about the Scrum Master role. If you have a favorite article on the Scrum Master role, or it’s goals and responsibilities, let me know by submitting it here: https://bit.ly/TheBestScrumMasterBlogPosts2020

Scrum Masters are key participants in the teams, and key contributors to the improvement of productivity in the organizations they work in. Even if the Scrum approach and Agile, in general, are very new (from late1990’s, early 2000s), there are other approaches that have been with us for nearly more than a century now.

One such approach is “Taylorism”. In that approach, the main premise is that “some people” know “what needs to be done and how” (the planner/thinker), and other people “do it” (the doers).

“Take it to the team”: a Scrum Master Mantra

Unfortunately, that Tayloristic approach has become prevalent thanks to the work of some early consultancies.

In Scrum, one of the most important changes to the world of work is that the “doers” are also the “thinkers”. This is one of the reasons why here on the Scrum Master Toolbox Podcast, we often say: “take it to the team”. In other words, anyone can raise an idea of improvement, but only the team knows what can/should be done to achieve the goal. Sometimes that team is the development team, sometimes it is the development team + stakeholders, but it’s “the team” that owns and develops the process of work.

This perspective is revolutionary for many, including many consultancies that still push “process improvement” à lá Taylor (you know which ones).

What’s better than Taylorism for developing our teams and organizations? 

That’s why I want to highlight this post in Lean.Org’s Lean Post blog: “Develop Your People Patiently Rather Than Rely on Super Taylorism”

As the article puts it: while the “west” was focused on separating the thinking from the doing, and using “Super Taylorism”,  “in Japan, Toyota was developing a different approach to strategy, one based on technical learning on the gemba through trial and error–a process that aimed to serve all customers with a broad product line of high quality and at the right price.”

Does that sound familiar? Scrum is exactly that kind of approach: “based on technical learning on the Gemba through trial and error”

Check out the post, and learn about the roots of Scrum and Agile. Don’t get stuck in a Tayloristic approach that leads to frustration, dis-enfranchising the team, and long term problems.

Help us grow as a Scrum Master community, share your best 2020 articles below.

Nikoletta Tatár: What drives an Agile transformation? 

An Agile transformation is not an easy target state to achieve. In this episode with Nikoletta, we discuss what are some of the “must-have” conditions for the Agile transformation to have a chance to succeed. We also talk about how Scrum Masters can help organizations find the right reason for change while working with both leadership and the “doers”.

About Nikoletta Tatár

Nikoletta is an Agile Coach who is passionate about creating an environment where teams and individuals have the space to grow, deliver awesome products to customers, and have fun doing so. She is also a Collaboration Superpowers facilitator holding workshops online about remote working and collaboration. 

You can link with Nikoletta Tatár on LinkedIn and connect with Nikoletta Tatár on Twitter.

BONUS: Platform teams, how structural changes improve outcomes in Agile organizations, with Jeff Campbell and Simone Sciarrati 

In this episode, we discuss how the way we organize teams can impact the effectiveness of an organization. Jeff and Simone share the journey of a team, how it changed, and how that team structure change affected not only the team itself but also the organization around them. 

Simone shares that, at Meltwater, they try to focus on “empowered product teams”, and how that differs from most team setups. 

We refer to the book Inspired by Marty Cagan, and how that book influenced their view on how to organize and structure product development teams. 

The first problem they tackled was the Product Owner being an outsider to the team. 

Making the Product Owner, a first-order citizen in an Agile team

Continue reading BONUS: Platform teams, how structural changes improve outcomes in Agile organizations, with Jeff Campbell and Simone Sciarrati 

Becoming a better Scrum Master by Manuel MĂĽller

I’ve been working on a collection of great blog posts about the Scrum Master role. If you have a favorite article on the Scrum Master role, or it’s goals and responsibilities, let me know by submitting it here: https://bit.ly/TheBestScrumMasterBlogPosts2020

Manuel MĂĽller is the author of Scrum Master that Matters – You

Manuel Müller wrote an article back in 2017 that reminded me of how important it is to keep tabs on our own personal development. He named the article “You”, which I think is a great title for what’s coming next. Are you puzzled by how you can be a better Scrum Master? How you can have more impact on your team and organization? Read on!

A Scrum Master That Matters

The Scrum Master role is not an easy role to take. After all, you’ve got a lot of responsibility, and none of the authority! (At least most Scrum Masters are in that situation.) So, how do you help your organization and your team in that situation? The answer is simple, but not easy: “you” have to focus on developing yourself!

Every team is new, and sometimes, even the old teams you thought you knew change! A new member comes in, and a team member goes out and everything changes!

10 Aspects For A Great Scrum Master

In this article, Manuel focuses on how we can develop ourselves as Scrum Masters, and be ready for that change. For any change. If you are interested, go on and read the whole article. For me, the most important highlights are:

  • Practice what you preach. Build your personal, Scrum Master role-related feedback loops, and keep on learning
  • Use conversations, not only as a way to advocate Agile and Scrum but as a deliberate tool to understand other people’s perspectives. Remember, you are there to help teams, and individuals succeed on their own!
  • Constantly reflect and learn about yourself. To be a better Scrum Master, knowing yourself is the most important asset you have. When you understand yourself, you learn to think before acting, and you are able to act deliberately, with a goal in mind, and the serenity to collect feedback, learn, and adjust. Never stop learning about yourself!

Manuel’s article is from 2017 but it is as relevant today as it was back then! What are the articles you read in 2020 that influenced you? Share those with me, and I’ll share those with the community here on the blog!

Help us grow as a Scrum Master community, share your best 2020 articles below.

Lakshmi Ramaseshan: 4 critical aspects that great Product Owners bring to the team

In this episode, we talk about the consequences of having overly-detailed Product Owners, and we discuss 4 critical aspects that great Product Owners bring to the team.

The Great Product Owner: The 4 key aspects of great Product Owners.

A new PO joined the team that Lakshmi was working with, and brought a different perspective. One that helped the team feel their views were listened to and respected. This PO was excellent at four different aspects necessary for the PO role: being a Product Manager, a Project Manager, a Business Analyst, and a leader for the team. 

The Bad Product Owner: From prescriptive to collaborative, a PO transformation

“The Product Owner is the toughest role in the team” Lakshmi starts when introducing this story, in which we explore the anti-pattern of a PO that was super detail-oriented, and prescriptive. The team was feeling demoralized by that attitude, and here is where Lakshmi introduced a different perspective. She introduced the idea of running an experiment on the way the team and PO collaborated. Listen in to learn what that experiment was, and how it can help PO’s learn to trust and listen to the team.

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 Lakshmi Ramaseshan

Lakshmi considers Agile Coaching her true calling! With 20+ years in the software industry, her journey started as a developer on an agile team. After which she quickly realized good product development is all about having the right conversations, building happy teams, and being aligned with your customer. 

Lakshmi is passionate about growing people, fostering trust amongst the team members, and building high-performance teams. She also believes in giving back to the community & paying it forward to help inspire others on their Journey!

You can link with Lakshmi Ramaseshan on LinkedIn and connect with Lakshmi Ramaseshan on Twitter.

Bootstrapping an working agreement with a Scrum team by Jimmy Jalén

I’ve been working on a collection of great blog posts about the Scrum Master role. If you have a favorite article on the Scrum Master role, or it’s goals and responsibilities, let me know by submitting it here: https://bit.ly/TheBestScrumMasterBlogPosts2020

Jimmy JanlĂ©n’s post on setting up working agreements with your Scrum team

What’s a “working agreement”, Vasco? Good question! As a Scrum Master, one of the things I worry about is if the team members are aware of the (often implicit) agreements they have with each other.

Not having a clear picture of what we have agreed to, may lead to conflict as an outcome of missed expectations. Most commonly, it leads to bugs in the software, and delays in delivery.

So, how can working agreements help reduce bugs and eliminate delays? A simple example of this might be a working agreement like: “share bad news early, even before there are any indications of delays or other consequences”

This agreement, will help the team keep in mind the need to discuss and solve problems early, before they escalate. But, as a single agreement, this would not be enough for a team to work with.

Take It To The Team: The WorkingAgreements Workshop

As a Scrum Master, I also know that the team itself will have a more complete view of the agreements they need to work well together.

I have a few ideas, and will bring those up in our “working agreements workshop”, but it’s up to the team to define and ultimately put into practice those agreements!

In 2017, Jimmy Janlén published an article that helps you prepare a working agreements workshop. In this article, he describes what has worked for him when defining working agreements with teams. Jimmy also shares tips and guides for each of the sections of the workshop.

Jimmy defines the working agreement as capturing “the expectations we have on each other within the team when we collaborate and communicate. I’ve seen teams call it “Code of Conduct” or “Ways of Working”. I call it Working Agreement. You call it whatever makes sense for you.”

Check out the Working Agreements Workshop blogpost by Jimmy to learn more about working agreements, and to get a facilitation guide for his approach to this critical workshop.

Have you had working agreements workshops with your teams? Share below your insights and questions!

Lakshmi Ramaseshan: Helping Scrum teams be self-sufficient

Great Scrum Masters are able to help the teams be self-sufficient, and has Lakshmi puts it: “work themselves out of a job”. We discuss what are the signs that teams are ready to start moving in that direction and become more self-sufficient.

Featured Retrospective Format for the Week: Circles and Soup

In this segment, we discuss the Circles and Soup Agile retrospective format, a format that helps the teams see what’s in their control, and focus on that instead of all the things that would need changing but are outside their control. 

Do you wish you had decades of experience? Learn from the Best Scrum Masters In The World, Today! The Tips from the Trenches – Scrum Master edition audiobook includes hours of audio interviews with SM’s that have decades of experiences: from Mike Cohn to Linda Rising, Christopher Avery, and many more. Super-experienced Scrum Masters share their hard-earned lessons with you. Learn those today, make your teams awesome! 

About Lakshmi Ramaseshan

Lakshmi considers Agile Coaching her true calling! With 20+ years in the software industry, her journey started as a developer on an agile team. After which she quickly realized good product development is all about having the right conversations, building happy teams, and being aligned with your customer. 

Lakshmi is passionate about growing people, fostering trust amongst the team members, and building high-performance teams. She also believes in giving back to the community & paying it forward to help inspire others on their Journey!

You can link with Lakshmi Ramaseshan on LinkedIn and connect with Lakshmi Ramaseshan on Twitter.

The Best Blog posts of 2020 On The Scrum Master Role: collecting the best blog posts from 2020, and you can help!

I’ve been working on a collection of great blog posts about the Scrum Master role. If you have a favorite article on the Scrum Master role, or it’s goals and responsibilities, let me know by submitting it here: https://bit.ly/TheBestScrumMasterBlogPosts2020

To start off this series, I’ll review a post by Gilberto (who’s been a guest here on the podcast), and submitted by Emmy (thanks Emmy!).

In this post, titled “Scrum for the people”, Gilberto explains how he got inspired to look at the Scrum Master role differently after reading  “Por un Scrum Popular” by Tobias Mayer and Alan Cyment (English version: The People’s Scrum by Tobia Mayer).

As Gilberto puts it: “It showed how noble, people-oriented and not at all selfish the profession could be”.

Gilberto laments the idea many have, that the “focus is to leave that role as soon as possible instead of growing and developing it.” And he comments: “This is not the Scrum role I signed for.”

I agree with Gilberto!

He then goes on to explain what the Scrum Master role is about for him, and highlights what he thinks defines a great Scrum Master.

He finishes the article with his own approach on how to become a “Scrum Master for the people”.

Gilberto’s article is an inspiring reminder of what the Scrum Master role can be when we put our energy and focus on becoming better in the service of others. The core aspect of being a Scrum Master!

What articles about the Scrum Master role inspired you during 2020? Let us know by submitting your favorite article below, and let’s build our own “The Best Blog Posts about the Scrum Master role from 2020” list! A list by Scrum Masters for Scrum Masters!

Lakshmi Ramaseshan: Agile adoption through linking day-to-day tasks to a higher purpose

In this story, Lakshmi shares the story of an organization that was trying to move from “work as usual” to a more collaborative approach and improve their Agile practice. However, the teams were not clear on what success looked like. We discuss how we can help organizations move from focusing on the day-to-day only to linking everything they do to a higher purpose.

About Lakshmi Ramaseshan

Lakshmi considers Agile Coaching her true calling! With 20+ years in the software industry, her journey started as a developer on an agile team. After which she quickly realized good product development is all about having the right conversations, building happy teams, and being aligned with your customer. 

Lakshmi is passionate about growing people, fostering trust amongst the team members, and building high-performance teams. She also believes in giving back to the community & paying it forward to help inspire others on their Journey!

You can link with Lakshmi Ramaseshan on LinkedIn and connect with Lakshmi Ramaseshan on Twitter. 

Holding space, a Scrum Master guide with links and tips

As a Scrum Master that studies, and constantly tries to improve your craft, you’ve probably heard (and even used) the phrase “hold the space”.
For (some) native English speakers, this phrase may be easy to grasp, but as a non-native speaker, I can vouch for the difficulty of understanding what this means in practice.
As a Scrum Master myself, however, this phrase is too important to dismiss as “insider talk”, so I want to share some links and tips about “holding the space” as a Scrum Master.
First, let me refer to a blog post at Stanford’s site by Linnea Ann Williams called “Holding Space: A Scrum Master Overview”. The blog post is about the role of the Scrum Master, but it is also about what it means to “hold the space”. My key takeaway from this blog post: As a Scrum Master I must help the team and the stakeholders create the conditions the team needs to perform (hold the space).

The basics of the Scrum Master role and the meaning of “holding space” 

But there’s a lot more about the meaning of “holding space”. Many of the aspects of that approach are in the Scrum Guide (PDF version from the year 2020 here), and some are well described in this blog post by Aditya Chourasiya, titled “Scrum Master – Roles and Responsibilities”. Aditya describes “holding space” as a set of responsibilities that include:
  • Shield teams from interruptions to optimize the outcome
  • Facilitate effective Scrum ceremonies
  • Help Product Owners develop a positive rapport with their team and accept him/her as a part of the family
  • Step back and let the team learn from its own experience – successes, and mistakes.
Aditya’s article gets into the very practical aspects of the role, and I find that approach very useful when defining my own approach to “holding space”.

Taking Holding Space all the way up to “11”: Open Space Technology as a school for Scrum Masters

Open Space Technology, is an approach that helps people find solutions to difficult problems by working together, collaborating on possible answers to those problems.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because that’s what we expect Scrum Masters to do when it comes to the teams and their search for a solution. We want Scrum Masters to help the team find a solution (or more) for a difficult problem, by collaborating inside the team, and with outside contributors, other teams, or stakeholders.
That brings me to another resource (WARNING: this is a book, not a blog post!): The Tao of Holding Space, a book by Chris Corrigan. This is a long read, and I don’t expect everyone to read it. So let me review some key takeaways from the book.
Chris is a seasoned Open Space Technology facilitator and often writes about facilitation at all levels and all kinds of organizations. Therefore he has a lot of experience to share on “holding the space” and what that means in practice.
One of the inspiring phrases from his book is right there in chapter 1, and I think it describes perfectly what the Scrum Master role is about: “Harrison Owen wrote that “holding space” is an act that is at once totally present and totally invisible”.
And the book goes on with inspiring phrases. In chapter 2, Chris writes: “Sitting in stillness invites [other] people to move.” This reminds us that when we don’t take action – as Scrum Masters – we are helping others “find the space” to express their own ability to lead and help the team.
In chapter 10, we are reminded of one of the key aspects of Open Space Technology: “Whatever happens is the only thing that could have”. This encourages us to work with what happens in the team, instead of trying to direct the team towards what we think is “the right thing”. Accepting what happens in the team, at every turn, is also part of “holding the space”

Conclusion

This is a short blog post about what “holding the space” is for Scrum Masters.
It has some very practical blog posts and a resource that inspires us to look at the activity of “holding space” from a different perspective: the Open Space Technology perspective.
“Holding the Space” is not just a phrase, it’s a very practical and pragmatic thing we do as Scrum Masters.
What is your approach to “holding the space”? Share your thoughts below!