Caterina Reinker: Creating transparency towards the Scrum Master role as way to drive continuous improvement

Caterina invites us to evaluate success in the Scrum Master role by defining and making success measurable. She uses a Continuous Improvement roadmap to solicit feedback from her stakeholders and the team. Using transparency towards her work as a way to create the right conversations in the team, as well as with the stakeholders.

Featured Retrospective Format for the Week: The 5 Why’s, a facilitation guide to helping the team go beyond symptoms

Caterina’s favorite format for Agile Retrospectives is the 5 Why’s retrospective. In this segment, Caterina shares with us her insights on how to facilitate the conversation with the team, and how to avoid some potential pitfalls of that format.

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 experience: 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 Caterina Reinker

Caterina is a social anthropologist and passionate Scrum Master. She regards organizations like villages – or cities – with their own language, institutions, and explicit and many implicit rules. Caterina works and lives in Germany and helps groups of people, big and small, in their agile journey.

You can link with Caterina Reinker on LinkedIn.

Shahin Sheidaei: How to assess if an Agile team is ready to get more autonomy from the Scrum Master

Even if Scrum Masters can focus on “working themselves out of a job”, the fact is that not many teams can get to that level, and even the ones that can get there, it’s not easy to find out when is the right time to step back. In this segment, we talk about what it means for a team to be self-sufficient, and how Scrum Masters can evaluate if the team is ready to be given more autonomy.

Featured Retrospective Format for the Week: The 5 Why’s and some caveats when facilitating that format

Shahin starts by sharing a key lesson about making the Retrospectives adjust to the team, and their mood, instead of asking the team to adjust to the Retrospective format we prepared in advance.

In this segment, we talk about the 5 Why’s Retrospective, and some of the caveats we must take into account when facilitating that kind of Retrospectives.

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 experience: 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 Shahin Sheidaei

Shahin Sheidaei is an Agile, Lean and Success Coach,International Speaker, Transformation Expert, and Entrepreneur.

Shahin is a passionate organizational designer focusing on organizational performance, and is also founder and principal coach at Elevate Change Inc.

You can link with Shahin Sheidaei on LinkedIn and connect with Shahin Sheidaei on Twitter.

BONUS: Module 2, Retrospectives Master Class with David Horowitz

This is the second of a multi-part series on Agile Retrospectives with David Horowitz who’s the CEO of Retrium, a company that builds tools to help you facilitate remote retrospectives. The links to Retrium’s Retrospectives Academy below are affiliate links, if you prefer to follow a link that takes you to Retrium’s site, but does not give anything back to the podcast, you can. Just follow this link: Retrium.com. On the other hand, if you want to help us grow this podcast, you can follow the links below or this link to Retrium’s Retrospective’s Academy.

In the second instalment of the Agile Retrospectives Masterclass with David Horowitz, we talk about the 5 phases of a successful retrospective, and share tips and ideas for each of those phases to ensure you are prepared and get the team to find and act on breakthrough improvements. 

You can find Module 1 of the Retrospectives Master Class here

It all starts with a simple check-in: “Set the Stage”, Phase 1 of a successful retrospective

When we start a retrospective, usually at the end of a Sprint, the team member’s minds might be on that last bug they just closed, or the story that didn’t get delivered, or the feedback they just got from stakeholders. The Check-in phase of the retrospectives helps all the team members, and the facilitator to get into the retrospective mood. To forget the open threads that will need to be picked up later, and focus on the question: “How can we do even better in the next Sprint?”

In this segment, we talk about the Constellations exercise that helps everyone visualize agreement and disagreement with a specific statement in a way that raises engagement, and increases the energy level of the retrospective. You can find here a detailed description of the Constellation exercise for Agile Retrospectives

We also discuss the “one-word check-in” exercise and the “Mad/Sad/Glad” check-in for Agile retrospectives.  

For retrospectives that try to focus on improving collaboration between team members, David suggests The Circle Of Appreciation exercise

In this segment, we also refer to the classic book: Agile Retrospectives by Diana Larsen and Esther Derby

Gathering Data and Generating Insights, the core of an Agile Retrospective

If we want to enable deeper conversations, we need to be aware that the information that is shared will directly affect the quality of the conversations. Therefore, Agile Retrospectives require special attention to the “gathering data” phase. There are many ways to gather data, and some might even happen during the Sprint, instead of during the retrospective. 

During the retrospective, however, we will visualize that data and help the team make sense of it. 

In this segment, we talk about the timeline exercise, and how to use emotional-queues to help uncover important pieces of information. 

Soft or qualitative data can also be used to augment the use of other data in the timeline exercise. One such way is to use the “journey lines” exercise.

When the data is visible and understandable, then the team focuses on finding insights by analyzing the data and generating possible connections and causal links. Here the challenge for a Scrum Master is to prevent the team from jumping too early into solutions before they deeply understand the problem they are trying to solve. 

David shares some tips to help prevent the team from discussing solutions before they have a shared understanding of the problem. We talk about The 5 Why’s technique, but there are many more. 

Making Retrospectives Impactful: Deciding what to do

Many teams fail in Phase 4, Deciding what to do. But they might fail in quite different ways. For example, some teams might want to commit to too many items at once, while other teams might not commit to any improvement. And finally, the worst problem: those teams that commit to improvements, but work on none of them. 

Great teams, understand well how many improvements they can take from a retrospective, and are clear on the commitment, maybe even including the improvement ideas as items on their Sprint backlog. 

In this segment, we talk about the ICE method for prioritizing improvement ideas and the importance of brainstorming several solutions before deciding what to do. It’s also important to use methods of consensus generation when there are several options that seem equally valuable. The commitment of each team member to the solution to be tried will directly impact their commitment to the work to be done for that solution. 

In this segment, we talk about experiments and the use of such templates as the Hypothesis-Driven Development template by Barry O’Reilly

Phase 5: Close the retrospective

At the end of the retrospective, our goals are to provide closure, a sense of achievement, and energy for the work ahead. 

How can we do that? In this segment, we talk about the “retro on the retro” and the “gif check-out”. Two simple approaches that help the team feel a sense of accomplishment, and also get better at doing future retrospectives. 

Which closing exercises have you used? Share those with us on Twitter or LinkedIn

About David Horowitz

David Horowitz is the CEO of Retrium, a platform for agile retrospectives that has powered over 100,000 retrospectives from thousands of companies across the world.

Prior to co-founding Retrium, David spent a decade at The World Bank as an engineer turned Agile coach.

He has degrees in Computer Science and Economics from The University of Maryland and a Master’s Degree in Technology Management from The Wharton School of Business.

Learn more about Better Retrospectives with David Horowitz by accessing the FREE Retrospective’s Academy by Retrium: http://bit.ly/retromasterclass

You can link with David Horowitz on LinkedIn and connect with David Horowitz on Twitter

Agile Practices Retrospective – How to help teams get unstuck!

This is a guest post by Jeff Campbell, author of Actionable Agile tools (available on Amazon, and direct from the author at bit.ly/aatbook)

Keeping retrospectives impactful and fresh

We like to keep our retrospectives fresh. We find it helps to reveal things we might not otherwise have found if we alter the format frequently. With this goal in mind, we follow a simple system:

Once a month we use our ”normal” retro format. Everyone in the team is familiar with this, and we can perform them quite quickly, with minimal prep work and explanation required. Basically, effective with very little admin.

Once a month we have our ”experimental” retrospective. A little more set-up time required, but a good opportunity for experimentation and explorations.

This is the story of one such retrospective.

Click to learn more about how you can help your PO

Agile Practices

Obviously, you can perform many Agile practices, but not be Agile. However, there are a lot of practices out there and sometimes teams can become focused solely on those that they are currently using, rather than looking at other tools they might bring to bear. This is where the Agile Practices Retrospective comes in.

Prep Work

In preparation for the retrospective, we created cards with various Agile practices as headlines, and a brief explanation of each listed on it. I also color coded them under various categories so they could be more easily identified from afar. Then we simply taped all these cards to a wall in their respective categories. There were about 50 cards in all.

Special thanks to Jurgen Appelo for providing the initial list I worked from:
http://www.noop.nl/2009/04/the-big-list-of-agile-practices.html

Here is a link to a google doc with the prep work I have done, to save you some time:
https://tinyurl.com/l8loec6

Reducing the complexity

With over 50 cards, there was a lot of information. We split into groups and started categorizing the cards under a new set of headings, it was made clear to all that they were not expected to read all the cards.

Headings:

  • Doing (Working Well): Things we are currently doing, and quite happy with the way they currently work.
  • Doing (Could be better): Things we are currently practicing but could use improvement.
  • Not doing (By choice): Things we are not currently practicing, but have made a choice not to use in our context.
  • Not doing (Not tried): Things we are not doing, and have never really tried.
  • WTF!?!: We have no idea what this is, or what it means.

Deciding what to focus on

We obviously cannot talk about all these things. So, we used dot voting to decide what topics to focus on. Each team member was given 3 ”dots” for each of these types of vote:

  • We should start and or alter this practice in some way. (Indicated by a dot)
  • We would like to learn more about this practice. (Indicated by a +)

I also printed out simple list versions of the same information, as I knew it would be hard for everyone to gather around the board when deciding how to use their votes. Despite this, this was still not as successful as we would have hoped. Part of this is because we are actually two teams and our 3 customer representatives, so the whiteboard was too crowded. I feel this would go better with a single team.

Discussions and action points

We had open discussions and tried to create action points/experiments around the topics we had discussed. I will just give a very brief of what we arrived at:

Root Cause Analysis/ 5 Why’s

Discussion:
We even arrived at the fact that without formal tools, we are still quite good at root cause analysis. But perhaps a formal tool might reveal something we would have otherwise been unaware of.

Experiments:
1)Focus on using our discussion time during retrospectives (Generate Insight) to use more formal tools like 5 why’s.
2) When events are added to our timeline at daily stand-ups, then we should also consider doing a more in-depth analysis of those items.

Product Vision

Discussion:
We felt that we very likely do have a product vision, and even a fair amount of impact mapping done for that, but this is not communicated to the entire team at a frequent enough rate. Also, we need to get better at following up these things.

Experiments:
1)Make the product vision more concrete and communicate it at a regular interval.
2)Follow the vision and impact map up at a regular interval.

Behaviour Driven Development (BDD):

Discussion:
This is a discussion point we wanted to learn more about. So, the discussion was brief. We basically arrived at the fact that it was intriguing and we want to know more.

Experiments:
1)The two team members who know something on the subject will provide some links and a quick intro for everyone else.
2) Some of the team will experiment with these concepts in our ”Brain Day” next week.

Conclusions:

The Good:

This retrospective was reviewed well by the team, everyone generally liked it.

It was a fairly active retrospective, because of all the moving things around and working in teams, so the energy level remained high throughout.

Probably the best aspect of this retrospective was the addition of fresh concepts into the team, the idea to focus on things we wanted to learn more about was a good one. In the future, we would probably recommend only focusing on these things.

The Bad:

There was a fair amount of prep work involved in this one, although I consider it worth the investment, it wasn’t free. Hopefully, a bit cheaper for you, as we have provided the work we have done. Once again: https://tinyurl.com/l8loec6

It was too hard to get an overview with so many items, this may have been due to team size, and might have been possible to mitigate by having the team read the list beforehand.

Despite there being so many items, the list was not even close to exhaustive, and it was hard to leave off some practices that really should have been included.



About Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell is the author of Actionable Agile Tools, a book with practical tools and practices to help you amplify your impact as a coach and Scrum Master

Jeff is an Agile Coach who considers the discovery of Agile and Lean to be one of the most defining moments of his life and considers helping others to improve their working life not to simply be a job, but a social responsibility. As an Agile Coach, he has worked with driving Agile transformations in organizations both small and large.

Jeff is also involved in the Agile community and is one of the founding members of Gothenburg Sweden’s largest agile community at 1500+ members , and he also organizes the yearly conference www.brewingagile.org.

You can link with Jeff Campbell on LinkedIn and connect with Jeff Campbell on Twitter.

Anna Zalucka explains how blaming turns into a team anti-pattern

Blaming is a very common pattern in teams. Either from the outside (stakholders) or from the inside (towards other teams and stakeholders). Blaming can take many forms and can also become a team anti-pattern, one that removes responsibility and ultimately destroys the teams’ ability to improve.
In this episode we mention a tool that can be used to analyze and remove blame from the team’s behavior: 5 Whys.

About Anna Zalucka

Ana has a solid technical background since she started her IT career as a C++ developer. She chose the architect and project manager path at first, but quickly noticed that classic management is not very effective as she encountered the same issues over and over again. In 2012 she experienced a paradigm shift: Agile software development. Ana has been developing Scrum Master skills ever since. Working as dedicated Scrum Master in two teams in a Latvian company named Eptron.
You can link with Anna Zalucka on LinkedIn. You can also find her on the Facebook Scrum Master Community.

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