Varun Maheshwari: The Product Owner as a key to Scrum Master success

Scrum Master success is not only about the team, but also about the Product Owner. When we want to help Scrum teams, we should check how the interaction with the Product Owner works, and how to help the team and Product Owner collaborate effectively.

Helping Product Owners also means focusing on the business side of our work and defining together the critical business metrics for the PO and 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.

Featured Retrospective for the Week: Conversations as retrospectives

Sometimes retrospectives are simple moments in time where team members have important conversations with each other. Instead of waiting for a retrospective event, Scrum Masters should encourage those conversations every day. In this episode, we also talk about how to help distributed teams hold regular, even daily retrospectives.

About Varun Maheshwari

Varun is a Scrum Master and agile practitioner in Australia. He believes in “being agile” rather than “doing agile”. For him, Agile frameworks are not the goal, but rather “Delighting customers, Zero Defects, Quick ROI, Better team work, Excellent Quality & Shortest ‘Time to Market’” are some of the possible goals.

You can link with Varun Maheshwari on LinkedIn.

Elena Astilleros: How to execute an Agile Retrospective in 30 min or less and still get lots of value from it

Scrum Masters can use their self-check-in every day to assess their progress. In this episode, we talk about questions you can ask yourself to assess your progress and find the areas that are working or need more focus.

Featured Retrospective for the Week: The 5 steps, how to execute them when time is of the essence

The Agile Retrospectives steps that Derby and Larsen shared in Agile Retrospectives can take a while to execute in a retrospective setting. Sometimes we don’t have that much time. In this episode, we discuss how we can implement the standard 5 steps of a retrospective even when time is of the essence and we only have 30 min or less.

About Elena Astilleros

Elena coaches people who hate wasting their time with badly run agile ceremonies, meetings or projects. She gives them tools to get more out of their time while sprinkling in a little enthusiasm and cheerleading. You can find some of her tools in the forthcoming book Invisible Leader.

You can link with Elena Astilleros on LinkedIn and connect with Elena Astilleros on Twitter.

Eduardo Ribeiro: The Hot Air Balloon Retrospective Format

When working with teams, the team’s metrics should also become the Scrum Master’s metrics. In this episode, we talk about metrics that teams use but can also be important for Scrum Masters to assess their success, and help the teams.

Featured Retrospective Format for the Week: The Hot Air Balloon Retrospective Format

The Hot Air Balloon Retrospective format is a format that helps teams use a metaphor to explore their current problems (ballast) and the things that are working well (heat, wind, etc.) Metaphors help teams get out of their minute task focus and focus more on themselves as a group.

About Eduardo Ribeiro

Eddy is passionate about helping people, teams, and organizations foster a culture of continuous improvement where experimentation and embracing change becomes part of their DNA.

He’s also the author of the Beyond Lean Agile Blog, a Co-Founder of the Lean Coffee Portugal Community, Founder of Agile Online Community and Co-Founder & Director of Startup Grind Porto.

You can link with Eduardo Ribeiro on LinkedIn and connect with Eduardo Ribeiro on Twitter.

Antipatterns every Scrum Master must understand: when a team is stuck – Q&A with Jeff Campbell

Jeff is the author of Actionable Agile tools (available on Amazon, and direct from the author at bit.ly/aatbook). He joins us on this series of Q&A shows to answer questions you’ve submitted. You can submit your questions via our survey (short, about 2 min to fill-in) or by tweeting us @scrumpodcast with #agilejeff.

In this episode, we talk about getting management to be involved and buy-in to the agile transformation.

How do you help your teams challenge themselves to try new things?

There was this one team. They were actually quite good!

That was the good part. However, after a while, they were so good that they started to act as if they didn’t want to improve anymore.

They thought they were good, but I knew they had a serious lack of innovation, they were stuck in the same old methods and processes.

They thought they were better than the rest, but I knew they were just doing the same thing for a long time and were far from their potential!

How do you help your teams challenge themselves to try new things?

Click to learn more about how you can help your PO

Continue reading Antipatterns every Scrum Master must understand: when a team is stuck – Q&A with Jeff Campbell

Nedeljko Damnjanovic: the Sailboat Retrospective Format and 5 success metrics for Scrum Masters

Scrum Masters must pay attention to how Scrum teams adhere to the Sprint Goal, how they collaborate with the Product Owner and other aspects that help teams perform.

In this episode, we talk about 5 different success metrics for Scrum Masters.

Featured Retrospective Format for the Week: The Sailboat Retrospective Format

Scrum Masters usually have multiple retrospective formats in their “back-pocket”. The Sailboat Retrospective format is one that is easy to setup (a flipchart and markers/post-its are enough), and can engage the team in a creative assessment of their ways of working.

About Nedeljko Damnjanovic

Nedeljko is a Scrum Master and a full-stack developer who has been in the IT industry for the better part of the decade. He spent the last 5 years actively working as a Scrum Master with many diverse teams and projects who has helped him understand his role better. One of the core developers of the first VivifyScrum release, he has participated in its development product-wise ever since.

You can link with Nedeljko Damnjanovic on LinkedIn.

You can find Nedeljko and the rest of the team at VivifyScrum on twitter.

Henrique Centieiro: I Like / I Wish Retrospective Format

For Scrum Masters, success must include the team’s success. In this episode, we talk about the metrics and the type of feedback we must help teams collect, and how to use that to measure our Scrum Master success as well.

Featured Retrospective Format for the Week: I Like / I Wish and other games

Sometimes Scrum Masters must focus on helping teams feel at home, so that team members can discuss the issues that bother them. In this episode, we talk about how a CEO/CTO can derail a retrospective and what kind of games we can use to help teams focus on improving, even when managers are present in the retrospectives. The retrospective format we talk about is “I Like / I Wish”.

In this segment, we refer to Retromat, a service that helps you choose games/activities and plan your retrospective.

About Henrique Centieiro

Henrique is a Blockchain Product Manager (i.e. dealing with the blockchain related features/user stories of the product). He is passionate about teams and agile, using scrum to manage even his personal tasks.

You can link with Henrique Centieiro on LinkedIn.

Making Agile Retrospectives Impactful – A Visualization Tool by Jeff Campbell

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)

Visualizing Continuous Improvement

I am a big believer in continuous improvement, weather that be in the form of Retrospectives, a Kaizen approach, or something else that helps the team reflect regularly. But for the earlier years of my career as a Scrum Master I found myself frustrated by a lack of improvement despite all this reflection (retrospectives that have no impact…).

Often,what I was seeing was that we talked about the problems the team was facing, and then didn’t follow-through with the actions we agreed to take.

When we tried to change our behavior. We might have succeeded for a day or two and then would forget about it. This isn’t continuous improvement this is just continuous discussion!

We need a good way to make sure we are actually making the change we set out to make!

Click to learn more about how you can help your PO

Continue reading Making Agile Retrospectives Impactful – A Visualization Tool by Jeff Campbell

Ajeet Singh shares when to use the Well/Start/Stop agile retrospective format

Ajeet has come to value 4 specific ways to measure his impact as a Scrum Master. In this episode, we review these 4 benchmarks and how he uses them regularly to improve his approach.

Featured Retrospective Format of the Week: Well/Stop/Start retrospective format

In the Well/Stop/Start retrospective format (see a facilitation guide here), we have a simple format that can trigger important conversations. Especially when team members see each other’s contribution to those 3 categories.

This is a format that suits very well teams that are action-oriented, and have a high degress of collaboration already.

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.

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.

A “Positive” Retrospective

One of the Agile principles states that “At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.” These “meetings” are more likely called Retrospectives and can be held in many different formats (here are some examples https://trello.com/b/40BwQg57/retrospective-techniques-for-coaches-scrum-masters-and-oth er-facilitators and http://retrospectivewiki.org/index.php?title=Retrospective_Plans)​. The most famous is the “Mad, Sad, Glad” format, and many others are just variations of this very basic format.

Read on for the “positive retrospective” format and exercises.

Click to learn more about how you can help your PO

These formats are based on the aim to analyze the previous team’s activities in order to achieve better results. Sometimes, it may also help to analyze the successes of the team in order to understand what helped in achieving them and how to replicate such successes: that’s what I call a “Positive Retrospective”.

The period we may wish to analyze may vary; last iteration, last month, last year and so on. What do we need to organize this retrospective? The usual materials such as some stickers, pens and a whiteboard or a flipchart.

The first action to take is to create a collaborative and positive atmosphere, so ask the attendees to write down some few words of appreciation for a colleague (or more), thanking him/her for something he/she did during the given period, for the person or for the team. Give the team 5 minutes to write.

Then ask each attendee to read aloud what they wrote, speaking to the colleague they want to thank. This phase shouldn’t take more than 5-10 minutes.

The next phase is to list all the positive results achieved in the period.

Ask the attendees to write down on the stickers all the positive results achieved, using a short statement (one per sticker) – they will be given the opportunity to explain in the next phase. Give them 5 minutes to write.

Now ask the attendees to explain the individual positive issues, one by one. They should be concise in their description but still be able to let the other attendees understand the issue. Then the sticker is pinned to the whiteboard. If any other attendee has a similar issue, he/she has to discard it. Please be careful to avoid starting any discussion. This is the time to list the results and not to discuss them (moreover, the discussion will be shaped in a particular way, as we will see in the following stage).

Once everybody has explained their issues (this stage should last no more than 10 minutes), you’ll have all the stickers on the whiteboard. It’s time to vote.

Each attendee will have six votes to give to the issues stuck on the whiteboard: three votes to vote the issues by its intrinsic or technical value (for example, the team reduced the technical debts by 50%, or has stabilized the daily standup) and three votes to vote the issues by the positive impact it had on the product (for example, thanks to this new feature, the customer increased his sales by 20%). You can use any means to vote: in my example, we used little red self-adhesive dots for one and green for the other, but you can use different signs, different colored pens, and so on.

Why differentiate this way? The answer is easy: teams tend to identify their success with the product’s success; we delivered this feature, the customer were happy, we eliminate that bug and so on, forgetting that with success stories, many other aspects must ​ be considered. For example, adopt a more effective framework for the chosen programming language, start unit testing, practice a scrum ceremony in a more efficient way and so on. The team must learn these positive issues as well, as they allow the team to be more effective ​ (as per the above mentioned Agile principle).

Once the voting is finished, just rank the issues by the numbers of votes (any kind).Voting and ranking shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes.

Once the stickers are rearranged on the whiteboard (the most voted ones are on top) you can start to discuss. The format may be free (you can discuss any issue as long as you want), or fixed (an issue can be discussed for a maximum amount of time of 5 or 8 minutes, for example). Choose the format you like, what counts is the discussion itself.

Ok, let’s discuss, but about what? We usually discuss what’s going wrong, and how to fix it. Now, here instead, we’re discussing what went right! Well, we can first identify what made that positive issue possible. Usually, we can identify two main paths: one internal to the team, and one external. The internal one refers to all the actions the team takes to achieve a result, which may impact the team, the process or the product. For example, by autonomously adopting a new programming framework the team was able to deliver those given features and the customer was very happy. Note the ​ word “autonomously”: the team was not forced by any external entity to take that decision, but reached a result that had an external impact anyway.

The external path refers to all those actions taken or conditions set up by the system (your department, your local agency, your company, and so on) that made it possible to achieve that given result. For example, the team was able to learn how to deal with noSQL databases thanks to a dedicated budget for training on new and emerging

technologies/methodologies. In this case, an external reason made it possible to achieve an internal positive result. Nevertheless, we mean to say that an internal result will sooner or later reflect itself into an external positive result (or at least, this is what the system hopes…).

The discussion stage may last up to 50 minutes, to keep the whole retrospective no longer than 2 hours.

And now, just like any Retrospective worthy its name, let’s write down some action points.

Like any positive issue in any field, we aim to replicate it and also do something to improve that experience to feel even better. So we can define the underlying actions that will lead us to even better results. Some questions easily come to mind: can we replicate the positives we had during the period, applying them to current or new issues? For example, we may ask for a new course to learn a new language to create a new software asked by our customers. Or, can we improve the path that led us to have positive results to have better results or even the same results but in different areas? For example, improve the continuous integration process to have a faster/safer deployment of our deliverables.

Or just have more frequent retrospectives to improve our work!

Discussing and writing the Action Points may take up to 20 minutes.

Now the meeting may be closed. See you next Retrospective!

About Enrico Di Cesare

Always interested in improving the quality of the software produced for himself or for his customers, Enrico became an Agile enthusiast as soon as he discovered it. With extensive previous experience as a Project Manager and Coordinator, Enrico works as an Agile Coach, Scrum Master and Product Owner, introducing, mastering, facilitating and refining the adoption of Agile with new collaborative tools.