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
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.
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.
Jeff is the author of Actionable Agile tools (available on Amazon, and direct from the author at bit.ly/aatbook).
The Agile Coach team, at that time, had 9 people. And they all saw different problems in the organization. They struggled with slow decision making, problems at the team level, but when it came to seeing solutions, they all saw different approaches.
Over time, they recognized they needed to coordinate their work to be successful. If nothing else, because several teams needed to be involved in solving some of the problems the organization was facing.
The coaches started asking themselves: “Are we really performing as a team?”
This was what started the need for regular collaboration between the coaches.
At first, they started by having a regular get-together with the team of coaches.
Helping the organization see the whole, even when tackling local problems
We start this episode, by talking about one critical transition for Scrum Masters: from expert to coach. When we start our Scrum Master journey, the focus of our work changes from delivery to helping others succeed with delivery. In that transition, we need to learn to manage ourselves and our work differently. Johanna shares insights from her book “Practical Ways to Manage Yourself”, which includes many stories and tips that Scrum Masters can take advantage of.
How to overcome the “I’ll do it, I’ll be faster” Anti-Pattern
For Christmas week 2020, we have a special treat for you. Yves Hanoulle and I interview great Agilists and Scrum Masters that you will probably not hear from in your local Agile conference.
These are people that are really pushing the state of the practice, and we want to bring their forward-looking, and hopeful ideas to you in our Christmas Special Week for 2020.
One thing that is clear from this interview is how the role of community is important in our journey as Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches. Ivana shares how she got started with Agile, and how the community helped her learn where to focus and improve her skills and knowledge.
Learning about our personal Prime Directive
Ivana calls on us to reflect, and learn about what our personal Prime Directive is, and based on that develop our Agile practice. Ivana shares that her prime directive is about focusing on the “bigger picture” and the culture and leadership context she works within.
We also talk about what that “bigger picture” is like in practice. From understanding the type of business we are working in, to mapping out the relationships and influencers within the organization. Ivana always tries to create a mental map of what influences the people she works within her context.
Continuous Improvement, the missing lesson in Agile
Ivana’s experience has helped her understand that many teams get focused on the “tool” or “process” of Agile, and forget that ultimately we are trying to build the habit of continuously getting better at what we do.
Learning about the big picture, a perspective to take on as an Agile Coach and Scrum Master
Ivana’s focus on the “bigger picture” has also come thanks to the book Organizational Culture and Leadership by Edgar Schein. The book influenced Ivana’s perspective when working with organizations, and she still goes back to that book, and its particular way of defining and describing organizations.
Finally, Ivana leaves us with the idea that we should be learning and sharing as a community. Just like she did in this incredibly insightful podcast episode!
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 Ivana Gancheva
Ivana is passionate about working with people, not titles. She works with companies from various sectors to help improve their organizational culture and well-being by helping them become learning and growing organizations. She coaches and mentors decision-makers, C-level corporate executives, leaders, product managers, who have the passion and the intent to disrupt the status quo, and enable genuine growth.
Peter and Michael just finished the first half of a book they are writing together on the topic of shifting our attention, and focus from the “product” focused techniques to “people” focused techniques in order to achieve superior performance.
Every 4 months, about 8 teams comprised of University students, other students, and partner-company employees start working on a new product idea at the Digital Product School (DPS).
These teams become their own mini-startups, and work to develop, and sell their products in a 3-month accelerated program. They experience hands-on what it is to work in a start-up and to go from a fuzzy idea (the problem space) to a product they can sell in a very short period of time.
This learn-by-doing program helps companies educate their employees in rapid product development methods, and helps students get hands-on experience with product development in a very short period of time.
The most common problems teams face in DPS
The teams that join and complete DPS usually have the same problems all other teams face, but because of the accelerated time-frame, and because the DPS team has seen more than 10 batches already, the problems are obvious! And we can learn a lot from those problems when it comes to the more normal product development we participate in.
The first challenge teams face is that they have a hard time locking down the problem they want to solve. As it happens, they want to solve too many problems, which is a common affliction of many teams and leads to confused and confusing products.
The DPS team expected that it would be hard to convince developers to work with users and do user research. However, it turns out developers actually embrace that work, and the biggest problem is getting the Product Managers (PMs) to make decisions. PMs tend to expect that the “process” will ensure they have a good outcome, and that leads to having a hard time making decisions.
In this segment, we talk about how to help PMs make decisions and the transformation that happens when PMs are faced with the need to make decisions.
The biggest problem in the Developer-PM collaboration
In such an accelerated program (3 months from idea to product), it is natural that the pressure is high at some point. PM’s work needs to include facilitating and motivating the teamwork. Why are we doing certain decisions? What’s the goal of a certain user test? And many more questions come up during the work.
This brings one of the biggest problems in the Developer-PM collaboration: the motivation of the team when under pressure. In this segment, we also talk about the most common anti-patterns developers and PMs fall into when under pressure. There are also some great insights for Scrum Masters about team building and coping with pressure!
Enabling good Developer-PM collaboration
One of the usual sticking points in the Developer-PM collaboration is the fact that these people speak different languages. Many Scrum Masters also experience that when they see PMs and developers fight about estimations, for example.
At DPS, special attention is put into helping PMs understand what developers do and vice-versa. From explaining and using tools that developers use, to helping developers understand Story Maps and other PM tools, the way the DPS team helps developers and PM’s collaborate is especially about helping each other and learning each other’s job and responsibilities.
Why Product Manager and not Product Owner?
At DPS, the team decided early on to call the role of the product person the Product Manager, and not the Product Owner. Why did they do that?
In this segment, we explore a question that most companies adopting Scrum will need to struggle with: what to call the product roles.
The DPS team shares how the idea of “product” is owned by the whole team, and that the product manager role is much more than looking at the backlog or defining priorities, it’s about being responsible for user experience, business, and technology!
This emphasizes the idea of the DPS program: product development is a team sport!
Resources for rapid product development
At the end of the episode, we talk about what resources DPS suggests teams to study, and we list the following books:
DPS is an accelerated product development program in Munich that helps students from University and employees in partner companies experience hands-on what it is to work in a startup. In 3 months they go from idea to a product, and some ideas are brought back to the companies for further development.
About the DPS team
Michi / Michael Stockerl is director of DPS and has worked as a software engineer with several teams in different setups. Before that, he gathered experience in smaller Startups in Munich and Germany’s biggest Q&A platform.
Steffen is a trained journalist, who slipped into product management through Content Management and e-commerce. He worked with Amazon and Haymarket media, did several hundred user interviews and tests, witnessed dozens of teams at DPS, a Digital Product School of the Technical University of Munich in Germany.
Bela is a Software Engineer at DPS. She helps teams with various software and hardware engineering tasks. She was previously also a participant at DPS.
This is a BONUS episode on the topic of #NoEstimates. The Agile Wire podcast hosts Jeff Bubolz and Jeff Maleski interview Vasco Duarte.
Some of you might have heard about #NoEstimates, and want to know more, and for others, it might be the first time you hear about it. Either way, in this episode we talk about the origins of #NoEstimates and why you may want to consider it when helping your teams.
This is a shared episode with a fellow Agile podcast The Agile Wire, where hosts Jeff Maleski and Jeff Bubolz interview Agile practitioners. Both Jeff Maleski and Jeff Bubolz have been guests here on the Scrum Master Toolbox podcast.
About Jeff Bubolz and Jeff Maleski
Jeff Bubolz is a speaker, trainer, and agile coach. He has been a Product Owner, Scrum Master and Development Team member. Jeff has worked with enterprise companies to small start-ups. His goal is to end human suffering in organizations, by nudging people to be the change they want to see in the world.
Jeff Maleski is passionate about working with and building up both individuals and teams using ideas from Jurgen Appelo’s Management 3.0 and Dan Pink’s Drive. When leading project teams, Jeff strives for empirical based planning and forecasting, continuous learning, and delivering high quality software products that exceed expectations. Jeff believes in leading by actions and focusing on building relationships with others.