BONUS: Learning what makes a great place to work with Woody Zuill and Yves Hanoulle

The idea for this episode started with a conversation with Yves and Woody when recording one chapter for the Tips from the Trenches Audiobook (check out the audiobook). In this episode, we talk about, and try to define what makes a great place to work, or as Woody calls them: wonderful places to work!

Woody starts by describing two different workplaces, one that was “wonderful”, and one that was not. We explore what the differences were between those two places, and what we can learn from those stories as Scrum Masters. 

As Scrum Masters, our role is to help our teams, and our organizations move towards a better place to work, therefore these lessons are critical for us to act on. 

In this segment, we refer to MobProgramming, an approach to teamwork that Woody has been talking and writing about for some years; and Cynefin, a model that tries to describe the differences between different levels of complexity, and defines certain strategies for managing different types of work.

“Turn up the good” a heuristic to build great places to work

Continue reading BONUS: Learning what makes a great place to work with Woody Zuill and Yves Hanoulle

John Albrecht: Struggling and discovering the true meaning of Servant Leadership for Scrum Masters

The story that John shares with us, starts when Project Management transformations were a thing. He went through a PRINCE2 adoption process, which led to the emergence of the inevitable silos. John started searching for better alternatives and found Extreme Programming, Scrum and Kanban. As he tried to play the servant leader role that comes with Scrum, however, he discovered that there’s a good and a bad way to be a servant leader. Listen in to learn when to stop serving, and when to be a true leader! 

About John Albrecht

Agile Person, for the team by the team, used to be a developer. Got into Agile via Extreme Programming (XP), then Kanban, then Scrum. Some of his key ideas are Principles over Practices, #noestimates, love working with teams and organizations, the softer side, finding what they and customers need and what works for them.

You can link with John Albrecht on LinkedIn and connect with John Albrecht on Twitter.

You can learn more about John Albrecht’s work at Scrum Lake, and All Agile websites.

Laurens Bonnema: Helping Scrum teams that are stuck “talking” improvements

In this team, the right mindset was there. They wanted to transform the way of working to follow their self-defined moto: “quality without compromise”. However, the mindset wasn’t enough. Even as the team discussed and discussed how to get better, it was missing one key aspect: the actual doing of the work. Listen in to learn how to help teams that are stuck in “discussion” mode.

Featured Book of the Week: Extreme Programming Explained by Kent Beck

Extreme Programming Explained by Kent Beck is a foundational book in the Agile movement, and inspiration for Laurens to define his own approach to Agile. As Laurens puts it: “Extreme Programming transformed my way of working”.

About Laurens Bonnema

Laurens helps leaders create high-performance organizations by guiding them to embrace who they are. As Laurens puts it: “when leaders ignite their inner strength and capability—and lead from love—they soar beyond their expectations. That is how we create a world of work that we would want our kids to live in.” 

You can link with Laurens Bonnema on LinkedIn and connect with Laurens Bonnema on Twitter.

Laurens Bonnema: Learning from failure, the contract negotiation edition

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation is one of the Agile values. Even if that value has been there since the start of the Agile adoption process, its application isn’t easy. We have quite a few episodes on how difficult this value is to apply in practice, and this episode isn’t an exception. All of these stories have insights that are critical to learning how to apply this value. In this episode, we talk about how fulfilling a contract is never enough, and how the customer must be brought on board, and be part of the decision making all the way. 

In this episode, we refer to Kent Beck and Extreme Programming.

About Laurens Bonnema

Laurens helps leaders create high-performance organizations by guiding them to embrace who they are. As Laurens puts it: “when leaders ignite their inner strength and capability—and lead from love—they soar beyond their expectations. That is how we create a world of work that we would want our kids to live in.” 

You can link with Laurens Bonnema on LinkedIn and connect with Laurens Bonnema on Twitter

You can also learn more about Laurens company at

SPECIAL CHRISTMAS EPISODE: Ryan Ripley and Chris Williams join Vasco Duarte in reflecting on Agile and the future 

In this special Christmas episode, Ryan Ripley (host of the Agile for Humans podcast) and Chris Williams (host of the Badass Agile podcast) join our host Vasco Duarte to reflect on what Agile has become and what the future holds for us! 

Don’t’ miss this special, funny, and insightful podcast episode! 

Merry Christmas Scrum nation!

About Ryan Ripley, Chris Williams, and Vasco Duarte

Ryan Ripley loves helping people do great work. He is a servant leader at heart and is passionate about fostering safety and trust in the workplace. Ryan created the Agile for Humans podcast to put the focus back on the individuals and interactions that make agile work.

You can link up with Ryan Ripley on LinkedIn and connect with Ryan Ripley on Twitter.

Ryan also hosts a popular Agile podcast: Agile for Humans.

Chris Williams is one of Canada’s most recognized agile and business performance coaches. Chris has his own proprietary philosophy, built on years of research and practice; participating in elite programs with in team and Human Performance coaching.

You can link up with Chris Williams on LinkedIn.

Chris also hosts a popular Agile podcast: Badass Agile.

Vasco Duarte is a managing partner at Oikosofy where he wants to change the world, one company at a time. He’s also the regular host at the Scrum Master Toolbox Podcast.

Product Manager, Scrum Master, Project Manager, Director, Agile Coach are only some of the roles that he’s taken in software development organizations. Having worked in the software industry since 1997, and Agile practitioner since 2004. He as worked in small, medium and large software organizations as an Agile Coach or leader in agile adoption at those organizations.

Vasco was one of the leaders and catalysts of Agile methods and Agile culture adoption at Avira, Nokia and F-Secure.

You can read more from Vasco at his blog:


SPECIAL XMAS BONUS: Marton ‘Meza’ Meszaros on the essence of Agile

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. 

Meza started as a programmer, but not with Agile. During one of his projects, he had to work with a custom language in an embedded system, and that led him to discover Extreme Programming and Unit Testing, but that was not yet the start of his Agile journey. That came later and for totally different reasons.

Leading Teams, and the need for Agile

As Meza took on more responsibilities, he understood that supporting teams in their work is a different problem than solving a technical challenge. He started reading more, and learning more about Agile to make sense of it, and finally had that “trigger” moment that helped him understand why Agile is so important. 

As a team leader, he recognized that he needed to focus on enabling the team’s success, instead of telling the team what to work on. That led to Meza starting to learn even more, and applying Agile in his work.

The problem with Agile adoption: shaping the people to the process, instead of the other way around

As Meza worked with more teams, he understood that his approach needed to change. Early on, he focused on the process, and helping teams adopt the process. But later, and after many challenges, he understood that the focus on helping teams (and using the process as a tool), requires a significantly different perspective: the process and the tools need to be shaped to fit the people, not the other way around. 

After all, Agile (and the Agile processes) are supposed to be there to enable better communication, collaboration, and a trustful environment. 

The books that Meza still reads even today

Combining his knowledge, and experience has been a thread in his career, and Meza shares a book that helps with exactly that: take advantage of multiple processes he learn3ed during his career: Scrum and Kanban, making the best of both by Henri Kniberg is the first book he mentions. But there’s a second book. 

As a programmer, Meza understood early on that the technical conditions set up for the team are critical for their success, so he mentions a book that helped him as a programmer: Release It! By Michael Nygard, a book that explores how to create systems that run longer, with fewer failures, and recover better when bad things happen.

The essence of Agile by Marton Meza Meszaros

In this final words on this episode, Meza shares what he considers the essence of Agile: to build trust, and how the trust-building processes are at the core of everything Agile.

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 Marton ‘Meza’ Meszaros

CTO and architect with over 19 years of experience in web development focusing on code maintainable software delivery.

Currently working with incubators and startups, guiding them through the early stages. Hiring, building team structures from the ground up, assembling project management procedures, and best practices, providing technological options and insight with a hint of pragmatism is all part of my daily activities.

You can link with Marton ‘Meza’ Meszaros on LinkedIn and connect with Marton ‘Meza’ Meszaros on Twitter.

How do we help Scrum teams focus on technical excellence? – Q&A with Jeff Campbell

Jeff is the author of Actionable Agile tools (available on Amazon, and direct from the author at 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 the importance of technical excellence and how to help teams adopt that mindset.

How do we help teams focus on technical excellence?

Continue reading How do we help Scrum teams focus on technical excellence? – Q&A with Jeff Campbell

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

Raluca Mitan: help the Scrum team members take the lead

Sometimes team members will speak up. They might even challenge the Scrum Master. At those times is when we must step back, forget about what we “think is right” and let the team members take the lead. That’s the first step in taking responsibility!

In this episode, we refer to the work on FIXED vs GROWTH mindset.

About Raluca Mitan

Raluca calls herself a recovering Project Manager that discovered Agile and somehow the “good, the bad and the ugly” received distinctive names.

She loves her job and practices Accelerated Learning to achieve her Goals (to become a Scrum Master Trainer for Scrum Alliance, to write a book, acknowledged as an Inventor, share her ideas to the world and with her daughters).

And maybe someday to be a Bonus Podcast guest on the Scrum Master Toolbox Podcast :).

You can link with Raluca Mitanon LinkedIn and read Raluca Mitan’s blog.

Doug Knesek on moving from Scrum “enforcer” to Scrum Master

When we get started as Scrum Masters, especially those that have a Project Management or Management background, we tend to “enforce” Scrum. As our understanding progresses though, we start to learn that there’s a lot of value in helping teams learn by themselves, help them feel confident and take over the process.

In this episode, we discuss that change in our approach to the Scrum Master role, and a lot more!

We talk about Extreme Programming and how that approach should be looked at by Scrum Masters. We also refer to Kent Beck’s Extreme Programming Explained and Martin Fowler’s Refactoring book.

About Doug Knesek

Doug has been an agilist since before it was cool, as his first agility client can attest. He is currently the Director of Agile Development & Coaching at Wisconsin-based Flexion inc., leading agile teams that serve both private and public sector clients. His current hobby is thinking beyond agility, to antifragility.

You can link with Doug Knesek on LinkedIn and connect with Doug Knesek on Twitter.

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