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
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!
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.”
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.
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”
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!
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.
When Yogini took on her Scrum Master journey, she noticed that there was more friction in the team. Curious, she looked into the reasons for that friction. After all, they had just left Waterfall-like ways of working behind. What was causing that friction? Was it Agile? As she looked more into it, she found that Agile had something to do with it, but the real reason for the friction between team members was that they were, for the first time, honestly discussing the problems they were facing. They were no longer apathetic, and that was visible in the level of friction between them.
Another side effect of Agile adoption, Yogini noticed, was that the team was much more productive, “they did more in a month, than I thought was possible in six!” Yogini shares.
A key lesson for Agile teams: speak freely
This story led to a key lesson for Yogini. Agile teams improve and transform their ways of working when they speak freely and aren’t afraid to tackle tough conversations.
When teams finally take on the difficult topics that are impeding their progress, they often fail to reach consensus. However, as Yogini reminds us, that’s no reason not to act. “Buy-in does not imply consensus!” She reminds us.
Retrospectives as the engine of growth and learning
Retrospectives are the aspect of Agile methodologies that Yogini wants to highlight as key for teams and individuals working in an Agile environment.
In the spirit of self-improvement, Yogini mentions and recommends the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. She reminds us that part of the Scrum Master’s responsibility is to improve herself, otherwise, improvements elsewhere are less likely to happen.
The Christmas Agile Message from Yogini Moodley
Yogini asks us, in this festive season, to take time to reflect, and practice being mindful of what we do, say, and feel. The challenge she leaves us with: “think about the habits you have at the moment, and what you’d like to leave behind, in 2020”
Merry Christmas friends!
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 Yogini Moodley
Yogini is a certified Scrum Master and agile practitioner, with extensive experience in the financial services industry, in roles that encompass both business and technology. She is passionate about enriching the lives of people and nurturing and growing teams to deliver value to their customers, and an active member of the agile community locally and globally.
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.
In this episode, we interview 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.
As David started his Scrum Master journey, he was faced with a big challenge. He struggled with remote retrospectives. No wonder, he ended up creating and being the CEO for a remote retrospectives company. He experienced the pain first-hand!
As he got started experimenting, he found the Lean Coffee format to be effective (see our Lean Coffee episodes). However, he found that even when the format worked well, there was something else missing.
The collaboration that can be had when the team is in the same room simply isn’t the same when we are all remote, and sometimes even without video!
Jeff is the author of Actionable Agile tools (available on Amazon, and direct from the author at bit.ly/aatbook).
Collaboration is one of the key aspects of focus for Scrum Masters. We are, and should always be on the lookout for way to improve collaboration in our teams, and across teams and departments. In this episode, we dive into a specific Actionable Agile Tool that aims to boost collaboration: The Internal Unconference. Gene and Jeff share their own experience organizing Internal Unconferences, and why this even may be exactly what you need to improve collaboration in your organization.
Discovering how to improve collaboration across departments
From that survey, the early results are conclusive, one of the biggest challenges you are facing right now is to help your teams coordinate their work, and collaborate effectively after transitioning to #Remote work.
So, to help you adapt to this new #Remote work reality, we collected the following strategies and tools for helping #Remote teams coordinate and collaborate effectively.
Many of us have started to work from home while our children are also at home, which presents additional challenges. Here’s a collected list of tips from our listeners on Twitter. You are not alone! Many others like you are working from home with kids!
Stay calm, be empathic with your colleagues
One of the most important rules when working from home is to respect each other, we are all in the same situation, we are all getting started in our #Remote work journey. A simple practice that will help you with this is to tell your self: “We are all figuring it out,” she said. “It might get a little messy.” Yes! It will, sometimes, get messy. But it will also improve over time.
Be understanding with your colleagues, give the example and say also to them at the start of your next call: “We are all figuring it out,” she said. “It might get a little messy.”
Use your mute button generously, but accept when the noise comes from the other side! Have a post-it ready to remind your colleagues they are not on mute. Be kind, though 🙂
Pay attention to your children. You’ve gained time, give it to them
I work from my home office. Have lunch together and engage mine with some books and other electronics to play games and learn new things. I am signing her up for an online class (fun class) tomorrow. It also helps with bonding as I save about 2 hours of commute time daily
Talk to your partner/spouse. Agree on how you will help each other
Many of you are working from home with your spouse or partner. You are probably both in the same situation, so talk early about how to handle the situation.
Daniel suggests ~2 hours shifts, talk about it, and agree on what would work for you.
We’re setting shifts a bit more flexibly according to meeting schedules but yeah, more or less 2 hours each. And 100% agree on the second part. Also important to adjust them externally to workmates and clients.
Another tip is to share your work meetings calendar with your spouse/partner and try to help each other. You may try to book meetings when one of the adults in the house is not having another meeting (if possible).
In any case, don’t forget: be empathic with your spouse/partner too! You are both going through the same experience.
Anna has a slightly different approach, she suggests short bursts (more likely to work with smaller children), it’s a bit like the famous Pomodoro technique (which some already call Mozarella technique because “Pomodoro” apparently have been trademarked 🤷🏻♂️)
That is a great challenge, not with older kids, but with the youngest. What we are trying now is something like Pomodoro but with longer breaks work. We ask for uninterrupted time for 30-45 mins. And then reconnect. And repeat…
Remember, this is what being empathic towards others and yourself means! However, you are an Agilist! You also know that you will be adapting and improving over time. Stay with it.
Create a routine of reflection, individually and with your partner/spouse. And if your kids are old enough include them in that reflection. They will benefit from your example and will learn to be deliberate about reflecting and adapting to novel situations in their lives.
Help your children learn and practice skills at home, it’s a win/win!
The final tip comes from Paul:
Drawing, how to draw things from internet he has his ipad and practices different drawings. Reading different kind of books. Also watching the plants grow :))
Do your children already want to practice a skill? Maybe playing the piano or guitar? Or learn how to draw? Help them out. Buy them an internet course, and let them practice. Those skills will be beneficial immediately for you, and in the future for them! It’s a win/win!
What other techniques and approaches have worked for you? Share your learnings below in the comments!
I’ve worked remotely since 2014. Sometimes for weeks at a time. Most of that time as a Scrum Master or Agile Coach, so I’ve had to learn a few things about working with remote teams. Here are some of those tips that I’ve collected
Get used to booking 15 min sessions with colleagues
When we work remotely, it is quite normal to have more meetings. That’s how we synchronize our timetables. There are fewer opportunities to meet colleagues in the corridor, kitchen, or while walking out to lunch or a coffee break.
So, I started booking 15min session with colleagues, to be able to interact with them, but not completely disrupt their day (or mine).
Here are the rules I follow:
Book the 15min session just before or after a meeting they already have in the calendar (to avoid breaking up their un-interrupted time)
If I need a decision, I send an email ahead with the topic and a few possible decisions (3 is a good number)
Keep discussions short, if no solution can be found, book another call while talking to my colleagues
My goal with these 15min sessions is to keep in touch and get work done in short bursts. Turns out (based on my experience) that most 1h meetings can be avoided by having short 15min sessions to make decisions. However, sometimes that’s not enough, and we book another session for later that day or the day after.
One of the hardest lessons for me to learn though, was the need to have breaks. When working remotely, all my colleagues are literally a few keystrokes away. There’s no physical barrier (thought there might be a mental one, more on that later). This means you end up having back-to-back meetings, and not getting up from your seat, which may make you feel productive, but will negatively impact your health and creativity.
In my experience, having a 10-15min break every 2 hours is a good rule of thumb, although sometimes I do get up and walk around more often than that. To keep me active in those breaks I either play a game (I’m a big FIFA fan) or do exercise (I bought rubber bands to do strength when traveling or at home).
I’ve learned that a 10-15 min break will help me be more creative when I get back to the “zone”.
Create a routine
I’ve developed my own routine over time, and I expect you will too. Over time, I learned that sitting down right after breakfast is my best strategy. I have breakfast and get right down to the most important tasks (I keep all my tasks in Evernote. Although I’ve tried other tools, I feel text files are my best tool).
After the first work burst, I’ll walk around, play a game and think of the next tasks.
I usually have meetings only in the afternoon (I’m a morning) person, and in the evening. Between the morning and afternoon slots, I have a longer break, maybe an hour or so.
Because I usually have evening meetings, I break up the afternoon with a walk outside to go shopping or go running.
That’s my routine, but you should think about what works for you. Are you a morning person? Or are you more productive in the afternoon?
Set up a workplace you are proud of (you will be on video often!)
When I started to work remotely, I used whatever space was available at home. That’s great for when you get started, but over time you will feel a bit out of place, or get tired of setting up and tearing down your workspace. Recently I’ve bought a green screen and a good camera to be able to create a space that I’m proud of. In the picture to the right is my “morning” workspace. I feel like I’m in a real office, and so do my colleagues!
If you have a sufficiently powerful computer, ZOOM will handle the lack of green screen, so there’s no need to invest in that. And if you use Skype you can blur the background so that your presence pops-up on video. Pro tip: surprise your colleagues with the “coolest” office you can find online! PS: I use PIXABAY and Google image search to scout the net for office spaces.
Track your work, keep yourself accountable
Over time, I’ve had to learn to be even more organized when working from home than when I had an office to go to. Working from home means that you have less of the implicit signs from people coming to talk to you, or having coffee break chats. #Remote workers are both in charge of their work, but also have less information available to make the right priority calls. Because of that, I’ve started to write down what I want to achieve when I start working. I have a “today’s tasks” note on Evernote, and keep all my work there. I write down everything I need to achieve for that day and will jot down future ideas on a future date.
I start my day by writing down the date and listing the tasks/achievements for the day (see image). During the day that list will change, and I’ll also write down tasks/achievements under future dates.
My system is loosely based on David Allen’s Getting Things Done system. If you don’t have a task management system, start now. Start with pen and paper, and slowly try out and adopt a digital tool.
I might write a longer post about my time-management and work-management system. I’ve developed it over quite a few years and learned what works for me (and what does not).
These were 5 simple tips that I’ve learned work for me. What works for you? What questions do you have? Share your experiences and lessons learned below.