Leading agile teams through collaboration – 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 get teams to collaborate to reach a goal?

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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.

BONUS: Jeff Campbell shares his favorite Actionable Agile Tools for Scrum Masters

Scrum Masters understand the importance of having many tools for different situations. The quality of our work is often related to the quality of the tools we have in our toolbox and the context in which they work.

In this episode, we review some of Jeff’s favorite Actionable Agile Tools, a book that collects 19 tools and is now available on Amazon in black and white as well as full color. Not to mention Kindle!

A short, practical and inspiring book

Continue reading BONUS: Jeff Campbell shares his favorite Actionable Agile Tools for Scrum Masters

How to amplify Agile Enterprise collaboration: The Internal Unconference how-to guide

  • Are you having trouble getting inter-team cooperation going?
  • Is it difficult to attack issues that require people from all over the organisation?
  • Do you find decision making to be difficult and slow?
  • Do you find it hard to just knuckle down and get things done?
  • Do you want to remind people in your organisation how many brilliant people they work with?

In that case, you might consider running an “Internal Unconference”.

Internal Unconference is an exclusive blog post by Jeff Campbell, author of Actionable Agile Tools, a book that includes 19 practical tools with step-by-step guides for Scrum Masters. Actionable Agile Tools is now available on Amazon.

Continue reading How to amplify Agile Enterprise collaboration: The Internal Unconference how-to guide

How to help the PO be involved with the Scrum team, even if the PO does not have time

The Product Owner (PO) is a tough role to fill. Product Owners are torn between users, senior management, team and other stakeholders that they need to attend to.
While the team is working on completing the backlog items, the PO is probably meeting with the Director of Product to agree on a roadmap; with the CEO to hear about the latest ideas he got from visiting a client; trying to meet with the user research group to understand better the customer; reporting status to the head of Project Management; and still needs to visit the Sprint Planning, Backlog Grooming, Demo and the occasional daily meeting to answer questions from the team. And let’s not forget the email backlog!
With all of these tasks one has to ask: do we believe a single person can do this all alone? What I describe here is not even rare! We seem to collectively think that the Product Owner is a super-hero!


Given all of these tasks, it is little wonder that the PO’s end up struggling to even manage the JIRA tickets the teams ask them to review, give feedback on, and prioritize.

The feeling of overwhelm is common in Product Owners. They ask themselves if they are spending their time on the right things. Wouldn’t you, if you got constantly interrupted by questions and requests from others? How do we solve this, increase collaboration between Team and Product Owner, and improve our work place at the same time? Read on for more…
Continue reading How to help the PO be involved with the Scrum team, even if the PO does not have time

Jovan Vidic asks: don’t do retrospectives by the book

Retrospectives are one of the practices that gets the most attention on the Scrum Master Toolbox Podcast. They get attention because they are important engines of improvement for the teams we work with. Jovan explains some of the practices he uses to facilitate retrospectives in a way that supports the change that is needed.
In this episode we talk about Gamestorming by Dave Gray, a book that helps us create new exercises to help facilitate retrospectives.

About Jovan Vidic

Jovan Vidić is an Agile Practitioner who repeatedly finds passion and inspiration in his job. He calls himself a people person, and when he had an opportunity to lead a team at the age of 24, that experience transformed him into an advocate of the self-organization, which does not impose limits on the thinking, working and creative processes of the team members, but on the contrary, it drives them to jointly contribute and prosper. This is actually the goal of the group Agile Coaching Serbia he founded in Novi Sad Serbia in 2014.
You can connect with Jovan Vidic on LinkedIn and connect with Jovan Vidic on Twitter.

Alex Fürstenau explains how retrospectives can help teams get out of the “us vs them” anti-pattern

When a team faces a problem they have a choice between blaming someone else (“them”), or taking ownership and making it happen even if that improvement looks beyond their reach. We as Scrum Masters can help teams take ownership, even when they need to involve other people in the resolution of the problem. Alex explains the problem, and some of the possible techniques to get the team to understand that they own the results of their work.

About Alex Fürstenau

Alex Fusternau scrum master toolbox podcast(1)When he was 12, his father bought him his first computer, a C64. The moment he saw characters appearing on the television was the moment when he knew he would do something with computers. Several years and a computer science study later that “dream” became true.
Alex quickly realized that the customers were not happy with our product. The first approach was to fix more of the requirements but it made things worse. During that time (around 2002) he thought “There has to be a better way” and he found several, among which was Agile.

You can link with Alex Füsternau on Linkedin, or connect with Alex Füsternau on Twitter. Alex also facilitates a regular meetup in Hamburg on the topic of Liberating Structures, for more on the meetup visit their meetup page.

Alex Fürstenau reminds us that Retrospectives need energy

Often we disregard this very simple fact, by the end of the sprint people are tired. Hosting the retrospective at the end of the day, on the last day of the sprint is not ideal from the engagement and energy level point of view. Alex explains how he failed at keeping the energy level high in one retrospective and what he learned from that moment, that he still applies today.

About Alex Fürstenau

Alex Fusternau scrum master toolbox podcast(1)When he was 12, his father bought him his first computer, a C64. The moment he saw characters appearing on the television was the moment when he knew he would do something with computers. Several years and a computer science study later that “dream” became true.
Alex quickly realized that the customers were not happy with our product. The first approach was to fix more of the requirements but it made things worse. During that time (around 2002) he thought “There has to be a better way” and he found several, among which was Agile.

You can link with Alex Füsternau on Linkedin, or connect with Alex Füsternau on Twitter. Alex also facilitates a regular meetup in Hamburg on the topic of Liberating Structures, for more on the meetup visit their meetup page.

Jeff Campbell on the Coffee Room Whining Anti-Pattern

We’ve all done it in one way or another. We spend time in a retrospective criticizing what is wrong, and assigning blame to others. Jeff Campbell has been there as well, and in this episode he explains how you can get teams to stop spending their valuable time whining, and start taking action.

About Jeff Campbell

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 organisations both small and large. He is one of the founding members of www.scrumbeers.com and an organiser of www.brewingagile.org in his spare time. He is also the author of an open source book called Actionable Agile Tools, where he explains how he uses 15 of the tools he uses in his daily work as a scrum master and agile coach.
You can link with Jeff Campbell on LinkedIn, and connect with Jeff Campbell on Twitter.

Dennis Wagner: Sometimes the Scrum Master is the Impediment

We become Scrum Masters because we want to help teams, organizations, and ourselves to make a difference in the world, to create better working places. However, sometimes we want that too much. Dennis explains one such case and a key lesson he learned.
We also refer to Don Reinertsen’s book The Principles of Product Development Flow: Second Generation Lean Product Development. We discuss a tool that you can use to manage expectations with the teams you work with: Expectation Mapping.

About Dennis Wagner

Dennis is an Agile Coach with a lot of experience in the technical side of software development. Dennis has worked with teams in different industries, is thinking of writing a book about continuous delivery (bug him if you want to know more), and he loves, really loves his work.
You can connect with Dennis Wagner on LinkedIn and XING, and you can connect with Dennis Wagner on Twitter.