Working with a team of leaders, Susanne was facing a tough situation. The team was not able to collaborate. When investigating the situation, listening to the team members, and doing her own reflection, she realized what the problem was. In this episode, we talk about a critical need for teams to successfully self-organize, and how the move from micro-management to self-organization is a multistep journey.
Featured Book for the Week: Yes to the Mess: Surprising Leadership Lessons from Jazz
Susanne is a transition coach, which translates to roles as: change management facilitator, organizational development consultant, scrum master, agile coach and community manager. (Often simultaneously.) Susanne has learned to be adaptable and resilient after having lived in Alaska, Japan, Taiwan and now Germany. She is passionate about accompanying people on journeys of transformation. (And she considers herself an introvert.)
In Agile teams, Leadership has a different role. In this episode, we talk about the traditional approach to leadership in teams. From the technical lead to the line manager, and how those roles should change to enable Agile teams.
Featured Book for the Week: How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie
In How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie, Izis found a set of tools that help her in her daily work as a Scrum Master. The book was written in the 1930’s, on the back of the Great Depression, and shares some of the techniques that successful people used to achieve in their lives. Dale goes through many of those techniques and outlines simple approaches that can help Scrum Masters also achieve their goals and help their teams.
About Izis Filipaldi
Izis’ mission is to help people to improve their knowledge and professional value inside organizations, applying the agile way of working. She has been working as an Agile Coach for more than 7 years, helping people to deliver products, developing an environment free of judgments where they can fail fast and learn faster. Continuous improvement of: people knowledge, product delivery, and work environment, are her 3 main focus on work. And she loves what she does!
Diana and I were kicking around a few topics for this episode, and we ended up selecting “Agile and Leadership, friends or foes?” The idea is to talk about how Agile and Leadership play together (or not)
In this episode, we talk with Diana Larsen and Jutta Eckstein about what problems Leaders try to fix with Agile, what challenges they have when they try to adopt Agile, and we will do this with the focus on the Scrum Master role, and what they can do by working with the leaders of the organizations they work within.
Let’s start by defining some of the major challenges we see happening out there.
The 3 biggest challenges on how Agile plays (or not) with Leadership
Some of the challenges we mention in this episode are not new. You are probably familiar with many of them. We talk about how Agile requires us to think about leadership as a distributed responsibility that team members need to take on, which is itself a major challenge for Scrum Masters as they help their teams understand what that means in practice.
We also discuss how important it is to understand that leadership is not simply a “role”, but also something we need to earn, including Scrum Masters.
Finally, we talk about the important role that leaders play for the teams they work with. Specifically in setting the direction that helps the teams adopt quicker processes like Hypothesis-Driven-Development, for example.
How Scrum Masters can cope with these challenges
We then discuss how Scrum Masters can understand, and learn to cope with these challenges. Not surprisingly, Agile Retrospectives come up as a critical tool for Scrum Masters to use when working with teams and their leaders.
Regarding collaboration with leaders, we discuss how Scrum Masters can help teams focus on the right goals, which need to be defined in cooperation with leaders in the organization.
But there’s a second tool we discuss that complements perfectly the work we do with the retrospectives and helps the teams and leaders understand where they can contribute the most: visualization as a way to establish a shared context.
Do Scrum Masters really need to protect the team from their leaders?
Stop me if you have heard this one before. Way back when I was taught that Scrum Masters need to protect the team from interference. Although it made sense to me at the time, with the passing of time, and after collecting more than a decade of experience, I have come to value a different approach.
In this segment, we talk about the need (or not) to protect the team from Leadership interference.
The goal, of course, is to generate a real collaboration between the team and the leaders in the organization.
The key resources on leadership and Scrum by Diana Larsen, Jutta Eckstein and Vasco Duarte
Given that leadership, and the collaboration between teams and leaders is a critical topic for Scrum Masters, we discuss some of the resources (books, podcasts, articles) we’ve found useful and informative on how to tackle that collaboration.
This team that Nick was working with had trouble delivering on time. When Nick looked into it, he discovered that the team did not take into account all the work necessary to adhere to the Definition of Done. Once he found that, however, he had to work with the team to help them realize what was going on, and how they could become more predictable by simply taking into account what they had committed to: the Definition of Done criteria.
Featured Book of the Week: The Goal by Elyahu Goldratt
When reading The Goal by Goldratt, Nick had a lightbulb moment. In that book, the author describes the impact that one single aspect of work can have: throughput.
The book describes how not paying attention to that aspect may destroy the ability to deliver value.
Nick has worked in the “Projects Space” for the last 5 years, initially working with business change, then in IT using Prince 2, Waterfall and ultimately found Agile organically through pain of delivering projects using the other methodologies. More recently he has taken on a Delivery Lead role which allows him to continue to learn whilst helping teams deliver continuous value.
As Sebastian started to work with multiple teams, he started to note some patterns of behavior that might cause problems. In this episode, we focus on the “professional jealousy” that some team members showed towards each other. We discuss how to detect it, and what the possible consequences of that behavior might be. Learn to detect it, and listen in to learn how Sebastian helped the team move forward.
In this episode, Jaime introduces a project that started off on the wrong foot. The team was 15 people, including some new people. Quickly the team entered the “crunch mode” to try an meet an ambitious schedule. That’s where our story starts, but there’s a lot more to share. From the small impediments to the behaviors the team developed that ultimately led to bigger problems. This is a tale about a team that was doomed for failure until we step in. We discuss some of the steps you can take if you face a similar situation as a Scrum Master.
Featured Book for the Week: Agile Coaching
In Agile Coaching by Rachel Davies and Liz Sedley, Jaime found important tips to help her learn the role of Agile Coach. The book is practical, and has chapters on how to introduce certain practices to the teams we work with. From tips that push us outside “the box” to the simple tips that help us define where to start before taking on more complex and ambitious practices in the team. The book is a complete guide for Scrum Masters that want to learn how coach their teams.
About Jaime Bartol
Jaime has been a ScrumMaster/Agile Coach for 6 years with experience in large organizations as well as startup teams! She has worked with frontend and data engineering teams and even brought Agile to awesome marketing teams! Jaime’s passion is about teams and using Agile/Scrum fundamentals to elevate efficiency, productivity, and joy!
When Rachel worked with this team, it had been banned from releasing to production. Never a good sign. But she quickly learned that the situation was even worse: the team members were distrustful of each other, people avoided each other and closed the dialogue quickly. What should a Scrum Master do in this extreme situation? We discuss this, and other insights that can help you work with teams that have lost trust in each other.
Featured Book of the Week: The Power of Spirit: How Organizations Transform
Rachel has been in digital product development for over 20 years, having performed every role imaginable. She entered the agile space 13 years ago, doing hands-on product strategy and development modernization.
Rachel is in the data and analytics industry at the moment and loves being a Scrum Master because it’s the most impactful role she can have for helping improve people’s lives.
When certain behaviors emerge in a team, the consequences can be catastrophic. In this episode, we talk about what happens when one of the team members tries to constantly push their perspective. We discuss what were the consequences for this specific team, and how we can ensure that the team does not fall into a negative spiral of conflict, rumors, and disengagement.
Featured Book for the Week: The Scrum Guide
Although The Scrum Guide is not a book, it is a reference document for everyone wanting to practice Scrum at work. While the rules in the guide are simple, the more we read them, the more insights we get into the heart of Agile and Scrum.
About Angeliki Hertzfeldt
Angeliki finds that Scrum has transformed her into a better person: in the working environment, with friends and strangers, in social activities, and with her family, as a new mum.
This team that Joost was working with was confronted with top-down decisions over which the team had no control. As an example, Architects would tell the team what to do, and how to do it, but would not listen to the team’s perspective. Slowly the team lost motivation, and the bad results quickly followed. In this segment, we reflect on the impact that the environment had on the team, and what Scrum Masters can do to work with teams in that situation.
Featured Book of the Week: Management 3.0 by Jurgen Appelo
In Management 3.0 by Jurgen Appelo, Joost found the inspiration he needed to focus on the overall organization, as opposed to focusing only on the team. We discuss the example of Delegation Poker from Management 3.0, which shows that delegation is not a binary game, but can have many levels and approaches.
About Joost Mulders
Joost has been an agile practitioner since 2008 and is continuously uncovering new ways to help teams and organizations on their agile journey. He’s taken several roles in that journey, such as Scrum Master, agile coach or management coach. He strives to create work-life fusion with agile, ultrarunning and filmmaking as the main ingredients.
In some teams, the role of the leader or manager can be a blocker to the team’s adoption of Agile and ownership of the product and process. However, those same managers usually develop their command and control approach due to past successes. As Scrum Masters, we must learn to work with those teams, starting by creating a close relationship with the team members.
Featured Book of the Week: The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business
In The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni, Remy learned about the concept of an executive team that he could apply to his own product when his team was struggling with direction.
In this segment, we also refer to Start with Why, by Simon Sinek, a book that helped him understand the importance of communicating the rationale behind the decisions and involving the team in owning those decisions.
About Remy Fletcher
Remy is a Scrum Master at a Fin-Tech corporation outside of Boston. Currently working with 3 scrum teams with a focus of migrating individual products onto a centralized, scalable platform.