Samantha Menzynski and Brian Ziebart: helping Scrum teams have difficult conversations, safely

When a team started to have “backchannel” conversations and excluding some team members from those conversations, it was clear that something was going on that was not allowed to be discussed in the wider team. Samantha and Brian then focused on helping the team share what was going on in a safe way. Listen in to learn about what was holding the team back from discussing the important topics. 

Featured Book of the Week: Ideal Team Player by Lencioni and Difficult Conversations by Stone et al.

In Ideal Team Player by Lencioni Samantha found a great reference for a team that had to go through a recruiting process. The book helped the team reflect and choose the right candidate, by working together to define what they were looking for in a candidate beyond the technical skills. 

In this segment, we also refer to Difficult Conversations by Stone et al, a book that discusses conversation techniques to help move from emotion to productive problem solving.

About Samantha Menzynski and Brian Ziebart

Samantha Menzynski has spent her entire career in software. Starting in support and account management, moving to customer support management, and with Penta’s transformation to Scrum becoming Scrum Master for the Core product team.

You can link with Samantha Menzynski on LinkedIn

Brian Ziebart started his career in software as a developer, but found himself wanting to move towards coaching and developing people rather than product development.  When Penta’s Scrum transformation started in August 2019, he jumped at the opportunity to work more with people while still staying involved with development.

You can link with Brian Ziebart on LinkedIn

You can read more about Samantha’s and Brian’s work and the Agile transformation they were part of in this blog post.

Jeffrey Koors: Searching who to blame is what destroys many Scrum teams

In certain teams, there’s a need to find “the fall guy”, a person that takes the blame for the collective misses of the team. However, even when there is a fall guy, that search for someone to blame leads to many anti-patterns that destroy the team. In this episode, we talk about how we can help teams get out of this anti-pattern and be ready to take the steps necessary to succeed as a team

Featured Book of the Week: Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willing

In Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willing, Jeffrey found a great reminder that we must always be asking “how may I contribute to help this team/these teams?” This helped Jeffrey understand how to communicate this aspect to teams and stakeholders. It’s only what we think we own that we are ready to improve.

About Jeffrey Koors

Jeff started his studies and career as a fine artist and has gone on to use his creative thinking and vision to help many organizations find ways to design systems, solve problems and embrace Agile. Jeff is also the co-founder and host of Coaching Agile Journeys.

You can link with Jeffrey Koors on LinkedIn and connect with Jeffrey Koors on Twitter.

Charles Rodriguez: Scrum Teams that fail because they can’t face conflict

This team had very talented developers, they were able to work without conflict. But that’s when Charles started to realize that this team might be averse to conflict. Instead of confronting bad ideas, the team would go along with every idea because they didn’t want to start a conflict. In this episode, we talk about The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni, where this pattern is explored in detail as part of one of the dysfunctions.

Featured Book of the Week: Turn the Ship Around! By David Marquet

In Turn the Ship Around! by David Marquet, Charles found a leadership model that he could relate to, and adopt in his work. David Marquet has been a guest on the podcast where he explained the main ideas of Turn The Ship Around! 

About Charles Rodriguez

Charles has been working in software development for 16+ years with roles ranging from a database developer to manager to agile coach all in an effort to ‘try to make things better’ for future generations joining the IT industry.

You can link with Charles Rodriguez on LinkedIn and connect with Charles Rodriguez on Twitter.

Christian Hofstetter: Discovering what drives a blame culture in a Scrum team

Christian was asked to step in and give his insights on how one team was performing. When he joined a Sprint Planning he saw “finger-pointing” and a culture of blame. When he looked deeper he found some of the patterns that were fostering that culture. 

In this episode, we discuss some of the patterns that drive a blame culture. 

Featured Book of the Week: Reinventing Organizations by Frederic Laloux

In Reinventing Organizations by Frederic Laloux, Christian found an explanation that helped him understand how organizations change (and don’t), and what are the cultural models that influence organizations’ evolution. He also understood what “value systems” may help or hinder the change we hope to promote when working as Scrum Masters.

In this segment, we refer to the idea and model of Spiral Dynamics.

About Christian Hofstetter

Christian is an enthusiastic Release Train Engineer, Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, and Facilitator who started his agile journey as a Product Owner. Later he turned his back on technology and focused on people and relationships. He is passionate about creating space for people and teams to be the best they can be.

You can link with Christian Hofstetter on LinkedIn.

Raphael Branger: Setting up cross-functional Agile teams in Business Intelligence projects

When Raphael got started, many of his teams still had the back-end and front-end separation clearly visible, to the point of them being separate teams. Raphael found that, in Business Intelligence projects, that separation would cause communication gaps, and started investigating how to go about removing that gap. That led him to work in developing the concept of “generalizing specialists” for his organization, and he shares that process with us, with many tips on how to slowly, but deliberately move towards cross-skilled team members, and cross-functional teams.

Featured Book of the Week: Agile Data Warehouse Design, by Lawrence Core

In Agile Data Warehouse Design by Lawrence Core (check the book’s website), Raphael found an idea that helped him “see” how Agile could be adapted to work in Business Intelligence and Data projects. In the process of developing that idea, Raphael also found out how to involve users directly in the data modeling step, therefore benefiting from very early feedback.

In this segment, we also refer to the NoEstimates book by our podcast host Vasco Duarte.

About Raphael Branger

Raphael Branger is a Certified Disciplined Agile Practitioner and a pioneer in adapting agile methods in the context of data and analytics projects. He works as a Principal Consultant Data & Analytics at IT-Logix in Switzerland with more than seventeen years of experience in business intelligence and data warehousing.

You can link with Raphael Branger on LinkedIn and connect with Raphael Branger on Twitter.

Marianne Erickson: How to help Scrum teams stuck on the “why agile?” question

Marianne joined a team that was forced to adopt Agile. That’s never an easy assignment, however, things got even worse. She started hearing comments like “Agile ruined my life!” What’s a Scrum Master to do in that situation? We explore how we can work teams that are stuck in the question “why should we adopt Agile?”. 

Featured Book of the Week: The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman

As part of their interaction with Product Owners and teams, Scrum Masters often have to help facilitation User Story writing sessions. This book helped Marianne learn to think about the user experience. Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things, is a seminal book on user experience and usability. 

About Marianne Erickson

Always an enthusiastic Agilist, Marianne is proud to be a part of the Agile Transformation Team at AAA, a company that empowers its team members to learn, grow, empower, and do the right thing! 

You can link with Marianne Erickson on LinkedIn and connect with Marianne Erickson on Twitter.

Steve Jaccaud: Critical warnings Scrum Masters should look out for when joining a new organization

Steve was hired to help the teams go “faster”. However, when he started to see the Product Owners throw their teams under the bus at Sprint Demos he understood that something else was going on. It wasn’t only about helping teams be faster anymore. As he started to dig deeper, he found a culture of fear in the organization and many other anti-patterns that he shares with us. A great story, with lots of warnings for us to keep an eye out for.

Featured Book of the Week: The #NoEstimates Book by Vasco Duarte

In The #NoEstimates Book by Vasco Duarte, Steve found a book that helped him understand what empirical process control is about, and put some things in place on how he approaches teams and their process. 

In this segment, we also refer to The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, Drive!, Coaching Agile Teams, Agile Game Development with Scrum, and Suzuki’s Zen Mind.

About Steve Jaccaud

Steve is an Enterprise Agile Coach, Volunteer, Speaker, and Musician in Boston, Massachusetts. When he’s not leading workshops with creative software organizations, he’s probably working on an album or deep in meditation!

You can link with Steve Jaccaud on LinkedIn and connect with Steve Jaccaud on Twitter.

Willem-Jan Ageling: Getting Scrum teams off the “velocity” addiction

Willem-Jan has a background in Project Management, and in his company, the leadership asked the teams to move away from Project Management and embrace Agile. That led Willem-Jan on a learning journey, to understand and apply Agile ideas in his work. In the process, as it usually happens, a team got fixated on the “velocity” metric. In this episode, we explore what can happen when teams get fixated on “velocity”, and what Willem-Jan learned to avoid that anti-pattern in the future.

In this episode, we refer to W. Edwards Deming, a precursor to Lean, and later Agile through his work. 

Featured Book for the Week: The Scrum Pocket Guide by Gunther Verheyen

In The Scrum Pocket Guide by Gunther Verheyen, Willem-Jan found an explanation for Scrum that made things click. This led him to explore the ideas behind “complexity” and to start to understand why “the plan” wasn’t always the thing to follow. 

The Scrum Pocket Guide is authored by Gunther Verheyen who’s been on the Scrum Master Toolbox podcast before.

About Willem-Jan Ageling

As a Scrum Master and writer for Serious Scrum, Willem-Jan is passionate about helping people understand what it means to work in a complex Product Environment. Which is how he likes to talk about Scrum.

You can link with Willem-Jan Ageling on LinkedIn and connect with Willem-Jan Ageling on Twitter.

Justin Chapman: Work only on what you and the Scrum team can influence

Once in a while, we work with a team that is down in the doldrums of morale. That’s never an easy challenge to take on as a Scrum Master because the reasons for the lack of morale can be deep-seated and completely outside the team’s control. On the other hand, as we discuss in this episode, that realization can transform our perspective and help thet eam find ways to jump out of the hole they found themselves in. We talk about morale, and how simple tricks can totally transform the morale of a team, and we do that by realizing and implementing something all Scrum Masters should focus on work on what you can directly affect.

Featured Book of the Week: Agile Retrospectives

In Agile Retrospectives by Diana Larsen and Esther Derby, Justin found great inspiration for how to facilitate retrospectives with the teams he works with and also learned how important it is to prepare and crush the facilitation challenges we face as Scrum Masters.

About Justin Chapman

A Product and Agile Coach with product management experience ranging from payments to enterprise custom build. Justin has hosted a small series on Product Management and another series on Being a Scrum Master. 

Justin has also pioneered a new form of Canvas to help bring teams together. All of this information can be found on his blog:

You can link with Justin Chapman on LinkedIn.

Dimitri Favre: Helping Scrum teams collaborate better with the Product Owner

In this team, the developers only wanted to focus on their own tasks and did not care to help the Product Owner. This was, as it turned out, a recipe for disaster. We discuss with Dimitri, what drives teams to be task-focused, instead of impact-focused, and discuss techniques we might be able to use to bring the team’s attention to the overall goals and the collaboration with the Product Owner.

Featured Book for the Week: Creating Great Teams by Mamoli and Mole

In Creating Great Teams: How Self-Selection Lets People Excel by Sandy Mamoli and David Mole, Dimitri discovered an approach that helps create teams who are motivated from the start. In this segment, we also refer to the books by Craig Larman and Bas Vodde. Bas was a previous guest on the podcast. We also refer to Anton Zotin, who has also been on the podcast before.

About Dimitri Favre

Dimitri is a business, transformation, and agile coach and a repented project manager. Dimitri works side by side with executives, managers, and teams to uncover better ways of developing software and delighting customers. 

Dimitri is the author of a recent book, on the topic of #NoProjects: Live Happily Ever After Without Projects: A #NoProjects book.

You can link with Dimitri Favre on LinkedIn and connect with Dimitri Favre on Twitter.