BONUS: Remote Work Special: Bringing teams together to solve organizational problems with Gene Connolly and Jeff Campbell

Jeff is the author of Actionable Agile tools (available on Amazon, and direct from the author at bit.ly/aatbook).


In the past, we’ve covered an internal unconference format that helps us bring multiple teams together to solve company-wide problems. This time, Gene and Jeff join us to share what they’ve learned during the Corona year of 2020 about hosting the same format online! Since we can’t travel as we did before, how can we bring teams together in an interactive, and energy-boosting format to help solve organizational problems? Listen to learn about the Virtual Online Unconference format with Gene Connolly and Jeff Campbell

Going Remote before the teams are ready

Just like all of us, Gene and Jeff’s organization moved to fully remote work at the start of 2020. That presented multiple challenges, not the least of which the fact that teams were interacting less with each other because of the necessary overhead that remote work represents for each team. 

The remote work reality became an even bigger issue when it came to addressing organization-wide issues. In the past, Gene and Jeff have helped facilitate an internal Unconference at Meltwater. However, with remote work being the norm, hosting the unconference became an extra challenge. 

Gene and Jeff were not discouraged, however, and started working on a format that would fit the online/remote reality! 

Hosting a remote Unconference: a hands-on how-to tutorial

Gene and Jeff decided to go live with the first remote unconference, keeping in mind that they would learn a lot and share their knowledge with the wider community

During the first remote unconference, they learned many lessons which they share in this episode, from the “how-to” for MIRO boards, to the surprises related to helping the teams follow instructions. This massive online event had specific challenges they had to learn to deal with and share their lessons with us. 

The most important lesson: iterate quickly, learn even faster!

Perhaps one of the most important lessons for Gene and Jeff was to “try” the format in smaller groups before going full-blown global with their ideas. For that, they decided to quickly test different tools in smaller events with teams and learned what worked and didn’t. 

If you want to know more, check out their fully detailed tutorial at the Melwater blog, and get in touch with Jeff and Gene to ask questions!

About Gene Connolly and Jeff Campbell

Gene Connolly is a Principal Software Developer at Meltwater. He has dedicated his career to improving the quality of life of legacy software systems during their golden years and making the most complex problems he can find slightly less complex.

You can link with Gene Connolly on LinkedIn and connect with Gene Connolly on Twitter.

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. 

He is the author of actionable agile tools, which you can get on Amazon and directly from the author at bit.ly/aatbook

As an Agile Coach, he has worked with driving Agile transformations in organizations both small and large.

You can link with Jeff Campbell on LinkedIn and connect with Jeff Campbell on Twitter.

You can also learn more about Jeff Campbell’s work at his company’s website.

BONUS: Modern Management trilogy by Johanna Rothman

In this episode, we talk with Johanna about some key insights and tips from her latest book series: Modern Management.

In this episode, we talk about the latest books from Johanna Rothman, which she collectively called “Modern Management” trilogy. 

The trilogy comprises three parts: a) Practical Ways To Manage Yourself, b) Practical Ways to Serve and Lead (Manage) Others, c) Practical Ways to Lead an Innovative Organization.

We start this episode, by talking about one critical transition for Scrum Masters: from expert to coach. When we start our Scrum Master journey, the focus of our work changes from delivery to helping others succeed with delivery. In that transition, we need to learn to manage ourselves and our work differently. Johanna shares insights from her book “Practical Ways to Manage Yourself”, which includes many stories and tips that Scrum Masters can take advantage of. 

How to overcome the “I’ll do it, I’ll be faster” Anti-Pattern 

Continue reading BONUS: Modern Management trilogy by Johanna Rothman

Holding space, a Scrum Master guide with links and tips

As a Scrum Master that studies, and constantly tries to improve your craft, you’ve probably heard (and even used) the phrase “hold the space”.
For (some) native English speakers, this phrase may be easy to grasp, but as a non-native speaker, I can vouch for the difficulty of understanding what this means in practice.
As a Scrum Master myself, however, this phrase is too important to dismiss as “insider talk”, so I want to share some links and tips about “holding the space” as a Scrum Master.
First, let me refer to a blog post at Stanford’s site by Linnea Ann Williams called “Holding Space: A Scrum Master Overview”. The blog post is about the role of the Scrum Master, but it is also about what it means to “hold the space”. My key takeaway from this blog post: As a Scrum Master I must help the team and the stakeholders create the conditions the team needs to perform (hold the space).

The basics of the Scrum Master role and the meaning of “holding space” 

But there’s a lot more about the meaning of “holding space”. Many of the aspects of that approach are in the Scrum Guide (PDF version from the year 2020 here), and some are well described in this blog post by Aditya Chourasiya, titled “Scrum Master – Roles and Responsibilities”. Aditya describes “holding space” as a set of responsibilities that include:
  • 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.
That brings me to another resource (WARNING: this is a book, not a blog post!): The Tao of Holding Space, a book by Chris Corrigan. This is a long read, and I don’t expect everyone to read it. So let me review some key takeaways from the book.
Chris is a seasoned Open Space Technology facilitator and often writes about facilitation at all levels and all kinds of organizations. Therefore he has a lot of experience to share on “holding the space” and what that means in practice.
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”

Conclusion

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!

BONUS: The Agile Wire hosts interview Vasco Duarte on #NoEstimates – Jeff Maleski & Jeff Bubolz

This is a BONUS episode on the topic of #NoEstimates. The Agile Wire podcast hosts Jeff Bubolz and Jeff Maleski interview Vasco Duarte.

Some of you might have heard about #NoEstimates, and want to know more, and for others, it might be the first time you hear about it. Either way, in this episode we talk about the origins of #NoEstimates and why you may want to consider it when helping your teams. 

This is a shared episode with a fellow Agile podcast The Agile Wire, where hosts Jeff Maleski and Jeff Bubolz interview Agile practitioners. Both Jeff Maleski and Jeff Bubolz have been guests here on the Scrum Master Toolbox podcast.

About Jeff Bubolz and Jeff Maleski

Jeff Bubolz is a speaker, trainer, and agile coach. He has been a Product Owner, Scrum Master and Development Team member. Jeff has worked with enterprise companies to small start-ups. His goal is to end human suffering in organizations, by nudging people to be the change they want to see in the world.

You can link with Jeff Bubolz on LinkedIn and connect with Jeff Bubolz on Twitter.

Jeff Maleski is passionate about working with and building up both individuals and teams using ideas from Jurgen Appelo’s Management 3.0 and Dan Pink’s Drive. When leading project teams, Jeff strives for empirical based planning and forecasting, continuous learning, and delivering high quality software products that exceed expectations. Jeff believes in leading by actions and focusing on building relationships with others.

You can link with Jeff Maleski on LinkedIn.

BONUS: Marcus Hammerberg on predicting Software development without estimation

Marcus wrote a blog post about predicting progress in ‘well-defined’ projects. He used a simple example where uncertainty was very limited. You can read the details in the blog post. However, even when uncertainty about the work was low, the predictions he was able to do (and he collects quite a few metrics in that story), was limited. 

In this episode, we explore the limits to prediction, and how that affects how we should look at prediction in our own software projects. 

Embracing uncertainty and what that means in practice for software projects

Continue reading BONUS: Marcus Hammerberg on predicting Software development without estimation

BONUS: Leena N interview – Continuous Delivery for Scrum teams, Part 7

From her early start with Extreme Programming to learning how to integrate testing with Continous Delivery, we explore Leena’s story and describe some of the most important lessons she collected about adopting CD/CI.

Read on to learn what were Leena’s main lessons, as well as the main challenges teams face when adopting CD/CI.

Continue reading BONUS: Leena N interview – Continuous Delivery for Scrum teams, Part 7

BONUS: Wouter Lagerweij interview – Continuous Delivery for Scrum teams, Part 5

Wouter started his Continuous Delivery journey as an Extreme Programmer in his first years of engineering experience. He shares the story of how, as a team, they sat together with the operations department to learn how they developed their software. Thanks to that, they radically changed their build system to export the kind of packages that operations needed. A brilliant story that also illustrates the adage: “Your first customer is the next step in the process!”

Read more to learn why testing is such a key skill and technical area when adopting Continuous Delivery.

Continue reading BONUS: Wouter Lagerweij interview – Continuous Delivery for Scrum teams, Part 5

BONUS: Chris O’Dell interview – Continuous Delivery for Scrum teams, Part 5

Chris started her Continuous Delivery in a small agency, nurturing a build server that nobody cared for. That gave her an insight that is not very common: taking care of the build server was a very practical way to help and care for the team’s success. It was a practical tool that the team needed, but no one was looking after. It was a concrete way to help people. 

Read more to find out how trust plays a key role in Continuous Delivery adoption, and to read Chris’ recipe to get your team started with CD.

Continue reading BONUS: Chris O’Dell interview – Continuous Delivery for Scrum teams, Part 5

BONUS: Manuel Pais interview – Continuous Delivery for Scrum teams, Part 4

How do we get started with Continuous Delivery? Manuel suggests that we run a Value Stream Mapping session with all the teams involved in the release process to learn about the “current state” of the release process. 

We also review the most common challenges and blocks for teams that are starting to adopt Continuous Delivery. 

Read on to learn about the different motivations businesses have to adopt Continuous Delivery, and Manuel’s 3 steps from bi-weekly release to Continuous Delivery.

Continue reading BONUS: Manuel Pais interview – Continuous Delivery for Scrum teams, Part 4