Sarah O’Brien on the line manager anti-pattern in Scrum

Scrum teams are supposed to be fully responsible for their work, and autonomous in the way of working. However, in many organizations line managers are still the ones yielding the power over teams, and even assign work directly to team members. This is one of the system conditions we must face and struggle with as Scrum Masters. In this episode we discuss how to interact with line managers, so that the Scrum team can really be responsible and autonomous as Scrum suggests.

About Sarah O’Brien

Sarah is passionate about helping teams work together to bring value to their work lives. She has worked in the Scrum Master role for the past 6 years after transitioning out of waterfall as a senior software engineer. Her (not so) secret goal is to help people bring agile practices home.

You can link with Sarah O’Brien on LinkedIn.

Jella Eifler on how different questions can radically change how you plan software projects

The planning system, i.e. all the planning approaches, and techniques we use, can often create a set of non-negotiable needs that teams need to fulfill. Starting with up-front planning! If our planning system requires estimates for every possible feature in the roadmap, then the teams will inevitably need to estimate a lot of work that will eventually not be done at all! However, if our planning system is based on “value” instead, then the teams are asked different questions. Jella asks: “What if you would ask “is this worth doing?” instead of how “how much does this cost?”?” What kind of changes to your planning system would that change bring?

About Jella Eifler

Jella has a background in linguistics (totally non-tech) and calls herself “agile native” (having never worked any other way, at least in software development). She works as a Scrum Master since 2014 at Qudosoft in Berlin. She has worked with both colocated as well as distributed teams.

You can link with Jella Eifler on LinkedIn and connect with Jella Eifler on Twitter.

Natalie Warnert on how observation can help you uncover the system

Natalie explains her approach to understanding and visualizing the system conditions that affect the teams she works with:

  1. Start by asking “how are the tools, practices and policies affecting the team’s I work with?”
  2. Then take a pen and draw the links between the different observations, do this with the whole team. Expect to hear many different perspectives, and help the team make sense of those different views.
  3. Use also metrics, but not just one. Look at several metrics and ask people to look beyond a single metric, and beyond the metrics. What do these metrics tell us?
  4. Identify possible underlying conditions that affect the team.

Always keep in mind, that this process will be different for every team you work with, each team is different.

About Natalie Warnert

As a developer turned Agile coach, Natalie Warnert understands and embraces what it takes to build great products. Natalie focuses teams on embracing Agile values to build the right product and build the product right. Natalie is currently coaching the Cart/Checkout teams for Best Buy Dotcom and recently earned her Master of Arts degree in Organizational Leadership and Strategic Management.
You can link with Natalie Warnert on LinkedIn, connect with Natalie Warnert on Twitter, read her blog at, and visit her project page Women in Agile.

Gil Zilberfeld on the importance of collecting information to understand the systems conditions

Understanding the system we work within is a detailed and painstaking process of collecting and processing information. There are many questions we must ask as we collect that information. Gil shares with us the questions he asks to collect the right information about the system, and map the system conditions that affect the team.
In this episode we discuss Theory of Constraints, a body of knowledge that every Scrum Master should be aware of.

About Gil Zilberfeld

For over 20 years, Gil has developed, tested, managed and designed software products. He’s gone through failures and successes, in different types of projects and companies.
He has trained and coached developers how to write tests for their untestable code. He has worked with testers on complex applications and with very tight deadlines. He’s helped release products that fit customer needs, by testing the waters, and getting their feedback integrated. He has implemented agile, kanban and lean principles and adapted them to fit teams better.
You can link up with Gil Zilberfeld on LinkedIn, or find Gil Zilberfeld on Twitter.
Gil is writing a book on Unit Testing. Check it out.

Daniel Nielsen explains how to detect system conditions that affect your team

How can we detect the system conditions that affect our teams? Daniel has a method, that he explains in this episode. This includes writing down keywords you listen during the day, and looking for patterns in those keywords. Daniel also suggests that you look at the Agile Fluency model to look for indicators that your team is evolving, or not.

Special call to all Dubai agilists: Daniel is relocating to Dubai and is looking to connect to local agilists. If you fit the bill, then reach out to him on twitter: Daniel Nielsen on Twitter.

About Daniel Nielsen

Daniel is a developer turned Scrum Master turned Agile Coach, with an increasing focus on the coach part. Over the last 10+ years, his interest in how teams work and how we interact as individuals has only grown. He has worked in both small and large companies and tried to cope with the complexities in both worlds.
You can reach out to Daniel Nielsen on Twitter, and link with Daniel Nielsen on LinkedIn.
You can also read his blog in Danish at

Sebastian Schürmann looks at the system from different perspectives to understand the system conditions

Whether you use the Lean Waste approach, Dan Pink’s autonomy-mastery-purpose or any other model what is important is that you use some models to understand the system that affects the team’s performance. Sebastian shares several models that you can use to assess and measure those system conditions that many of us forget to take into account. This episode also includes a long reading list:

About Sebastian Schürmann

Sebastian has an extremely strong work ethic, a great passion to his work, unwavering desire for excellence, and unabated willingness to share his rich knowledge.
Driven by his strong work ethic, he takes several key roles: as scrum master, agile coach, mentor, as protector of the young development teams, after all, a humble leader who takes risks and responsibilities at extremely critical moments, creates a vision which the other follow by heart – with excellent outcome.
You can find Sebastian Schürmann on twitter, and link with Sebastian Schürmann on LinkedIn.
You can find Sebastian Schürmann’s website, and his blog.

Wayde Stallmann on the touchy feely system conditions that affect your team

Wayde has worked with many teams, and in this episode he describes the aspects of the system conditions that affect team’s performance. Those system conditions are not the ones you would expect to hear about. The fact is that we work with people, and people make up the system we are part of, in the end it is all much more touchy feely than we would like to accept.

About Wayde Stallmann

Wayde is an Agile coach with He is interested in helping teams improve using the same techniques that Improv theater teams use to develop Great Team Players.
You can connect with Wayde Stallmann on twitter, or link with Wayde Stallmann on LinkedIn. Or email Wayde Stallmann at

Peter Hilton on tips and tools to understand and change the system around Scrum teams

How do you change the system so that it enables the teams to perform?
Peter discusses how “variation” can affect negatively the team, and what benefits can come from acting on, and reducing variation.

Peter refers to the book where he first read about the effect of variation on work. This book was Freedom from Command and Control by John Seddon

Peter also shares a tip on how to get management to be aware of what is discussed by teams during the retrospective, in order to create trust between management and teams.

The books Peter referred to this week:

About Peter Hilton

Peter_Hilton_Scrum_Master_Toolbox_podcastPeter is a software developer and technical project manager who has experienced every point on the agility spectrum, in the course of 18 years of development projects. Peter has performed several variations of the Scrum Master role, and learned what the books dont tell you: whats easy and whats hard.
You can reach Peter Hilton on twitter and read his blog at