The New New Scrum Master: Two Main Focus Areas

I’m going to take a break from talking about the New New Product Owner to talk about the New New Scrum Master now.

Preface:  In the last 4 years, the Scrum Guide has had two very significant updates, including updates to the Scrum Master Role. In this article and the series that follows, I attempt to describe “The New New Scrum Master” role in Scrum.

The Scrum Master role has not changed as much in recent Scrum Guide updates as much as the Product Owner.  In many ways, however, what has changed, is the number and higher frequency of misconceptions about the Scrum Master role.  This is, in my opinion, due to late adopters to Scrum who don’t take the time or money to attend proper and professional Scrum training.  Yes, this appears to be a completely self serving statement since I’m a Scrum Trainer.  However, the bigger, and more important reason this statement is true, is because Scrum is a much deeper topic than people think.  We often use the metaphor of the difference between a Chess player who knows how the different chess pieces move, and a Chess player that has extensive experience and knowledge about how to be excellent at the strategy and techniques of Chess.  There is a vast difference between those two ends of the spectrum, between knowing the rules and being able to excel at winning.  With Scrum, people and organizations vastly underestimate just how long that spectrum is.  All you have to do to confirm this is to witness or hear about a Scrum adoption that is horribly painful or not working.    So, my hope is that we can clear up some misconceptions for the New New Scrum Master and help reduce some pain and increase some profits!

The two main focus areas for the New New Scrum Master are:

  • Teaching and coaching the organization on how to achieve the benefits of Scrum, and
  • Removing impediments that are beyond the reach of the Development Team.

For brevity’s sake, we will shorten these to “teach/coach” and “remove impediments.”

All of the other Scrum Master focus and duties derive from the above two focus areas.

For a high quality class that focuses exclusively on the Scrum Master role(the course is also great for management), see our Professional Scrum Master class and contact us if you’re interested in one.

Teach/Coach

One of the main focus areas for the New New Scrum Master is teaching and coaching the organization on how to achieve the benefits of Scrum.  Let’s talk about how this might be done.

The New New Scrum Master knows the “Why’s” behind Scrum.
In my experience, Scrum Masters would do well to understand the benefits of Scrum on several levels, before worrying about specific teaching or coaching techniques.

First and probably foremost, the Scrum Master should understand and *be able to succinctly communicate* the *business* benefits of Scrum to the organization. It is important to to be able to communicate these benefits succinctly because, in the wider organization, the Scrum Master will very often be given 5 minutes or less to convey them.

Each Scrum Master should have their own such list of benefits memorized, but certainly some of them should be:

  • Faster time to market
  • Quicker ability to pivot to market opportunities and competitor threats.
  • Higher Customer Satisfaction
  • Higher Productivity
  • Higher Transparency
  • Better Predictability
  • Better alignment between the business and software teams
  • And the list goes on…

A good study of the 11 key metrics in “Evidence Based Management” will help you to be aware of some of the business benefits, but come up with some of your own.  Make it yours!

Being able to rattle a good handful of these off, and then being able to *explain succinctly* how different sub parts of Scrum support these goals should certainly be in the New New Scrum Master’s toolbox.  When facing an organization that has not been to proper Scrum Training, be sure not to use too much Scrum speak — keep it very simple and mostly devoid of Scrum terminology.  Also, definitely focus on the business benefits of Scrum that align with organizational desires and goals.  The more you can point to those higher organizational desires the more buy-in you’ll likely get from those higher in the organization!

The New New Scrum Master should also be able to communicate the benefits that will appeal more to those on and around the team, such as:

  • Benefits to Development Team members
  • Benefits to Business Stakeholders
  • Benefits to Product Owners

Again, the same advice as above, be ready to rattle off a list, be ready to explain how different parts of Scrum support each of the list items, and be ready to avoid Scrum terminology for those who haven’t had proper training.

Knowing the “Why’s” behind Scrum will help convince others of “why” to pay attention to your teaching and coaching.  Notice I said “help convince” — it will likely take much more than that, but knowing these benefits is a “must have” for those conversations.

Knowing the “Why’s” behind Scrum is just one aspect of “teach/coach.”  Don’t misunderstand me, teaching and coaching is actually more than just teaching and coaching — using those two terms is simply a way to oversimplify this focus area.  You might also want to mentor, advise, and facilitate at times.  But even those things can fall under “teach/coach.”  We’ll explore this more in future posts.

Removing Impediments

The second New New Scrum Master focus area is removing impediments that are beyond the reach of the Development Team.

There is a common misconception that the Scrum Master is responsible for removing *all* impediments for the Development Team.  While the Scrum Guide is a little vague on this subject, it is somewhat hard to articulate the fine balance between the Scrum Master’s duty to remove impediments, and the Development Team’s responsibility to self-organize. This misconception drives a lot of failure in Scrum implementations.  We’ll explore this more in future posts.

The metaphor I like to use here is “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”  When respecting and coaching on the Development Team’s obligation to self organize, it is important for the New New Scrum Master to realize when is the right to time to give the fish, and when is the right time to teach to fish.  The answer is usually the latter, but sometimes the former.

Remember:  Teach/Coach, and Remove Impediments

I have thought about this a lot, and have even conferred with my fellow Scrum coaches on this.  Pretty much all of the responsibilities of the New New Scrum Master boil down to the two focus areas of “teach/coach” and “remove impediments.”

In future articles, I will go deeper on each of these two focus areas.

In the meantime, do you think any Scrum Master duties cannot effectively fall under those two focus areas?  If so, what are they?  Sound off in the comments below!

The New New Product Owner: The Product Value Maximizer in Scrum.

Preface:  In the last 4 years, the Scrum Guide has had two very significant updates, including updates to the Product Owner role that have far reaching implications. In this article and the series that follows, I attempt to describe “The New New Product Owner” role in Scrum.

In a series of upcoming articles, I will detail the different focus areas that the modern Product Owner needs to concentrate on in order to fulfill their duties on a Scrum team.
POFocusAreas_NewNewPOThe New New Product Owner understands that she will likely need to execute these activities at different times, and that she might need to delegate to others in order to effectively produce software that maximizes ROI for the software development effort.

The first and most important focus area is for the Product Owner to be the “Product Value Maximizer.”  There are lots of way to do this, but 3 key steps are involved:

  1. Order the Product Backlog by (estimated) value.
  2. Work with the Development team to get small increments of value to market quickly, for feedback.  Release to market = in production, available to end users.
  3. Rapidly assess value delivery feedback from the market, and then start over again at step #1.

These three steps will ensure that the New New Product Owner delivers “the right thing.”

Note that your market might be internal (IT software) or external (Saas, Consumer software).  Either way, it’s important to get features into production quickly, and to assess whether we have “hit the target” with respect to value… or not.  This quick release to production, every few weeks, is a key aspect of Agile software development.

If you haven’t already signed up for our blog, be sure and sign up (upper left hand corner) so you will get the future articles on this topic!

In future articles, I will detail the remaining six focus areas for the New New Product Owner:

  • Product Marketplace Expert
  • Product Visionary
  • Product Release Decision Maker
  • Product Backlog Management Leader
  • Lead Facilitator of Key Stakeholder Involvement
  • Effective and Active Scrum Team Collaborator

For a high quality class that focuses exclusively on the Product Owner role(send your business stakeholders too!), see our Professional Scrum Product Owner class and contact us if you’re interested in one.  We teach all over the USA.

Helping Scrum Masters Improve: What would be on your Scrum Master Canvas?

I see a lot of Scrum Masters who focus on the wrong things. I was having some conversations with some Scrum trainers recently, and the conversation inspired an idea in me: The Scrum Master Canvas.

The Scrum Master Canvas

The Scrum Master Canvas, similar to the Business Model Canvas that we teach in our Product Owner courses, focuses on the things that a Scrum Master should be thinking about, in order to help her team get better at delivering more value, sooner.

So, I’ve started with some initial section ideas that might be useful to have on such a canvas:

  • “Long term Impediments”
  • “Short term Impediments”
  • Service to the Organization
    • “What are my next steps in coaching the organization to get more benefits from Scrum?”
    • “Which audiences require the different Coaching Stances?” (A table with “audience” and “coaching stance” column headers)
    • “What is on the radar of the wider Scrum Master Community of Practice?”
    • “Organizations (and sometimes me!) tend to incorrectly assign duties to the Scrum Master. What are my next steps in re-focusing those duties to where they really should be directed in Scrum?”
  • Service to the Development Team
    • “What are my next steps in helping the Dev Team become more Self Organizing so I can ‘Let the Team Decide’?”
    • “What is on my Dev Team’s Improvement Backlog right now?”
    • “What are my Dev Team’s next steps for achieving a higher degree of technical excellence?” (A table with “Next Steps” and “How can I support that?” as column headers)
    • “What things should I NOT do, so that the Scrum Team can become more Self Organizing?”
    • “What are my next steps in teaching/coaching the Dev Team to understand and enact Scrum?”
  • Service to the Product Owner
  • Service to myself, the Scrum Master
    • “In order to help my organization grow its’ Agility, what are my next steps for me learning and self improvement?”
    • “Am I working at a sustainable pace? Do I need to coach others on what that means?”
    • “What things should I NOT do, so that the Scrum Team can become more Self Organizing” (repeated for emphasis!)
    • “What else do I need to focus on, that’s not covered in a different section?”

The Scrum Master would initially create this canvas, put it on a rather large piece of paper (Information Radiator!), and likely hang it in their office in a place that is highly visible to those who walk by. In this way, in addition to focusing the Scrum Master on their role, it would also educate others in the organization on what a Scrum Master should focus on. Often times the wider organization also encourages the Scrum Master to focus on the wrong things. Maybe having this canvas would help them change their expectations of the Scrum Master, too. Anyway, you get the idea.

The Scrum Master would also probably want to schedule a calendar reminder, say every Sprint or so, to review their Canvas, edit it, and make sure they are staying on track. Then, maybe another set of calendar reminders every month or every quarter, to create a fresh copy of the canvas.

For a high quality class that focuses exclusively on the Scrum Master role, see our Professional Scrum Master class and contact us if you’re interested in one.

So, what would be on your Scrum Master Canvas?

New advanced Scrum certifications!!

Happy New Year!!

I’ll post more updates on this exciting development as the new assessments and credentials go into service!

http://blog.scrum.org/scrum-org-professional-series-updates-2015/

We will be providing PSM II courses later this year for those who want to take their Scrum skills — literally — to the next level.

Should I use hours to estimate my tasks in Scrum?

My new recommended “starter” “complementary practice” for new Scrum teams is to simply create tasks and use the “number of tasks remaining” for a burndown.  (I also usually recommend that they try to make it such that the vast majority of their tasks are roughly 1 day or less) I encourage them more to focus on PRI (potentially releasable increments), Sprint Goals, and achieving a moderately consistent level of skill at meeting their Sprint forecasts (used to be called “Sprint commitment,” it’s been re-named in the Scrum Guide).  I also caution heavily against trying to achieve perfect forecast accuracy as that’s a fool’s errand in complex domains.

Using hours for tasks can lead down some really bad roads, most notably:  Former PM’s turned SM’s and other organizational members who try to apply PMI tactics (100% utilization, tracking actuals, etc) tactics to complex software development.  By preferring “sticking to the plan” over “responding to change”, they are completely violating Agile and Scrum.

This same bad road can also lead companies into think that “schedule/scope/cost” is an optimum model for software development.  As far as I’m concerned, schedule/scope/cost is a dead, failed model for software.

Now, using hours for tasks doesn’t have to lead down those bad roads — but in my experiences, they usually do.  Let’s not forget, Scrum used to require hours for task estimation, many years ago, but the Scrum experiences of the wider community over 20 years has spoken on the topic — hours is not always optimum.  I would go farther than that and say, at the Sprint task level, it’s usually NOT optimum.

Given the above, I’ll leave it as an exercise to others to describe where using task hours might not lead down those bad roads.

_____
Charles Bradley
Professional Scrum Trainer
Scrum Coach-in-Chief
http://ScrumCrazy.com

New Courses from ScrumCrazy.com:

  • Scrum For Executives
  • Agile Requirements: Product Owner and Team Collaboration Techniques
  • Scrum Product Owner: Techniques for Success
  • Evidence Based Management for Software Organizations(TM)
    • Class for Software Development Managers and Executives

If you’re interested in any of our classes, training, or coaching services, feel free to contact us.

Breaking News!! Jeff Sutherland’s Scrum Inc introduces “Scrum At Scale” — see it at Agile 2014 session

I was lucky enough to get a preview of the “Scrum At Scale” approach from Scrum Inc a few days ago. In short, it’s a model for conversations around how to think about scaling Scrum in the enterprise. The model is modular, and it is very clear that this approach is more lightweight and flexible than other Agile scaling approaches that get a lot of attention. Alex Brown of Scrum Inc, the Product Owner for the model, as well as Jeff Sutherland, are very adamant that this this not some cookie cutter recipe or methodology to scale Scrum. It’s different than other approaches, in that it’s a model for conversations around inspecting and adapting toward success with Scrum at Scale.

I’m told that the slides for the presentation at the link above will be posted there within the next couple of days, and possibly sooner. The slides will add a lot of detail that the main graphic doesn’t give. I will also add that there is some nuance and detail not included in the slides either. As such, I recommend try to attend one of their live or recorded video presentations to get some richer nuance…. or….

They are also presenting on this topic at Agile 2014 next week. If you’re going to be at Agile 2014, I highly recommend you put their session on your “must see” list.

The model gives a “big picture” view of Scrum in the enterprise, but it also dovetails nicely with the many years of work that Jeff Sutherland and others have put into their Scrum Patterns efforts. As you may know, I’m also a fan of this Scrum patterns concept, and you can see an example of that work on my website — Daily Scrum Patterns.

It’s worth mentioning that I have no business relationship whatsoever with Scrum Inc, so I’m not in any way incentivized to advocate for their approach.  I’m only endorsing it because I believe in the approach and in it’s future.

I suspect that this work will be a game changer in the Scrum scaling space, which doesn’t surprise me, really. It *is,* after all, coming from a company run by the co-creator of Scrum! Nice work Alex Brown, Jeff Sutherland, and Scrum Inc!

Scrum and Agile Adoption: Backsliding into Waterfall Habits

It’s very common, when an organization is in the Shu level of learning Agile or Scrum, for it to fall into old, bad, waterfall habits.  Today I’d like to talk about two bad waterfall habits:  tracking so called ‘individual velocity,’ and tracking actual effort expended on a task or story.

First, tracking some sort of metric like “individual velocity” is probably an excellent way to completely sabotage your project/product and it’s also a great way to kill your Agile adoption.  A key concept in the Agile Manifesto principles, as well as in Scrum, is team work and “self-organizing” teams.  Self organization is generally the ability for a team to create and execute their own plan of work(Sprint Backlog), as well as decide “How” to do their work.  Whenever there is a single entity (individual on or off the team, department, etc) who strongly influences or makes unilateral decisions for how a team works, there is, by definition, no self organization.  Tracking individual velocity, or any similar “individual incentive” (this can include raises, performance reviews, awards, etc) does not encourage team work at all.  In his book, Agile Estimating and Planning, Mike Cohn says it this way:

“If I am forced to choose between finishing a story on my own and helping someone else, what incentive does measuring individual velocity give me?  Individuals should be given every incentive possible to work as a team. If the team’s throughput is increased by my helping someone else, that’s what I should do. Team velocity matters; individual velocity doesn’t. It’s not even a metric of passing interest.”

Tracking actual effort expended is another really bad waterfall habit.  Tracking estimates and actuals is just another example of where Common Project Management Metrics Doom IT Departments to Failure.  Mike Cohn, an Agile and Scrum thought leader, and a former project manager himself, says this about tracking estimates and actuals:

“On a project, it is far more useful to know how much remains to be done rather than how much has been done. Further, tracking effort expended and comparing it with estimated effort can lead to ‘evaluation apprehension’ (Sanders 1984). When estimators are apprehensive about providing an estimate, the familiar ‘fight or flight’ instinct kicks in, and estimators rely more on instinct than on analytical thought (Jørgensen 2004).

Tracking effort expended in an effort to improve estimate accuracy is a very fine line. It can work (Lederer and Prasad 1998; Weinberg and Schulman 1974). However, the project manager or whoever is doing the tracking must be very careful to avoid putting significant evaluation pressure on the estimators, as doing so could result in estimates that are worse rather than better.

Additionally, keep in mind that variability is a part of every estimate. No matter how much effort is put into improving estimates, a team will never be able to estimate perfectly. Evidence of this is no further away than your morning commute to work. There is an inherent amount of variability in your commute regardless of how you travel, how far you must go, and where you live. If you drive to work, no amount of driving skill will eliminate this variability.”

In a later post on the ScrumDevelopment Yahoo Group, Mike summarizes it this way:

” I’d say you shouldn’t do it because it doesn’t add value commensurate with its cost. Don’t argue with your bosses that it ‘adds no value’ because
comparing what you originally thought a task would take with what it did take can help make you a better estimator.

But, it can be time-consuming to track actuals, especially for a full team where some on the team are probably already decent estimators.

Because Scrum already has solid mechanisms for monitoring whether all the work gets done in a sprint (high team commitment, daily burndown charts, daily scrum, and so on), Scrum does not have the same reliance on early and accurating estimating that a predictive or waterfall approach does.

So–the cost to gather actuals is the same in Scrum or waterfall. The benefit in Scrum is greatly reduced.”

So, be very careful when backsliding into old waterfall habits.  It usually happens in small doses, which is why many Shu level adoptions don’t notice it, especially if they don’t have a skilled Scrum Coach or highly experienced Scrum Master around.  The other thing to keep in mind is that, even if you do have someone skilled around, this old adage still applies:  “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make ’em drink.”

What kind of backsliding into old waterfall habits have you seen?  What do you suggest be done about them?  Sound off in the comments below!

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