This is the story of how the Scrum of Scrums has evolved for a large program I’m helping out with at one of our clients.
This is the story of how the Scrum of Scrums has evolved for a large program I’m helping out with at one of our clients.
Two nights ago I had a great discussion with my son, Justice Berteig, about how we have been managing to do house cleaning every week. We have been using a very basic Kanban system. I have created about 100 stickies each of which has a basic cleaning task such as “tidy the kitchen counters” or “vacuum the office floor” or “clean the powder room toilet”. If we do all of the tasks, it represents a fairly complete cleaning of the whole house. Every Saturday morning, all six of us (myself, my wife and our four kids) choose one task at a time and put the sticky for that task in the “In Progress” column. When we finish a task, we move it to the “Done” column. When all the tasks are done, we all are finished. We reuse the stickies each week. Sometimes if we want to do a quick clean, we won’t put out all of the stickies.
It works well in one specific way: everything gets done!
But Justice was complaining about the system because he works a lot harder and one of my younger kids has admitted to doing less than she could… because she can get away with it with this system.
Last week we tried a modified system where each person has a task allocation. For example, Justice had an allocation of 25 tasks. Our younger daughter had an allocation of just 5 tasks. We then took turns to choose one task at a time (although there were a lot of exceptions to this) until all the tasks are pre-allocated (similar to how teams used to do Sprint Planning). But, although some people finished all their tasks, not everyone did and so there were a number of things left over that never got finished.
In other words, we stopped using a Kanban system, and we stopped reaching the overall goal of a clean house.
So Justice and I had a long conversation about this problem. In the interests of continuous improvement and experimentation, I didn’t just force the issue back to the old Kanban system. Instead we decided to try the following changes:
I’m going to add one more thing which is to do a specific retrospective on how it worked to see if we can come up with further improvements. I have to admit that I hope we go back to the Kanban approach!!!
Check out our new Kanban training offering: Kanban: Gentle Change currently available for public enrolment in the Toronto area and for in-house delivery wherever you might be!
The Real Agility Program is an Enterprise Agile change program to help organizations develop high-performance teams, deliver amazing products, dramatically improve time to market and quality, and create work environments that are awesome for employees.
This article is a written summary of the Executive Briefing presentation available upon request from the Real Agility Program web site. If you obtain the executive briefing, you can follow along with the article below and use it to present Real Agility to your enterprise stakeholders.
At Berteig Consulting we have been working for 10 years to learn how to help organizations transform people, process and culture. The problem is simple to state: there is a huge amount of opportunity waste and process waste in most normal enterprise-scale organizations. If you have more than a couple hundred people in your organization, this almost certainly affects you.
We like to call this problem “the Bureaucratic Beast”. The Bureaucratic Beast is a self-serving monster that seems to grow and grow and grow. As it grows, this Beast makes it progressively more difficult for business leaders to innovate, respond to changes in the market, satisfy existing customers, and retain great employees.
Real Agility, a system to tame the Bureaucratic Beast, comes from our experience working with numerous enterprise Agile adoptions. This experience, in turn, rests on the shoulders of giants like John Kotter (“Leading Change”), Edgar Schein (“The Corporate Culture Survival Guide”), Jim Collins (“Good to Great” and “Built to Last”), Mary Poppendieck (“Lean Software Development”) Jon Katzenbach (“The Wisdom of Teams”) and Frederick Brooks (“The Mythical Man-Month”). Real Agility is designed to tame all the behaviours of the Bureaucratic Beast: inefficiency, dis-engaged staff, poor quality and slow time-to-market.
Studies have proven that Agile methods work in IT. In 2012, the Standish Group observed that 42% of Agile projects succeed vs. just 14% of projects done with traditional “Bureaucratic Beast” methods. Agile and associated techniques aren’t just for IT. There is growing use of these same techniques in non-technoogy environments such as marketing, operations, sales, education, healthcare, and even heavy industry like mining.
Real Agility Basics: Agile + Lean
Real Agility is a combination of Agile and Lean; both systems used harmoniously throughout an enterprise. Real Agility affects delivery processes by taking long-term goals and dividing them into short cycles of work that deliver valuable results rapidly while providing fast feedback on scope, quality and most importantly value. Real Agility affects management processes by finding and eliminating wasteful activities with a system view. And Real Agility affects human resources (people!) by creating “Delivery Teams” which have clear goals, are composed of multi-skilled people who self-organize, and are stable in membership over long periods of time.
There are lots of radical differences between Real Agility and traditional management (that led to the Bureaucratic Beast in the first place). Real Agility prioritizes work by value instead of critical path, encourages self-organizing instead of command-and-control management, a team focus instead of project focus, evolving requirements instead of frozen requirements, skills-based interactions instead of roles-based interaction, continuous learning instead of crisis management, and many others.
Real Agility is built on a rich Agile and Lean ecosystem of values, principles and tools. Examples include the Agile Manifesto, the “Stop the Line” practice, various retrospective techniques, methods and frameworks such as Scrum and OpenAgile, and various thinking tools compatible with the Agile – Lean ecosystem such as those developed by Edward de Bono (“Lateral Thinking”) and Genrich Altshuller (“TRIZ”).
Real Agility acknowledges that there are various approaches to Agile adoption at the enterprise level: Ad Hoc (not usually successful – Nortel tried this), Grassroots (e.g. Yahoo!), Pragmatic (SAFe and DAD fall into this category), Transformative (the best balance of speed of change and risk reduction – this is where the Real Agility Program falls), and Big-Bang (only used in situations of true desperation).
Why Choose Transformative?
One way to think about these five approaches to Agile adoption is to compare the magnitude of actual business results. This is certainly the all-important bottom line. But most businesses also consider risk (or certainty of results). Ad-Hoc approaches to Agile adoption have poor business results and a very high level of risk. Big-Bang approaches (changing a whole enterprise to Agile literally over night) often have truly stunning business results, but are also extremely high risk. Grassroots, where leaders give staff a great deal of choice about how and when to adopt Agile, is a bit better in that the risk is lower, but the business results often take quite a while to manifest themselves. Pragmatic approaches tend to be very low risk because they often accommodate the Bureaucratic Beast, but that also limits their business results to merely “good” and not great. Transformative approaches which systematically address organizational culture are just a bit riskier than Pragmatic approaches, but the business results are generally outstanding.
More specifically, Pragmatic approaches such as SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) are popular because they are designed to fit in with existing middle management structures (where the Bureaucratic Beast is most often found). As a result, there is slow incremental change that typically has to be driven top-down from leadership. Initial results are good, but modest. And the long term? These techniques haven’t been around long enough to know, but in theory it will take a long time to get to full organizational Agility. Bottom line is that Pragmatic approaches are low risk but the results are modest.
Transformative approaches such as the Real Agility Program (there are others too) are less popular because there is significantly more disruption: the Bureaucratic Beast has to be completely tamed to serve a new master: business leadership! Transformative approaches require top-to-bottom organizational and structural change. They include a change in power relationships to allow for grassroots-driven change that is empowered by servant leaders. Transformative approaches are moderate in some ways: they are systematic and they don’t require all change to be done overnight. Nevertheless, often great business results are obtained relatively quickly. There is a moderate risk that the change won’t deliver the great results, but that moderate risk is usually worth taking.
Regardless of adoption strategy (Transformative or otherwise) there are a few critical success factors. Truthfulness is the foundation because without it, it is impossible to see the whole picture including organizational culture. And love is the strongest driver of change because cultural and behavioural change requires emotional commitment on the part of everyone.
Culture change is often challenging. There are unexpected problems. Two steps forward are often followed by one step back. Some roadblocks to culture change will be surprisingly persistent. Leaders need patience and persistence… and a systematic change program.
The Real Agility Program
The Real Agility Program has four tracks or lines of action (links take you to the Real Agility Program web site):
Structurally an enterprise using Real Agility is organized into Delivery Groups. A Delivery Group is composed of one or more Delivery Teams (up to 150 people) who work together to produce business results. Key roles include a Business leader, a People leader and a Technology leader all of whom become Real Agility Coaches and take the place of traditional functional management. As well, coordination across multiple Delivery Teams within a Delivery Group is done using an organized list of “Value Drivers” maintained by the Business leader and a supporting Business Leadership Group. Cross-team support is handled by a People and Technology Support Group co-led by the People and Technology leaders. Depending on need there may also be a number of communities of practice for Delivery Team members to help spread learning.
At an organizational or enterprise level, the Leadership Team includes top executives from business, finance, technology, HR, operations and any other critical parts of the organization. This Leadership Team communicates the importance of the changes that the Delivery Groups are going through. They lead by example using techniques from Real Agility to execute organizational changes. And, of course, they manage the accountability of the various Delivery Groups throughout the enterprise.
The results of using the Real Agility Program are usually exceptional. Typical results include:
Of course, these results depend on baseline measures and that key risk factors are properly managed by the Leadership Team.
Not every organization needs (or is ready for) the Real Agility Program. Your organization is likely a good candidate if three or more of the following problems are true for your organization:
Consider that list carefully and if you feel like you have enough of the above problems, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. or read more about the Real Agility Program for Enterprise Agility on the website.
Often in my classes, I’m asked for a clear comparison between the various traditional roles and the new roles in Scrum. Here is a high level summary of some of the key responsibilities and activities that help highlight some important differences between these four roles:
|ScrumMaster||Product Owner||Project Manager||Team Lead|
|NO||Define Business Requirements||PARTICIPATES||NO|
|NO||YES (Deliveries)||Define Milestones||NO|
|YES (process and people)||YES (business)||Risk Management||PARTICIPATES|
|Organizational Change Agent||NO||NO||NO|
|NO||Accountable for Business Results||RARELY (just costs)||NO|
Of course, there are many other ways we could compare these four roles. What would you like me to add to this list? Add a comment with a question or a suggestion and I will update the table appropriately!
The ultimate purpose of Product Backlog refinement is to ensure an ongoing conversation that increases transparency of the Product Backlog and therefore the Product itself – to orient everyone on the team to breaking out of their waterfall silos and focus on delivering business value, period.
On mature teams, a lot of the refinement work happens as ad hoc conversations while they are sitting around and thinking together about how to build something great because they are just motivated by that and it becomes part of their mode of operation.
The objective of the refinement work of any given Sprint (that often needs to be repeated over and over like a mantra with new, immature teams) is to ensure that the items at the top of the Backlog are transparent enough that the Development Team considers them ready to pull and get “Done” in the next Sprint. This is where the concept of the Definition of “Ready” (DoR) comes from – the Scrum Team defines the DoR and spends up to 10% of its capacity refining enough items at the top of the Backlog so that it can provide estimates (if required) and have a reasonable degree of confidence that it can deliver the items in the next Sprint.
Refinement is NOT solutioning – I think this is the big trap that a lot of teams fall into because there is a false assumption that technical solutions need to be hashed out before estimates can be made (part of the carried-over lack of trust and communication between the business and IT) – I would almost rather throw out estimates in cases where this is not improving – The Planning Game exercise, when facilitated well, lends itself more to increasing transparency rather than solutioning.
The fact that teams are telling us that they need to solution before they can estimate is also an indication of weak Agile Engineering practices such as refactoring, test-driven development and continuous integration (XP). The best refinement sessions are those in which the team is able to focus on the “what” – the business benefit results that the Product Owner really wants – rather than the “how” (solution). Strong teams emerge in an environment in which they are trusted by the business and management to find the right solution as a team. They don’t need to have it all figured out before giving an estimate because they are not afraid to give a bad estimate and fail. Also, if the team is struggling to give estimates, this is often a sign that the Product Backlog Items are too big. Most likely the team also needs to expand the Definition of “Done” to include testing against acceptance criteria within the Sprint so that they can estimate based on that criteria.
The “how” (solution) should be mapped out by the Development Team at a high level in the 2nd part of Sprint Planning (partly why the time box is bigger than they often think they need) and more detailed architecture, requirements and design work as part of the Sprint Backlog
But this level of maturity is very hard to do and it will take a while to get there, perhaps even years.
It also depends on your interpretation of “detail”, the word used in the Scrum Guide to describe what the team does in Product Backlog refinement. To me, it means understanding in more detail what the Product Owner really wants and needs. What does it mean to you?
I just finished reading a great rant about being on time by Greg Savage. It got me thinking a bit. I’ve been involved with Scrum and other Agile methods since the mid-90’s and in that time, my perspective on time has changed considerably.
I used to be the guy who was always late. And it was a completely selfish behaviour. Meetings, outings, even weddings. I just couldn’t believe how “uptight” people were about time. But gradually, over a period of about 5 years as I became more and more aware of the underlying philosophy of Agile, my perspective, and more importantly my behaviour, changed: I started being on time. For everything. Even if it meant doubling my travel time buffer. Even if it meant sleeping 3 hours instead of 8 hours. Even if it meant missing a meal or a drink or a personal to-do item.
Time is the only resource that, once spent, we can never get back.
Scrum and most other Agile methods respect this implicitly in their time-boxed iterations and meetings. But people on Agile teams often need time to adapt and change their behaviour. In many ways, timeliness (starting and finishing meetings on time) is a critical component of the Scrum value of Respect.
Timeliness is also related to our understanding of planning. The Horizon of Predictability is short in most work environments. Maybe a week or two. If you dis-respect the tkmeboxes of the Agile process, you are jeopardizing your ability to effectively use the horizon of predictability. Even the Daily Scrum, normally time boxed to 15 minutes each day, can through abuse of time, cause long-term ramifications in product development planning.
But really, I like Greg Savage’s point better than all the practical stuff: being late is rude. Period.
The Product Backlog is often described as the primary input to Scrum. The Sprint starts with Sprint Planning and Sprint Planning starts with the Product Owner and the Product Backlog. In principle, this makes perfect sense and hopefully it is enough for most teams and organizations to just start with the Product Backlog. And if you don’t have a Product Backlog, then just start without one, get some stuff done that the team thinks is important, invite some people to the Sprint Review and most likely one of those people will end up becoming the Product Owner and gradually take on the responsbilities of that role. I believe in just starting if you can. I even wrote a blog post about this a while back and I stand by it.
I have served as a Scrum Master and coach for a number of teams and I have identified some patterns that I think are worth addressing. Newly-formed teams tend to ask for (and need) a little more help than this in order to feel ready to start. And I have learned from experience that it is usually more effective for the adoption of Scrum and team development for the team to feel ready enough to just start.
The Scrum Guide recognizes the following inputs to Sprint Planning:
A newly-formed team often needs to address the following before the first Sprint:
If these are not addressed before the first Sprint, then they will likely need to be addressed during Sprint Planning, which can place a lot pressure on a new team (especially in environments where it is difficult to build shared understanding of the work).
Keep it simple. It’s an ordered list of all the features, functions, enhancements and fixes that might be needed in the end product. Get the Product Owner to blow these things out into a list. It doesn’t need to be a complete list. Just the most important things right now. A good test is to give the Product Owner 5 minutes. Whatever the Product Owner can think of in 5 minutes is important enough for the team to start working on. There are all kinds of techniques that can be used to order the Product Backlog. The simplest way is to just have the Product Owner eyeball it. If people are uncomfortable with this, then introduce the other ways. It doesn’t need to be perfect. It will get better and become refined and adapted as you go.
Multiply the number of working days in the Sprint (total days minus Sprint Planning, Sprint Review and Sprint Retrospective, rounding down) by the number of Development Team members by the average percentage team member dedication (hopefully 100%). If you have weird things going on with team member allocation (not 100%) then you may find it helpful to refer to this blog post. According to what the Scrum Guide says about Development Team size and Sprint duration, this number could theoretically be smaller (Sprint less than one week), but in most cases no less than 12 (3-member Development Team in a one-week Sprint) and no more than 207 (9-member Development Team in a one-month Sprint with 23 days – the maximum number of weekdays in a month).
This is a list of all of the activities that will go into the intended Increment of the first Sprint in order for it to be done. The team needs to know this before it can estimate the items in the Product Backlog as a team. Estimation is not a requirement of Scrum, but is often very helpful in refining the Product Backlog, tracking velocity and making projections into the future based on historical actuals.
In the first part of Sprint Planning, the team looks at the items at the top of the Product Backlog in order to determine what can be done in the Sprint and the Sprint Goal, keeping in mind that it will need to complete the items according to its Definition of “Done”. Once the team has set a Sprint Goal, it can then create a set of tasks that represent how the work will get done. All of the tasks should fulfill a specific attribute of the Definition of “Done” or be about the technical parts of the system that need to be built. The team should try to create a set of tasks each of which are a one-person day effort or less. Count the number of tasks. If the number of tasks are close to the number of days of the team’s capacity, the team can be confident that it has a decent Sprint Backlog. If not, then the the Sprint Backlog and likely the Sprint Goal will need to be adapted.
Hi Everyone. A Scrum Alliance colleague of mine mentioned that in a conversation with Jeff Sutherland (one of the authors of Scrum), Jeff suggested that the community could request and vote on a change to the Scrum Guide (the official description of Scrum) in order the add the values back to the guide. The values are normally listed as focus, commitment, courage, openness and respect. Please go and vote (and / or discuss) this on the Scrum Guides User Voice page. Voting is super easy – you just need to sign in with Facebook.
My heartfelt congratulations on this important and historic event! Scrum is one, again!
From the official announcement issued by Scrum Alliance:
SCRUM ORGANIZATIONS ANNOUNCE OFFICIAL
COLLABORATIVE ADOPTION OF SCRUM GUIDE
Scrum Alliance, Scrum.org, and Scrum Inc. announce the release and joint endorsement of a new community website, ScrumGuides.org. The new website is the official source of “The Scrum Guide, The Definitive Guide to Scrum: The Rules of the Game.”
Dr. Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber created Scrum and authored “The Scrum Guide” to ensure Scrum remains true to its core principles and values.
“The Scrum Guide is the canonical definition of Scrum. Ken and I have worked closely together for decades to keep it simple, clear, and, in the true spirit of Scrum, to include only what is absolutely necessary,” says Sutherland, CEO of Scrum Inc. “Scrum is a powerful tool to radically increase productivity. Every implementation of Scrum is different, as teams and organizations apply it within their context, but the fundamental framework always remains the same. For Scrum Alliance, Scrum.org, and Scrum Inc. to come together to recognize the central place the Scrum Guide holds will provide clarity to the hundreds of thousands of Scrum practitioners across the planet.”
The explosive growth of people and organizations using Scrum in recent years has led to some market confusion as to the precise definition of Scrum. The preeminent certifying bodies, Scrum Alliance and Scrum.org, coming together in support of a common definition of Scrum is a win for Scrum practitioners around the world.
“The pieces of Scrum are carefully fit to each other to yield the best possible results. This has taken years for Jeff and myself to achieve. Watch for new versions as we continue to refine,” said Ken Schwaber, founder of Scrum.org.
“It’s time for convergence in the Scrum community,” said Scrum.org’s operations chief David Starr. “Giving this clear explanation of Scrum clarifies the framework for the entire industry. We are pleased to support a shared and unambiguous source of truth defined by Scrum’s creators.”
Carol McEwan, Scrum Alliance Managing Director, said, “This makes the most sense for the Scrum community. The Scrum Guide is based on the principles on which Scrum was founded. It offers Scrum practitioners worldwide a common standard and understanding of the foundations of Scrum. This collaboration adds real value and can only benefit everyone practicing, or considering practicing, Scrum.”
Over the many years that I have been teaching Scrum (since 2005!), I have had a diagram of Scrum as part of my slides and/or handouts. The diagram has gone through several major and minor changes throughout that time. Here is the progression from oldest to newest:
This diagram was used in some of my earliest slides when I first started delivering Scrum training. It is bad. It is woefully incomplete. But, here it is:
I knew the first one was bad so after not too long, I created this next diagram as a supplement that was meant to show the whole Scrum process all in one page. Similar to other Scrum “cheat sheet” style diagrams. I used this diagram until about 2008 when I got some very good feedback from a great trainer, Jim Heidema.
The changes I made were small, but to me, significant. Changing from a “mathematical” language of “Sprint N”, “Sprint N+1″ to a more general language of “Current”, “Future” was a big deal. I really struggled with that. Probably because I was still relatively new to being non-technical.
This fourth diagram made some minor formatting changes, but most importantly added “Backlog Grooming”. It’s funny how long I talked about grooming in my classes before realizing that it was missing from the diagram. I used the previous diagram and this diagram for a couple years each before making a rather major change to create the next one.
A couple years ago I realized that I wasn’t really talking about the Scrum values in my classes. I started to introduce them in some of my other handouts and discussions, but it still took a while for me to reflect those values in my diagram. I had also received a lot of feedback that having two Product Backlogs in the diagram was confusing. Finally, I realized that I was missing an opportunity to use colour more systematically. So, a major reformatting, systematic colour coding and the addition of the Scrum values was my next change.
Branded Diagram (ug.)
In a rush, I added some logos to the diagram. Just made it gross, but it’s badness, combined with feedback about said badness, actually inspired a major change for the next version.
Literally just a week ago, I was showing my brand-new branded diagram to a bunch of people who really care about design and UX. The very first comment when I handed out the diagram was: “wow, you can really tell this wasn’t done by a designer!” Well, that got me thinking deeply about the diagram (again). So, here is my newest, latest and greatest (still not done by a designer) version of my Scrum diagram!
I would absolutely love constructive feedback about this latest diagram. Of course, if you like it, please let me know that too! The thing I like about this is that it is a way of looking back at almost 9 years of my teaching history. Continuous improvement is so important, so I welcome your comments! If you have your own diagrams, please link to them in the comments – I would love to see those too! In fact, it would be really cool if a bunch of people could make little “Evolution of a Scrum Diagram” posts – let me know if you do!!!
Organizations like to have clear role definitions, clear processes outlined and clear documentation templates. It’s just in the nature of bureaucracy to want to know every detail, to capture every dotted “i” and crossed “t”, and to use all that information to control, monitor, predict and protect. ScrumMasters should be anti-bureaucracy. Not anti-process, not anti-documentation, but constantly on the lookout for process and documentation creep.
To help aspiring ScrumMasters, particularly those who come from a formal Project Management background, I have here a short list of exactly which artifacts the ScrumMaster is responsible for.
– None – the ScrumMaster is a facilitator and change agent and is not directly responsible for any of the Scrum artifacts (e.g. Product Backlog) or traditional artifacts (e.g. Gantt Chart).
– Obstacles or impediments “backlog” – a list of all the problems, obstacles, impediments and challenges that the Scrum Team is facing. These obstacles can be identified by Team Members at any time, but particularly during the Daily Scrum or the Retrospective.
– Definition of “Done” gap report, every Sprint – a comparison of how “done” the Team’s work is during Sprint Review vs. the corporate standards required to actually ship an increment of the Team’s work (e.g. unit testing done every Sprint, but not system testing).
– Sharable retrospective outcomes report, every Sprint – an optional report from the Scrum Team to outside stakeholders including other Scrum Teams. Current best practice is that the retrospective is a private meeting for the members of the Scrum Team and that in order to create a safe environment, the Scrum Team only shares items from the retrospective if they are unanimously agreed. Outsiders are not welcome to the retrospective.
– Sprint burndown chart every Sprint – a chart that tracks the amount of work remaining at the end of every day of the Sprint, usually measured in number of tasks. This chart simply helps a team to see if their progress so far during a Sprint is reasonable for them to complete their work.
– State of Scrum report, every Sprint – possibly using a checklist or tool such as the “Scrum Team Assessment” (shameless plug alert!).
NOT RECOMMENDED (BUT SOMETIMES NEEDED):
– minutes of Scrum meetings
– process compliance audit reports
– project administrative documents (e.g. status reports, time sheets)
– project charter (often recommended for the Product Owner, however)
– project plans (this is done by the Product Owner and the Scrum Team with the Product Backlog)
– any sort of up-front technical or design documents
The ScrumMaster is not a project manager, not a technical lead, not a functional manager, and not even a team coach. There are aspects of all of those roles in the ScrumMaster role, but it is best to think of the role as completely new and focused on two things:
– improving how the team uses Scrum
– helping the team to remove obstacles and impediments to getting their work done.