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.
Retrospectives are a key part of continuous improvement in Agile teams. The retrospective techniques that a team uses should be adjusted to the needs of the team. In a Scrum team, for example, the ScrumMaster will often decide on the techniques to use based on the current issues facing the team and then facilitate the retrospective for the team. There are some great resources which give you collections of tried-and-true retrospective techniques including Esther Derby’s book “Agile Retrospectives” and the amazing online tool “Retr-o-mat“. As an active consultant and trainer, I am always looking for new techniques to share with my clients. Sometimes, I even create a new one (or at least new to me). The “What Did You Learn” technique is new: I’ve been using it and testing it for a few years now to refine it.
What Did You Learn?
By itself, this is a powerful question. As part of my work with OpenAgile, I’ve been helping teams and organization to focus on learning as an even broader category than continuous improvement. The Learning Circle and the processes in OpenAgile help with focusing on learning. The question “what did you learn?” is very open ended, and can certainly work as an extremely simple type of retrospective in OpenAgile or in Scrum or other Agile methods. Often people like to have a little more structure and guidance so the “What Did You Learn?” retrospective technique provides four categories of learning for people to think about, share, and discuss within a team.
Setup for this retrospective is very simple: a flip chart or whiteboard divided into four sections or columns works fine, along with a piece of paper for each person in the retrospective, divided up the same way, and sufficient markers and pens for everyone. Here is a downloadable PDF version of the handout for the “What Did You Learn” retrospective.
The facilitator will also participate at various points if they are a member of the team (e.g. a ScrumMaster). It is easiest to do this with a group in-person, but can also be done reasonably well with video or teleconferencing.
The facilitator introduces the retrospective with a welcome and, if necessary, a recitation of the Retrospective Prime Directive. Then, the process is described to the group. Each of the categories of learning is also explained as follows:
There are three main stages in the retrospective as follows:
This is an excellent retrospective for a team that is going through a significant transition such as starting a new project, a major change in business direction for a product, or as a wrap up technique for sharing lessons learned with other parts of an organization. It is not a good technique for a brand new team that hasn’t worked together before as there will be little common ground for deciding on the importance of peoples’ various shared learning.
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!
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.
So you’re trying to do Scrum well because you heard it gave you great results. You know that the ScrumMaster role is critical. How do you find the right people to fill that role? Here is a list of several roles that people commonly leave to become ScrumMasters, and a few not-so-common roles as well, all ranked by how well those people typically do once they become ScrumMasters. From Worst to Best:
The ScrumMaster creates high performance teams using the Scrum process and values. The ScrumMaster is not accountable for business results, nor project success, nor technical solutions, nor even audit process compliance. The ScrumMaster is responsible for removing obstacles to a team’s performance of their work. The ScrumMaster is an organizational change agent.
Other things you might want to consider when looking for a ScrumMaster:
Bottom line: try and avoid having PMI-trained project managers become ScrumMasters. Even with good training, even with time to adjust, I often find that Scrum teams with PMI-trained project managers are always struggling and almost never become true teams.
For a little while last year I was using a quiz in my Certified ScrumMaster courses that was deliberately designed to be super hard. Why? Because if anyone could answer it correctly before the end of the class, I would give them their certification early and allow them to leave. Not a single person out of several hundred was able to do it.
So… want to give it a try? I’ve got two files here. One is the quiz without answers. The other is the answer key. Let me know if you have any questions!!!
CSM Class Test – Super Hard! (PDF, 1 page)
(Please, give it a try before you even download this next piece!!!)
CSM Class Test – Answer Key (PDF, 1 page)
This test was first created by me and one of my close colleagues, Julien Mazloum from Outsofting. We were trying to make the CSM class something that the Chinese audience would really appreciate culturally. It worked well, up to a point. The main problem was that some of the questions were too subtle for people for whom English was their second language. That said, when I used it in my North American courses, still no one passed it! In fact, the best score I ever saw was 25 correct out of 30.
One of our big plans this summer is to have a selection of advanced Scrum and Agile – related training courses. We are delivering some of them ourselves, but we are also bring in outside experts for others.
Here is the course list at a high level:
– a 1-day “Advanced ScrumMaster” course
– a 1-day “Advanced Product Owner” course
– a 1-day “Managing for Success” course
– a 1-day “Enterprise Agile” course
– a 2-day “Agile Engineering Practices” course
– a 2-day “Agile Coach Training” course
Our schedule for these events will be finalized in the next few weeks. If you are interested in any of these courses, please pre-register here. Pre-registration will give you a guaranteed spot and a discount of 10% above and beyond the early-bird registration price.
Recently, in my work helping teams to learn and implement Scrum, I have deliberately not been using diagrams. Having participants create their own ways of describing Scrum based on their own understanding is often a much more powerful approach to learning than showing them a diagram. If you give someone a map, they tend to assume that all of the exploring has already been done. If you give them a space to explore, they tend to create their own maps and provide new knowledge about the space being explored. Maps and diagrams do serve a purpose. They are useful. What’s important to always keep in mind is that they should not be regarded as definitive but rather as one contribution to a body of knowledge that can and should grow.
Anyhow, this isn’t intended to be a blog post about diagrams but rather as a post sharing a diagram that I have created. One of the participants of a Scrum training that I recently facilitated asked me for a diagram and I said I would find one for him. All of the other diagrams out there that I could find didn’t exactly convey my own understanding of Scrum. So, I decided to create my own.
This is the first increment. I am open to feedback and I look forward to finding out how this interacts with others’ understanding of Scrum.
You can download it at this link: Meet: Scrum.
If you are a ScrumMaster or Coach or Project Manager or Process Facilitator of any kind, I encourage you to become a master of Retrospectives. I just happened upon this great little set of slides and presentation notes about Retrospectives by a couple of people, Sean Yo and Matthew Campbell, done a couple months ago. Very helpful with some practical information, some great links… I strongly recommend checking it out. My only concern is that they limit the scope of retrospectives too much. I have a list of topics that I think can and should be considered in a retrospective:
This list comes from a presentation I used to include as part of my Certified ScrumMaster course. (Now, in my course I teach three specific methods of doing retrospectives as part of an in-depth simulation exercise.) Here is a PDF version of the Retrospectives Module.
Interesting list here on Global Knowledge (a certification and training vendor (just like Berteig Consulting ) ). CSM is #6 in pay at $107,396 (is it really 6 significant figures of accuracy? Wow!). Anyway, it is cool to see the CSM cert on such a list since I’m one of a small number of Certified Scrum Trainers. If you’re interested in coming to one of my classes and getting this certification for yourself, please check out my course listings in the sidebar on the right here on Agile Advice. There’s many in Canada, there’s some in the US and there’s some in China. Hopefully see you at one of them sometime soon!
The Sprint burndown chart tracks the amount of work remaining in the Sprint day-by-day. The burndown chart is updated daily and is visible to the team and stakeholders. This activity is part of the ScrumMaster’s duty to facilitate the Scrum Process. This activity is part of the ScrumMaster’s job to satisfy stakeholders as the chart allows the team to easily see how it is trending on committed deliverables. This information allows the team and the Product Owner to discuss any necessary adjustments to the team’s commitments for the current Sprint in a timely fashion. What happens if the ScrumMaster fails to create and/or maintain the team’s Sprint burndown chart? Most likely we will be unable to see if the team is on track, late or early in its current Sprint. To find out this information we would have to wait until the Sprint is done which is much too late. Also, without daily updates on the trend of the team it is more likely that Scrum Team Members may slip back into an individualistic approach to work instead a team based approach.
For more information about the turndown chart, visit the Scrum Team Assessment.
Delivery each Sprint of potentially “shippable” is at the heart of a true Scrum implementation. In order to help the team properly implement Scrum and derive the intended benefits of empirical process control and collaboration with stakeholders, the ScrumMaster needs to help the team expand its definition of done at least until it is able to deliver a potentially complete “shippable” increment of product every Sprint. The ScrumMaster should help the team to revise its definition of “done” every Sprint with the necessary adjustments being made as the result of the Sprint Retrospective. As Scrum teams mature, it is expected that their definitions of “done” will expand to include more stringent criteria for higher quality. The ScrumMaster should always be looking ahead to new ways that the team can expand its definition of “done” in order to deliver higher quality product to the stakeholders and exceed their expectations.
For more information on the definition of done, visit the Scrum Team Assessment.
Solving technical problems is the job of the product developers on the Scrum Team, not the ScrumMaster. The ScrumMaster is responsible for the Scrum process and has authority over the team only in this limited realm. By overstepping the bounds of authority in this way, the ScrumMaster becomes an obstacle for the team by reducing its ability to self-organize. A ScrumMaster who is part of a team that has reached a high-performance state may be able to safely make technical suggestions, but should always be careful not to push the team to accept those suggestions.
To learn more about solving technical problems, visit the Scrum Team Assessment.