TL;DR: Liberating Structures for Scrum: The Sprint Retrospective
Liberating Structures Sprint Retrospective: A few weeks ago, I started an event series with my Berlin-based Hands-on Agile Meetup group on how to improve Scrum events utilizing Liberating Structures — a set of easy to learn, yet powerful ways to collaborate as a team. The results have been fantastic so far, and I like to share these outcomes with those who cannot participate in person.
In this first post, learn more on how you can use Liberating Structures strings to improve the level of collaboration and engagement at Sprint Retrospectives.
The tenth Hands-on Agile webinar sprint retrospective anti-patterns covers twelve anti-patterns of the sprint retrospective—from #NoRetro to the dispensable buffer to UNSMART action items to a missing product owner.
Back in 2017, we started the Scrum Master Salary Report 2017—the first industry report that covered in depth the educational background, working experience, industries, and organizational details of the companies Scrum Masters or agile coaches work for. For its 2019 edition—the Scrum Master Trends Report 2019—, we partnered with Scrum.org—the leading Scrum training and certification institution founded by Scrum co-founder Ken Schwaber—to improve the underlying data set.
Learn more about the state of the industry and download for free the Scrum Master Trends Report 2019.
TL;DR: Agile Failure Patterns — Why Agile is Simple and Complex at the Same Time
Agile failure seems to be increasingly more prominent nowadays despite all the efforts undertaken by numerous organization embarking on their journeys to become agile.
The funny thing is: Who would disagree that the four core principles of the Agile Manifesto —
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan
— are derived from applying common sense to a challenging problem? Moreover, the application of those principles might be suited to fix numerous organizational dysfunctions and reduce an error-prone and complex social setting to maybe just a complicated one?
If technical debt is the plague of our industry, why isn’t the Scrum Guide addressing the question of who is responsibly dealing with it? To make things worse, if the Product Owner’s responsibility is to maximize the value customers derive from the Development Team’s work, and the Development Team’s responsibility is to deliver a product Increment (at least) at the end of the sprint adhering to the definition of “Done,” aren’t those two responsibilities possibly causing a conflict of interest?
This post analyzes the situation by going back to first principles, as laid out in the Scrum Guide to answer a simple question: Who is responsible for keeping technical debt at bay in a Scrum Team?
Scrum Master Hiring: Demand Creates Supply and the Job Market for Agile Practitioners is No Exception
Maybe, “Agile” in general is a management fad and not trend at the moment. But what we can say for sure is that Scrum has become very popular for software development purposes. A seasoned Scrum master is nowadays in high demand. And that demand causes the market-entry of new professionals from other project management branches, probably believing that reading one or two Scrum books will be sufficient.
If you are looking to fill a position for a Scrum master (or agile coach) in your organization, you may find the following 38+9 interview questions useful to identify the right candidate. They are derived from my thirteen years of practical experience with XP as well as Scrum, serving both as product owner and Scrum Master as well as interviewing dozens of Scrum Master candidates on behalf of my clients.
So far, the this Scrum Master interview guide has been downloaded more than 14,000 times.
Do you need an emergency fund as a change agent—whether you are acting as Scrum Master, Product Owner or agile coach—because conflict is inevitable, but change is not?
In my experience, speaking truth to power, pointing at the emperor’s new clothes and the reality in the trenches, is necessary a trait for every change agent — including Scrum Masters and agile coaches — in organizations that lack strong leadership.
Learn more, how this form of professional honesty can backfire when the incumbents, privileged by the existing system, strike back.
Scrum Master Duties: supposedly, a great scrum master serves only one scrum team — that's at least a popular narrative in the scrum community. Nevertheless, there is also a loud voice that doubts that approach: what would you do the whole day - with a single team? Aren't they supposed to become self-organizing over time? And if so, does the scrum then need a scrum master 24/7?
As I worked for years as a product owner on scrum teams without a dedicated scrum master-which was working well-I was curious to learn more about that question, too. Hence I ran a survey in late June and early July 2018, the results of which are presented here.
In total, 261 scrum masters participated in this non-representative survey in the two weeks before July 5th, 2018. 19 participants chose not to provide their consent to Google processing and to store their answers. Hence their contributions were deleted, resulting in a sample size of 242 responses.
TL;DR: 28 Product Backlog and Refinement Anti-Patterns
Scrum is a practical framework to build products, provided you identify in advance what to build. But even after a successful product discovery phase, you may struggle to make the right thing in the right way if your product backlog is not up to the job. Garbage in, garbage out – as the saying goes. The following article points at 28 of the most common product backlog anti-patterns – including the product backlog refinement process – that limit your Scrum team’s success.
TL;DR: 42 Scrum Product Owner Interview Questions That Will Benefit Your Organization
This second publication in the Hands-on Agile Fieldnotes series provides 42 questions and answers for the Scrum Product Owner interview.
Co-authored with Andreea Tomoiaga, 42 Scrum Product Owner Interview Questions to Avoid Hiring Agile Imposters represents the most important learnings of our more than 20 years combined hands-on experience with Kanban, Scrum, XP, and several product discovery frameworks. We have worked as Scrum Product Owners, Scrum Masters, agile coaches, and developers in agile teams and organizations of all sizes and levels of maturity.
We have each participated in interviewing dozens of Scrum Product Owner candidates on behalf of our clients or employers. The questions and answers herein are what we have learned.
Suitable agile metrics reflect either a team’s progress in becoming agile or your organization’s progress in becoming a learning organization.
At the team level, qualitative agile metrics typically work better than quantitative metrics. At the organizational level, this is reversed: quantitative agile metrics provide better insights than qualitative ones.
Food for Agile Thought’s issue #188—shared with 21,733 peers—delves into Scrum roots, the perils caused by a ubiquitous misconception of ‘Agile,’ and how to tackle typical organizational anti-patterns impeding the collaboration of multiple Scrum teams.
Moreover, we analyze the dark side of A/B testing, we learn about a new framework claiming to be able to predict the future success of new products, and we embrace the idea of the ‘Hero’s Journey’ to understand our users’ way of interacting with our applications better.
Lastly, we reflect on the lessons learned from WeWork’s CTO on how to scale technology and the organization simultaneously.
Food for Agile Thought’s issue #187—shared with 21,673 peers—focuses on whether the agile ROI is it scientifically provable, and that the longevity of agile teams is overrated. We also get first-hand insights into why a Holacracy project ultimately did not work out.
Moreover, we delve into flow and value in product development; we learn how to apply a proven product/market fit survey, and we learn how Marty Cagan assesses the skills and gaps of prospective product manager coachee. (Great food of thought for your career.)
🦖 Lastly, we enjoy a fantastic presentation on Cynefin, Dinosaurs, decision making under complexity, and under which circumstances innovation may flourish. (Kudos to Liz.)
Food for Agile Thought’s issue #186—shared with 21,631 peers—covers agile improv comedy as a way to up your game as an agile practitioner, we discover a free Monte Carlo simulation tool for agile estimation, and we learn more about Scrum@Scale from Jeff Sutherland.
Moreover, we address why less is more in the case of ‘Agile,’ how we can scale as a product mensch in charge of a growing product, and we learn why the best teams continuously improve processes and products at the same time.
Lastly, we dive into the dark side that influenced Mr. Taylor’s scientific management method with an excerpt from the book “Accounting for Slavery: Masters and Management.“
Food for Agile Thought’s issue #185—shared with 21,547 peers—covers agile values and the path from project to product-focused organizations. We also learn what to look for when hiring agile teams, and take away lessons learned along the way of becoming an acknowledged agile coach.
Moreover, we address the rationale behind splitting user stories, how to deal with customer churn effectively from a learning perspective, and why ‘done’ tends to clash with ‘validated’ so often when engineers talk to UX folks.
Lastly, we enjoy a new book—available for free as a PDF—that takes a look at what the values of the Agile Manifesto mean when you try to apply them to work and life.
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