Category: Scrum (Page 1 of 2)

5 Unique Qualities That Make Up a Great Scrum Master

The role of SM (Scrum Master) is challenging. It takes a certain type of person to succeed. As per the Scrum Guide, the SM serves the product owner, development team and the organization. The SM is a servant leader. Nobody reports to the SM.

Without formal authority, the SM relies on their natural abilities to provide leadership. People who shine as SM’s, tend to be those with high levels of social and emotional intelligence. In short, they are great with people. They build meaningful relationships and promote trust.

In no particular order, here are five unique qualities that make up a great Scrum Master:

  1. Empathy – Empathy is one of the competencies that make up emotional intelligence. It is the ability to feel the emotions of others. It creates a sense of rapport which is necessary for servant leadership. Empathy gives SM’s the ability to hone in on team members who may be frustrated or having difficulties, and help them. With empathy, the SM can see and feel someone’s struggles, without having to hear it. Great SM’s use empathy every day to gauge how the team is doing.
  2. Courage – There are two key reasons why SM’s need courage. The first is having the courage to admit mistakes. When the SM admits to a mistake and takes accountability, it sets the right example for the team. In Scrum, the team needs to understand that it’s okay to try new things and make mistakes. This promotes trust and helps to improve team performance and innovation. The second reason SM’s need courage is to protect the team. When someone interferes with the Scrum team, the SM has to confront that person. Often this can be challenging for the SM, because it could be someone with position power who is affecting the Scrum team. An example would be a manager who requests the Scrum team to do something outside of their Sprint goals. The SM needs to have the courage to confront the manager and shield the team.
  3. Coaching – The SM is a coach, and coaching is an art form. In Scrum, coaching is about asking the right questions and helping people learn. It is not about telling people what to do. Great SM’s are passionate about helping people to unlock their potential through coaching. The SM coaches the team on self-organization, cross-functionality and any areas in which Scrum is not understood. For a great book on coaching, see Coaching for Performance by John Whitmore.
  4. Discipline – Scrum is a straightforward framework. The practice of Scrum and the Scrum events are easy to understand, but difficult to master. The SM must ensure the team stays disciplined to the Scrum events. For example, great SM’s don’t blow off Sprint retrospectives or any other Scrum event. SM’s need to ensure that team members are showing up and contributing to all the Scrum events. It all starts with the SM. Great SMs lead by example, and they show up early and prepared to all the Scrum events. They never cancel events unless there’s a good reason.
  5. Facilitation – The importance of facilitation is often over looked or minimized. Have you ever attended a meeting that completely went off course due to poor facilitation? Or you had to wait 15 minutes for the meeting to start because the facilitator couldn’t get the conference bridge to work? We all have. A great SM is polished in their facilitation skills. They ensure that all Scrum events and meetings take place without a hitch. They do this by being well prepared in advance. They also use their social and communication skills to keep meetings on track, and on time. Crisp facilitation is crucial for SM’s.

Conclusion

Some people are fit to be a Scrum Master, and some are not. When managers are looking to fill a Scrum Master role, I tell them to not try and fit a person to the role. Instead, fit the role to the person. What I mean is, try to place someone who you already know is good with people. If you know someone is terrible with people, they’re not cut out to be a Scrum Master. It doesn’t matter how many certifications someone has, the SM must have emotional and social intelligence. If you can identify someone who has the five qualities I listed in this post, rest assured they have potential to be a great Scrum Master.

 

About the Author: Mike MacIsaac is the owner and principal consultant for MacIsaac Consulting. Mike provides leadership as an Agile Delivery Consultant and IT Project/Program Manager. Follow Mike on Twitter@MikeMacIsaac or subscribe to Mike’s blog.

 

Hours vs Story Points – Demystifying Sizing

I’ve worked with many different Agile teams from different organizations. Story points are a common topic of confusion and frustration on teams, particularly new teams. I hear questions like, should we use points or hours? Should we use T-shirt sizes? Should we use Fibonacci? Should we estimate the tasks or the stories?

In this post I’m going to explain how we use story points in Scrum. It is important to note that Scrum does not require any particular sizing or estimating technique. I’m going to explain Story points because it’s one of the most adopted techniques in Agile. The method I’m going to explain is a best practice.

Story points are a number assigned to a story, or PBI (product backlog item), to give it a relative size compared to other items in the product backlog. Before I go any further, let me explain something about “Stories”. User stories are a technique from eXtreme programming which expresses the need from the user perspective. A PBI doesn’t have to be in a user story format. In fact, if the item is not related to a user, don’t waste your time putting into a user story format. Creating a story that says something like “As a BA I need to write requirements so…” is bad. Often we refer to all the PBIs as stories, even though they all may not be in a user story format.

Back to story points. The story points do not equal hours, days or weeks. When estimating story points, the team is trying to figure out how big a story is compared to other stories. The team, those who will actually do the work, estimates the points.

For simplicity, let’s go through a basic example. The Product Owner created a Story which says “As an Admin User, I need the ability to disable other user accounts”. The team then during a backlog planning/sizing session looks at the story and asks the Product Owner questions. After the questions are answered, it becomes clear that the work is small. The team agrees to assign the story with 2 points, using a rough order of size scale like Fibonacci (1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21). The team then moves on to estimate the next story. The next story reads “As an Admin user, I need the ability to perform batch updates in the system and run real-time reports”. The team has many questions for the product owner about this story. There a lot of unknowns and potential complexity. The team then decides that due to the complexities, the story is much bigger than the previous story. After some back and forth, the team agrees to assign the story with 8 points.

The basic example I provided is how story points are used in Scrum. The points give a relative size to stories in the product backlog. That’s it. It’s not complicated.

Things get a little more interesting with Sprints. Before Sprints start, teams conduct a Sprint Planning Session. This is when the team determines what stories (which are already sized with points) will be completed in the Sprint. For 2 week sprints, it’s advised the planning session should be 4 hours or less.

During the Sprint planning session, the team breaks down the stories into tasks. The tasks are estimated in hours, one day or less per task. Once the time for the tasks is estimated, the team has a good idea of the work they can commit to in the Sprint. They can compare the estimated time of the tasks against their capacity. If they know one team member is on vacation for example, using the task estimates they can better plan for the Sprint.

When the Sprint is in progress, the team updates how much time is left to complete the tasks at the end of each day. This provides the data needed for the Sprint Burn down chart. The Sprint burn down chart shows the time remaining to complete the tasks. The Sprint burn down doesn’t measure completed story points, it measures completed hours of the tasks. Below is an example of a Sprint burn down chart:

Now, up until this point I’ve referred to story points only for relative sizing, with no relation between time and points. Yet, once teams establish a stable velocity (average amount of points they complete in a Sprint), they can use points to forecast release planning and a product roadmap. Although release planning is not a core Scrum event, it is widely used. When teams plan for a release, which may be several sprints in the future, they track using a Release burn down chart. Unlike the Sprint burn down chart, the Release burn down measures the completed story points. The release burn down tracks how many story points remain to be completed to meet the release.

Below is an example of a Release burn down chart:

To recap, Stories are estimated in points using relative sizing, and tasks are estimated in hours, no longer than one day. The Sprint burn down chart relates to time left to complete the tasks in the Sprint. The Release burn down chart relates to points left to complete the release.

About the Author: Mike MacIsaac is the owner and principal consultant for MacIsaac Consulting. Mike provides leadership as an Agile Delivery Consultant and IT Project/Program Manager. Follow Mike on Twitter@MikeMacIsaac or subscribe to Mike’s blog.

 

The Truth About the Limitation of Scrum

limitation of scrum

There is something I’d like to get off my chest. There is this notion in Agile that project management is no longer needed. Some even think that the role of a project manager will soon be extinct. Before we chase away project managers with pitch forks, lets back up a bit. I’m 100% on board with Agile and with Scrum, but I disagree that the need for project management is going away. The reason is that Scrum has a limitation. It is not designed to deliver large scale projects, at least not without help. The complexities of large scale projects demand the need for project management. This may change at some point, but I don’t see it happening any time soon. And, I’m not sure it should.

I can envision the Agile purists as they read this. Project managers needed in Agile? Scrum has limitations? Blasphemy! Hear me out.

When I refer to large scale projects, I mean projects that could have anywhere between 5-30 changed systems. These types of projects usually include complex system dependencies and a lot of coordination. The systems need to integrate and plan their production releases based on their dependencies. Someone needs to oversee that it comes together, and that someone is a project manager.

On Scrum teams, no, there is no need for a project manager. There are only three defined team roles in Scrum. They are Product Owner, Scrum Master, and the Development Team. Scrum is perfect for teams that focus only on one product or component. As an example, a Scrum team may focus on the search feature of a website.

The need for a project manager shows itself when you have large-scale initiatives. When you have a large project that impacts many Scrum teams, someone must coordinate all the dependencies between the teams. Without a project manager, who will do this? I posed this question in a recent advanced Scrum training course. I then proceeded to watch the instructor twist into a pretzel struggling to answer it. I was then referred to a course offered on Scrum@Scale.

Scrum@Scale, along with LeSS, and SAFe are the popular scaled Agile frameworks. While each of these have their benefits, they also have limitations when it comes to large scale projects. The problem is not scaling more Scrum teams, although that poses a different set of challenges. The problem is managing large scale projects.

In a recent HBR article, Agile at Scale, Jeff Sutherland and other experts discussed large scale Agile projects. They said you can establish a “team of teams” (or Scrum of Scrums), and issues that can’t be resolved can be escalated up to leaders. I’m all for that, but it still doesn’t answer the question of who is coordinating the work of all the teams? They go on in the article to reference Saab’s aeronautics business. “Aeronautics also coordinates its teams through a common rhythm of three-week sprints, a project master plan that is treated as a living document”.

I found it interesting that they referenced a company that uses a project plan in an article on scaled Scrum. This further indicates to me that we need to pause on the idea of abandoning project management.

Scrum@Scale is the model Jeff Sutherland advocates for scaling. In Scrum@Scale, there is a Chief Product Owner (CPO) and a Scrum of Scrums Master (SoSM). They are like the team level Scrum Master or Product Owner roles, but at scale. These roles sound like they will help address the challenge of managing large-scale projects, but there is still a gap. While a SoSM focuses on removing impediments and the CPO on prioritization, you still need someone to look at the project from a holistic view. Someone must coordinate team dependencies, not to mention manage risk, schedule and budget. In short, you need a project manager.

The need for project managers on large scale Agile projects has fueled the rise of SAFe. If you’ve read my post on the problem with SAFe, you know that I’m not a huge fan. But, at least SAFe acknowledges that someone needs to coordinate the work of self-organizing teams on large scale projects. They refer to the role as a Release Train Engineer (RTE), but it sounds a lot like a project manager to me.

Why do Agilest cringe when they hear the words project manager, or for that matter, the word project? When I say there is a need for project management in Agile, I am not saying that projects need to move in sequence from phase to phase like waterfall. I’m not referring to a command and control tyrant who manages Gantt charts with an iron first. Project managers today can lead large initiatives and still follow Agile principles. Projects can still use an iterative experimental process.

You may argue that by creating an architecture where each Scrum team works on an autonomous application, you end the need for a project manager. Spotify is a good example. Lightweight autonomous applications are the way to go, but you still can’t get away from dependencies on large scale projects. In most large fortune 500 organizations, legacy applications are dependent on other systems.

In summary, Scrum has a limitation when it comes to large scale projects. Project managers are not needed on Scrum teams, but they are still needed in Agile for large scale projects. What is changing is not that the Project manager role is going away. It is the role itself that is changing to align with Agile values and principles. The Scrum organizations seem to be working hard to address this limitation through their scaled frameworks, but they have a long way to go.

If you have experienced large scale Agile projects where there was no need for a project manager, I would love to hear about it. I’ve worked for many organizations that have adopted Agile and I’ve yet to come across one that had no need for project management.

About the Author: Mike MacIsaac is the owner and principal consultant for MacIsaac Consulting. Mike provides leadership as an Agile Delivery Consultant and IT Project/Program Manager. Follow Mike on Twitter@MikeMacIsaac or subscribe to Mike’s blog.

Advanced Scrum Training and Meeting Jeff Sutherland

When it comes to Agile delivery, I’m a big advocate for Scrum. Scrum offers an easy to understand and lightweight framework for developing products.

Scrum is great, but it by no means is a silver bullet.  Scrum does not solve problems, it exposes them. It is like shining a big flashlight on your product development team, exposing the good, the bad, and the ugly. Scrum is an adaptive framework, not a methodology.

For most organizations, Scrum is an effective Agile framework. This is particularly true for companies new to Agile. Scrum offers a set of guide posts and rules that make it easier for organizations to get out of their own way. The rules are simple, but not easy. Anyone can get a get good understanding of Scrum by referencing the Scrum Guide.

Last week I got a great refresher on Scrum by taking the Scrum Alliance Advanced Certified Scrum Master (A-CSM) training led by Angela Johnson. Angela is passionate about Scrum, and her and her company, Collaborative Leadership Team, does a great job.

The training was a great reminder that Scrum is about people working together to deliver the highest possible value early and often.

During the training, I had the privilege of meeting and chatting with Dr  Jeff Sutherland . He was teaching a course next door on Scaled Scrum and during a break we met. While we were discussing the challenges of Agile adoption, he gave me some good insight. He told me that sometimes all it takes is one person to start an Agile movement within on organization. He said it’s like someone pulls a lever.

Dr Sutherland relates Agile transformation to the Blue Pill/Red Pill scene from the Matrix. “Take the blue pill, and go back to sleep and continue to use waterfall. Take the red pill, and stay in Agile Wonderland, and see how deep the rabbit hole goes”.

Below is a picture I took with Dr Sutherland.

 

Jeff Sutherland and Mike MacIsaac

Jeff Sutherland and Mike MacIsaac

About the Author: Mike MacIsaac is the owner and principal consultant for MacIsaac Consulting. Mike provides leadership as an Agile Delivery Consultant and IT Project/Program Manager. Follow Mike on Twitter@MikeMacIsaac or subscribe to Mike’s blog.

Kanban vs Scrum – What You Need To Know

Kanban vs Scrum

If you are familiar with Agile you know about Scrum and Kanban. While these two Agile frameworks have similarities, they are also very different. Their differences go way beyond stickies on boards. In this post I’ll describe the two frameworks and their history, as well as their benefits and differences.

Scrum OverviewScrum is by far the most used Agile framework. Credit for the framework goes to Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber. Scrum got under way back in 2001 after the creation of the Agile manifesto.

Scrum is great for complex software delivery projects. In Scrum, there are defined team roles which are Product Owner, Scrum Master, and development team. The Product Owner creates a backlog of user stories that define the scope of a project. The team then completes the stories in short iterations called “sprints”. Sprints usually last 2-4 weeks. Sutherland was influenced by his days as an Air Force pilot. He relates the team sprints process to coming back from short missions and landing the plane on time.

The goal is to have working software, approved by the Product Owner, at the end of each sprint. The stories worked on in the Sprint should be done (all testing completed..etc). The key metric used in Scrum is Velocity. Velocity is the average amount of points a team can complete in a Sprint. Within Sprints, change to work is discouraged.

The stories completed in each sprint represent part of the total project scope. The team repeats this cycle of sprints until all stories in the backlog are done, in which case the project ends.

Kanban Overview  – “Kanban” get’s its origins from the Toyota Production System. Back in the 1950s, Taiichi Ohno created a pull system for Toyota. The idea was first sparked by his experience in American supermarkets. He was fascinated by how shoppers would walk down the ails pulling only what they needed from the shelves and putting it into their shopping carts. Shoppers usually had a list they carried which told them what they needed.

In Toyota plants, “Kanban” are instructions in clear plastic that communicate information needed at work stations. In a sense, a Kanban is like a grocery list. When an order comes in, a Kanban would be used to pull the whole car creation process together. Each item needed for the Kanban is ready just in time (JIT). This enables minimal build up of inventory. In a lean system, the goal is to reduce waste. The build up of inventory is the worst form of waste according to Taiichi Ohno.

The principles of the Toyota Production system were emulated in lean software development when Kent Beck created XP (Extreme Programming). The goal was to use the JIT principles and limit work in progress to the teams capacity. Beck also implemented a test driven development (TDD) process that improved quality. XP can be considered a different Agile framework from Scrum and Kanban. In my view, XP has more of relation to Kanban, since Beck based most of the practice off of Ohno’s Kanban method.

Unlike Scrum, Kanban is usually not the framework of choice for software delivery projects. Projects have a clear beginning and end, as well as a defined scope. Kanban works well for support teams, where work will be ongoing.

Teams will use a Kanban board, like the board a Scrum team would use for their Sprint. There are no Sprints in Kanban, the work is a continuous flow. There are also no defined roles in Kanban, like there is in Scrum. Cycle time is the key metric used and unlike the Sprints in Scrum, in Kanban change can happen at anytime.

Some of the benefits of Kanban include flexibility in planning, increased throughput, fewer bottlenecks and visual metrics. Kanban also compliments continuous delivery.

Below is a grid that Dan Radigan from Atlasssian put together, which displays the differences between Kanban and Scrum.

                                          Scrum                                                             Kanban

Cadence Regular fixed length sprints (ie, 2 weeks) Continuous flow
Release methodology At the end of each sprint if approved by the product owner Continuous delivery or at the team’s discretion
Roles Product owner, scrum master, development team No existing roles. Some teams enlist the help of an agile coach.
Key metrics Velocity Cycle time
Change philosophy Teams should strive to not make changes to the sprint forecast during the sprint. Doing so compromises learnings around estimation. Change can happen at any time

Summary

Scrum and Kanban are two different Agile frameworks, but both have many benefits. In my view, Kanban is more aligned with lean development than Scrum. The area where Scrum gets into trouble with lean is the idea of having a team create and work on a large backlog. Lean experts, like Mary Poppendieck, cringe when they hear the word backlog. This is because it goes against the principles of JIT and low inventory. At Toyota, I’m sure the plant manager would freak if they had a large backlog of orders piling up. They want to have low inventory and good throughput. While Kanban works great for a repeatable process, my view is that Scrum is the best framework for complex software delivery projects.

If you enjoyed this post, check out The Top 10 Influencers of Agile.

About the Author: Mike MacIsaac is the owner and principal consultant for MacIsaac Consulting. Mike provides leadership as an IT Project and Program Manager as well as an Agile Scrum Master. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeMacIsaac or subscribe to Mike’s blog.

 

The Worst Advice We’ve Ever Heard About Scrum

 

Scrum Master

Currently I’m consulting as a Scrum Master for a couple of Scrum teams. This morning I was running a couple minutes late to one of the daily Scrums. When I arrived, the team had already started going around giving their updates. Seeing that the team already initiated the daily Scrum was music to my ears. The team doesn’t need to wait for me to begin, the daily Scrum is for the team.

I was happy because the team is self-organizing. A lot of teams new to Scrum will treat the Scrum Master like a project manager. In that case, they wouldn’t start any meeting before the project manager arrived. Non-Agile teams look to project managers to run meetings and tell everyone what to do.

With my current teams, I’m not only happy about their daily scrums. I’m also pleased with how well they do in all the Scrum ceremonies. They were a team that was new to Agile, and most of them have non technical roles. Even though there was a steep learning curve, the team now delivers completed work at the end of each sprint. They have a stable velocity.

What my teams are doing is the opposite of advice I once received from a manager about Scrum. It was the worst advice I ever heard about Scrum. He said: “feel free to cancel or reschedule those Scrum meetings whenever you like“.

At the time I heard this, I was new to Scrum, but I sensed it was wrong. The Scrum Master should never cancel any of the Scrum ceremonies.  “Those Scrum meetings” he was referring to were the daily Scrum, the Sprint review, and the Sprint retrospective.

In Scrum, it’s important to have discipline. This means the ceremonies always take place, and the team stays committed. Committed not only to the work in the Sprint, but also to the practice of Scrum.

Remember that in Scrum it’s about the team delivering value. It’s not about a project manager controlling the team. The Scrum Master is only part of a self-organizing team.

My advice is to never cancel or reschedule any of the Scrum ceremonies. Even if the team feels they don’t have much to show in the Sprint review, have it anyway. Stay disciplined and true to the practice of Scrum. The Scrum teams I work with now are doing so well because they’ve stayed discipline to the guidelines of Scrum.

What’s the worst advice you have ever heard about Scrum?

About the Author: Mike MacIsaac is the owner and principal consultant for MacIsaac Consulting. Mike provides leadership as an IT Project and Program Manager as well as an Agile Scrum Master. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeMacIsaac or subscribe to Mike’s blog.

Should a Scrum Master ever crack the whip?

Scrum Master

We know the Scrum Master role is different from a project manager. Scrum Masters are servant leaders, coaches and facilitators. Project managers are more aligned with command and control.

Does this mean that Scrum Masters should never crack the whip on the team?

Well, yes and no.

Just because Agile teams are self-organized, they sometimes still need to be pushed. Ideally the team will push themselves, but if that’s not happening then yes, the Scrum Master should put some pressure on the team. In Scrum, it’s usually the Product Owner who has some authority. Although the Scrum Master doesn’t have authority, they can vocalize the importance of getting work done (aka, crack the whip).

There are some misconceptions about Agile and Scrum when it comes to pressure. Some people think Scrum is a low pressure environment. Not true. In Scrum, they call iterations Sprints because teams are moving fast! There is pressure. There is also more visibility. Everyone can see what everyone else is working on in the Sprint. There is no hiding.

So, while cracking the whip usually aligns with project management, I do think it’s sometimes appropriate for Scrum Masters.

What are you thoughts?

About the Author: Mike MacIsaac is the owner and principal consultant for MacIsaac Consulting. Mike provides leadership as an IT Project and Program Manager as well as an Agile Scrum Master. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeMacIsaac or subscribe to Mike’s blog.

 

 

Self-organizing teams produce the best architectures, requirements, and designs

Self-organizing teams produce the best architectures, requirements, and designs.

self-organized team

The above statement is one of the principles behind the Agile Manifesto. Too many “Agile” teams struggle to get this concept.  They have the Agile ceremonies down, and they may even sit together, but they still work in silos based on waterfall principles.

The following statements are all signs that a team is struggling to adopt the Agile self-organizing team behavior:

  • “I can’t work on the design because the requirements aren’t complete yet.”
  • “I can’t create any test scenarios yet because the design is not complete.”
  • “I can’t start development, I have to complete a design document first. “

In Waterfall, the requirements and design process looks like this:

In Agile, it looks more like this:

It’s a cluster of work that happens together. The process gets messy and entangled, in a good way. There are no long drawn out separate phases of development or QA. All the work is happening together, and cross functional team members collaborate through the whole process.

When the team is self organized, that’s when great ideas and valuable products emerge. Why wait for a long period of time for requirements to be completed by a BA, only to be reviewed by the team at a later date? Or wait for a design or dev to be completed, only to be reviewed later?

As Deming used to say, you don’t inspect quality into a product, quality is built-in up front.  Why not use that same principle for how we treat requirements/stories, designs and tests? Instead of inspect quality into them, let’s build the quality in up front by having all team members contribute to the work.

About the Author: Mike MacIsaac is the owner and principal consultant for MacIsaac Consulting. Mike provides leadership as an IT Project and Program Manager as well as an Agile Scrum Master. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeMacIsaac or subscribe to Mike’s blog.

5 reasons project managers make lousy scrum masters

Lousy Scrum Masters

As the Agile movement continues to grow, the demand for scrum masters has increased. Traditional project managers have caught on and they’re disguising themselves as scrum masters. With a small fudge of the resume, they’re hired as scrum masters. What’s the problem? Project managers make lousy scrum masters.

Now, don’t freak out and get offended. When I first began working as a srum master, coming from an IT project management and QA background, I was lousy. I had a steep learning curve. It’s only after time and working with good Agile coaches that I’ve been able to improve as a scrum master.

The reason we project managers make lousy scrum masters is simple. The two roles are completely different. The original founders of scrum have made it clear that a scrum master is not a project manager. For a description of the scrum master role, check out the Scrum Guide from Scrum Alliance.

Yet, companies continue to hire project managers as scrum masters. Part of the problem is that most business executives don’t understand Agile. I still hear the question from management, “hey can you do that project using Agile”? As if Agile is something you can decide to use like choosing which fuel to pick at the gas station. Agile is a different way of working and thinking. Agile adoption requires commitment and understanding from teams and leadership.

Okay, I’ll get off my soap box. Without further ado, here’s my list of 5 reasons why project managers make lousy scrum masters:

  1. The concept of self-organizing teams doesn’t register with project managers. This may be the most challenging aspect in Scrum for project managers. Project managers are hardwired to tell teams what to do and when to do it. They then expect a full status back in return. In Scrum, the team decides what to work on with guidance from the product owner. The team is then accountable to each other, not to the scrum master. During the daily Scrum, team members should be giving their updates to the team, not to the scrum master. Keeping quiet and letting the team be accountable makes project managers feel like fish out of water.
  1. Project Managers aren’t used to coaching. On traditional projects the project manager is a leader and decision maker. In Scrum, one of the primary roles of the scrum master is to coach the team. They coach in self-organization and cross-functionality. To be able to coach though, one first needs to learn. If the project manager hasn’t learned Scrum, how could they coach the team?
  1. Project Managers struggle to give up being the top dog. On traditional projects, the project manager is the top dog. The buck stops with them. As a project manager, it feels good to have authority and control. In Scrum, you have to let that go. The scrum master does not have authority. The team does not report to the scrum master. The one who has authority on the Scrum team is the product owner. This fact requires project manager to have humility when transitioning to Scrum.
  1. Project managers freak out without a plan. The Project Management Institute teaches project managers to create plans, for everything. If you have your PMP, you know that they expect you to create a giant plan (document) consisting of like 10 sub plans. This plan, the size of the PMBOK, does not change unless there’s some official change request. While Agile still involves planning, this is completely different from Scrum.
  1. Most project managers don’t understand servant leadership. Scrum masters are servant leaders. This means they’re willing to jump in and do whatever it takes to remove impediments and help the team. That might mean helping to dive in and handle low level administrative work. Scrum masters put their ego aside and serve the team. Instead of puffing out their chest and telling everyone what to do, the Scrum Master asks how they can be of service. Most project managers are not used to this style of leadership when they begin in Scrum.

Here’s the good news, it is possible for project managers to become good scrum masters. It takes time and training. It’s like learning to play both guitar and drums well. Yes both instruments create music, but they need different training and skill sets.

About the Author: Mike MacIsaac is the owner and principal consultant for MacIsaac Consulting. Mike provides leadership as an IT Project and Program Manager as well as an Agile Scrum Master. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeMacIsaac or subscribe to Mike’s blog.

 

 

 

 

 

Definition of done, what it means and why it’s important

Understanding the definition of done.

definition of done

What is your definition of done? This is a question you often here in Agile software development. In this post I’ll take a closer look at what the question means, and why it’s so important.

Let’s backup, in Scrum the goal is to have potentially shippable product increments at the end of each sprint. “Potentially shippable” means the code is ready to deploy to production if needed. The code should provide some value to the customer or end-user.

The work within the sprint is broken down into user stories. Each story represents a feature or piece of functionality that provides value to the customer.  In order for user stories to be “done”, the following acceptance criteria should be met:

  • Code designed, built and unit tested
  • Code passed some forms of functional, integration, regression and acceptance testing

To speed up the process of “getting to done”, most software groups invest (or should) in automated deployments and automated testing.

But what if we have non development stories, how do we create a definition of done for those?

Some Scrum teams aren’t only delivering software. Here’s my take on defining done/acceptance criteria for non development user stories:

Always aim to have something tangible to show by the end of the sprint. Each story you work on should produce, or contribute to producing, a valuable output. It could be a document, spreadsheet or some other else. Whatever it is, it should be a tangible/completed item that item that provides value.

Remember, much of Agile is based on lean principles. In lean, anything you are working on that does not provide value to the customer is considered waste. The goal in lean systems is to cut waste, reduce constraints, and increase valuable throughput.

So when you are creating your definition of done, ask yourself these questions:

  • If it’s code related, what will it take to be production ready?
  • Whether its code related or not, what will it take to get it demo-ready? Is it tangible and will it provide value?
  • Does the team agree upon what it takes to be done?

What will happen if we don’t create a definition of done for our user stories?

Not having a definition of done for your user stories is a common problem. When this happens, teams usually pull more stories into the sprint than they can handle. They do this because they don’t realize what it takes to actually complete stories. The result is tons of work in progress with nothing getting completed. The more WIP you have, the less valuable output produced.

The increase of WIP is the most devastating effect of not creating a definition of done for your user stories. Nothing will slow down flow more than jamming the pipeline with user stories that don’t have clear acceptance criteria.

Next time you have a Sprint Planning meeting, review your stories to ensure the team knows the definition of done. Even if the team realizes they can only work on 1 story, if at the end of the sprint they have something completed that provides value to the customer, you’re on the right track!

About the Author: Mike MacIsaac is the owner and principal consultant for MacIsaac Consulting. Mike provides leadership as an IT Project and Program Manager as well as an Agile Scrum Master. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeMacIsaac or subscribe to Mike’s blog.

 

 

Page 1 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén