Overburdening: how to cope with it and work is irrefutable

Sometimes teams must take up work that exceeds their capability. Consider a company policy that says 'The call desk picks up calls within 60 seconds'. This policy forces a call desk team to pick up new calls within 60 seconds. Saying 'No' to new work would be a sensible thing to do. But just not in this case. When in such a position what can you do to overcome overburdening and still keep happy customers?

In this blog post I'll show that by looking at the workflow one can discover new options to overcome the overburdening and still not say 'No'.

Alternative ways are described in The Business Support Team Pattern and Help! Too Many Incidents! - Capacity Assignment Policy In Agile Teams.
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Improving a Team's Collective Intelligence. Feedback Please!

It seems all over nowadays. Teams do it, peers do it, managers do it. Feedback here, feedback there, feedback everywhere. Feedback seems here to stay. Why? Because it makes people stronger. They learn how they behave and how their behaviour affects others. This transparency enables individuals to change and start experimenting with more effective behaviour. Wouldn't it be great if we could apply a feedback instrument to the whole team? Improving team feedback!

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Is Scrum Agile and is Agile Scrum?

2 minutes read

drawing by Alexander Koffeman

(drawing by Alexander)

 

The short version: yes and no! Scrum is Agile but Agile is not (only) Scrum.

 

Future Fit Organizations

Organizations want to become flexible and Agile or as we like to call it at Xebia: Future Fit. Just like when you go to the gym and want to become fitter. Yes, there are more ways to achieve that.

You can see Agile as a container for multiple ways of working. In case of the gym there are many sport activities you can do. Scrum is one of the frameworks that could help you to become more Agile. Besides Scrum there are more sport programs (Kanban, DSDM, XP) that supports the organization to become Agile.

That`s just the basic explanation, but Agile is a lot more than just a container. Agile is about mindset, the way you think, the values that you live by. You can read more about Agile in the Agile Manifesto.

Experiential Learning

Scrum is simple to understand and difficult to master. In practice this means that it will take time to really understand why each component within the framework serves a specific purpose and is essential to Scrum’s success and usage. With Scrum you work in short iterations named “Sprints”. At the end of every Sprint you deliver a potentially releasable product increment. The core of Scrum is based on empiricism. That means that you will decide on actual experiential learnings what you will do next. This will show in Scrum on the following three pillars: transparency, inspect and adapt. Everything within Scrum is interwoven with these aspects. For example the Sprint Retrospective is the moment for the Scrum team to look back at the Sprint (inspect) to see if they can improve (adapt). You can read more details about Scrum in the Scrum Guide.

In my next blogpost you can read more about Scrum. Hope that this helps you to explain the difference between Agile and Scrum!

Please let me know if this helps you and drop a comment below!

Scrum Master Q&A Fulltime Scrum Master Role

In my Scrum Master training courses, I get a lot of questions about the workload of a Scrum Master. One question I hear frequently is this:

Is the Scrum Master role a full-time job?

The answer is yes! In my opinion, the Scrum Master role is a full-time job. As a Scrum Master, you support the Development Team, the Product Owner, and the organization. You help others understand and master Scrum, and to achieve their potential at different levels.

Scrum Master activities can include any of the following:

  • facilitating Scrum events
  • working on the Scrum process
  • helping teams to become better
  • supporting empiricism
  • promoting inspecting and adapting
  • facilitating teamwork
  • removing and solving impediments,
  • assisting the Development Team to become self-organizing
  • help the Scrum Team to live by the Scrum values,
  • and observing team dynamics.

You will have your Scrum Master radar on at all time. You watch the things that are not being said, and you sense the things that are not on the surface. You can’t do that if you’re not there.

With this in mind, here are some answers to some other frequently asked questions.

Can you combine your Development Team role with the Scrum Master role?

No, you will lose focus and will not be able to excel in either role.

Imagine yourself as a developer, you are in the zone, minding your own business and delivering value. Then, suddenly, another developer has an impediment - the deployment to the acceptance environment did not go well because this environment is down. Your team member has tried everything to get it back up again, but it doesn’t seem to help. He asks you if you could help him. If you do not help your team member right away, he is not able to continue. So you leave your current coding and help your team member. When you finally have solved the impediment, you return to your work and continue. You have to connect with the subject again, since you were distracted for a while. Your focus is lost.

What if your company requires you to combine your Development Team role with the Scrum Master role?

If your company requires you to combine your team and Scrum Master role, make clear agreements with the Development Team about how to interact in the event of an impediment. Make it explicit agreements which role has priority.

Can we rotate Scrum Mastership amongst Development Team members?

No, you can’t rotate Scrum Mastership amongst Development Team members because not everyone on the team is a capable Scrum Master. The Scrum Master role requires certain capabilities, skills, and behaviors. Some of these Scrum Master characteristics can be learned, coaching, listening, facilitating, mentoring, observing, intervening but others are innate, such as servant leadership and being pro-active. If you have a role on the Development Team and you are also the Scrum Master, you will lose focus.

What if your company requires you to rotate Scrum Mastership?

If your company requires you to rotate Scrum Mastership, make sure that you are the Scrum Master for more than one sprint (e.g. three sprints) so you can start developing SM skills before you switch.

Can you combine the Product Owner and Scrum Master role?

No, it’s not a good idea to combine the Product Owner and Scrum Master roles because it creates a conflict of interest.

As a Product Owner, you’re busy with your stakeholders, changes in the market, exploring what delivers the most business value and helping the Development Team understand the requirements you have. As a Scrum Master, your focus is on supporting the Development Team, the Product Owner, and the organization. So, the people you contact the most are different and have different approaches.

 

As a Product owner, you want to deliver business value at the right pace. You can challenge the Development Team to take up a lot of items in the Sprint Backlog. As a Scrum Master, you protect the Development Team from overly demanding Product Owners (believe me, they exist). You do this by helping them asking challenging questions, like: Do we really believe we can finish this? Do we understand what is being asked? It is difficult to approach the team while wearing two hats. You will lose focus.

 

What if your company requires you to combine the Product Owner role and the Scrum Master role?

If your company requires you to combine the Product Owner role and Scrum Master role, make sure you have a clear distinction between them.  It’s also important to clarify which position you’re coming from with those with who you interact.

 

Can you work as a Scrum Master at a different location from your team or the Product Owner?

No, it’s not possible to function effectively in the role of Scrum Master if you are not onsite with the Development Team. You need to be present to sense the things unsaid or feel the vibe in the room. If the Scrum Master and Development Team work at the same location but the Product Owner and stakeholders are at another location, the necessary contact and collaboration are lost.

 

What if logistics require the Scrum Master and Development Team to work in separate locations from the Product Owner and stakeholders?

If you can't work in the same onsite location, interact with each other as often as possible. Make an all-day video connection if possible. Ask Development Team members who work on different locations to work together in the same location for a period of at least one month. The team members will get to know each other a bit, this will help to build trust in the team.

If you’re still stuck in a situation that prevents your Scrum Team from performing at its best, please contact us: info@scrumboosters.com

 

SPACEMAP - organising a motivational environment

Introducing the SPACEMAP! A 'map' to gain insight into motivational problems within an organization/department, so that coaches and managers no longer have to talk about vague motivation problems, but instead tackling the lack of autonomy within the teams.

The map consists of generic 'work factors' that are required to create a motivational environment.

SPACEMAP - organising a motivational environment

the SPACEMAP was developed by Xebia coaches

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Using Specification by Example / BDD for your refinements

When I'm joining new teams at clients it often becomes clear that the added value of refinements is not always seen. Team members complain that hours are wasted. The refinement sessions shouldn't be long draining meetings with endless discussions. Refinements should instead provide a clear added value in the form of requirements that the whole team can work with to deliver added value. How do you shape your refinements in a way that they add value? Read on to see how BDD / Specification by Example can help you!

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Autonomy – Taking the wheel

I remember when the Product Owner stepped into our room with a new user story. He asked if we could make a minor change to one of our web pages. What he did not know is that nobody understood the code, nor the ancient documentation that was written for this webpage.  After running a few tests we even discovered that half of the features did not even work. We made a proposition: we implement this user story if we get three extra weeks to rebuild this page and rewrite the documentation. Luckily our awesome Product Owner understood our situation and we managed to get these extra weeks.

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Mastery - being the best version of yourself

I was 21. I just graduated from MBO college, it was night and I was strolling around town with a couple of friends. We just celebrated our graduation and did not want to go home. After a few hours, we got lost and arrived at this big haunted mansion. We saw a sleek figure standing at the entrance. He was looking directly at us, and asked: “Would you like a tour?”, inviting us in. For a second we looked at each other and then we succumbed to our curiosity, following the man into the mansion. With no idea what could happen next.

Throughout my life, I have done several stupid things like the example above. And I knew these were not my brightest moments, but my curiosity simply took over. I wanted to explore or discover something (and I also love to get a good story out of it).

But whether you love taking risks and doing stupid things, or you prefer to dive into books and study in a safe zone, we all have the same internal drive to learn, to grow and to become the best version of ourselves. This is called ‘mastery’ and it is the subject of this blog post.

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What are we doing? And why?

What are we doing? Why are we implementing this sorry excuse of a user story? What will this user story achieve in the bigger picture? Is there even a bigger picture?

I have attended several refinements as a coach, where I was waiting for those questions to arise... Unfortunately, they are rarely asked. Usually, because there is no easy answer to these questions. The difficult truth is that we all like to please others, so we would rather stick our heads in the sand and hope everything will turn out fine.

And that is exactly what we get. Instead of having an awesome job, doing cool stuff and making a difference: our job will be just that, it will be fine. And it could be so much better, with some practises I will share in this blog.Read more →

Accurate Forecasting Without Estimation

Often the team or somebody in the role of product owner gets either the question ‘When will it be finished?’ or ‘What will be finished at <some future date>?’ and some forecasting is necessary to answer the question.

This blog shows an alternative way of forecasting that is based on empirical data and skips estimation altogether. In a follow-up blog I will address the ordening of the backlog of items.

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