Survey: working from home and team happiness

In these strange days, the concept of working remotely is being tested to the max. The main idea we have about team collaboration is that it is better to be collocated. But as we are forced to be dispersed, I was interested in finding out how bad the remote work actually is.

I am curious to learn: How does remote working under Covid-19 influence our team happiness?

What metrics can we apply to measure the effects of working remotely? I chose the “industry standard” team happiness metric that originated from Spotify. Not because I like it so much, but because I guess most people have done this one before the outbreak.

To understand how we relatively perceive working remotely, it makes sense to compare it to the situation before the virus lock-down situation. Try to remember how suitable the working process was back then at the office. Let’s agree to rate that situation with 50 on a scale from 0-100. Now think about how you perceive things are going now: How is working remote with your (scrum) team? If working remotely is a lot better (maybe you don’t have to deal with the peculiarities of the lead dev, or the scrum master is not breathing in your neck all the time), you might rate it with 80. But if you feel lonely and you miss the casual interactions, you take more time to solve problems because nobody notices you are struggling, you might want to rate it with a low 20.

It would be interesting to see how good or how bad we perceive remote teamwork.

GO TO THE SURVEY

Systems Thinking episode #3: Mental Models

In a series of episodes, I am focusing on System Thinking. In my previous episodes of this series, I elaborated on what systems Thinking is, on the Wicked Problems Systems Thinking is trying to solve and the behaviour of Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS). In this episode, I will try to show how understanding mental models can significantly improve the abilities of leaders like Scrum Masters, Agile Coaches and Managers. This is because Mental Models are at the core of knowledge and learning. Continue reading

Systems Thinking, Episode #2: Complex Adaptive Systems

In my previous episodes of this series on Systems Thinking, I elaborated on what systems Thinking is and on the Wicked Problems Systems Thinking is trying to solve. In this episode, I want to explore Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS).

In Systems Thinking, we observe different types of systems.  There are static systems like cars and complex systems like people for instance. Opposed to static systems, complex systems behave differently under different stimuli. A car’s emergent behaviour Continue reading

How to facilitate multi-team Product Backlog Refinements

Before and during the Sprint, effort needs to be put into coordination to ensure the Scrum teams deliver a working integrated product. This situation can be improved with Multi-team Product Backlog Refinement sessions. This practice increases flexibility and speed in product development. Use this article as a cookbook to get familiar with this practice yourself. Continue reading

Six ingredients of agile organizational design

Agile businessIn this article, I want to clarify the need for agility in modern businesses and what agility in organisational design is.

Today’s mainstream organisation structures are systems we inherited from the industrial era when employees were illiterate and the leaders were educated, market-entry criteria were high and markets were predictable. We see that the future of many established businesses has become uncertain. Businesses need to exceed customer expectations in buyer-driven markets. Customisation is the norm and copying a competitive advantage has never been easier. Innovations and changes supersede at an increasingly high pace. For example, in the financial sector, many disruptors enter the market. These newcomers do not carry the burden of legacy IT systems and can offer new services at the flick of a switch. They put pressure on the existing businesses. Continue reading

Systems Thinking, Episode #1 What are Wicked Problems and why should I care?

In a series of blog posts, I want to share how you can use Systems Thinking to resolve complex problems. Systems Thinking aims at understanding and possibly solving complex problems. In this episode, I will focus on complex adaptive problems, also known as “Wicked Problems”.

Wicked problems are very difficult problems that don’t seem to have a simple solution. They’re like an inextricable knot. When you’ve unraveled one thread of the problem, new problems keep popping up.  Continue reading

Hiring the Right SM or PO: Outcome based job interviews

A customer I was working with asked me to help out with the intake process for recruiting a new Scrum Master and a new Product Owner. I asked them what they had so far. They provided a clear job description describing what they wanted to see from the candidates. They also had a great business storyline describing their goals and ambitions and in what way these impact the people applying for the new roles. They planned two interview sessions and wondered what else could be done to increase the chances of finding the right person for the job. Continue reading

Iterating Towards Professional Scrum: Full Lecture (Agile Week Riga)

This video is a presentation from Agile Week Riga titled, Iterating Toward Professional Scrum. The 2019 Scrum Master Trends Report by Scrum.org and the State of Agile 2018 shows numbers that provide insight in the maturity of agile adoptions. More than 80% of the companies claim to be in or below a ‘still maturing’ level. With Scrum being the industry standard (at least in western Europe it is), these numbers are surprising. In this overview of iterations towards Scrum maturity, I describe the characteristics and main challenges to overcome in each maturity stage. Continue reading

How you can accelerate knowledge-transfer with cross-location MOB-programming

In a LeSS adoption the teams self-organised some time ago into end-to-end feature teams. Some of these teams need to find ways to share knowledge on a tool called PEGA. One of the PEGA experts approached us with the question on how to do this. We suggested to facilitate a session to introduce them to MOB-programming. After the session they should be able to do more mobbing by themselves if they think it was valuable. Continue reading

To fix your Scrum you need to fix your agreements.

In many organisations, I see Scrum not producing its anticipated value. The concept of value varies across organisations. But there also is a universal anticipated value of Scrum. The Scrum Guide says about Scrum’s purpose:

“A framework within which people can address complex adaptive problems, while productively and creatively delivering products of the highest possible value.”

and

“Scrum makes clear the relative efficacy of your product management and work techniques so that you can continuously improve the product, the team, and the working environment.” Continue reading

How you can keep Scrum positive

In Scrum, we know we will make things better through empiricism: We continuously inspect and adapt. However, over time it looks like the continuous improvement Kata loses its magical powers and becomes stale. Scrum Masters try to fix things by varying their retrospectives format, by introducing games and by introducing more creative problem-solving approaches like lateral thinking (Dr. E. de Bono) to get better improvement results. Continue reading

The only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself

(Inauguration speech of Franklin D. Roosevelt, president of USA during WWII)

A short story illustrating how fear cripples estimating and how empathy can come to the rescue.

The end of the year is only two sprints away. We are in a refinement session.
“So, would it still be feasible to deliver the ‘A+flow’ by the end of the year if we do it like this?” The PO asks the team. He is standing in front of a whiteboard full of scribbles holding a marker in his hand. He just gave in on reducing the scope by slicing the functionality even further to a point where he will be having difficulties to explain to the stakeholders what the value in this slice is. He even has difficulties explaining it to himself. Continue reading

Why you need only ONE Product Owner

Scrum prescribes one person in the role of Product Owner (PO). Not multiple people, not a committee, just one person:

“The Product Owner is the sole person responsible for managing the Product Backlog.” (Scrum guide)

And when multiple teams work on a single product, the Scrum Guide says:

“Multiple Scrum Teams often work together on the same product. One Product Backlog is used to describe the upcoming work on the product.” (Scrum guide)

I encounter many companies that fail to implement this specific Scrum guideline. Apparently, according to most companies, this is one of those things you need to tweak “to make Scrum work in your context”. Continue reading

How to facilitate an awesome Sprint Review in “Bazaar mode”

This article aims at helping Scrum Masters to conduct the *MOST AWESOME* Sprint Review they ever witnessed. (This article could have been titled: 41 tips that will make your Sprint Review awesome!)

The main purpose of the Sprint Review (SR) is to collect feedback. After seriously inspecting the product, a number of changes to the backlog or action points for solving impediments should be identified.

Continue reading

The 8 qualities of the emotional Scrum Master

The Scrum Master profession spans a wide variety of skills, knowledge and experience. Scrum Masters try to create high performing teams and drive organisational change. Although we mainly focus on the framework and the process, it’s people we work with all the time. Surprisingly our profession focuses predominantly on developing cognitive intelligence (IQ). We need to learn to appreciate the value of emotional intelligence (EQ) for becoming a great Scrum Masters. Continue reading

The Feature Team Adoption Map Explained

When talking about LeSS adoptions, the Feature Team adoption map (FTAM) is often brought up as one of its powerful tools. Although FTAM is described in the LeSS book (1), and gets a great deal of attention in most LeSS practitioner classes, it plays a less important role in LeSS and LeSS Huge adoptions than we might suspect. However, it is a valuable tool that can be used for various purposes. Continue reading

The 5 Supporting Elements of Scrum

In Scrum classes we often ask the attendees to draw a picture of the Scrum framework, in order learn what their current understanding of the framework is. In many cases people are close to remembering the three roles, three artifacts and five events. But they also bring forward many related elements that are important or even indispensable to support the Scrum framework, but are not roles, artifacts nor events.


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Definition of done: the Swiss army knife of Scrum

Most of the concepts in Scrum are easy to understand but extremely difficult to master. This is due to the fact that Scrum is designed for perfect, and reality never is. The same principle applies to the Definition of Done.When we start up teams, we help them to set a Definition of Done (DoD).

Teams are taught the DoD is an instrument that will provide them transparency in two ways:

  • understanding what the effort of work is, considering all the tasks that need to be undertaken by the team before work can be marked as “done”.
  • understanding what “done” means when an item is inspected at the end of the sprint.

Continue reading

Practice your micro-skills

Micro-skills are simple intervention techniques. When using micro-skills, you will facilitate sessions and have conversations that yield more effect and value. Using the micro-skills offers support in your facilitator or leadership role.

I have developed a workshop to train a set of 18 micro-skills. In this workshop, you will learn to consciously facilitate a discussion or an interview using micro-skills.

Workshop format

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Conway’s law

I was going over the slides of the September LeSS conference and I was struck by the deck of Kevlin Henney. He was referring to an organizational structure that I never heard of. I have seen it before, I did not know it had a name and I was not aware that all existing classical org structures are actually wrong.

You are familiar with the classical tree:

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Getting rid of fake PO’s.

LeSS adoption prescribes one person in the role of Product Owner (PO). Not multiple people, not a committee, just one person. Companies have a hard time in accepting the idea that one person can do this complex task for the whole product. The product is too big and there are too many customers and stakeholders the PO needs to deal with. Companies refuse to redefine the PO role description and stick to having multiple Fake PO’s. Continue reading

How can you make your team cross-functional?

Tash Sultana is a 22 year old musician. She is cross functional, a multi-instrumentalist producing fully arranged tracks live on stage.

My team consists of Frontenders, Backenders, a Tech Writer and a QA. I am their scrum master. They are working as a team for a while already. It’s a team in the sense that they work on the same sprint backlog, but they are not the team as you would see described in the Agile books: They are not cross functional.

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I will be speaking at Eastern Europe Agile Convention

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The Eastern European Agile convention will take place on april 7 and 8 in Kiev, Ukraine. 2476 International guests and 195 speakers.

Headlining this episode are:

  • Dave Snowden – Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Cognitive Edge

  • Olaf Lewitz – Certified Enterprise Coach

  • Michael Sahota- Certified Enterprise Coach (CEC)

I am very honored and pleased that I am admitted to talk about:

Remote team facilitation and Scaled Scrum: How to make it work

Near-shoring introduces complexity in scrum teams. When we scale scrum, this complexity is amplified and drastically reduces meeting efficiency. Is there a silver bullet to make remote teams high-performant in a (scaled) scrum environment?

When facilitating agile workshops, you probably experienced the difficulties of keeping the remote participants involved. And maybe you also know how hard it is to facilitate a highly interactive session with more than 50 people? Or how much harder it gets when 10 of them are connected remotely? I learned time after time participants feel left out, not listened to or find it impossible to follow discussions. Your sessions, intended to boost productivity, demotivate your remote teams.

Join this talk if you are a facilitator working with one or more near-shore teams. I will share my day-to-day experiences and insights that will help you to involve your remote teams.

I hope you will join me in Kiev!

Read more about the event: http://kiev2017.agileee.org/

Clarifying roles

poroleUnclear or too many roles do not produce good scrum. Use this game to verify that the separation of concerns is implemented correctly or to prove the opposite.

Introduction

This game is useful when you are in a scrum environment where the separation of roles is unclear.  It might be the case that there are more roles than prescribed by scrum, or that people are unaware of the responsibilities of each role.

Unclear or too many roles do not produce good scrum. Use this game to verify that the separation of concerns is implemented correctly or to prove the opposite. Continue reading

The Airbase game (learning the benefits of failing fast)

airbaseYour team develops and launches a new product in the market. The goal is to sell a new product for 50 euros to the customer. Your team works iteratively according to Scrum. Each iteration will cost 50 euros and the total budget is limited to 200 euros. The customer has a limited budget, which also fluctuates. The team that has the highest amount of money after running three sprints, wins the game.

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