New Scrum Guide

There was a new version of ScrumGuide published last week. And I have to say that I mostly like it. It’s lighter, less prescriptive, and simple. Here are a few differences.

#1 – Scrum Guide 2020 is Simple and Clear

Scrum Guide 2020 is clearer. Finally, there is a sentence that is easy to read, and that describes what Scrum is:

Scrum is a lightweight framework that helps people, teams, and organizations generate value through adaptive solutions for complex problems.

In a nutshell, Scrum requires a Scrum Master to foster an environment where:

  1. A Product Owner orders the work for a complex problem into a Product Backlog.
  2. The Scrum Team turns a selection of the work into an Increment of value during a Sprint.
  3. The Scrum Team and its stakeholders inspect the results and adjust for the next Sprint.
  4. Repeat

Scrum is simple.

Yes, Scrum is simple and so the Scum Guide. It’s easy to read and understand. With this version, we got rid of many long and complicated phrases full of details. For example, one of my favorite changes in this space is that daily Scrum finally not suggesting the three questions but recommend that people “can select whatever structure and techniques they want, as long as their Daily Scrum focuses on progress toward the Sprint Goal…” Isn’t that awesome? After all those years of individual status meetings where people were reporting to someone what they did. It’s finally gone!

#2 – Focusing on the Mindset

I like the fact that the new Scrum Guide stresses the three empirical pillars of transparency, inspection, and adaptation and explains what are they about. The five values of Commitment, Focus, Openness, Respect, and Courage are clearly defined there now as well. It focuses on people’s behavior, over the processes and practices.

I also like the new Scrum Guide to remind us about the primary need for Agile and Scrum in complex and unpredictable environments: In complex environments, what will happen is unknown. Only what has already happened may be used for forward-looking decision making.” All over, if you know what needs to be done, can plan it, then all you need to focus on is how fast are you going to deliver it. In such a world all different estimation techniques, velocity, burn-down, and burn-up charts are considered useful. Unlike Scrum, which builds on empiricism and inspects and adapts the plans on the way.

#3 – Scrum Team Focus

The biggest change seems to be that we don’t have “Development Team”, ScrumMaster, and Product Owner but “Developers”, ScrumMaster, and Product Owner forming a Scrum Team together. It looks like a big change, but it’s rather cosmetic as they all have to collaborate and self-organize (or self-manage if you like) to maximize value towards the Sprint and Product Goal. So, no real change there, we’ve just finally got rid of the very typical dysfunction where the Product Owner was like an enemy and the team was delivering to the Product Owner only. Now there is no such mentality in the Scrum team, they are in it together, responsible for all product-related activities. They are a team in the first place, a team that is cross-functional so can deliver end-to-end value together. ‘Developers’ is a poor name, as most people somehow read it as software developers but it’s more like a product workers. They are still the people who create working product increment every Sprint, while Product Owner focuses on maximizing the value and ScrumMaster on improving teams and organizations.

I also like the new Scrum Guide to make the scaling approach clearer than before: “If Scrum Teams become too large, they should consider reorganizing into multiple cohesive Scrum Teams, each focused on the same product. Therefore, they should share the same Product Goal, Product Backlog, and Product Owner.”

#4 – Product Goal, Sprint Goal, and Increment

Finally, the last change is the new language about Product Goal (new) and Sprint Goal (improved), and Increment (clarified). All over the Scrum Guide is catching up with the industry and adding a Product Goal as an artifact. It also provides a definition of a product, which is much broader than many organizations think: “A product is a vehicle to deliver value. It has a clear boundary, known stakeholders, well-defined users, or customers. A product could be a service, a physical product, or something more abstract.” Product Goal is a long-term objective for the scrum team – a vision. Sprint Goal gives meaning to each sprint and defines the value we are focusing on now. The increment is a useful output. Well done, verified, and delivering value towards the Sprint Goal. Simple and straightforward. Finally, there is a much better language about the Definition of Done: “The moment a Product Backlog item meets the Definition of Done, an Increment is born.” It’s almost like a poem.

All over, I really like the new version. It doesn’t change much from what I was teaching and using, just brings a more clear and crisp definition of Scrum as I know it.

Barriers of Agility

In most of the surveys about barriers of agility in organizations, you learn that the top three places are culture, structure, and leadership. There is no surprise. Organizations were designed for a different world where you can analyze the situation, plan what you are going to do, cascade the goals through the organization, and deliver it accordingly with minimum change requests, simply for the predictable world. The problem is that in the last decades the world has become less predictable and changes were more frequent, the VUCA challenges overtake our everyday life reality and the organizations realized they are too slow to respond. Like dinosaurs thousands of years ago. Change is inevitable. Analyzing, planning, and following the plan is not an option anymore.

Innovations, creativity, and flexibility are new norm and organizations which can create environments where teams are self-organized, collaborate on maximizing the business value, and co-creating the organizational goals are taking over positions in the Fortune 100 list. Most of the big corporations are still in the cage of the old-world reality. They optimize for speed. But speed is not that important asset anymore as going fast in the wrong direction doesn’t lead anywhere. Instead, we need flexible environments optimized for creativity. Thinking about flexibility, the organizational structure needs to change to allow it. Departments focused on competences or components, not business value, is meaningless. They kill creativity. Hierarchy keeps responsibility by the managers and prevents people from taking ownership and decide themselves. Again, it kills creativity.

Culturally the traditional organizations are leaning towards competing over collaborating, and controlling over creating. The practices of detailed positions, reward systems, performance reviews, and individual goals and objectives are keeping the organizations in competing and controlling quadrants.

Finally, the leadership needs to change significantly. Traditional organizations were expecting leaders to be Experts or Achievers. Agile organizations need Catalysts. They need leaders who are visionary, purpose-driven, are able to see the business and organizations from different perspectives. They enhance collaboration and are good at building teams and networks. They search for win-win solutions, are good coaches, and helping others to grow. They support running experiments and use failure as learning.

All over we can say that Agile Organization needs different leaders, cultures, and structures. You don’t have to start with changing all of them at once, but sooner or later such change is inevitable. The fewer barriers you give agility on the way, the more likely the frameworks, methods, and practices make a difference and help you to be successful in the VUCA world.

Autonomy

Autonomy is a topic that is in my mind for a while. How come that in some environments it’s so simple to let it grow and some others are so much struggling with it. The more I think about it, the more I feel it’s about trust or fear of losing position, power, or comfort. And environments with no trust are not places where agile is much successful. In order to allow autonomy in even a small group as a development team, the trust must be there. I’ve seen the companies which were struggling to allow teams to choose their own name. “What if they choose something offending?” Like really? Now if you deal with such low trust, there is no way Scrum can work. I’ve seen organizations where they track when people are in the office and have so many restrictions that their computers become useless. “What if they don’t work and play games? Or not coming to work?” Isn’t that funny? The more restrictions you create, the more time people spend on breaking them or the more demotivated they are. Neither will help you to create successful products.

“Trust is prerequisite, transparency enabler, and purpose of the driving force for autonomy.”

Building trust takes time. Start small, don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Ask yourself what is the worth thing which can happen. Ask what are those people around you scared  and how can you help them to feel more confident. The second ingredient in the mix is transparency. Being transparent about what needs to be done, what the success looks like, and what are the things we want to avoid is crucial. People learn by doing. Be transparent with the feedback. Perfection is not useful, it’s all about learning from small failures. Finally, the third ingredient in the mix is a purpose. Autonomy without a purpose only creates chaos. The higher the autonomy, the stronger the purpose needs to be to glue it together. To give everyone the same goal, belonging, identity, the reason for why they are there.

Imagine a kid’s camp. The Red group is defending the castle, the Blues are trying the take it over. Kids are naturally forming small autonomous teams, making their own decisions on the fly. They share information as they move forward. They don’t need any detailed instructions, any KPIs, any manager to give them process. All they have is a strong purpose. Your organization is not any different. Trust is a prerequisite, transparency enabler, and purpose of the driving force for autonomy. Building such an environment requires a portion of agile leadership.

ScrumMaster Mind

Great ScrumMasters are patient, can give space and dedicate their time to help other people grow. They are servant leaders and Catalysts. It sounds simple and not conflicting at first look, however, the real disconnect people feel at first, when they came across the role, is often about their ability to let things go. As a ScrumMaster, you are not responsible for the delivery. As a ScrumMaster, you need to let them fail. As a ScrumMaster, you can’t make a decision for them. “But I need to make sure they deliver the Sprint!” people often say with fear in their eyes. “I need to make sure they are efficient!”, “I need to tell them … ”.  Not that quite. Being a ScrumMaster is a very different role than being a Project Manager. They actually can’t be more different from each other. Project Managers are responsible for delivery, they shall manage, make decisions. ScrumMasters are coaches, they help other people to grow. They are facilitators, help the conversation to flow, but don’t interfere with the content. The team is responsible for delivery, the team is responsible for organizing themselves, and the team is also responsible for improving their way of working. ScrumMaster can help them, but not push them. The ultimate goal of the ScrumMaster is to do nothing – or if you wish to build great self-organizing teams.

ScrumMaster builds self-organizing teams

For example, imagine a team, which is super confident that they are going to finish all the parts they planned for that Sprint. In the middle of the Sprint, you can see from the board that they are not in the middle of the work, not even close. They started many items but didn’t finish much. It seems to you that they are not well organized, abandoning problematic tasks and not collaborating. What are you going to do? When I ask this question at the classes, most people feel a strong need to guide the team, tell them how they shall organize, and when we talk about the fact that as a ScrumMasters they have no power to decide for them, they are very uncomfortable. “But I have to make sure they deliver it”, they say. “I can’t let it go, what my manager would think?”.  And it’s very hard for them to accept the fact they can’t push them. They can try their best to coach the team and show them what can possibly happen, but if they are still confident and don’t see that as a risk, eventually you need to let it go and let them fail. Failing one Sprint is not a problem. At the end of each sprint, there is a Retrospective and that’s the time where you can help them reflect on what just happened and come up with action steps on what are we going to the differently next time, so this will never happen again. ScrumMasters are not responsible for Sprint delivery (the team is), ScrumMasters are not responsible for the product delivery (that’s Product Owners job), but they are responsible for making the team self-organized and improving. It’s not that hard as it looks. Try to let things go next time, failure is a good thing. Fail fast, learn fast.

Starting the Agile Journey

Understand Scrum is simple. If you don’t know what Scrum is and is not, there is a 17-page definition called Scrum Guide. If you like to know what is agile, go to the four values and 12 principles of Agile Manifesto. The agile community mostly agrees on both. As large products increase the complexity, there is no common agreement on how to apply agile and scrum to multiple teams and organization as a whole. The good news is that there are many options to choose from and many organizations can serve as inspiration on jour journey – Menlo Innovations, Zappos, Valve, Odde, ScrumAlliance, and I can continue. The first two are even often organizing visits to see how they work.

Agile Journey

In agile we love options and know, there is no one way how to do things. Some options are easier to apply, some harder, some less agile, some more. But remember Agile is not your goal, it’s just the way how to achieve your strategic goals so at the end of the day it doesn’t matter. The less agile ways are not necessarily bad options for given circumstances. Some companies go faster, some slower on their agile journey. Your organization needs to be internally ready for the higher level of agility and without direct experience with self-organization at the team level (across the organization at product teams but also at the executive teams and boards), it’s hard to go forward towards the organizational agility, Agile HR, Agile finance, and last but not least Agile leadership. I started this article by referring to the Agile and Scrum definitions. Would the definition of an Agile Organization be useful? It may look that way however I don’t think it’s needed. The Agile organization is not about practices, processes, not frameworks. It’s about being agile. It’s about agility hardcoded in the organizational DNA and culture. It’s about living the values. Be courageous to change the status quo, be open to feedback, respect different opinions, and have focus and commitment to deliver value not only to the customers and shareholders but also employees. So if you want to check your readiness to apply agile principles at the organizational level, start with the values. Do you like them? Do you live them? Or do you think they are not important?

Employee Engagement

Most of the organizations are doing some employee engagement survey nowadays. Mostly they do it on yearly basis, then it usually takes a few weeks to generate results, so then when they finally communicate the results, no one remembers the situation when they responded anymore, talk about aggregated results and then forget them for the rest of the year. Next year they compare them with the previous year, talk about it for a while and let it go for the rest of the year, and so on. Employees complain it takes so much time to answer that many questions and there is no value in doing so. Not surprising, and not much agile either, right. But how many organizations have agile HR? Not many. So let’s change that. Agile is about regular cycles, fast feedback loops, and continuous improvement. If you apply those principles to the Employee engagement survey, you realize that you may not ask 25 questions every year at the same period of the time, but instead, how about if we run employee engagement in sprints and every week or two ask one question. It cost almost no time to answer that, and you can make the results automatically transparent to everyone right away. They are actual and visible to everyone immediately. Then every now and then, when there is a theme emerging from the results ask the people who care about improving it for input on how can we get better as an organization. Openspace is a great tool to address such challenges, smaller sessions can be organized as world café. Communities are formed on the fly to help organizations address the challenges and come up with ideas on how to change the system, environment, and the way we work. Straightforward and simple.

If you are looking into more theory about Employee engagement the Business Agility Institute brought together a group of researchers to examine general steps and programs that may help boost engagement, present an overview of the many drivers that can impact engagement, and discuss techniques to develop engagement strategies. We’ve shared the highlights below. Read more about Employee Engagement https://businessagility.institute/learn/whitepaper-employee-engagement/.

Great Product Owners

Great Product Owners are not only having business knowledge, authority and time, but also a few additional skills which people often don’t expect.

“Great Product Owner is a facilitator, coach, negotiator.”

You will usually hear about coaching and facilitation in the connection with the ScrumMaster role. So why do we talk about Product Owners and facilitation and coaching? Can’t they just use the service of the ScrumMaster? They can. However, in many environments Product Owners are not the ‘heroes’ who decide on everything. Quite the opposite. They are great listeners, who have respect for different customer voices, and their highest value to the system is they can find alignment through coaching and facilitation. Customers (users, stakeholders, shareholders, sponsors, …) never agree with each other, they all have their own preferences and needs. Great Product Owners can help customers to reconnect with their needs instead of pushing what they want. In order to be able to do so, they need to step back, acknowledge that their requests are representing just one way of achieving their goals, and search for other options that would satisfy the needs of more groups than before. In other words, they need to be good at integrative negotiation and finding win-win solutions.

Finally, the last skill great Product Owner needs is visual facilitation. It seems like an unimportant skill, but the good picture speaks for more than a thousand words and can create real magic in searching for alignment. Visualization creates transparency, and transparency is ground for accountability. You would be surprised how good visualization of a conversation and different perspectives can help people to change their mind and proactively help you in searching for alignment.

Maybe those skills are not on the top of the Product Owners list at the beginning, however, the same skills differentiate great Product Owner from the newbies.

Top virtual conferences to join in 2020

The world recently changed into a very unpredictable stage. No one expected it, no one was ready for it, and not many people like it either. However, every crisis is good for something, and this one brought new ways of doing things. While most of the traditional conferences from my recommendation from January are canceled or postponed, the new virtual events emerged from the crises and bring unique value in this difficult time. The first time ever there can be one event for everyone in any place in the world – no travel, no jetlag. If some talks are late at night or too early in the morning for you, don’t worry. There is going to be recording. And just be honest, how many of you attended all sessions at the face to face event? I didn’t. So there is no difference really 🙂

#1: Agile100

Agile100 is a series of virtual conferences that bring the world’s top 100 agile thinkers and speakers to everyone across the globe. Embracing the latest technology, the conference is not only streaming talks from great speakers but creates connections, allows participants to meet and learn from each other, offer parallel ad-hoc open-space sessions, learn from experienced Certified Agile Coaches, and much more. People with access to knowledge and information can tackle any challenge and make our world more productive, more humane, and more sustainable.

LEARN – CONNECT – GET INSPIRED

The first few dates in the 2020 series are May 29, June 26, and July 31 – 12pm – 10pm (CET – Central European Time) / 6am – 4pm (ET – Eastern Time).

#2: Emerging from the crisis

Business Agility Institute is known for the top-quality conferences across the globe. Their last face to face event in the NYC had to turn half into virtual to accommodate people with travel restriction and they did amazing job allowing online participants to join and collaborate in facilitated deep dives the same way as the face to face attendees could. The current crisis will leave an indelible mark on the world of business. What will be the impact on Leadership, HR, Strategy, Finance & Risk Management? And what role does business agility play in emerging from this crisis? This conference is not about what we need to do now to survive the crisis or adapt to remote work; we’re aiming higher. We want to learn what we need to do today in order to thrive tomorrow. Join Emerging from crisis virtual conference to be inspired through 20-minute talks and discover practical next steps through facilitated dialog with your peers, get inspiration from invited leaders and strategists who walked through crises and have come out the other side with lessons learned and best practices.

LEARN FROM THE PAST TO THRIVE IN THE FUTURE

June 17th – 19th, 2020 – two options to choose:

  • Option 1: 11am – 1:30pm (US Eastern Time) / 5pm – 7:30pm (CET – Central European Time)
  • Option 1: 6:00 pm – 8:30 pm (US Eastern Time) / 8am – 10:30am (Sydney time)

#3: LeSS Day Europe

LeSS Day Europe virtual conference takes upon a mission of bringing to you fresh, impressive and up-to-date case studies of Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS) adoptions by means of story-telling and rich knowledge exchange. Get inspired by the most recent and most insightful case studies involving hundreds of people transformation in different industries. As usually, this conference is worth joining.

LEARN FROM PROVEN CASE-STUDIES AND FIRST-HAND STORIES OF DEEP AGILE TRANSFORMATIONS

June 15 – 17, 2020 – 3pm – 7pm (CET – Central European Time) / 10am – 14pm (US Eastern Time)

 

 

Who is Driving a Change in the Organization

Managers are very often asking me who is driving the agile transformation and expecting some special position like VP of Agile or Chief Agilist. To their surprise, there is no such position needed. I already wrote here about Agile Organizations and hierarchy. Real Agile Organizations are flat and lean, so they don’t create any new position for a problem, issue or initiative. In Agile Organizations, we already have ScrumMasters to introduce change.

“If you want to drive Agile transformation, you need to become ScrumMaster.”

It’s simple and straightforward. We don’t need another role, we don’t need another layer. Referring to the #ScrumMasterWay model, ScrumMasters are not only responsible for growing great self-organizing teams (My Team level), helping the ecosystems around their team to be self-organized (Relationship level), but also helping the entire organization to be self-organized (Entire System) and embrace agility at all layers. Scrum Masters competencies cover not only agile, business, and technical practices, but are also responsible for driving a change because, at the end of the day, agile brings significant change, new culture, a new way of working.

ScrumMaster is a leadership role, so it’s a good fit for managers who want to make a difference in the organization, who care about helping others to become leaders, who are passionate about changing culture, who are Catalysts. ScrumMaster is a Servant leader. They are not having any positional power, they can’t tell people what to do. But they have an influence. They can coach and facilitate to unleash the potential, helping people to find their own way of working. That’s what self-organization is about in the first place, that’s what agile transformation is about.

Hierarchy

I recently posted a quote from a conference saying that “Removing hierarchy and cross-team dependencies made space for strong collaborative teams.” Interestingly, I got many comments and questions about it. So let’s talk about hierarchy and why we don’t need it in Agile space.

But before we dive deeper… What is the hierarchy? – using dictionary definition: “Noun – a system in which members of an organization or society are ranked according to relative status or authority.”

Traditional Organizations Need Hierarchy

Organizations where employees are ‘ranked according to relative status or authority’ is what we inherited from the traditional organizational paradigm which is built on top of the belief that hierarchy is the key – every organization needs to have an org chart, we have to have a clear line of reporting and decision making. And I’m not saying it’s wrong, you can keep all the traditional practices like a career path, positions, performance reviews, KPIs, etc. however such organizational design is not what I’m interested in and has nothing to do with ‘being agile’. Traditional organizations might be still well functioning, applying some frameworks and ‘do agile’, but the mindset at the organizational level is just not there yet.

Agile Organizations Are Flat

What I’m interested in is applying an agile mindset at the organizational level. Help not only individuals to ‘be agile’, but the organization as well. Agile is fundamentally changing the way organizations operate. Agile organizations are built on a new paradigm. They have a team as the key building block and are forming collaborative, creative, and adaptive networks from them. In a team, we don’t have status, and we have no ranking either. All team members are peers, with no positional hierarchy and power. Indeed, you can gain respect from the other team members in a team, but you can also lose it if you don’t bring value to the people around you anymore. It’s flexible and dynamic. All you need is radical transparency, peer feedback, and honest culture with implicit trust. You might say it’s a lot, and I’m far from saying it’s easy. However, once you experience it, you never want back to the traditional world.

Who decides on the process? Teams. In a flat organization, they are not only self-organized, but self-managed (so they are responsible for the processes), self-designing (so they are designing teams), and self-governing (so they are setting overall direction). To get more insights on those terms, see how LeSS defines them. All over, you don’t need much more than what I already mentioned – transparency, feedback, and trust. If that’s too abstract, you can get inspired by Sociocracy 3.0. It will give you more ideas on how to get there.

Who set’s the goals and objectives? No one. They are co-created by the teams, reviewed through radical transparency, and inspected and adapted via frequent feedback to flexibly address the business challenges. At the end of the day, fixed goals are useless in the VUCA world. VUCA stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. In other words, we speak about the world which is not predictable anymore. The cascading goals neither unify nor motivate. The more decentralized and autonomous the organizations are, the higher need is there for a strong evolutionary purpose. Co-created and owned by all. Transparent. You can get inspired by Frederic Laloux’s work.

What about budgets? Who says we need to have a budget in the first place. Again, you don’t need much more than what I already mentioned – transparency, feedback, and trust. Make all the finances transparent, and use instant peer feedback to review it. If that is too radical, you can get inspired by Beyond Budgeting.

All over, I guess you got the pattern. In an agile flat organization, we don’t need most of the traditional practices. All we need is radical transparency, peer feedback, and honest culture with implicit trust. No one is saying that you have to turn your organization into a flat structure and an agile mindset. But if you want to do that, be ready to redesign the way you work entirely.