Being Agile, Embracing a Change, and Going Online

Note: I’m updating the tips based on my learning and questions people ask.

I had never been any fan of the virtual world. I mean emails are fine, they are relatively private and wait in your mailbox until you have time to answer. Better than calls. But otherwise? No way. I was using all social networks just one way, mostly posting and not reading much. I didn’t like teleconferences, I would rather travel for a day there and back to talk instead. However, life had changed and now, I have no other choice.

Last week I was at the Business Agility Conference in NYC. Kudos to all who show up at this time. The conference went half virtual and I learned that at the end of the day, I like changes. “Responsiveness to change over following a plan”, right? I don’t think I’d ever experienced anything like that. The program changed in a way that all backups already became the reality and the program team was still able to find another one. They were awesome. We lost half of our facilitators on-site, transforming them into a virtual stream with over 100 participants who were not allowed to travel anywhere anymore, and I feel I need to appreciate the flexibility in this crazy time. Thanks, everyone. There was not a day last month when something had not changed. There was not an hour day before the conference something had not changed, and when the second day they announced closing borders for all Europeans and declare the state of emergency… there was not a minute when something would not change. To be honest, I was happy the conference is over just on time for me to get home before they lock me somewhere on the way.

That’s the background for going virtual with all my work. When I can be embracing all the changes, I can stretch it even more and try virtual classes. As the entire world stopped, it’s time to try it. There is nothing else you can do anyway… So I thought I will share a few learning points about it.

#1: You need to see everyone

Good video conferencing is important. I’m using Zoom and I try to see the gallery view most of the time. It’s not like face to face, but it’s not bad either.

 

#2: Breakout rooms

Participants need time for themselves. To chat without all class listening, share their experiences, be by themselves. You can always go for a visit and join a breakout room, but the time they are on their own is critically important for people. I was even giving them 3m individual room for individual preparation.

#3: Flexible tools

I’m using GoogleDocs – Sheets and Docs for collaboration. It might not be fancy but it’s simple and flexible. You can do most of the things there. I realized the biggest pain in using tools is the barrier with login and accounts, so I’m currently just sharing a link that gives anyone with the link right to edit.

Sometimes I felt a need to use the board. I love Trello, but you need to have an account. I’m using scrumblr.ca free tool which only uses the link. Again, I optimize for flexibility and choose simply to access and use tools.

I learned that Google has an awesome board called Jamboard. It’s flexible and has apps for both iPhone and iPad, and the ability to export as PDF so you can share the result of the collaboration with everyone. 

#4: Training from the back of the room

I learned that Training from the back of the room gives you all you need. I organize most of my Agile training this way. Participants are working in Sprints, they have the task/question/exercise in their workbook, which helps them stay focused and give them plenty of time working with their peers in breakout rooms.

 

 

#5: Flipcharts

Instead of drawing on a flipchart, I’m using the Paper application on my iPad, so don’t worry, you won’t miss my drawings 🙂 With Zoom it’s very simple. You can share iPhone/iPad via cable and get the entire screen online in a shared window. At the end of the class, you can create a nice pdf with all the pictures.

#6: Breaks

You need more frequent longer breaks. We end up having 15min break every hour in the afternoon plus one in the morning. It’s a good idea to design with participants that they are not checking on emails, chats or news during the class. They can do it over the breaks or lunch. I would say it’s more important than in face to face setup.

#7: Have fun

All over I realized I’m enjoying it. Do something crazy, it will create a positive distraction. Don’t be afraid to experiment, have fun.

Summary

I created this video showing more about tips on Virtual training. I hope you will find it useful.

10 Most Common Mistakes of ScrumMaster

Great ScrumMasterBeing great ScrumMaster is a journey, where you have to learn a lot about Agile, Scrum, coaching, facilitation, change, business agility, technical practices, leadership… But all over it all starts with having the agile mindset. This time, I’m not focusing on who you need to be, but quite opposite what you should avoid, as one of the very common questions at the classes is what are the most common mistakes of ScrumMaster. So here is the list:

Being a Team Assistant

Taking care of the team, solve issues (impediments) for them, plan meetings… It’s easy to get there as it seems to be helpful. But only in the short term. Long-term, it will create unconfident people who rely on ScrumMaster and never take over responsibility and ownership. Instead, you shall show them they can solve most of their problems by themselves, and be a good coach, facilitator and servant leader.

Share ScrumMaster Role with Another Role

Such ScrumMasters have usually lack of focus. They don’t spend enough time observing, finding better ways for the team to become great, and are happy and done with the role once everything is ok. Instead of sharing ScrumMaster role with another role, have ScrumMaster full time, let them focus on how they can become great ScrumMasters and truly master the agility so it will help the entire organization. Give them space to invest more time to the other levels of the #ScrumMasterWay concept.

Team Only Focus

Speaking about #ScrumMasterWay concept, many ScrumMasters believe that their only role is to support their development team to be great. I mean this is fine, but it’s just a tiny part on the ScrumMaster journey. It’s like a kindergarten. You need to experience it. That’s where you learn and practice all State of Mind approaches, that’s where you get confidence in yourself as a leader and change agent. But even if you are super successful, it’s only changing at the team level. You need to go broader and follow the other steps of the #ScrumMasterWay model and change the entire organization into an agile organization.

Technical Expert

Being a technical expert is dangerous for ScrumMasters. They feel a strong need to advise people on what to do. If you know a better solution, it’s just easier to tell them, then help them to figure it out. Instead, ScrumMaster shall trust the team they are the experts and coach them so they become better.

Manage Meetings

ScrumMaster is neither manager of the Scrum meetings, nor responsible for scheduling them. Instead, ScrumMaster shall be a facilitator, who takes care about the form of the conversation, not the content.

Don’t Believe in Scrum

How many times you’ve seen ScrumMaster who is doubting about the core Scrum so much that no one is following them? You need to be sure it works, need to believe in it, need to be the biggest Agile enthusiast all around. Otherwise, you can’t make the others to follow.

Apply ‘Fake Scrum’

Sometimes ScrumMasters take Scrum as just a process, don’t search for deeper understanding. Just do it (Daily Scrum, backlog, ScrumMaster role, …) as Scrum says so. They don’t have the right mindset. Agile and Scrum is not about practices, it’s a different way of thinking. It’s about “being” not “doing”.

Waiting for Someone Else to Start the Change

ScrumMasters often wait for someone else to initiate a change. They are reluctant to take over responsibility and ownership and the organization is not moving anywhere. Instead of waiting forever, ScrumMaster shall be a change agent, responsible for the entire organization Agile journey.

Scrum and Agile Expert

It’s enough to understand Agile and Scrum. Which is simple so we are done. Being ScrumMaster is a journey, and you can never stop learning. Even if you feel you know Agile and Scrum, there is always something new. And there are those other domains you need to master: coaching, facilitation, change, business agility, team dynamics, technical practices, leadership, … The learning is never ending.

We Are Great Team, We Are Done.

Often ScrumMasters let their team believe they can be done. The team is good, we finished our Agile transformation. Don’t bother us with new ideas. We know how to work. We are self-organized. You can never be done in a complex environment. There is always a better way. So instead of this false believe, ScrumMasters shall coach the team so they see other opportunities to inspect and adapt.

Five books every ScrumMaster should read

I have several books here, I would recommend every ScrumMaster to read (check the five books every Product Owner should read, and five books Agile Leader shall read). It’s a mix which will help you to understand ScrumMaster role in much broader perspective. In addition to the ScrumMaster guidebook which summarizes all you need to know to become the great ScrumMaster, you need to get better at forming great teams, team coaching, servant leadership and change management. Enjoy reading 🙂

  1. Great ScrumMaster: #ScrumMasteWay is a guidebook for all ScrumMasters, Agile coaches and leaders who want to transform their organizations. It’s intended to give you a reference to general concepts which every ScrumMaster should understand and point you towards resources which may help you in resolving difficult situations. It was designed as a slim illustrated book, which you can read during the weekend and won’t get lost in too much heavy stuff. However, it is supposed to be your starting point in searching for help or ideas on where to go next. On top of that, it’s full of practical examples of how to apply each individual concept.
  2. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable is the world’s most definitive source on practical information for building teams. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team outlines the root causes of politics and dysfunction on the teams where you work, and the keys to overcoming them. Counter to conventional wisdom, the causes of dysfunction are both identifiable and curable. However, they don’t die easily. Making a team functional and cohesive requires levels of courage and discipline that many groups cannot seem to muster.
  3. Coaching Agile Teams: A Companion for ScrumMasters, Agile Coaches, and Project Managers in Transition is a guide to the role of Agile Coach. Most people are wondering, “What is my role in a self-organized team?How do I help the team yet stay hands-off?”  Many respond by going too far to either extreme.  Coaching Agile Teams turns these questions into answers, and answers into action by offering practical ways to adapt skills from professional coaching and other disciplines to coaching agile teams toward high performance.
  4. Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders is how-to manual for managers on delegating, training, and driving flawless execution. Since Turn the Ship Around! was published in 2013, hundreds of thousands of readers have been inspired by former Navy captain David Marquet’s true story. Many have applied his insights to their own organizations, creating workplaces where everyone takes responsibility for his or her actions, where followers grow to become leaders, and where happier teams drive dramatically better results.
  5. Our Iceberg Is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions has all you need to know about the change management. It is a simple story about doing well under the stress and uncertainty of rapid change. The tale is one of resistance to change and heroic action, seemingly intractable obstacles and clever tactics for dealing with those obstacles. The penguins offer an inspiring model as we all struggle to adapt to new circumstances. After finishing the story, you’ll have a powerful framework for influencing your own team, no matter how big or small.

Agile Leaders are the beginning of modern management

In order to achieve success at the organizational level, we need to start management talent development program to create leaders who will help to grow a company, make quick decisions and stay ahead of others. Modern leadership style is no longer applying the traditional model of the “leader-follower”, i.e. one decides and the other executes orders. Nowadays, when most employees are from the category of creative workers and the company is looking for innovation and creative ideas to stay competitive, the leader-leader model is a more effective one, where the leaders’ main goal is to help others to be successful leaders. What is modern Agile management or Agile leadership about?

Excellent Agile Leader has four core competencies: Ability to define the vision, motivate, gain feedback, and ability to influence through themselves, others and system.

The ability to formulate a vision is the engine of change and motivation. A vision is not necessarily linked to product and business but should be focused on the organization and its purpose. The second competency is the ability to motivate and give the energy. It is a competence closely related to the vision. If you have a good vision, it motivates itself. Agile leadership builds on so-called internal motivation to strengthen the autonomy of individuals and teams. The third of Agile leader’s competences is feedback. Feedback is DNA component for Agile Organization together with openness and transparency. The art of getting system-level feedback is critical for the leader. The last is the art of influencing complex environments. Change things, people and their behavior, support and consolidate culture. Agile leadership begins with a change of self, your judgments, values, and behavior, style of work. Great leaders start with themselves as a role model, to change the way they show up, how they interact with others, and how they can inspire people around them to collaborate, create a team spirit, and become leaders. They are capable of working with the entire system and influence the whole organization and its culture.

Agile Leader-Wheel

Agile Leader Wheel also defines four supporting competencies to help leaders define the right approach. When is it better to decide and when decisions can be delegated and it’s better to collaborate. At the same time, when it’s better to take a role of facilitator and when start coaching. We do not talk that much about coaching individuals, which of course may be useful, but coaching the whole system – teams and organizations as a whole. Excellent Agile Leaders have not been born as Agile Leaders, but they are constantly looking for new ways to get better and to gain and strengthen the above-mentioned competencies.

Agile Adoption Story – Common Mistakes (part 6)

And finally, to finish the agile adoption story, even though the team is after all able to find their way to communicate, share knowhow, learn from each other, and cooperate, there is another obstacle. Surprisingly it’s not outside the company but in the business unit internally.

Company doesn’t need to change

The company doesn’t need any change. It used to be working good for many years, and if we had observed any problems, they were indeed located in the ICT, so why should we change the business unit? Isn’t Scrum called software development methodology?

Oh, yes, Scrum is business driven, but here are the requirements, so take them as they are and if you need to make any User Stories out of them, sure, feel free to do it. But we are not really interested in your internal processes so don’t bother us. However, we expect you to finish all this work on time.

So the teams are desperate again. Unless they got Product Owner, who is willing to become part of their team, and share the risk and success with them, they can’t proceed with real Scrum. They can’t take all responsibility and gain success in return.

Unfortunately, some get frustrated from the lack of business support and still complaining “Agile is not for us”. We are different, we have too complex product, we are too big/small to implement agile. Our customers are like this and that, and you know, agile is great, just for a different company.