One of the topics most of the project managers and traditional organizations at the beginning of their Agile transformation journey are struggling are deadlines. How can we do Scrum and commit ourselves to the date when we don’t know the scope? Let’s make this clear. Scrum is purpose driven, not functionality driven. What does that mean? It’s not about delivery, it’s about achieving the certain outcome. And that’s a game changer. Instead of fixing the whole scope at the beginning, we spend the time to understand the purpose. Form a vision. What do we want to achieve? For whom? Where is the value? How are we going to change the world once it’s done? What makes it different?
Once you have enough mutual understanding of the business value and the vision, you are ready to continue. So, we agreed that in long-term, you need to achieve this, what about mid-term? What is the most important to achieve now? Where is the biggest risk we need to mitigate by feedback? What impact do we need to get? Once you have this release agreed, you are ready to start Sprints. Again, Sprint is not about precise functionality delivery, but achieving certain impact, deliver value and learn from that. Therefore, there is a Sprint Goal – a small vision for a Sprint, answering a question what do we need to achieve in the short-term.
Finally, none of those deliveries can actually fail. Of course, you can learn that your business idea was wrong or the value was not where you would expect it. That’s why we use Scrum, to test our hypothesis. But the nice thing is, that neither Sprint nor release can actually fail the delivery if you prioritize well because 80% business value is hidden it 20% of the functionality. If you prioritize the value, you always achieve the goals.
So next time when your customer ask when it’s going to be done, you can invite him in the conversation about the value, vision, release charters, and Sprint Goals. Don’t ask what they want, ask what they need and why. Only then you are both going to be successful with Agile.
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 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.
One of the most interesting advanced techniques how to run Sprint Review is the Review bazaar where there is no official Sprint Review meeting, but we run it as a bazaar where different teams are showing their work simultaneously. What’s happening is that each team is creating a space where they show the product to anyone who shows up. They give them opportunity to try the product, touch it, and experience it. There is no presentation, no need to stay if the functionality is not interesting.
Review bazaar is quite advanced technique as organizations are often obsessed about control and centralization is their second nature so it takes time until they feel comfortable enough to let it be decentralized. If we go back to the purpose of the Sprint Review and think about how we can get the best feedback to our product, you realize that it can actually serve this purpose much better than traditional Sprint reviews. However without openness and trust, Review bazaar is never possible.
To make it short list – if some of the following feels familiar…
- Your Sprint Reviews are too formal,
- People are not giving you a feedback,
- Most of your stakeholders coming to the Sprint Review are not interested in every feature so they find the review too long,
- Sprint Review is too long,
…you might like to try the Review Bazar. You will realize that it has very different dynamic and the feedback you get if much more valuable.
Scrum Reviews have been for a long time left out of our focus. Teams and ScrumMasters are asking how to improve Sprint planning, Standups, Retrospectives, but most of the time there are no real questions related to the Sprint Review. So how to make the Sprint Review great? Firstly let’s review the goal of this meeting which is to get feedback on our product. So no status of done vs. not done Product Backlog Items has any space here. No slides with any Burn-down or Burn-up charts, no velocity comparism.
The Sprint Review shall show real working product to our customers so they can give us a feedback. Yes, to the customers, not Product Owner (note that customers are all stakeholders, users, people who pay for the product, simply anyone both internal and external who has any expectations from that product). Showing the product to Product Owner makes no sense as he is part of the Scrum team and collaborated on the solution during the Sprint.
We don’t present technical solution, but business value delivered and we let team members take the opportunity to show that they did and get the applause :). However, if in some rare cases you happen not to get that enthusiastic feedback, and your customers get angry for any reason, the Product Owner makes himself visible and protects the team. After all it’s his responsibility to understand the customer well enough so those misunderstandings won’t happen.
Your Sprint review is great if you …
- Show the real product
- Let users experience it
- Don’t have any presentation / slides / status
- Development team is presenting
- Invite real customers / users
- Product Owner is most of the time quiet and doesn’t need to interfere