Organization 3.0 – How to Achieve Modern Agile Organization

Organization 1.0

Organizations are constantly evolving. In the 1970’s the most common organizational structure was the pyramid structure. It was deep, hierarchical, and full of power. Companies got strong bosses who lead such structure. Internally their approach was full of command and control, bureaucracy, and standardization.

organization 1.0Those pyramid hierarchical structures were not wrong in any way. They were the perfect solution to world industrialization and to the dynamics of business at that time. Most of the companies followed the best practices for a simple world, where problems can be classified as obvious, and applied a simple structure to address it. And it worked. Bosses got results. Companies started growing and became more successful.

IMG_0752The most common management tool was a carrot and a stick, because organizations believed that their employees are lazy slackers who can’t work without it. Most of the people were in a mood of tribal leadership 2 where the motto is “my life sucks”. Complaining all the time. Not happy, not motivated. Their only motivation to do something was driven by getting some bonus – a carrot, or because they were forced to – a stick.

Organization 2.0

Twenty years later, Organization 2.0 was here addressing the difficulty of the business world focusing on specialization, processes, and structure. Companies realized that the world is not simple any more, and the majority of problems can be classified as complicated.
As a result, they adopted complicated processes, focused on deep analysis, and invested in experts.

The belief in Organization 2.0 is that complicated problems need experienced individuals and detailed analysis. As a result, companies invested in learning and specialization. They began to grow. The work which used to be done by one person, now needed specific and dedicated positions. We’ve got a specialized department to deal with java, database, testing, architecture, analysis, documentation, customers, accounts, plans, and chair purchases.

organization 2.0Organizations are trying to create a process to describe everything, to have every possibility thought over. Companies create career paths and talk about motivation. They have spent months describing KPIs, but the more processes and specializations they had, the less responsibility and goal driven individuals they had. They were starving. They tried to cut on expenses, but that did not bring any long term success either.

So they dream about the previous stage, where it was much easier to manage resources. At that time, managers had real power. They could make decisions. They could force people to work. They could use the carrot and the stick. It was so simple – no need for committees, no need to call a meeting for every single detail. At that time, allocation of individual resources did not cost most of their time.

Leader-follower leadership styleThe pressure on individuals to make themselves more successful, better, and smarter than others was huge. “What if my colleague is be better in the performance review?” “What if I am not promoted in two years?” It leads to a culture that emphasizes own goals over the organizational ones. Most of the managers and experts live in the third level of the tribal leadership model, where they believe that “I’m great, but you are not.” So they treat their employees and colleagues with little respect or trust. This leads to the leadership style of “leader-follower”, where the managers decide, and the people below them just do the job. No initiative is expected. People just follow the process and do what is ordered.

Organization 3.0

Nowadays, when the world is not complicated anymore, neither Organization 1.0 nor Organization 2.0 can address its full complexity. We have realized that such complexity needs a very different approach that can keep up with business dynamics. The Agile environment brings Organization, 3.0 which builds on teams instead of individuals, on different styles of leadership, and on intensive collaboration through the dynamic network structure. We need to completely change the leadership style, create partnerships, enforce self-organization, enforce real responsibility and ownership, enforce trust and transparency, and build the organization as a network structure which is flexible enough so that it can effectively respond to change. Decentralization is taking over, and is bringing a certain level of autonomy to self-organized systems.

Agile Organization - organization 3.0

Instead of being a huge tanker, you can imagine the Organization 3.0 as a flotilla of smaller boats, going into the same direction, living in the same context, having the same values, but making some decisions differently based on the situation.

The Organization 3.0 is a true Agile organization. In order to build it, you need to apply a different leadership style of “leader-leader”, which supports growth of people, instead of “leader-follower” which is so common in Organization 1.0 and Organization 2.0. Hand in hand with this new leadership style, you need to create a culture of tribal leadership “We are great!” where the focus is not on the individuals but on the systems and teams.

Leader-leader leadership style

Organizations are complex, as they have to deal with people’s behavior. People are not predictable. Every time we tried to make them behave in a predictable way, we failed. A modern Agile organization is built from people. It is a collaborative, creative, and adaptive network. It’s a sphere built from autonomous systems which are connected to each other, so they influence themselves but still keep consistent. Such a change of mindset is a huge mental challenge for most organizations.

So how to start?

Modern Agile Organization
Modern Agile Organization

– Help all people to become better leaders by applying the “leader-leader” leadership style, and build a culture of tribal leadership: “We are great!”
– Decentralize, build networks and communities.
– Allow autonomy in a well-defined context.
– Read my book The Great ScrumMaster, which is a guidebook not only for ScrumMasters, but also for leaders of any organization who want to become an Organization 3.0.

You can see my talk Agile Organization – Organization 3.0 at AGILEEE Conference 2016:

#ScrumMasterWay concept

During my CSM – Certified ScrumMaster classes and Agile coaching assignments I realized that the most difficult part of a ScrumMaster role is to accept your goal, and to create a self-organized team. Through the application of the ScrumMaster State of Mind model, you can help teams to become awesome. Once we have gone through all of that, there is almost always one question raised up. What shall ScrumMaster do if we achieved it and the team becomes self-organized?

Then it’s good to understand the #ScrumMasterWay concept, which divides work of ScrumMaster into three levels.

#ScrumMasterWay: My team

In this level – My team – it is all about my development team. How to make them understand the Agile mindset and Scrum values? How shall we shall become a good team? How will they embrace Agile practices? How can we collaborate, learn, and change the way we work? In the beginning, this may be a lot of work, but after some time you will have little to do here and you will stay more and more in the observing circle of the ScrumMaster State of Mind model.

#ScrumMasterWay - My Team
#ScrumMasterWay – My Team

#ScrumMasterWay: Relationships

The next level is creating a broader context of the ScrumMaster role. At this level, a ScrumMaster is looking at the team from a longer distance, making sure all relationships with other teams, Product Owner, customers, and managers are working fine. Have in mind that the ultimate goal of a ScrumMaster is still the same, to improve self-organization. At this time ScrumMasters often attend CSPO, MNG30, team coaching.

#ScrumMasterWay - Relationships
#ScrumMasterWay – Relationships

#ScrumMasterWay: Entire System

The last stage focuses on the entire system. ScrumMaster is looking at the overall organization from a distance, searching for culture changes, environment improvements and behavior patterns. This stage is focused on application of Agile and Scrum philosophy. Without this level you will never create modern Agile Organization.

#ScrumMasterWay - Entire System
#ScrumMasterWay – Entire System

If you find it interesting, you can read more at my last book – The Great ScrumMaster – #ScrumMaster Way

The Great ScrumMaster

Great ScrumMasters are rare. Not because it is too difficult to become a great ScrumMaster, but because there is not enough advises on how to become one. Here are a few tips on how to become a great ScrumMaster. If you find this interesting, I’ve just finished a book, The Great ScrumMaster on Amazon.


Great ScrumMasters are leaders. They know how to create leaders from others. They believe in others and help them to become successful. They can create active communities and heal relationships. Don’t make them team assistants. They are coaches and facilitators.


The attitude you should bring along is curiosity and respect. Be a cultural anthropologist. Your role has never been to tell others what to do, but to understand them. Be able to see them as people. Don’t be judgmental. Being a ScrumMaster is like playing a strategic game. Be creative in searching different ways to approach teams and organizations.


Being a ScrumMaster, you are never done with learning. Attend Agile conferences, watch videos, read books and blogs. But there is more than that. Most ScrumMasters are missing any experiences in coaching, facilitation and change management. You can start with a book, but you need to experience it and practice it. So find one class per year to attend, and continuously improve your skills in the mentioned areas.


The goal of ScrumMaster is to build self-organized teams around them. Keep it in mind when you are working with a team. ScrumMaster is not any team assistant, nor their mother to do the work instead of them and prevent them from failing. In order to learn, teams must fail sometimes. They must grow up and become self-confident, take over responsibility and ownership.


Work at all three levels of the #ScrumMasterWay concept. Especially the last one – ‘Entire System’ is critical to your successful great ScrumMaster journey. In order to succeed here, you need to understand the system thinking and be able to approach the entire organization as a system. A systems view makes your role more interesting and fun.

The book

The Great ScrumMaster Book
The Great ScrumMaster Book

The book contains many practical examples, tips, and exercises. It’s a guidebook on how to become a great ScrumMaster. You can get the book at Amazon. I hope you will enjoy it.


Sprint Planning in 30 minutes

How much time takes your team to finish Sprint Planning? To my experience it could be anything in between of above mentioned 30 minutes and full day. If you are closer to the second option and it feels scary, annoying, waste of time for you, let’s have a look at few recommendations how to cut it out into 30 minutes.

First, let’s see how to run the Sprint Planning itself. I recommend Product Owners to come to the Sprint Planning with physical cards for each User Story. They quickly introduce them, answer questions if needed and then let the team choose out of them. Don’t bring the exact ordered list; let them freely choose from the cards. There are two reasons for that. First, you maximize work done as they can organize themselves in a way they are most efficient, and at the same time there is higher commitment as well. Second, you build a trust between team and Product Owner. You trust them they will choose the right User Story which brings the highest value at the moment. Once the team select the User Stories witch they believe they are able to finish within the next Sprint and put them on Scrum board, Product Owner and Scrum Master can leave and let the team finish the Sprint Planning. During this second phase team will collaboratively split the selected User Stories into maximum one day tasks and revise the Sprint Backlog commitment. After 30 min they are done, have full board of cards and can start working.

If that still feel unbelievable, let’s have a look to the preparation. There are three key recommendations you should do in order to make your planning fast and meaningful. First is for Product Owner. 2-3 days before the Sprint planning let the team know what are your priorities for the next Sprint, so they can have a look and prepare themselves, ask questions, etc. Second is proper Backlog Grooming. The goal of Backlog Grooming is make sure the team understand Product/Release backlog (i.e. all User Stories, Super User Stories, Epics and vision). At this time team do the estimations and help Product Owner to split User Stories which are too big, or add Acceptance Criteria. Once understood, they are ready to be planned to the Sprint.

To summarize it, if you are not able to do such fast planning, improve your preparation (team time to prepare, grooming, pre-planning) so the planning is here not to investigate new functionality but to confirm how much we can make. Doing that, you gain motivated team who is not wasting time at never ending planning, better reliable Sprint plans and higher backlog quality as you are not pushed to do splits and changes at the last moment. Start step by step and continuously decrease your time needed. It’ll go much faster than you would imagine.

Online Scrum Board

I belong to the Agile crowd who believe the physical board is very much useful and can’t be easily substituted for any online board. Let me give you a few reasons.

5 reasons why not to use electronic board

  1. We are *still* limited by the screen inches and no electronic board gives you good overall Sprint visibility.
  2. No electronic card takes pride in your handwriting, so the ownership of the whole board is much closer to “someone else’s problem”.
  3. You can’t touch it, move it, or throw it away. It’s annoying how many fields in the *average* system are required to add a task. It’s a tiresome to crumble tasks to one day activities.
  4. It’s hard to draw on it. There is no creativity. It’s just reporting by definition.
  5. Regardless of the ability to share, usually the ScrumMaster controls the board during Standups. Not any team members.

To make it simple, to organize yourself as a Scrum team you need very good visibility of what is already done, what is in progress and what still needs to be done and who is currently working on which part. As there are no assigned User Stories to any team member, every individual is responsible for finishing Sprint Backlog. To be able to organize your daily work yourself as a team, you might need a flexibility – depending on where you are you might decide to distinguish tasks by colors, next time by shapes, then you start tracking dots per day, and the next time tear the task if it get blocked or anything else. You can start right away, and stop any time it suits you and there is no need to win over your system.

To make it clear, I’m not suggesting now your overall backlog should be at the board even if there are companies who work only this way. However, for this time of being I’ve been focusing on Sprint commitment, and simple tool which helps team to synchronize themselves. So keep your *future* – the User Stories – in the system, keep Sprint tasks and team synchronization be driven by physical board not connected to any system, and then link back any commit or important note back to your User Story in the system so you have a history and traceability.

And yes, I understand that some teams might not be at the same location, and can be spread over the world. So if you have such situation, still you might prefer flexible tool which gives you a good visualization. There is no ideal tool like that, but there is one I learned from some of my distributed teams. You can see the picture of that board below. It’s easy to use, it gives quite good overview as well. And yes, I can come up with hundreds of improvements, but I still like the simplicity of this solution. You can try it here.

Scrum Board

Scrum Master is Not a Secretary of a Team

I’ve been wondering why so many teams believe that Scrum Master is here to draw burndown charts, prepare reports and be the only point of contact for the team, whenever anyone wants anything from them. They maintain the board, write cards, and prepare all you can imagine. And the team works ok, but surprisingly they are not at all self-organized. Such Scrum Master role is quite boring. But that’s not what was intended by the role of Scrum Master. I guess the reasons for that are coming from two different motives.

Firstly, Scrum Masters are often missing the real experience with Scrum, teamwork and self-organization. They are in a new role and want to succeed in it. They biggest fear is they would not be useful to the team, and team would not appreciate their work. So they try to do their best to make their work visible for everyone. Be helpful. The biggest Scrum Master’s trap is to be locked in the position of caring mummy who is scared to let her grown up kids go their way. But in such case you will never get real Scrum team.

The other reason comes from one of the Scrum Master responsibilities – to remove impediments. It’s the only responsibility which seems to be easy to do for starting Scrum Masters. Seems to be. Unfortunately, that often comes with huge misunderstanding. The goal of the Scrum Master is to build self-organized team which in the ideal theoretical world means “do nothing”. In other words, Scrum Master is here to help a team to find solutions to their problems, not to solve problems oneself. Nonetheless, most of the beginning Scrum Masters are eager to help, happy to do any work needed if it helps their team. And they don’t see that by doing it they are destroying the team.

Measurements are dead, let’s measure

During my career as both Director of Engineering and independent Agile Coach, I’ve been hearing still the same grumble from managers: “We can’t get rid of measurements and KPI’s. How else could we know if the person is performing well, how can we compare people?” and at the same time, grouching from the team members: “We don’t like the individual based KPI’s and measurements, how are we supposed to be a good team when our managers can misuse that against any team member?” It’s surprising but no one likes individual metrics, they all admit they are useless, but they are all afraid to try anything else.

So if you have a bit of courage, you may try this: It’s based on coaching relative scale and is team oriented: 1 stands for 🙁 and 9 stands for 🙂 and it’s great if you add a reason for rating lower than 4 and higher that 6. Firstly, let the Product Owner give a team his number how he is happy with the team.

As a second input, ask Scrum Master to give a number to every team member how much he is happy with this person as a team player. Let them discuss it, but make sure the discussion is not about “why I’ve got 5 instead of 7”, but is focused on future development of that person discussion “what should I do differently so that I’ll get 7 next time”.

And last number goes from the team members. The best you can do for this part is to ask everyone to divide 100$ to all team members except himself. You may worry that they can agree with each other and rotate all the money one by one, or distribute them equally, but that’s not common in real life. The great think on this evaluation is that the team members are giving a feedback to themselves. So every team member gets an answer to the question how do you value my contribution to the team? And if you find out the other team members don’t see any value in your work, you would most likely be very much concerned about that situation and asking how can I do differently so that you value my work more.

Combining those three inputs you will learn much more than from traditional metrics, regardless the company size and culture. It’s working just awesome, but you have to have courage to give it a try.

And when this is just normal for you, you can take it one step ahead. The fully Agile companies are using such tool as the only one appraisal tool across the company. No other bonuses than those distributed by employees to the other employees. So in such company, if you feel you would like to appreciate the receptionist, give her some part of your bonus sum. The other one can be for your colleague, another part for a developer from a different team who helped you with some issue. And when you are afraid it’s too crazy for you, I would like to remind you that we are only talking about bonus distribution, not the whole salary. When you do so, you will increase team cooperation over individual heroes work, and openness and transparency over politics and gossiping. And it would be fun. If you still don’t know, start with Appreciation cards. Make them available and encourage people to give them to each other. Even by that you will learn a lot about yourself, your team and the whole organization ecosystem.

Agile at Saigon, Vietnam

I had an opportunity to spend some time with teams in Vietnam. Explain them Agile and implement Scrum process, bring in the understanding of it, and help them to apply it. It’s always good to travel for your work to some nice places, and Saigon is indeed very nice city. Very friendly people. How was it? Quite different. The way of explaining things needed many detail examples, however there were fewer problems with having people accept the whole idea.  The most difficult part was I guess to explain the agile mindset, implement agile culture. They always used to be organized by strict hierarchy. Who reports to whom. And now we had a cross functional teams consist of both developers and testers, so who do I report now? Who is going to assign me new tasks? And all those questions. If you for some reason put one person out of the teams as a shared resource, he immediately stop working and did just management decisions from that time. When we asked why, it’s because only the team members are here to do the work. And I’m now more important. So I don’t do any usual daily job. On the other hand, once they understood the process, they follow it. They don’t discuss if they should or not, no complains that they are corporation with specific habits so why they should change them.  Once you explain it so they understood they do their best to make it working.

Agile community

I’ve always tried to meet with local community while I’m traveling. It’s fun. They sometimes reply and you organize something together, sometimes there is no response at all. Agile Vietnam was a surprise; they have extremely active Facebook community. I’ve sent an introduction and in a few seconds I’ve got several replies. So already the first night at Saigon I’ve met with a group of people to talk about startups. Small group, not really from IT environment, but trying to learn new thinks, improve English, it was nice evening.

The next day I arrived on Barcamp. Huge event with 3500 people registered, kind of unconference where attendees are voting for presentation to be presented. I was talking about agile implementations, some British lady about bringing Broadway Theater to Saigon. You can talk about anything. Audience is deciding whether it is interesting or not.

The last event I had there for the community was free Starting Scrum workshop. One afternoon the organizers of Agile Vietnam invited everyone to Saigon Hub. And we had two hours to try basic Scrum principles. I introduced a game where the teams were building a high tower from marshmallow and spaghetti. It was fun. The very good think is the game was working well even in this different culture. They did a great job, and learned a lot about how Scrum process works with respect of the delivery of PSP at the end of every Sprint, communication to the customer, team development.

Back home

So to summarize my experiences, I would love to come back to Vietnam or another interesting country for work. It’s different, it’s fun, and it’s working. The training itself will not make any big difference to them. To change their way of working and mindset you have to be there, you have to spent time and help them understand and apply the theory. This is something which I as an agile coach can help them.

Agile Adoption Story – Common Mistakes (part 3)

To continue with my agile adoption story… The company started to realize that Scrum is not any silver bullet. It’s much more complex than that. But John is really upset. He did all what he could to make it better. But maybe the people inside his company are not good enough to make it. And it’s so simple, just follow the process and keep the practices. What’s the point? But even John must admit he doesn’t know answers to all the problems his Scrum Master is putting on the table, so he finally agreed to give it a next try – let the Scrum Master to get a certification.

Let’s make a certification

So next week the Scrum Master is sent to the Certified Scrum Master Course, CSM, to become an expert. With high expectation from the training he supposed to understand all the difficulties of Scrum from that time and he should be able to adopt the Scrum methods in a way the company needs. Nonetheless in nine out of ten cases the Scrum Master understand the theoretical ideal case of Scrum implementation, get some idea of how is should be, however, when he try to apply it in the company or even change outside company environment he must admit that “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.