Deadlines in Scrum

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?

Purpose driven

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.

Agile at executive team level

Agile can’t stay just at the team level. Agile transformation only creates disturbance and gap between the management and employees. And the more Agile the teams are, the bigger the disconnect is. Managers feel lost, forgotten and start to be frustrated that those self-organizing teams might eventually not need them. Part of the problem is they’ve never been part of any Agile or Scrum team themselves.  They’ve seen them working, joining them for Reviews and listening to their stories, but that’s not the same. People need experience to understand a different way of work. You might still remember your first feeling, when someone told you that this Agile and Scrum will be great. “What?” you thought, this stupid process will never work – what if… At least I still remember how I felt several years back.

Agile Transformation disconnect

One important thing companies often forgot during their Agile transformation is how to get management on board. Managers deeply need their own experience with Agile and Scrum. They can’t just read about it. Otherwise you continue hear such funny remarks like “I got it, you are a team, you collaborate, but who is responsible?”, “We don’t need ScrumMasters, some developer can take it as a second role” or “We don’t need Product Owner, we have a product committee”. If you really mean the Agile transformation seriously, it’s time to change the way you implement it. It’s not just a different process decided by C-level executives and implemented without them noticing. It’s a significant change of the culture and mindset. So why don’t we start from the other side, forming the first team from executives. Let them experience Agile and Scrum. Make them feel the pain of being the group of individuals with their own goals, no common passion, no trust. Or no unifying purpose. Let them experience what the self-organization is about, how the cross-functionality works. Let them do their refinement, planning, standups, reviews, and retrospectives. It’s always fun. And the same way as such first pilot is painful and difficult for a product development team, it is even more painful for the executives. They would hate it. If they can, they would kick you out of the door. So be ready for that and have strong enough sponsor who understands that such painful experience is critical for the organizational success. It’s like any other exercise. Starting is difficult. We all are great at finding excuses why running today is just not a good idea. I will run tomorrow. Or when it’s the right weather. Actually, I don’t think I need to run, I’m just good without it. The other people need that, not me. Familiar? If you force yourself to start and develop a habit, it is fun and you would miss it if you skip that for even a day. The same with Scrum, the first time you experience the power of the true team spirit you never want to be back. No matter where you are in the company orgchart. It works the same way.

Unfortunately, executives are rarely going that way. There are two reasons. First, it is a painful journey. That’s why I’m not running every day. It’s not that bad that I would have to, right. The company is still fine. Not struggling enough. But maybe when that happens it’s too late to change. Second, most of the Agile Coaches need a day job. They care about 6+ months contracts. They are afraid of losing it if they would push too much. They often forgot that their job is not to please the customer, but to change them. Guide them through that painful experience with all the risks that they will not like it, and stop. Very often you hear from them “I know that this is not the way how it shall be but this is a corporation, you have to do it differently” so they still have PMOs, no Product Owners, weak ScrumMasters and not real teams either. It’s a much more painful experience for everyone involved then starting this fake transformation repeatedly all over again and again.

Agile Transformation bubbles

If you mean it, get a real Agile coach. Not a consultant. Find someone who would guide you how to do it. Not do it instead of you. Who would be with you once per Sprint / month / quarter. Do their intervention, show you the way where to focus next and let you exercise. Start with smaller pilots. The first Agile bubbles. The more bubbles you make, the better. Aim for our own experience and learning. Inspect and adapt. Don’t forget that your executive team forms one of the first bubbles. They have to learn in the first wave. If you do it that way, Agile mindset will grow organically and very soon you would be ready to share your own Agile success story and inspire the others.

Five books every Agile leader should read before they start Agile transformation

To continue my with my book recommendations (check Five books every ScrumMaster should read and Five books every Product Owner should read), I have several books here, I would recommend every Agile Leader and manager in Agile Organization to read before they start Agile transformation. It’s a mix which will help you to understand Agile Leadership, Agile Organization, it’s structure, design, and culture and allow you to adapt to the different leadership style. Enjoy reading 🙂

  1. Niels Pflaeging – Organize for Complexity: How to Get Life Back Into Work to Build the High-Performance Organization is about complexity and work – and about how to deal productively with both. A condensed introduction to the theory and practice of organizational high performance. A manifesto for contemporary leadership and profound transformation in organizations of all kinds. It is “practically theoretic”, featuring cutting-edge insight. It proposes new language and thinking for a new way of work and organizations.
  2. Frederic Laloux – Reinventing Organizations is a must. The way we manage organizations seems increasingly out of date. Survey after survey shows that a majority of employees feel disengaged from their companies. The epidemic of organizational disillusionment goes way beyond Corporate America-teachers, doctors, and nurses are leaving their professions in record numbers because the way we run schools and hospitals kills their vocation. Government agencies and nonprofits have a noble purpose, but working for these entities often feels soulless and lifeless just the same. All these organizations suffer from power games played at the top and powerlessness at lower levels, from infighting and bureaucracy, from endless meetings and a seemingly never-ending succession of change and cost-cutting programs.
  3. Large-Scale Scrum: More with LeSS is looking at the organizational design from a different perspective. Rather than asking, “How can we do agile at scale in our big complex organization?” a different and deeper question is, “How can we have the same simple structure that Scrum offers for the organization, and be agile at scale rather than do agile?” This profound insight is at the heart of LeSS. In Large-Scale Scrum: More with LeSS, Craig Larman and Bas Vodde have distilled over a decade of experience in large-scale LeSS adoptions towards a simpler organization that delivers more flexibility with less complexity, more value with less waste, and more purpose with less prescription.
  4. The Responsibility Process: Unlocking Your Natural Ability to Live and Lead with Power is about FREEDOM, POWER, and CHOICE. Leadership is innate. The Responsibility Process proves it. The Responsibility Process is a natural mental pattern that helps you process thoughts about taking or avoiding responsibility. How you navigate it determines whether you are leading toward meaningful results or just marking time. This book gives you precision tools, practices, and leadership truths to navigate The Responsibility Process and lead yourself and others to freedom, power, and choice.
  5. Leadership and Self Deceptions shows how most personal and organizational problems are the result of a little-known problem called self-deception. Through an entertaining and highly instructive story, Leadership and Self-Deception shows what self-deception is, how people get trapped in it, how it undermines personal achievement and organizational performance, and- most importantly the surprising way to solve it.

5 reasons why to attend AgilePrague Conference 2018

#1: World-class Program
Several years in a row we managed to achieve high-quality program while keeping it affordable to the people in the Czech Republic. This year you can be looking forward to awesome speakers – for example: David Hussman, Roman Pichler, Evan Leybourn, Marsha Shenk, Yves Hanoulle and many more.

#2: Business Agility Focus
The theme for this year is Business Agility. Agile is more than an IT process. We are going to talk about Agile transformations, scaling, the new ways of running your products and businesses, Agile Leadership, collaborative culture and great teams.

#3: Coaches’ Clinic
You can discuss any area you are interested in and get free help from experienced coaches at our Coaches’ Clinic. It is a unique and free service designed to help you with specific challenges you’ve encountered on your way to a more Agile way of working.

#4: Open Space
AgilePrague Conference is not just about listening. We want you to participate and come up with your own session. Every mid-day there is an open space where you have an opportunity to share ideas, discuss topics with each other and join a deep dive conversation with our speakers. Open space is an opportunity to create your own program and bring your own topics to the conference.

#5: Visit Prague
Prague is an awesome city, so why not combine the sightseeing & conference? Have a beer, wonder though old town & narrow streets, enjoy one of the greatest historical cities 🙂

Looking forward to seeing you on Sep 10-11, 2018 at AgilePrague Conference! Register for Agile Prague 2018.

Is Agile for us?

It seems to be a very common question. In general, if you are willing to change yourself, yes. There is no bigger enemy than yourself. There is no environment, size or business restrictions. Any company can change if they find a strong enough reason for a change. However, there are few questions which can help you to identify if you are ready or not.

Agile is not for us if…

  • We are looking for “magic” that helps us deliver everything faster.
  • We want to allocate individuals on tasks based on their specialization.
  • We focus on a buyer-supplier relationship and customer acceptance.
  • We focus on specification, requirements, and change requests.
  • We optimize for local efficiency (individuals, component, technology).
  • We just want to be “modern” and copy some terminology (tribes, squads, etc.).

Agile is for us if…

  • We are ready to build real self-organizing stable teams.
  • We are ready to form real cross-functional teams.
  • We are ready to build a partnership with customers and looking for feedback.
  • We are ready to focus on fast value delivery in a working product.
  • We are ready to optimize for adaptiveness, flexibility and change responsiveness.
  • We are ready to change our way of working to achieve some strategic goals and sustain the current complex world.

The first list is grounded in a misunderstanding of what the Agile and Scrum is about and leads to “Dark Scrum”. The second implies a significant change of your approach, values, the way of work, simply the change of mindset. It’s up to you 🙂

Contracts in Agile and Scrum

One of the very common questions I got at my trainings is how to do agile contracts. In a traditional world where there is neither trust nor collaboration, the contract is the key. It must be detailed enough so we can defend ourselves or blame the other party. Agile is trying to change this contract game, heal the relationship and build a partnership.

In the agile world with high trust and transparency, I believe the traditional contracts shall be abandoned. They are not needed anymore. In my business, we exchange a couple of emails, have a call or scribe a few notes in a Google Doc to make sure we understand each other and collaborate. We treat each other as partners and share with high transparency and honesty that needs to be shared. On contrary, the more organizations spent effort with me on writing a formal contract, the less likely we did any business together. Not because I would make it difficult and argue with lawyers, I usually signed, but I guess they didn’t have the primary focus on the business.

On the other hand, Agile is not preventing you from using any contract at all, so everything starting from

“Fixed time, cost, and scope & you pay fee if you don’t deliver it this way”

to

“We want to work together as partners, help each other, be honest and transparent.”

can work. Though some contract will distract you from delivering value and other will help you with that. It’s always your choice. You can keep the status quo and contracts or change the mindset of not only yourself but your customer (including lawyers).

For some bigger software deliveries, we did frame contract with NDA, a general link to the way of working and tools to be used (Continuous Integration, Backlog management, etc.). Such contract pretty much said we keep certain standards. And that we collaborate to identify and deliver scope. Any details, content, and problems were discussed at the time they emerged.

In summary, my recommendation is to spend your valuable time on building relationship and partnership. Increase transparency, understand each other, collaborate. If you still feel you need to read more, read Agile Contract Primer or join Agile Prague 2018 Conference.

Emerging Trends in Agile

The world is changing in cycles, fashion goes in cycles, and the same is true for Agile. What was trendy yesterday, is not today and it can change surprisingly fast 🙂 So let’s have a look what are the new trends in Agile and what the Agile community is talking about:

Agile Leadership and Agile Organization

Agile OrganisationAgile is not just a set of practices how to write a good software, but it’s more and more used in every part of the organization. The traditional leadership (leader-follower model) is no longer acceptable in Agile environments. In the previous years, almost everybody focused on teams and how to adopt Agile, Scrum, and Kanban to the teams. But if we want to be successful at the organizational level, this is not enough. We need to push boundaries and help the whole organization to change. Hand in hand with that, we need to grow Agile leaders and support Agile leadership which is the critical key to the organizational success with Agile.

Agile out of IT

As it was already mentioned, for real success, it’s important to change the whole organization into Agile. The common practice is to change IT department and leave it as isolated island inside the traditional organization. But this is just the beginning. The company has to follow the same culture and the same style of the working, so you hear more and more about Agile in HR and talent management, Agile finances, Agile marketing etc.

Business Agility

Finally, there is a term of Business Agility which brings back the real value of Agile. Agile was never meant to be development process of your IT. It was supposed to be business value driven. It should bring the startup mindset back to the organizations, and look at the delivery from a business perspective.  Prioritize, deliver value in short cycles, get feedback, measure impact. This is the real Agile mindset.

If you are in Agile or do you plan to try and implement it focus on these topics because without it Agile become only an empty skeleton of practices and processes. Agile is organizational change, it changes the mindset, culture, leadership, and business focus. If you take it as such change, you are going to be successful with Agile.

Top 10 Agile conferences to attend in 2018

I travel & speak at many conferences each year. Here is my list of TOP 10 conferences for 2018:

  • #1: Big Apple Scrum Day (New York, NY, USA) – May 11, 2018. Enthusiastic community, great space.
  • #2: Agile Prague Conference (Prague, Czech Republic) – September 10-11, 2018. An awesome program, collaborative atmosphere of open space format, good value for money.
  • #3: Business Agility 2018 Conference (New York, USA) March 14-15 2018. This conference has the most innovative format of all Agile conferences – three short industry experts’ talks are followed by facilitated conversation around tables.
  • #4: ACE! (Krakow, Poland) – May 17-18, 2018. Innovative form & great atmosphere.
  • #5: Agile Austria Conference 2018 (Graz, Austria) – May 17-18, 2018. Great place to meet & join Scrum Alliance DACH chapter – one of the most active Scrum communities.
  • #6: AgileEE (Kiev, Ukraine) – April 27-28, 2018. Interesting speakers and nice audience.
  • #7: SGLON – Global Scrum Gathering London 2018 (London, UK) – October 8-10, 2018. Talk to Scrum practitioners, join coaches clinic, get hands-on experience.
  • #8: Agile Testing Days (Potsdam, Germany) – November 12-16, 2018. Interesting keynote speakers, deep insights in testing.
  • #9: Agile 2018 (San Diego, CA, USA) – August 6-10, 2018. Top Agile conference for the size and speaker selection. It’s a huge event which is unfortunately very expensive.
  • #10: Lean and Agile ME Summit (Dubai, UAE) – March 10, 2018. Get warm in the middle of winter and enjoy the great list of speakers.

The selection is based on my personal preference and experiences from those events.

Other conferences to consider this year:

(Please share your suggestions with us and we add them to the following list.)

Latest State of Scrum Survey

The new State of Scrum Survey is out today. Together with some expected statistics, it brought also few interesting points and surprisingly also short success-stories from different industries for example application of Agile at psychological medicine center, Singapore’s Government Technology Agency, and Target.

Let’s have a look at Scrum from an executive perspective – executives value the most delivering value to the customer, flexibility, responsiveness, quality, transparency, schedule deadlines, visibility, and team engagement and satisfaction. Data shows that 85% people believe that Scrum improves the quality of life.

What do you need to consider adopting Scrum? Active senior management and support, alignment with strategic and financial goals of the company, participation of experienced trainers and coaches, and a clear set of business goals to be achieved. Not anything surprising for Agilists, but could be quite eye-opening to companies who see Scrum as only set of practices, roles, and meetings. But Scrum is more than that, right. It changes the whole organizations so it’s not surprising that over 50% of people identified that the biggest obstacle to adopt and scale Scrum is the organizational design and culture.

Finally, 81% respondents agree that certification improves practice, and 91% of organizations offer their employees some form of training. Certified ScrumMaster CSM is the most popular certification, selected by 84% of respondents, Certified Scrum Product Owner CSPO is the second most popular one, selected by 33% of respondents. Unfortunately, the Certified Agile Leadership CAL is not that known yet, but it’s growing 🙂 . So, don’t spend much time to find other certifications. Go for the real value 🙂

Give Christmas present to your ScrumMaster and leverage his/her knowledge

When I go around the Old Town in Prague I can feel the Christmas atmosphere – Huge Christmas tree is already decorated, a small market with gifts. The holiday season is here 🙂

#ScrumMasterWayIt’s a lot of tips everywhere what to buy as perfect Christmas gift to your husband, friends, children, parents. But I wasn’t able to find any tips for ScrumMaster gifts. So I decided to write some to make even ScrumMaster happier and leverage their knowledge.

There’s never enough knowledge and experiences. The first tip is to read a good book. I want to recommend my book The Great ScrumMaster: #ScrumMasterWay which is practically oriented, full of tips. It’s a field guide for every ScrumMaster, it got great feedbacks so I believe this book is a great gift. But let’s share more book tips – you can start with Essential Scrum from Kenneth Rubin which is the good starting point to understand the Scrum. If you want to move forward the next step is to get some coaching experiences. The Coaching Agile Teams from Lissa Adkins is the book you have to read. It’s great with a lot of knowledge from one of the best coaches I know. Another direction is scaling and a large project in huge organizations. The answer for scaling is LeSS – Large-Scale Scrum which is greatly described in the book Large-Scale Scrum: More with LeSS. If you are serious about scaling, this book is a must. Both authors Craig and Bas are excellent Scrum and LeSS trainers so it is worth to learn from them.

Prague - Old Town Square at Christmas timeIf you prefer a more entertaining way to get the knowledge you can join some training. It’s my second tip. Have you ever been in Prague? It’s one of the nicest cities in the world with charming Old Town, historical streets, Franz Kafka atmosphere, and a lot of good and cheap beer. So it’s a combo historical Prague & great party & awesome training. Take my Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) training explaining the #ScrumMasterWay concept and the way how to become the Great ScrumMaster. It will move your ScrumMaster knowledge to the next level! We also organize Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) class as well and the newest and most demanding CAL1 – Certified Agile Leadership class. Don’t wait and make this holiday & learning happen. Prague - Charles Bridge In addition to my already mentioned classes, you can join Certified LeSS Practitioner training with Jurgen De Smet who is regularly coming to Prague to enjoy the city and to deliver this great workshop. Check dates and availability here. Of course, you can join me at any place worldwide just check my Scrum Alliance profile or book private training for group of your ScrumMasters – team Christmas gift 🙂

Prague - Prague CastleMy last tip for ScrumMaster’s git is to attend the great conference. There’s a lot of great events I just want to mention two: Global Scrum Gatherings (in Minneapolis, USA in spring or London, UK in fall) or my favorite Agile Prague Conference 2018 (September 10-11, 2018) which is one of the best from Agile in Europe 🙂