Scaling Agile and Scrum

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 the Agile Manifesto. The agile community mostly agrees on both. As scaling increases the complexity, there is no common agreement on how to scale agile and scrum. The good news is that there are many frameworks to choose from. A broad menu of options, and in agile we love options and there is no one way how to do things. So far so good. 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 a bad option for given circumstances. Some companies go faster, some slower on their agile journey.

To give you a few examples:

If you have a totally fixed mindset, no collaboration, hierarchical organization, even frameworks like SaFe can be useful. You might not become agile using them, but at least you start moving and changing. As any SaFe implementation didn’t create any magical success, companies keep looking and sooner or later find a better way of working and scaling.

If you have limited experience with self-organization, but like to be modern, cool, aka agile, the Spotify so-called model is a good choice for you. All that awesome terminology of tribes, squads, and guilds makes the job and at least some parts experience a certain level of agility. And step by step, as your mindset becomes more agile you can move towards a more agile way of working and implement LeSS as ING recently did.

A super-simplified tagline for each framework:

SaFe (Scaled Agile Framework) is scaling ‘fake’ Scrum with traditional mindset practices. A good start if you are stuck and need to get moving no matter in the direction, or if all you need is a stamp that you are agile without any change of mindset. It’s easy to implement, and it’s safe as most of the roles are just renamed, not really changed.

Scrum@Scale is mentally very close to SaFe, no real change will happen at the organizational level which remains very hierarchical. Scrum at the team level is rather technical (it’s all about practices), ScrumMaster somewhere between team assistant and manager. At a glance, it looks agile, but the lack of understanding of the self-organization concept will eventually kill any good intent and implementations will fail to bring any expected results.

Spotify is not really a model, but an inspirational story. Nevertheless, ING makes it so popular so every other bank is applying it. The cool terminology helps to spread the message around, and there is a chance that by applying it companies learn what is this agile really about. It’s also a good opportunity to descale your organization a bit and remove several layers of traditional management in exchange for the more flat structure of the above-mentioned tribes and squads.

LeSS (Large-Scale Scrum) is Scrum. It’s the most agile way of how to scale. Similarly to Scrum, it’s simple to understand, hard to apply as you need to have courage, be ready to collaborate, increase transparency, remove silos, and redesign the organization. Do more with less. The good news is that it works. Don’t expect it to be a one-time change. Agile is a journey, and implementing LeSS is very agile so you are going to be on your journey for a while. You can get inspired by the case-studies.

Entire System – The World Dimension – The #ScrumMasterWay Concept

The world dimension of #ScrumMasterWay concept represents three levels ScrumMasters shall operate. The third element is called Entire System. Though the time and energy ScrumMasters spend on each level differ based on the team or organizational culture and maturity level, they have to be present at every level to keep an eye on changes. As organizations are complex systems, you can stay here forever. There is always some change which needs your attention, there is always a better way how we can do things, there is always a better way of work.

Level 3: Entire System

At this level, ScrumMasters shall look at the organization as a system, from ten thousand feet distance. Searching for organizational improvements. They shall become servant leaders, helping others to become leaders, grow communities, and heal relationships. Bring the Agile values to the organizational level. Address the system in its whole complexity and make it a self-organized network of great teams. At this stage, you can see your organization as a living organism. This living organism has one goal of which no one has doubts. This system takes experiments and learns from failures. The safety, transparency, and trust are deep in the system DNA. The culture value collaboration and trust which gives us an opportunity to come up with more innovative and creative ideas then hierarchical traditional structures.

#ScrumMasterWay - Entire System

You might feel you are done, you made it. Please celebrate, it’s a huge achievement. And then let me remind you, there is no end of your journey. The goal is to achieve the right mindset of inspect and adapt every day. Being Agile is the star on the horizon, you can never touch it, but in short iterations, you can get closer. That’s what Agile is all about.

If you are struggling about how to create such Agile organization and how to work at this Entire System level of #ScrumMasterWay concept, join my Certified Agile Leadership class (CAL) which we now offer as the only ones in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

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:

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.

Leadership

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.

Curiosity

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.

Learning

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.

Self-organization

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.

System

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.

 

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.

Over self-organized teams

Self organization is one of the key agile artefacts. It’s all about self-organization we tend to say. The team should decide. The idea is great. It says that people who are doing the work can solve 80% of their problems themselves. It also implies that the team itself in it’s mature stage can freely decide on their internal processes, meaning how they organize themselves to atchieve the given goal. There is nothing said about changing the goal, not even about changing the external arrangements (i.e. roles and responsibilities of people outside of the team). The self organization is supposed to come with responsibility in hand. It cannot exists without it. And it’s not any easy task. 

But every good idea can be misused and so more and more often we are observing over self organized teams who just don’t get it. Such team believes they can decide on anything you can imagine, the managers should not interfere, they are useless and not allowed to visit or even observe team meetings. They are redundant to their opinion. The same usually happen to the Product Owners who are surprisingly not anymore the ones who decide on priorities and functionalities. Sometimes the same happen to Scrum Mastes as well, who are for such team not any team members so they are not allowed to do anything either. Very strange situation indeed. Despite on how different such teams are, they have usually one thing in common. They believe they are doing great, but the rest of the organization should change. And becaus the “self-organization” they are trying to force them to do so. And where is the responsibility? No, no, no, it’s not ourfauls, theya re bad…

I have a couple examples. We have played our new Tulming Travel game a couple of times, and almost always someone from the team suggested they as a self organized team decide on priorities as they don’t like their Product Owner decision. And surprisingly to us, the rest of the team agree with the argument. Yes, that’s right, we are self organized so stop to tell us what shall we do. Second example is comming from real kind of startup company. We had a team of 7 developpers, one scrum master and one business & marketing team of 5 people including Product Owner doing research at markets at South America. They’ve been all located at one spot in Europe, the business team was quite matured, they know what they need and why, they’ve been willing to explain all that all over again to teh development team so they understand real customer needs. However, the team somewhere read there is a scrum and self organization and there was no force to stop them beleive they can decide on whatever. So they in the name of self organization changed basic Scrum pracsices, and pushed their business people and Product Owners away as they “don’t need” them to decide what to do. And in addition they did the same to their manager, as they are now Scrum so he is not allowed to tell them what to do anymore. There was no chance to stop them as they didn’t listen at all. They believed they are great despite they never delivered the Sprint Backlog.

The last example is from a corporation where they decide to bring fresh air into their agility. Their coaches got a generaly good idea I guess, that the managers should let the team to be self ogranized, but instead of starting at both team and management level, they pushed to the other side and forbid them to do anything with the team. They are not allowed to enter team meetings, coach, facilitate, give feedback, nothing. They are supposed to be “eavel managers” who are not capable enough to do their roles in agile world. For some it might be true, but there is huge number of others who are now struggling to do their job. And that’s not what we wanted to atchieve with self organization. We need mutual trust. Within a team, and otside i.e. to the manager as well. Otherwise there is no agile company and no self organization either. Just some group of small kids trying to shout to others without any purpose.