Keeping the Startup Mentality and Energy Alive

Startup-quote Agile Scout

One of the most satisfying opportunities that I have is the ability to work with startups and their limited resources. But what they might lack in finances, manpower, human capital, and even, at times, a plan they completely make up with energy, passion, and a belief that they can really make a difference and change the world.

They’re hungry and it’s entirely infectious – it’s the reason that I love to work with them constantly as well as working in my own environment of startups. The challenge is that most organizations quickly move out of their startup mentality and into their more “mature” phase and periods of growth. The large enterprises struggle with this even more and it’s a constant internal discussion that always revolves around this question:

Why aren’t we (can’t we) have that startup mentality that keeps us motivated and passionate?

The issue isn’t with the core philosophy of the business – it’s not even about the products, the services, or the core offerings and oftentimes it’s not even about the leadership. Sure, it can be all of those things and at times a combination of them are contributing to the sluggish mobility of the organization but the answer lies in the context of the team(s). Continue reading “Keeping the Startup Mentality and Energy Alive”

Certified ScrumMaster Course in the Netherlands, Den Haag + Go to Agile Testing Days!

peter-saddington-christmas
1 Week before Early Bird Price Ends! – LoL

Get the most from your trip to The Hague (Den Haag) and sign up for this exclusive opportunity to learn from an experienced Scrum Trainer and Consultant – Peter Saddington!

» Learn more about Peter Saddington

Become a Certified Scrum Master (CSM) in this hands-on training, full of scenarios, simulations and practical exercises.

Seating is limited, so sign up today!

Find more about Agile Testing Days Netherlands here! 

 

You are a Software Gardener

Agile Developer?
Agile Developer?

You are a Software Gardener.

Do you try to plan your gardens in such detail that you know where each leaf will be positioned before you plant a single seed? Do people expect estimates (or are they promises in your organisation?) on exactly how many flowers will have bloomed in one years time? Do you have a bonus tied to that? Things that would be perfectly reasonable to plan for a skyscraper seem a little ridiculous when you are talking about a garden.

You probably have a good idea of what your garden should look like a week into the future. You might even have a rough idea of the shape you expect it to be in a year from now. But you have no idea of where each branch, leaf, stem and flower will be a year from now, and if you say you do then you’re really only guessing.

If you were building a bridge or a skyscraper and you told me, before you began, that you knew exactly how it would look when it was finished – I would believe you. If you told me that you knew to some insane degree of accuracy how long it would take to get to ‘finished’ – I would believe you again. That’s how Engineers roll. Tell me the same thing about your garden and I’m gonna call bullshit. Tell me you are going to make it grow faster by hiring more gardeners and I’m gonna laugh at you.

Excerpt from Chris Aitchison.

The full read is in the link. I know this is an old post, but it’s worth reviewing.

[HT: Chris Aitchison]

Or... Agile Developer...
Or… Agile Developer…

Action & Influence of Atlanta, GA voted Best Training Company!

Train with the best Atlanta has to offer!
Train with the best Atlanta has to offer!

Super excited to announce that Action & Influence was voted Best Training Company in Atlanta, GA for 2013!

Not exactly sure how this happened, but we’re honored anyway 🙂

I definitely believe we work with the best trainers and coaches in the world. The reason behind our success is our conglomerate effort to help the world at work. To help companies reach the performance levels they desire, and to improve the lives of corporate citizens!

Here’s to a great 2014!

GE uses #LeanStartup – Makes Fridge

Eyes rolled and groans were muttered last night at the closing session of the first day of Eric Ries’ Lean Startup Conference. For the Monday finale, Ries brought four employees and executives from General Electric — yes, the giant bureaucratic corporation that makes your dishwashers and air conditioners — to talk about the company’s innovative endeavors.

Needless to say, entrepreneurs in the audience were skeptical. After all, many had joined the startup community to escape the death grip of corporate bureaucracy. What could General Electric, a 276.85b market cap company with approximately 305,000 employees in 106 countries globally, possibly teach the audience about startups?

The answer was “not much.” At least at the moment.

ge-lean-startup-fridge
The Lean Startup Fridge

General Electric says it has 100 products in the pipeline that have been created and tested using Eric Ries‘ popular Lean Startup method. But only one is ready to go into production right now, hitting 10 stores next week…

Stop the presses because, shocker: it’s a fridge. An all-metal fridge with no plastic on the inside, which apparently is super innovative and a bonkers experiment for the fridge industry.

#lol

Read the full story here.

Bullsh*t Bingo – Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)

safe-scaled-agile-framework-bullshit-bingo
I won!

Before each daily scrum, visit Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) Bingo and print one copy of this game card for each player,refreshing the page before each print, or have the players print their own bingo cards. These instructions will not be printed. You can also select an embeddable card only version of the game or a multiple card version of the game when playing on line, or with a smart phone.

Check off each block when you hear these words during the daily scrum. When you get five blocks horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, stand up and shout “Woo Woo!!“. Or play as a drinking game and for every block you mark off, take a sip, and finish your drink each time you get five blocks in a row.

This seriously gave me the LOLs!!!!!!!!!!

Find more Bullshit bingo cards here.

Action & Influence, Inc. Receives 2013 Best of Atlanta Award

Atlanta Award Program Honors the Achievement

ATLANTA December 3, 2013 — Action & Influence, Inc. has been selected for the 2013 Best of Atlanta Award in the Computer Training School category by the Atlanta Award Program.

Each year, the Atlanta Award Program identifies companies that we believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and our community. These exceptional companies help make the Atlanta area a great place to live, work and play.

Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choose the winners in each category. The 2013 Atlanta Award Program focuses on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the Atlanta Award Program and data provided by third parties.

About Atlanta Award Program

The Atlanta Award Program is an annual awards program honoring the achievements and accomplishments of local businesses throughout the Atlanta area. Recognition is given to those companies that have shown the ability to use their best practices and implemented programs to generate competitive advantages and long-term value.

The Atlanta Award Program was established to recognize the best of local businesses in our community. Our organization works exclusively with local business owners, trade groups, professional associations and other business advertising and marketing groups. Our mission is to recognize the small business community’s contributions to the U.S. economy.

SOURCE: Atlanta Award Program
FIND CLASSES IN ATLANTA: Certified ScrumMaster and Certified Scrum Product Owner Courses

CONTACT:
Atlanta Award Program
Email: PublicRelations@awardredemption.org

Donate to Wikipedia – Keep Information Free!

[Donate Here]

Dear Peter,

You are so fantastic. THANK YOU for supporting the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit that runs Wikipedia and its sister projects.

Your donation covers not only your own costs of using Wikipedia, but also the costs of other Wikipedia readers.

Like the retired farmer in upstate New York who’s using Wikipedia to study the science of sludge, and the student in Kuala Lumpur who’s researching organic chemistry. The British mechanic who, after he broke his back in an accident, used Wikipedia to retrain himself as a web developer. The civil servant in Finland who set up an offline version of Wikipedia for a small school in Ghana. And the father in Mexico City who takes his little daughters to the museum on weekends, and uses Wikipedia to help them understand everything they’re seeing there.

Wikipedia’s job is to bring the sum total of all human knowledge to everyone around the world in their own language. That’s a pretty audacious mission, but with 30 million articles and 287 languages, I’d say that thanks to you and people like you, we are getting there.

On behalf of the Wikimedia Foundation, and the half-a-billion other Wikipedia readers around the world: thank you. The fact that you are helping to pay the costs of running Wikipedia means it can stay ad-free and independent of bias, focused solely on helping its readers. Exactly as it should be.

You may have noticed that for the first time this year we’ve tweaked our fundraising so that most people will only see the banners a handful of times, instead of for weeks. That’s deliberate: we don’t want people to get irritated by too many appeals. But it does mean that fewer people will figure out we’re a non-profit, and that we want their help. So if you’re willing, I’d appreciate if you’d help spread the word by forwarding this e-mail to a few of your friends.

And I’d love if you’d try joining us in helping to write Wikipedia. Wikipedia’s written entirely by volunteers — tens of thousands of ordinary people around the world, exactly like us. If you see a typo or a small mistake on Wikipedia, please fix it. If you know anything worth adding, please add it. Some people find it remarkably satisfying, and maybe you will too.

Thank you again. I very much appreciate your trust in us, and I promise you: we will use your money carefully and well.

Thanks,
Sue

Sue Gardner
Executive Director,
Wikimedia Foundation
donate.wikimedia.org

Why Knowing Yourself Matters to You, and Your (Future) Employer

agile-coach-mentor-characteristics
Valuable Career Coaching, Mentoring, and Knowing Thyself

One of the things that I’m immensely passionate about is career coaching – I’ve been doing this for years and have been using tools like Team Science™ to help others navigate the murky waters of one’s personality and the “right” job fit. It’s an incredibly satisfying role that I play and the results can be incredible.

What’s discouraging and unfortunate is that most people never take the time to invest in their own “knowing” of themselves – they spend more time working on their skill sets or with their tools so as to boost their own marketability in the demanding and competitive landscape of the job market. There’s nothing wrong with becoming the best at Photoshop, Microsoft Excel, or MySQL database management unless those things really aren’t what you’re better and more naturally equipped to do. Continue reading “Why Knowing Yourself Matters to You, and Your (Future) Employer”

Agile Testing Days Netherlands – February 13, 2014

peter-saddington-agile-testing-day-netherlands-den-haag

Agile Testing Days 2014 in Den Haag, Netherlands is coming up, and I’ve been blessed enough to be part of the team of speakers.

The guys who put together these conferences are top notch. This will be my 4th event with them!

I love presenting to the people here in Europe. Awesome people. Lots to learn. What a great “job” we have!

Hope to see you there!

-ps

Using Content Marketing to Attract More Customers-Part 1

agile-social-media-build-traffic-content-trust

[As some of you know, we like to promote good ideas for other bloggers out there that are in the Agile space. We haven’t heard from Ed Hill, our resident SEO expert in a while. Good to see some stuff that is useful for Agile Bloggers!]

Content marketing is the development and distribution of relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire and engage consumers.

Content Marketing Builds Trust with Customers
Content Marketing Builds Trust with Customers

If you’re marketing your small to medium business, you’ve seen the frenzy over content marketing. Why is content marketing getting so much attention? Why is content so effective at building traffic and sales leads?

We’re going to quickly cover:

  • What content marketing can do for your business
  • Why it works to attract customers to your online business
  • What to write about
  • How to get started

Just in the last week I’ve seen several articles on major media sites like Search Engine World, Forbes and the Huffington Post. You can skip the Huffington opinion piece, which claims, “There is no formula”, while checking out Drew Hendricks coverage of useful content building tools in Tips For Building A Strong Content Marketing Plan For 2014 . While there is no formula for quality content marketing, there is a process that you can use for your content marketing. 

Because you’re focused on marketing a small or medium business, you may not have a large enough team or the time for the formal content strategy process. But you don’t want to start without planning. You can’t build traffic by randomly posting social media snippets and blog articles on topics that don’t matter to your customers. There is a happy balance between the two extremes. We’re going to walk through a quick and effective process that mixes some practices from content strategy and methods from search engine optimization. The goal here is to quickly deliver content that matters to your customer and helps fulfill your goals as a business.

Content creation is a powerful and effective marketing strategy to build web traffic and sales leads, but it’s also expensive in terms of time and effort. 

What Content Marketing Delivers for Your Business

  • Relevant content is ideal for building customer rapport and trust
  • Consistent content creation helps to form a relationship where customers learn how to solve their problems and come to rely on your business for trustworthy information
  • Reassuring content such as testimonials and reviews helps customers lose their fear of loss, which is a natural part of the buying cycle
  • Because content marketing seeks to answer customer questions and doubts it’s appropriate at almost every stage of the buying cycle
  • Content marketing is also a rich source of relevant content that search engines will favor with higher search engine visibility and increased natural search traffic
  • Building carefully crafted headlines for your content will also deliver social media content that is easy for readers to share

How Much Content Should We Build to See Improvement in Web Traffic and Sales

  • My experience with content building shows that 100 to 300 pages of new blog or website content is needed to see a substantial increase in web traffic and sales leads
  • Building 51 to 100 pages of content can generate 48% more traffic than web sites with less than 50 pages, according to the Hubspot Marketing Benchmarks from 7000 Businesses

When practiced consistently, I’ve seen content marketing deliver substantial increase in web traffic and sales. With an efficient team posting content on a daily basis and building and responding to your community of customers through social media, you could see traffic almost double as I did with my work for ApartmentGuide.com.

Why Does Content Marketing Work so Well?

When customers are seeking a solution to a problem or a product to fulfill a need they will typically gather information before buying anything that costs more than $100. The customer wants to strike a balance between the need to solve their problem and the fear of loss. The fear of loss occurs because the customer often does not know enough about what type of products can solve their problem or even how to find the best product to solve their problem. Especially when buying something they’ve never purchased before or when spending a large amount of money, the customer begins to fear that they will buy the wrong product, pay too much for the product or even buy a product that fails to solve their problem.

Content marketing eliminates the customers fear of loss by giving them enough information to understand:

  • what types of products are available to solve their problem
  • how to judge if a product is suitable for what they need
  • how to compare competing products
  • how to judge if the price is fair for the value offered
  • how to use the product to solve their problem
  • social proof content like reviews or testimonials can be especially reassuring to customers

In part 2 we’ll talk about how to research the types of content that matter to your customers and then how to start the content marketing process.

Leadership is Stewardship

northpoint-be-rich-campaignOne of my personal living heros is Andy Stanley, the pastor of North Point Community Church who I’ve heard speak about leadership and stewardship many times.

One of my most favorite quotes of his in regard to this idea is the following:

Leadership is stewardship, it’s temporary and you’re accountable.

I love this dynamic because it brings to light two valuable points that we all must take notice of, especially if you are in fact in positions of leadership.

The first point is that it’s very temporary – no one lasts forever as a leader within their organization and role. Things change, times change, and very quickly organizations need to drop the old and bring in the new. Oftentimes this means bringing in younger talent to replace and continue to build the momentum of the business.

Sometimes this truth can be very difficult for some to fully grasp and admit – that there will be a time when they will have to give up their role as a leader, their title, and their position for fresher and more able hands. Many of us, unfortunately, have experienced this in the context of bad leadership and a leader who refused to give up their seat at the top because of their ego, pride, and selfishness. The fallout, naturally, was just as negative.

The second point is closely tied to the first and is just as overlooked as the first as well. The idea is that you’re simply responsible for the time you have as a leader and that your actions and leadership will direct the course of the business and many people’s lives – that’s a big responsibility and burden!

It’s a good burden to bear but it’s not one that all leaders are aware of and/or cognizant of enough – that their actions, words, and thought-patterns really do matter and that it is in their best interest to consider their time in leadership of the utmost importance. Combine this with the fact that it’s temporary and it means that you really don’t have much time to lose – you must create significant impact while you are there or your time will appear, historically, as just another blip on the radar and you’ll be forgotten as just another guy who sat at the end of the table for a time.

No one wants to be remembered that way – we all must make the necessary and right decisions to lead our teams and organizations well, create the value that they need to be highly productive, and give them the tools to make that happen.

Leadership is less about telling others what to do (in fact it’s rarely that at all) and more about giving them the right and privilege to speak into their own roles and responsibilities with freedom and joy. Out of this enjoyment comes extreme productivity and value.

Healthcare.gov – A Great Example of Failing… without Agile

mckinsey-review-healthcare.gov

This is a story of contrast between two popular methods of software development. One is called “waterfall,” the other, “agile.”

Waterfall development favors listing a huge set of requirements for a system up front, letting developers go away for months (if not longer) and expecting a huge software product in the end.

The agile method does the opposite, favoring work done in phases, delivering “minimum shippable” parts of a software system in weekly or biweekly cycles. This allows for iterating — or adjusting to hiccups discovered in the previous cycle, changing features or quashing bugs quickly and avoiding getting an end product that doesn’t look a thing like what your users need.

Like many government projects, HealthCare.gov was developed under the waterfall approach — and to its near doom.

The key findings in the presentation found here come on Page 5. Even though it was written in March, the slide sums up most of the key problems we eventually saw with the rollout of HealthCare.gov last month: limited testing time, evolving requirements, over-reliance on contractors and “stacking” of all the phases of development. The really damaging decision, according to the consultants: launching “at scale.”

Find the full story here, and the slides here.

[HT: NPR]

Dysfunctional Retrospective via Chat

All names changed to protect the… … innocent… [WARNING – LANGUAGE]

(10/11/2013 16:15:58) xxx: that was pretty much going to be my argument
(10/11/2013 16:16:24) xxx: let go of the old sh*t. Join the group doing scrum over here you cranky tw*t
(10/11/2013 16:16:31) bbb: I don’t have nice things to say about DDD.
(10/11/2013 16:16:43) aaa: really??
(10/11/2013 16:16:44) xxx: this is my first run in with him
(10/11/2013 16:16:47) bbb: he’s the 4-letter word GGG banned me from saying.
(10/11/2013 16:16:52) aaa: hadn’t noticed haha
(10/11/2013 16:17:06) aaa: hahaha he brings out the best in everyone it seems!
(10/11/2013 16:18:09) xxx: and maybe if he would just do the cases he needed to work on he wouldn’t feel quite as rushed
(10/11/2013 16:18:27) xxx: instead of grabbing sh*t from our queue
(10/11/2013 16:19:09) bbb: HHH is as useful as EEE.
(10/11/2013 16:19:29) aaa: who are both as useful as GGG
(10/11/2013 16:20:16) bbb: haha yeah
(10/15/2013 09:07:12) ccc: Well this is a clusterf*ck.

===

Yes, while I understand that sometimes teams need to be dispersed and all over the world… when (as a consultant), I’m privy to the dysfunctions of a current system… well… things need to be changed.

The saddest part about seeing this conversation happen is the fact that:

  1. These engineers are top notch
  2. They are great at what they do
  3. They have been put in positions where they can’t affect change
  4. They have been disenfranchised for a long time… some are near apathy

Dear Management,

Don’t do this.

-kthxbye

Top ScrumMaster + Scrum Product Owner Questions from Training – FAQ

scrum-alliance-challenges-donna-farmerScrum is easy to understand.

It can be the hardest thing to actually do.

Below are some of the most common questions we see in ScrumMaster and Scrum Product Owner courses.

Before you go through this, it may be very helpful to first understand the following:

Eventbrite - Certified ScrumMaster Course (CSM) in Atlanta, GA - Bring a Friend = iPad!
Eventbrite - Certified Scrum Product Owner Course (CSPO) - Get Certified in Atlanta, GA

FAQ on Most Common and Top Questions from ScrumMaster or Scrum Product Owner Training

How can Agile/Scrum be applied to Hardware or Solution projects?

Scrum Development doesn’t really work well in hardware development except in the aspects of hardware development that are done using software. Agile as a philosophy, though, works EVERYWHERE.

For example, the modeling and planning of the hardware can be done iteratively. The creation of simulation software (if applicable) can be done iteratively. Beyond this, however, much of hardware development is a task flow that must be followed and can be easily mapped out.

Scrum, however, can be used by people creating hardware. There’s still a Product Backlog. People can still commit to a certain amount of work in the Sprint. Daily Scrums can still be done to improve synchronization and communication.

Does Scrum conform to PMI standards? If so, how?

By definition, Scrum can’t confirm to PMI. PMI is a project management method. Scrum is a framework for managing people and workflow. It’s kinda like asking about the difference between apples and oranges. They’re just two different things. Not much else can be said.

What is a typical implementation of change from waterfall to Scrum?

  1. Start with understanding your culture. Period.
  2. Create a transition team to set vision, milestones, goals.
  3. Pick a pilot project —OR — a piece of a larger project
  4. Provide the proper training for the proper personnel
  5. Run several Sprints — adjust as needed
  6. Evaluate your results, adjust as needed
  7. Move on to a larger group (e.g., another product development group) and repeat steps 3-6.

In Agile/Scrum, how do we deal with people working across multiple projects in parallel?

Well, pretty much the same as you do now. The detrimental impact to your projects before Agile/Scrum will still be there after. Working on projects in parallel is not an issue of development method. This is not a question of looking for the development method that WILL allow you to work on multiple projects at the same time. The answer we’re looking for is to find a way to work on one project at a time in such a way that all projects get done faster and with higher quality.

How many Scrum teams can a Scrum Master realistically run?

That has everything to do with the ScrumMaster, the teams, and the product. Experienced teams don’t need ScrumMasters as much. Experienced ScrumMasters can work with more teams efficiently. Difficult products can make both teams and ScrumMasters work harder to accomplish the same thing. In my experience, I’ve never seen a ScrumMaster work with more than three teams at one time (and not very successfully).

Driving efficient and simple solutions in Sprints – can Scrum design and work complex solutions effectively?

I frequently hear concern that Agile Development can handle complex problems because it doesn’t try to solve the entire thing up front before building it. The reality that I’ve experienced shows that complex problems cannot be solved in detail up front because there are too many variables and too many assumptions made about the complex problem when working out a solution. Thus, we end up spending a bunch of time up front to build a solution that ends up changing in large ways during the development effort. Agile Development, on the other hand, encourages looking at a complex problem at a high level and then solving the parts one at a time. Does this mean that Agile Development might make some mistakes in solution during the development effort? No. However, because you will spend so much less time up-front trying to create a solution, you will have some time during development to build a solution and even some time to make mistakes.

So, Agile Development solves complex problems “efficiently,” if not “effectively.”

Role of wikis or collaboration tools in Scrum?

Can be useful in allowing Scrum teams that are non-co-located to communicate. They don’t replace face-to-face communication, however, and should not be used as a complete replacement.

Where does Scrum track risks and major impediments?

Impediments are generally tracked, per Scrum, in the organizational or team impediment list. Beyond Scrum, project risks are generally handled in some form of project risk tracker or document. Backlog related risks are handled within each backlog item in the form of notes and other documentation and in larger story point estimates to account for the impact of the risk.

Does Scrum state that teams must use User Stories or are Use Cases acceptable as well?

Scrum does not make any assumption about the construction of a Product Backlog item (PBI). It can be anything from a task, to a feature, to a scenario, to a defect ID.

How to handle high priority fires/opportunities in the middle of a Sprint?

Per Scrum, high priority fires (defects) may pass directly into the Sprint. The team should address the defect and then determine the impact to their commitment to the Product Owner and adjust accordingly. Per Scrum, high priority opportunities either wait until the next Sprint or cause an injection of change so that a new Sprint can be planned around the high priority. In reality, teams and Product Owners will often remove a lower priority PBI in favor of a new, high priority PBI (the catch is to remember to solve and plan the new PBI — that’s why Scrum measures the change, to force the replan and conversation that must take place when (not if) change happens).

Are key decisions in Scrum tracked in non-functional requirements & stories?

That depends on the nature of the decision. Decisions that affect NFRs are frequently captured in PBIs or as a separate part of the DONEness definition.

When do you do functional testing, performance testing, volume testing, ADA testings, and deployments to test environments?

As often as possible. Daily if you can (which means that the testing needs to be automated). Deployments to test environments are completely dependent on your frequency of testing. Deferring testing creates technical debt.

At what point do you plan for the next Sprint since planning will take away team time from the current Sprint?

Yes, its true that planning takes time away from building, but we have to do it anyway, so NOT doing it isn’t the solution (nor is only having certain individuals do the planning — that just takes your developers out of the loop at a critical juncture). I use backlog grooming workshops scheduled for 60-90 minutes once or twice a week to allow the team to discuss what’s coming up in the next Sprint (and get it ready for solving). This allows the team to think about what’s next without being interrupted too often to do it. Teams that do this can accomplish more and more preparation in less and less time. Then, when Sprint Planning comes along, we spend the proper amount of time (1 day for a 4 week Sprint, 1/2 day for a 2 week Sprint) doing an effective job of planning because the PBIs are now nice and small and everyone understands much of the functional requirement of the PBI.

Any pointers to good books or websites about QA within Scrum?

Lisa Crispin, Brian Marick, Janet Gregory. Lisa and Janet have a good book out there called, Agile Testing: A Practical Guide for Testers and Agile Teams.

In your experience, what techniques have you used to recognize top performers? Is it recommended?

This is a loaded question at best. Scrum is all about teams and teamwork. Going out of your way to identify individuals could hurt those who are really trying, but aren’t the ones recognized. I think the question you have to ask yourself is, “why are you looking for top performers?” What is it you want to do? Do you want to recognize them for high performance? Yes? But why would you want to do that in an organization that is looking for high performing teams, not high performing individuals. See, the trap you can easily fall into is the setting of individual performance over that of your team. This is counter-productive. Individuals that have their eyes set on that particular trophy start setting their own agenda and worry less about their teammates.

If you want to recognize high performers, make it a peer-recognition. Let the team members identify that one person who really made it happen, but don’t get carried away with the award. Make it a lunch, honoring the individual. Something relatively small in cost.

The real awards should be based around high performing teams.

Should team members provide estimates on tasks they have no or limited expertise with?

They should be involved in the discussion, even if they can’t provide a realistic estimate.

What metrics are generally used to assess a ScrumMaster’s performance?

I can’t speak to “generally used,” but I can tell you how I would do it as a 23-year manager. When you are trying to evaluate an employee’s performance (not something I recommend getting carried away with — performance evaluation should be part of the normal coaching, not part of the compensation package), I look at it in terms of the roles that the individual plays. For example, a ScrumMaster can be described as:

  1. ScrumMaster
  2. Scrum Team Member
  3. Software Engineer (or perhaps, Software Analyst, Systems Analyst, etc.)
  4. Individual – career aspirations, goals
  5. Employee

Now, what are this individual’s responsibilities with regard to each role?

  1. ScrumMaster – e.g., Keep the team fully functional and productive. Did she do that? How does the team see it?
  2. Scrum Team Member — e.g., Stay focused, get PBIs to DONE. Did she help with that? How? How does the team see it?
  3. Software Engineer – e.g., learn new techniques, stay technically current, etc. Did she do that? How? How does the team see it?
  4. Individual — e.g., is she trying to achieve a new role? Was there something specific she wanted to do this year? Did she do it? Was she effective?
  5. Employee – e.g., did she follow company policies? Is she a contributing member of the organization? How? How does the organization see it?

If you do what most organizations do and claim this is linked to compensation, you will likely garner excessive disappointment when compensation and salary grades do not truly line up with the level of the performance offered by the employee. Instead, we need to keep our focus simply on being the best that we can be and profiting from the organization’s success in whatever way the organization can realistically afford to do so. The organization that skimps on sharing their success will end up with people who aren’t interested in success, just employment. The organization that shares their success with their employees ends up with people banging on their doors trying to get in. These are two separate issues and should be kept that way.

How to project a final product picture to customer if the project requirements keep changing?

The question answers itself. If the requirements keep changing, the final product picture will change as well. The best you can do is base your picture on what you know and change it as the product requirements change. If your customer is the one suggesting the changes, that should be enough.

If a team is running well with no obstacles, does the ScrumMaster run out of things to do?

Unlikely. Even with everything is beautiful for the team, there’s still the organizational impediment list that needs to be addressed. Beyond that, there’s the question, “Can my team’s performance be raised? How?”

FAQ on Career Path of Scrum Product Owners for Management

complex-product-backlog-product-ownerAs Agile and Scrum grows deeper into the market it is valuable for Management to communicate the rewarding and desirable career path that a Scrum Product Owner can have… even beyond just leading single Scrum Product Teams.

Before you go through this, it may be very helpful to first understand the following:

Eventbrite - Certified Scrum Product Owner Course (CSPO) - Get Certified in Atlanta, GA

Career Paths for Scrum Product Owners

Q. Are there multiple types of PO?  If so how are they different and how do they work together?

A. See earlier questions under “Product Owner Role & Organization” that describe how Release Product Owner and team Product Owner roles work as a team with a “single voice” on priority and acceptance decisions.

Q. What are possible steps in Product Owner career path?

A. A PO may start out working as part of a PO team as team Product Owner, or they may begin as PO for a single team product.

  1. Product Owner I – Trained Entry Level Product Owner
  2. Product Owner II – Experienced w/ Continuing Ed (From Score Card requires 12 months)
  3. Senior Product Owner – Release PO responsibilities for a major product; typically leading a PO team and/or working with multiple Scrum Teams. Should be both trained and experienced and meet continuing education requirements. 3-5 years combined program management, Agile/Scrum, and Product Owner experience.
  4. Principal Product Owner – TBD.  5-8 years combined project, program, Agile/Scrum, and Product Owner experience.

Q. What is difference in job title for RPO vs team PO roles?

A.  See Career path steps above

Q. What is the next step in the Career Path for a product owner? Is it to Product Management?

Q. What are some possible stepping off points into other jobs or roles?

A. Product Owners could potentially transition either to or from Development Management or Product Management. There are multiple paths to and from a Product Owner position. It could also be back to a prior contributor job or another professional position, or leadership role.

Q. What qualifies as continuing education and who needs to approve it?

A. Example Continuing Education Activities include:

  • Internal, onsite, or public Agile training classes
  • Agile topic meetings at local professional organizations
  • Agile workshops and seminars
  • National or International Agile software development conferences such as Agile 20xx

Management has budget approval of the individual’s costs for attending continuing education. The company’s Director, Agile Methods publishes guidelines for qualified continuing education activities and may review and revise these from time to time with input from Scrum Masters and management.

Q. What professional certifications are applicable to a Product Owner?

A. The Scrum Alliance offers one level of certification:

Q. Should the company support and pay for people to be certified?

A. Not necessarily, the company will pay for Product Owners to maintain membership and certification for approved professional organizations, but not necessarily to obtain CSPO certification.

Q. Is Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) required to become and serve as a Product Owner?

A. No, Certification is not required for Product Owners but CSPO or equivalent training is.  See “What training is required…” question below under Inputs section.

Q. How is the pay scale determined for a Product Owner?

A. HR should determine market value for common industry jobs that are similar to product owner responsibilities

Q. What recognition and reward do I receive as a Product Owner?

A. Compensation and recognition for Product Owner position should reflect the level of responsibility and market value.

Inputs

Q. Who is eligible to become a Product Owner?

Q. Who selects / approves Product Owner candidates?

A. Development Executives will ultimately determine who is eligible based on their confidence in an individual’s leadership abilities for Product Owners. Key stakeholders such as Product Managers should be involved in selection.

Q. Where would candidate Product Owners come from?

A. May come from BA’s, Developers, Development Manager, Product Manager, Project Managers etc. where Some have more industry experience and some have more technical experience.

Q. How does someone start out? What training or accreditation is a prerequisite?

Q. What training is required to become a Product Owner?

A. CSPO training or equivalent is required.  This may be satisfied by The company on-site courses taught following a CSPO based material, or by completing Certified ScrumMaster training plus one day of internal The company Product Owner training.

Q. Why should managers encourage their most qualified people to consider the Product Owner role?

A. For people who are seeking a challenging leadership growth opportunity this is a good opportunity for development. Product development quality and effectiveness is highly dependent on product owners to drive requirements through completion and is therefore a critical role for succeeding with Scrum.

Exits

Q. What are my options when I no longer want to be a PO?

A. See Pathways above, “There are multiple paths to and from a Product Owner position. It could also be back to a prior contributor job or another professional position, or leadership role.”

Good questions to pursue through training, self directed learning, and continuing education:

Q. How should product owners get input from stakeholders?

Q. How do product owners work across products to see that functionality syncs up & integrates properly?

Q. How do you blend customer commitments with feature work?

Q. How do management stakeholders get input into the backlog?

Q. How do PO’s work with UX/UI?

Q. How does the Product Owner engage with the UI/UX Teams on Customer Needs & Requirements?

Q. How does a PO develop acceptance criteria?

Q. How do Product Owners work across products together, especially if work done in different sprints for different teams?

Q. Are Product Owners focused on the current release, future releases, gathering customer feedback, etc?  Is that multi-tasking successful?

Q. Are there tasks Product Owners do today that would be better suited for a separate role such as Business Analyst or usability lead?

Q. How do you blend customer commitments with feature work? (Item we already had…suggestion was to include ‘and technical debt’.

Q. How does product owner deal with individual performance as an impediment?

Q. How does Scrum team give input to PO?

Q. What should a scrum team do if their PO is not fulfilling their part of the deal?

Agile Testing Days 2013 – Pure Joy @agiletd

2013.10.29-agile-testing-days-2013-2 2013.10.29-agile-testing-days-2013

It is 110% complete joy that I’m filled with whenever I come to Berlin to speak at this conference. I spoke in Berlin at Agile Dev Practices earlier this year and it was an honor to come back.

What is so unique about this conference is that in many regards it’s like returning to a family. Great people. Wonderful conversation. Unique venue. Awesome talks.

I’m already looking forward to seeing many of these people again… and we’re not even done yet!

What agile brings is a great culture of people. A community. If, for no other reason, the value of Agile is it’s vast community of caring people. What else matters?

FAQ on Most Common Product Owner Questions for Management

complex-product-backlog-product-ownerAs Agile and Scrum grows deeper into the market it is valuable for Management to communicate the rewarding and desirable career path that a Scrum Product Owner can have… even beyond just leading single Scrum Product Teams.

Before you go through this, it may be very helpful to first understand the following:

Eventbrite - Certified Scrum Product Owner Course (CSPO) - Get Certified in Atlanta, GA

Frequently Asked Questions on the Product Owner Role & Organization

Q. What is the Product Owner Role?

A. Product Owner is one of the key roles in Scrum that acts as the “single voice” for priority and acceptance of what to work on for a Scrum Development Team

Q. What is a Product Owner responsible for?

  1. Creates and Maintains the Product Backlog showing visible progress towards forecast results
  2. Prioritizes and sequences the Backlog according to business value as expressed by roadmap and stakeholder needs
  3. Prepares for each sprint and release planning session by working with team to elaborate Feature Stories into Minimal Marketable Features that deliver increments of value and User Stories that are appropriately sized for each sprint.
  4. Conveys the Vision and Goals at the beginning of every Release and Sprint.
  5. Represents customer and stakeholder interests. Engages and solicits their feedback to validate priorities and compromises.
  6. Participates in daily standup Scrums, Sprint Planning Meetings, Sprint Reviews, and Retrospectives.
  7. Accepts User Stories during the sprint to confirm implementation meets intent of acceptance criteria.
  8. Re-negotiates Sprint priorities and commitment when team communicates new discoveries that impact size or value of work.
  9. Communicates status to stakeholders including use of Visible Product Backlog for forecasting release content and dates.

Q. What is definition of Release PO versus Feature PO?

A. When a Scrum Product Team includes more than 2 Scrum Teams we have found that it’s more than one Product Owner can handle. In this case we suggest adding a Release Product Owner as a Product Owner Team lead.  The PO team covers all the responsibilities and activities of a Product Owner divided into RPO and team PO roles. 

Release Product Owner leads the PO team and is first and foremost responsible that the PO team presents a Single Voice

  • Clear statement of vision, direction, release purpose and goals
  • Managing overall Product Backlog and publishing the Product Backlog
  • Show alignment w/ product roadmap
  • Getting stakeholder buy-in on Product Backlog
  • Prioritization of Product Backlog
  • Prepare appropriate Product Backlog to drive release planning
  • Ongoing release plan forecasting
  • Deployment & release readiness checklist
  • Market launch split out to PM

Team Product Owner (or just PO) is a member of the Scrum Team responsible for working with the team from sprint to sprint and grooming the breakdown of Features into sprint sized User Stories so that they are prepared for Sprint Planning

  • Prioritize user stories to drive Sprint Planning
  • Acceptance criteria of stories in sprint
  • Day to day available to team for conversations about stories in sprint
  • Accepting stories in sprint

Q. When do we need this distinction versus having a single PO for smaller product teams?

A. Any time we have more than one PO assigned to a Scrum Product Team.

In some cases the RPO may also act as team PO for one of the Scrum Teams with assistance from additional team PO’s on other Scrum Teams.

Note that we recognize there is overhead incurred by introducing a layer with a Release PO as well as the team POs but have found it is worth it to avoid spreading a PO too thin across more than two Scrum Teams.

Q. If a product has a single PO are they also the RPO?

A. In as sense, Yes. When there is a single PO for a product they span the responsibilities of both RPO and team PO.

Q. Is the product owner a member of the Scrum Team?

A. Yes, Product Owners are considered to be a member of the Scrum Team.  See the definitions for “Scrum Team” and “Scrum Development Team” above.

Each Scrum Team should have a single Product Owner responsible for prioritizing work items for the Sprint backlog along with the corresponding acceptance criteria.  A Product Owner may be a member of up to 2 Scrum Teams. Conversely, each Scrum Team will have a single Product Owner as their input for what work to work on.

Q. Who is responsible for staffing the Product Owner role?

A. Product development quality and effectiveness is highly dependent on product owners to drive requirements through completion. Therefore, development management is responsible to staff a sufficient number of qualified Product Owners to satisfy the needs of each Scrum Team.

Q. Who should Product Owners report to?

A. Leadership over product lines and those who can help influence changes in products depending on market/client needs.

Q. What department should Product Owners report to?

A. Often this is business, and can look like the Product Management Group, sales, or even marketing.

Q. What reporting structure should Product Owners follow?

A. Release level Product Owners should report at an equivalent level to their development management peers. If the development manager(s) for people on the team(s) the PO works with report at Director or VP level, then the PO should report at the same level. Regardless of reporting structure, development management must have the authority to address any impediments. The preferred approach is for people acting as Release Product Owners to report into the Product Development organizational structure.

Q. Who should team Product Owners report to?

A. Team level Product Owners should report into the same department as their RPO.

Q. PO Role vs. full time position?

A. Full time role. It’s one of the most important and can easily take up 100% of their time to do it right.

Q. Is Product Owner a job title or a role that someone with an existing job title fills?

A. To be a release level Product Owner is a full time job that includes coordinating with stakeholders and managing dependencies in addition to working closely with the development team.

Q. Is team PO a full time job?

A. Yes, a team PO is also a full time job dedicated to success of their Scrum Team(s)

Q. How much time should a person expect to spend on Product Owner activities?

A. Full time job for both RPO and team PO’s.

Q. How many Scrum teams would we expect a full time Product Owner to handle?

A. A Product Owner should have no more than two Scrum Teams.

Q. Can one person be a PO for multiple products?

A. Not recommended

Q. Handling “Part Time Product Owners”?

A. Not recommended

Q. Handling “Distant Product Owners”?

A. PO’s assigned to teams should be co-located or at least be in a compatible time zone with their Scrum Team

Q. What is value of technical product owner versus a business focused product owner (and vice-versa)?

A. While in practice we recognize that people come to the PO role with different strengths, we don’t distinguish in the PO role based on their background; these are not recognized types of PO’s.

Q. If you are Product Owner what title would you have?

A.  Product Owner, (we’ll cover career paths next)

Q. What is common industry job title for product owner responsibilities?

A. Some typical job titles used in software development include: Program Manager, Technical Program Manager, Technical Product Manager, Product Analyst, or Product Owner

Q. What are the “lines” between the different roles, where does one stop and the next role start – PM/PO, PO/Business Analyst

A. Product Managers are responsible for a product roadmap that is detailed and aligned to corporate strategy. Product Owner is responsible for ensuring their product backlog is aligned to the roadmap.

Q. How much customer interaction is expected from a Product Owner? How is their interaction different from Product Managers?

A. Product Owners communicate with customers in a listening role to share backlog and results for checking understanding, and in order to solicit feedback. Sales and account management calls should be minimized, and are not considered a primary responsibility for the Product Owner role.

Product Managers communicates externally and across the company. Product Managers are responsible for the market message and communicating commitments and promises to customers.

Q. Where is management support to product owner role & backing their decisions?

A. In addition to coaching and budgeting for professional development and skill building activities management should:

  • Provide feedback on product backlog content, priorities, and dates with clear purpose
  • Support acceptance decisions the PO makes during each sprint
  • Management will route all work for teams through product owner to support single voice for work priorities
  • Manage consistent and qualified staffing for teams from sprint to sprint with minimal changes throughout a release
  • Key Stakeholders will provide clear direction on prioritizing to achieve corporate strategy and product management objectives shown in product roadmaps
  • Development Executives will support the PO in helping Key Stakeholders to understand and accept the necessity for making tradeoff decisions on dates and/or feature content consistent with actual team capacity

Q. Who are PO’s are accountable to?

A. Product Owners are accountable to the Key Stakeholders who make the financial commitments:

  • Business Unit President
  • CTO
  • Product Manager

Product Owners negotiate agreement to backlog priorities with these Key Stakeholders and keep them informed of any significant impacts or deviations from forecasts.

Q. What defines success for a for a product owner?

A. Profitable products and satisfied customers.

  • Product releases deliver great value as perceived by customers and stakeholders
  • Balances feature delivery with sustainable software development
  • Stakeholder and team members understand rationale for prioritization and forecasting is visible and transparent
  • There are no surprises on progress, feature content and dates, or priority changes made along the way
  • Scrum Team members feel meaningful accomplishment from delivering “winning” features
  • Continuously learning and improving use of agile principles and practices
  • Deliver a product that is aligned with the roadmap

Product Owner Competencies

Q. What are the qualifications to become a Product Owner?

Q. What levels of experience would they have?

Q. What ‘behavioral skills’ would they demonstrate?

A. The following Starting Competencies are needed to become a Product Owner:

  • Relevant background
    • Industry and/or application domain knowledge
    • Or experience in some parallel or related business field
    • Experienced in customer interactions
    • Excellent listening, verbal and written communication skills
    • Negotiation skills with ability to compromise and balance tradeoffs among multiple interests
    • Proven leadership and decision making
    • Professional presentation skills
    • Familiar with Agile and Scrum principles and practices

Q. What skills and experience do I gain as a Product Owner?

Q. What are the skills we need in a Product Owner?  Must those skills be in one person?

Q. What competencies should a Product Owner demonstrate?

A. The following Performing Competencies are needed to do the Product Owner job well:

  • Subject matter expertise and sufficient market knowledge to understand customer wants and needs
  • Manage product backlogs with priority decisions that mitigate risk and maximize value while showing steady progress towards forecast results
    • Manages backlog content consistent with priorities agreed to with key stakeholders
    • Provides a visible forecast and notifies stakeholders of any significant changes in effort or risk
    • Create Feature and User Stories that represent “vertical slices” of value
    • Collaborates effectively with Scrum Master and Scrum Development Team
    • Engage both team and stakeholders to collaborate in release planning
    • Inspires commitment by communicating clear vision, direction, purpose, and goal for each release and sprint
    • Approachable and available to team members to answer detailed questions about requirements
    • Understand and represent the interests of customers and stakeholders such as: customer service, sales, development management, and executives
    • Engages and solicits their feedback to validate priorities and compromises
    • Constructive Conflict Resolution
    • Demand / assure accountability
    • Effective planning and forecasting in spite of the inevitable uncertainty and unknowns
    • Understands and applys Agile and Scrum principles and practices

Balances new feature delivery with high quality software while minimizing creation of additional technical debt for sustainable software development.

[Next we’ll cover Product Owner Career Paths]

FAQ on Career Paths of ScrumMasters for Management

scrummasters As Agile and Scrum grows deeper into the market it is valuable for Management to communicate the rewarding and desirable career path that a ScrumMaster can have… even beyond just leading single Scrum teams.

See our first post on ScrumMaster basic FAQ for Managers

Before you go through this, it may be very helpful to first understand the following:

Eventbrite - Certified ScrumMaster Course (CSM) in Atlanta, GA - Bring a Friend = iPad!

Frequently Asked Questions on the ScrumMaster Career Path

Pathways

Q. What are possible steps in ScrumMaster career path?

A. There is more than 1 step on a ScrumMaster path including:

  1. No title appended – Entry level working ScrumMaster with CSM training < 12 months experience
  2. ScrumMaster appended – Qualified working ScrumMaster with > 1 year experience plus 2 days of continuing education per year of experience (per Scrum Score Card)
  3. Senior ScrumMaster – Full time ScrumMaster position handling multiple teams, often also acts as ScrumMaster for a Scrum of Scrums.  Demonstrates learning additional knowledge and greater experience than #2. ScrumMaster
  4. Coach ScrumMaster – Full time ScrumMaster who is booked on a regular basis to coach and train other teams, sites, and/or groups.  Demonstrates additional coaching qualifications beyond #3. Senior ScrumMaster

Q. Does this career path include the Senior ScrumMaster?

A. Yes, but it’s not a necessary step to the Coach ScrumMaster level

Q. Do we need a different career path to get to be a Senior ScrumMaster?

A. No, that is one possible step on the ScrumMaster path

Q. How does this relate to other careers in Product Development?

A.  ScrumMaster may be an add-on role to another product development job such as Software Engineer and may be considered favorably for advancement to other positions such as management.

Q. What are some possible stepping off points into other jobs or roles?

A. Some possible stepping off points include other leadership roles such as a manager job or Product Owner role.  Someone may also choose not to continue as a ScrumMaster and continue to progress in their chosen position as a development contributor.

Q.  How does Certified Scrum Developer fit into ScrumMaster career path?

A.  CSD fits into Software Engineer Career Path rather than this ScrumMaster path.  It would be a definite plus for a Certified ScrumMaster who is also a programmer to become a Certified Scrum Developer.

Q. Does a ScrumMaster career path lead to a management position?

A. Maybe.  Excellence as a ScrumMaster requires good leadership and people skills which are also critical in a management role. The ScrumMaster career path has multiple possible outcomes and we don’t suggest that any of them indicates greater success than another outcome. One possible outcome is accepting the challenges of a management position instead of ScrumMaster.  Note that it is considered a conflict of interest for a ScrumMaster to at the same time hold a manager position.

Q. Will experience in a ScrumMaster role be a requirement for progress into Management?

A. No.  It’s not a necessary pre-requisite to management.

Inputs

Q. Who is eligible to become a ScrumMaster?

A. Really anyone. But look here for best ScrumMaster characteristics.

Q. Who selects / approves ScrumMaster candidates?

A. Development Managers will ultimately determine who is eligible based on their confidence in an individual’s leadership abilities and their enthusiasm for improving agile development. Our biggest concern first is always putting the right people on the right teams, including a ScrumMaster. We use Team Science to do this. Find out more here.

Q. Where would candidate ScrumMasters come from?

A. People can volunteer to be ScrumMasters or be nominated by management

  • Needs to be voluntary, even if Management suggests or nominates a person.
    • Individuals volunteer or express interest (manager can decline)
    • Managers can identify candidates with skills (individuals can decline)

Q. What levels of experience would they have?

A. ScrumMasters should have experience in a software development job such as programmer, tester, or business analyst.  Ideally they would already have some experience as a Scrum team member.

Q. What ‘behavioral skills’ would they demonstrate?

A. Some of the more important behavioral traits include:

  • leadership
  • good communication
  • good people skills
  • facilitation
  • organizational skills
  • conflict resolution
  • negotiation
  • courage
  • assertive
  • coaching

Q. How does someone start out? What training or accreditation is a prerequisite?

A. The first step on a ScrumMaster path requires CSM training and a 6 month commitment to serve as a ScrumMaster after management approval

Q. Why should managers encourage their most qualified people to consider the ScrumMaster role?

A. ScrumMaster is a crucial role for succeeding with Scrum. A highly qualified person who has both the respected technical skills and behavioral traits can raise the performance of the whole team in the ScrumMaster role.

Q. What about people who are trained and qualify as ScrumMasters but are not currently assigned to a team.

A. People may also be qualified and ready to serve but working as a regular team member until they are asked to serve as ScrumMaster on a new or different team.  Qualifications and “active reserve” status will be documented for backup ScrumMasters in the on-line list of company ScrumMasters.

Exits

Q. What will happen if I want to go back into the team?

A. It is OK for people to decide they don’t want to continue in the ScrumMaster role.  However, new ScrumMasters should commit to serving in the role for at least 6 months.

Q. Who “pulls” a ScrumMaster if they are unsuccessful in the role; team or management?

A. ScrumMasters need the trust and confidence of both management and their team.  ScrumMasters serve the team and a team can ask for a different ScrumMaster if the entire team agrees.

FAQ on Most Common ScrumMaster Questions for Management

scrummaster-retrospective-management-agileAs Agile and Scrum grows deeper into the market it is valuable for Management to communicate the rewarding and desirable career path that a ScrumMaster can have… even beyond just leading single Scrum teams.

Before you go through this, it may be very helpful to first understand the following:

Eventbrite - Certified ScrumMaster Course (CSM) in Atlanta, GA - Bring a Friend = iPad!

Frequently Asked Questions on the ScrumMaster Role

Q. Is ScrumMaster a job title or a role that someone with an existing job title fills?

A. It is first and foremost a role in Scrum but may also be used as a title where a person is filling that role for multiple teams and it becomes a full time job.

  • ScrumMaster is a role that may be appended to a regular job title

Such as: “Sr. Software Engineer – ScrumMaster”

  • And in the case of a “full time” ScrumMaster it may be their entire job title.  Such as: “ScrumMaster”

Q. Can it be a role and still have a career path?

A. Yes, today a typical “career path” at looks something like: I – associate, II – junior, III – senior. The ScrumMaster “path” looks more like steps or supplements added to other job title oriented career paths.  It may have options and branches rather than just a “ladder” with various levels.  A ScrumMaster could also start as backup for primary on a team.

Q. How do you add it to your tile on email, business card etc?

A. Yes ScrumMasters who meet the qualifications outlined for this career path may append “- ScrumMaster” to the regular job title.  They may also show CSM or other certifications from recognized professional organizations.

Q. What models for ScrumMaster and team should we consider?

A. Valid options for ScrumMaster working with a team include:

  1. Full time ScrumMaster who fills the role for one or two teams and/or Scrum of Scrums
  2. Part time working ScrumMaster added to responsibilities of functional job title (not ideal as a SM should be focused primarily on one team.

Q. Is a ScrumMaster on the team – are they considered a team member?

A. The ScrumMaster is a team member. They could contribute either as:

  1. A working member of the same team where they contribute work in addition to filling the ScrumMaster role. This is currently the predominant pattern at the company: “I like a ScrumMaster to be a working team member.  I believe it gives them better insight to the problems/impediments that exist and a closer relationship, which builds trust, with the team itself.”
  2. A facilitator on the Team.  This is the case for “full time” ScrumMasters, and it’s also possible they could fill the role for one team while working as a contributing member of another team. Note that some people suggest that this allows the ScrumMaster to be more objective and impartial in coaching the team.

Q. What is a ScrumMaster responsible for?

A. “While a ScrumMaster does not assume responsibility for the success of the project -that remains with the team – a ScrumMaster does assume responsibility for the team’s adoption of Scrum and practice of it.”

Q. How much time should a person expect to spend on ScrumMaster activities instead of primary job title activities?

A. A ScrumMaster should make this role their top priority to focus on benefits to the overall team. Their load will vary from sprint to sprint depending on what impediments and issues the team is dealing with. Newly formed teams typically take more ScrumMaster time; 50%-100%, while experienced ScrumMasters with established well functioning teams might spend 50% or less of their time on the ScrumMaster role.

Q. How many Scrum teams would we expect a full time ScrumMaster to handle?

A. One or at most two teams.  See question above about how much time.

Q. If you were a “full time” ScrumMaster what title would you have?

A. “ScrumMaster” when not appended to another title would mean that it is a full time responsibility.

Q. Would the title for a Scrum of Scrums ScrumMaster typically be a Project Manager?

A. Not necessarily.  Only if the person previously had Project Management qualifications and experience in which case they could have a “Project Manger – ScrumMaster” title, otherwise their title would just be “ScrumMaster”.

Q. What skills and experience do I gain?

A. ScrumMasters exercise and develop their leadership and interpersonal skills along with training and continuing education in scrum and agile development.

Q. What qualifies as continuing education and who needs to approve it?

A. Example Continuing Education Activities include:

  • Internal, onsite, or public Agile training classes
  • Agile topic meetings at local professional organizations
  • Agile workshops and seminars
  • National or International Agile software development conferences such as Agile 2010

Management has budget approval of the individual’s costs for attending continuing education. The company publishes guidelines for qualified continuing education activities and may review and revise these from time to time with input from ScrumMasters and management.

Q. What professional certifications are applicable to a ScrumMaster?

A. The Scrum Alliance offers several levels of certification:

  • Certified ScrumMaster CSM – required to serve as a ScrumMaster
    • 6 month commitment to serve as a ScrumMaster at the company
  • Certified Scrum Professional CSP – 3 year of experience to qualify
    • 12 month commitment to serve as a ScrumMaster
  • Certified Scrum Coach CSC – > 5 years of experience to qualify

Q. Should the company support and pay for people to become certified?

A. Yes, The company will support and pay for Scrum related certifications based on the ongoing commitment from the individual to apply the certified skills as outlined in the prior question on applicable certifications.

Q. How does this affect desire for certification in other jobs and roles?

A. In the future we should answer this question as we define career paths in other areas based on the value and relevance to each role or position.

Q. Is certification required?

A. CSM is required to become and serve as a ScrumMaster.  Additional Certification is not required but is supported and encouraged. Continuing education is required for active ScrumMasters to spend at least 2 days a year on improving their knowledge and skills for agile software development.

Q. Will the company pay for advanced certifications?

A. Yes, based on individuals continuing commitment to serve as ScrumMaster using the certified skills

Q. What recognition and reward do I receive?

A. Opportunities for recognition and reward include:

  • Recognition from management and team members
  • Extra Career Development & training opportunities
  • Participation in the company ScrumMaster Community
  • Resume building
  • Certification

Q. Should there be a financial reward for being a ScrumMaster?

A. Additional financial compensation for ScrumMasters who take on this role in addition to an existing job title may be appropriate to recognize the added commitment and responsibility expected from ScrumMasters. Development management and HR should consider their existing position and compensation to determine the appropriate amount.

Note opinions are split on this point. There is value in this to consider that; being a ScrumMaster “feels like a thankless job” and also to make the management’s commitment to the role more tangible.  The counter argument was “is this necessary?” This would be a plus but was not necessary.

[In our next section, we cover Career Paths]

Being an Agile Coach – Making Effective Decisions

change-ownership-agile-decisionsMAKING EFFECTIVE DECISIONS

Decision-Making is obviously one of the major functions of the Agile coaching process.

Myths of Decision-Making:

  1. The higher up the decision is made the better it is. So, if the President makes the decision it is obviously a better decision than a decision made by a Vice-President. This is not better because we will be moving back to centralization where one person dominates everything. Decisions tend to naturally go up the organizational chart eventually anyway.
  1. The longer we consider a decision the better the decision will be. This is not always the case. But decisions can grow stale and stagnate if dwelt upon too long. The more complex the issue, though, typically more time needs to be allotted… not to think… but to experiment!
  1. A good decision made late is better than a mediocre decision made early. A decision that will really benefit a team needs to be made early rather then last minute. Precious time is often wasted in the lollygag scenario. Time factors often dictate that a decision must be made. And even if the best decision is not made, at least a decision was made in time.

Causes of Ineffective Decision-Making:

  1. The lack of clearly-defined goals and objectives. People don’t act because they don’t know which direction to go. Decisions can’t be made to do things that haven’t been previously decided to do.
  1. Insecurity of position or authority. Decisions are postponed because the leader  is afraid of the possible consequences.
  1. Lack of information – no alternative seems clear OR all alternatives seem viable.
  1. Desire to retain the status quo or simple fear of change – there is comfort in the comfort zone. But still, because things change and the team needs to develop and change as the market changes.

The Problem-Solving Process of Decision-Making:

Decisions are made, typically, to solve problems:

  1. The orientation to the situation – we get familiar with the background of the problem. Analysis, experience, training, skill, and administrative intuition are helpful in determining the truth of the situation.
  1. The identification of key facts – we will never have all the facts but we can get the facts that truly identify the reality. Utilize effective questioning. We want to ask “open” questions that will give us information rather than a simple yes or no. Carefully sift through the information and deduce logically
  1. The identification of the major problems in the situation: Look for the causes of the effect that have been seen or demonstrated. Why are things happening the way they are? What caused this issue? Again, carefully sift through the information and deduce logically. Get insights from others who can give information from another perspective.

Often, the unique situation you are in requires you to do a lot more research and problems solving to help leaders make good decisions… At the end of the day though, I would suggest, always taking an empirical approach. Experimentation is key. The more you experiment… the more you can learn quickly!

Being an Agile Coach – Dealing with Conflict

conflict-agile-fingers-pointing

The word “conflict” tends to stir up emotions in corporate America. Few companies want to find themselves in conflict. Most employees will view conflict as a bad thing and something to be avoided at all costs. But some conflict can actually be healthy. The reality is that disagreements do not have to turn into fights. We can keep our differences in check if we have a few basic understandings regarding conflict. Conflict occurs when two or more people with mutually exclusive viewpoints attempt to solve a problem.

Two kinds of Conflict (healthy and unhealthy)

Conflict is unhealthy when it negatively impacts the company or team by hindering or limiting their ability to do productive work.

Conflict is healthy when the opposite occurs. When conflict is viewed and handled appropriately.

We know conflict is unhealthy when:

  • People no longer calculate their remarks to edify or change others. Instead, they plan their remarks (often unconsciously) to hurt, demean, defame, or even destroy another
  • People begin to question whether their relationships can weather the storm of difference
  • People feel rejected by those who were once considered friends
  • People feel they have no control and the odds are against them
  • The pain of the competition is greater than the exhilaration of the challenge
  • People make accusations, and it seems that “others” want to destroy or split relationships down the middle.
  • People use words that have violent connotations

Conflict is healthy when:

  • The people involved feel confident they can manage the differences
  • Those involved adhere to firmly to decision-making processes authorized by the team and working agreements of the company
  • People operate within the specifically stated, generally understood rules of appropriate behavior in the company
  • People cooperate in the process suggested by the leadership

Reactions to conflict

  • Conflict is wrong.

Some individuals believe that conflict is always wrong. The mindset is that people in a copmany should be in agreement and live in harmony. They become nervous when team members express differences of opinion. They “lovingly” try to encourage people into one opinion. The attitude does not acknowledge that legitimate differences can exist among different people.

  • Conflict is an opportunity to exercise power.

Some people view any discussion as debate and any issue as a time to win at any cost. These people get their thrills in the competition of the moment. Winning the issue is oftentimes far more important than the issue itself.

  • Apathy (this doesn’t involve me)

Some people do not care much about the outcome of the issues involved. The apathetic spirit comes from several sources including burnout, fatigue, stress, a defeated spirit, or a different set of priorities.

  • Personal affect (this does involve me)

Some people do have a considerable stake in the outcome. These often include the leader, staff, board members, managers, and other directly involved individuals. People often believe that the outcome will affect their reputation and/or their feelings of self-worth. Oftentimes the emotional involvement clouds an individual’s reasoning and judgment surrounding an issue.

  • Conflict might split a company

Some people become nervous when any disagreement occurs in a company or team because they believe it will divide the team needlessly. These individuals many have vulnerable feelings left from past conflict that was handled in a hurtful way. Whatever the reason, they tend to sweep all controversial issues under the rug and hope they go away. They would rather stay in a bad situation than risk the unknown.

Responses to Conflict Continue reading “Being an Agile Coach – Dealing with Conflict”

Dallas Scrum Meetup – October 9 – Come for Free Loot (and some fun)!

team-science-company-exampleThe Science Behind High-Performance Teams

  • 6:30 PM

  • Active Network

    6363 N State Highway 161
    4th Floor (Conference Center)
    Irving, TX (map)

The scientific evidence is quite clear: To enable high-performance, you have to look at leveraging human capital and optimizing human potential. Let’s take a deeper look at the science behind creating high-performing teams by looking into behavioral science, neuroscience, and social psychology.

  • *What is a High-Performance Team?
  • *Self-Organization – Not what you think …
  • *Behavioral Science
  • *Neuro Science
  • *Social Psychology
  • PETER SADDINGTON owns a successful research and analytics consultancy and has been integral in multi-million dollar Agile Transformation projects with some of the biggest Fortune 500 companies, including Cisco, T-Mobile, Capital One, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna, Primedia, and Cbeyond. He is a sought-after speaker at many industry events and is a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST). He has also received three master’s degrees, one of which is in counseling, and provides life-coaching services in addition to his consultancy.
  • Peter loves giving away free stuff. He will be giving away:
  • – Copies of his book The Agile Pocket Guide – http://amzn.com/1118438256
  • – Apple Gift Cards!
  • You can find Peter Saddington in Dallas every other month doing public courses in Dallas. His next courses are October 10/11 and December 5/6 – https://dallas-scrum.eventbrite.com/

Make a 15 Minute Daily Scrum Pure $1,500 Cash (Whaaaat???)

daily-scrum-giveaway-1500-3d-printerIf you haven’t already taken the 2013 State of Agile Survey, definitely check this out…

Now in the final 2 weeks’ stretch, VersionOne is trying to get at least 1,000 more people to take the survey. In doing so, they just announced an expanded prize offer – For the first time ever, the grand-prize winner of the drawing can choose to win this 3D printer OR just take the cash – $1,500. Plus lots of other cool swag.

The idea is this: the bigger the data sampling, the more value peeps will get from the report, which has become the largest and most cited survey in the agile community. The State of Agile Survey helps software professionals (that’s YOU) make tough decisions and get the most from their agile initiatives.

Take the survey before it closes on Oct. 16th and your email address automatically goes into the drawing.  While you’re at it, try passing it on to at least 5 of your software peers (don’t worry; if you don’t forward it, nothing bad will happen to you!)   #StateofAgileSurvey.