Continuous improvement is one of the main principles behind agile, and arguably how we truly become agile. No agile framework in itself delivers everything we need in our specific situation. Instead, continuous improvement allows us to constantly inspect and adapt, get better and better, one step at a time.

However, this isn’t necessarily easy. Often, misconceptions or old ways of thinking come in the way.

Let’s look at a few things preventing continuous improvement from thriving!

Continue Reading "6 somewhat inconvenient truths about agile teams’ continuous improvement"

The Scrum Master will never be responsible for the success of the product. However, they have an important role in helping those who are, the product owner and the team.

A good Scrum Master can significantly increase the odds of success. Similarly, a bad Scrum Master can derail everything, causing disastrous failure. In this article, I will look at seven bad characteristics or behaviours of Scrum Masters I have witnessed.

Continue Reading "Seven sins of a Scrum Master"

According to the State of Scrum survey from 2015, almost one 1 out of 5 teams don’t bother having a sprint retrospective. This is a real shame as they miss out on one of the best and most important parts of Scrum: trying to make every sprint a little bit better than the one before.

A cautionary tale

The two main arguments against retrospectives I tend to hear are:

  • “We don’t have time for retrospectives. We’ve got real work to do!”
  • “Retrospectives are pointless. Nothing changes anyway!”
Continue Reading "13 tips for an effective retrospective"

Not every story about Scrum is a success story. Scrum can fail.

One of the reasons why many teams don’t get the value out of Scrum they were hoping is that they are trying to use it in a situation or environment where it is not appropriate. No set of practices will work in every single context and Scrum is no exception.

Let’s look at some examples where Scrum will either be very hard to make work or provide little value compared to a simpler process.

Continue Reading "5 situations when Scrum may not be your best choice"

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carrol 1865

One of the most important things Scrum sets out to do is to increase our chance of building the right thing. We deliver working software in short sprints and make sure we get frequent feedback from our customers and/or users to see that we’re on the right track. If it turns out we’re not, we correct the course and adjust our product backlog.

That’s all well and good, but is it enough?

Continue Reading "Don’t lose track of the big picture"

One of the core concepts of Scrum is to produce working software each sprint. The Scrum Guide is very clear:

Development Teams deliver an Increment of product functionality every Sprint. This Increment is useable, so a Product Owner may choose to immediately release it.

This is what we often refer to as potentially shippable. It means that the features we’ve completed so far are not only code complete but have also been tested and are free from any critical bugs. At the end of the sprint, if the product owner says “awesome, let’s release this!”, we would be confident to do so. And that without us then having to integrate, do functional testing, code refactors, performance testing, bug fixing and so on.

Continue Reading "What is potentially shippable about anyway?"

For the first few years of my Scrum Master career, I had a fundamentally incorrect understanding of what the term “cross-functional team” means.

I thought it meant that everyone on the team could do everything. There was no room for specialised testers, database administrators or business analysts on a Scrum team. And just because someone is a JavaScript guru, that didn’t mean that they could expect to be writing JavaScript code.

Fair enough, I thought. Somehow, though, the team members were less than enthusiastic about the concept. It turned out that it was important to them to be brilliant at their craft. And to be able to be experts, they needed to specialise!

Continue Reading "A cross-functional team isn’t a bunch of generalists"

What are your most important tool as a Scrum Master? Here are some ideas:

  • A task board. Helps the team coordinate their work and keep track of the progress.
  • Some sticky notes and sharpies. Quick and easy tools to make everything visible!
  • A burn-up or burn-down chart. Is the team and project on track?
  • A team barometer. Is the team happy?
  • A Scrum checklist. Are we following the rules of Scrum or are we taking shortcuts?

All of these can certainly be useful to help us do a good job, when we use them appropriately. However, there are two tools that trump them all:

Continue Reading "Why your eyes and ears are the most important tools you have as a Scrum Master"