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Giving teams the best start

How you kick-off a team is important!   In fact it’s so important, that when you get it right your team can perform up to 30% better. That's what research by J. Richard Hackman tells us and it’s certainly consistent with my own observations.   What exactly is a kick-off? A kick-off...

Personal Kanban as a Coaching Tool for Product Owners and Others

A while ago I wrote about Personal Kanban at Snapper. Personal Kanban, or KanbanFor1 as we call it, has supported Snapper’s Agile adoption and has proven an excellent training ground for the team to develop good habits and behaviours.

As in all Agile adoptions the delivery team aren’t the only ones affected by the change and in this post I describe how I have used personal Kanban as a co-coaching tool to help a Product Owner adapt to the challenges of his new job.

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Interview with a newly-minted Scrum Master

Six months ago SilverStripe, an open-source Content Management System provider and Wellington web agency approached me to help them improve the way in which they deliver client and open source projects, increase employee happiness and, in general, just do the best possible job. To achieve this, we decided to move away from the existing Agile-like (fixed scope/fixed price) approach and introduce Scrum with its focus on client-driven iterations, early feedback and continuous improvement.

Silverstripe have asked me to interview some of their staff about the transition to Agile. The original posts can be found on Silverstripe’s blog (Sam MinnéeAleksandra Brewer), below are selected highlights from the interviews. 

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When the coach needs to go

“When you need me but do not want me, then I must stay. When you want me but no longer need me, then I have to go.”
— Nanny McPhee (via Lyssa Adkins

I am an Agile coach and the goal of my job is to put myself out of a job. 

My mission is to teach people Agile and to make sure they understand and correctly apply Agile values, principles, frameworks and techniques. This is quite a big deal as Agile often forces us to change the way we work on a daily basis; how we organise our work, how we collaborate, which tasks we perform and how we communicate with each other and the rest of the organisation.

Why being a Scrum Master is a full time job

An adequate Scrum Master can handle two or three teams at the time; a great one can only handle one”. (Michael James – An Example Scrum Master’s checklist)

I found that organisations, teams and new Scrum Masters (even freshly certified ones) often aren’t sure what the Scrum Master role entails and what value it provides. 

Here is my attempt to summarize what a good Scrum Master does:
 

The Scrum Master role

Some teams are like symphony orchestras, so they need a leader who keeps everyone on the same sheet of music. Conductors have to be deeply familiar with each instrument and with the music, yet they don’t play in the band or tell the musicians what to do. They let the music provide detailed guidance; their job is to bring out the best in the musicians, both individually and as a group.” (Mike Cohn – Succeeding with Agile)“A Scrum Master is like a conductor coordinating the efforts of musicians, helping them to play together. Some teams are like jazz bands, so they need a leader who encourages improvisation.


 In general the Scrum Master …

 

  • makes sure the team is running (good) Agile development
  • assists team members in adopting and improving Agile Development
  • helps the team maximise throughput and to work in the best possible way