Monday, May 24, 2010

Suggestions for a better Daily Scrum

It is our view that the main problem with doing Scrum is that we don't 'feel the music' while we do the dance. That is to say: we don't understand the values and principles underlying the practices we are doing.

In general, this is true of all of us. So, there is no reason to get obnoxious about 'I get Scrum better than you'. Still, in any case, someone has to talk to someone else, to the effect that, 'I don't think you are getting the values and principles well enough'. Sometimes this starts as a question, such as: "Why do we do the Daily Scrum?'

My answer: It enables the Team to land the airplane at the end of the Sprint.

Put another way, it enables the Team to get enough visibility about 'everything' that is going on, to identify the biggest problem(s), deal with them some, and then complete the Sprint successfully. Meaning all promised 'stories' are completed ('done, done' if you use that phrase).

Some smells or issues:
1. 'We are reporting status to the ScrumMaster.' OK, raise your hands anyone who enjoys reporting 'status' to any manager. Ummm. No hands. Shocking. No, dudes, you are not reporting status to any manager. You are enabling yourselves (the whole team) to be successful.

2. 'No one is talking about anything useful.' Then do the five Whys about the root cause of that.

3. 'People want to hide.' Well, it is natural to hide from pain or expected pain. Virtually 120% of the time, the implementers have been beaten up, harassed or at least disrupted if they told the truth. So, naturally, it takes a long time of not getting punished before they believe they won't be punished any more. Figure out how to deal with that. Talking helps.

4. 'Everyone says "No impediments".' Yeah, like that is true. First, explain that we are always removing the top impediment (that is happening for your team, right?). Then, emphasize that people themselves and their normal mistakes are not impediments. Or maybe better to say that we ALWAYS expect people to make a normal number of human mistakes. That is part of being creative. Then, ask them to identify 'anything' that is slowing the team down. (Sometimes they have too limited a view of what an impediment might be.) Then, tell them that each person must identify his biggest impediment. (And we all have one, since nothing is perfect.)

5. People arriving late. Umm. Sometimes a difficult one. First, review why you think the Daily Scrum is valuable, its purpose, stuff like that. Does that person agree? If yes, then why is he late? Ah, he has something more important almost every day? Does he really feel he is a team member? And continue on like this. But sometimes it just takes 'tricks'. The 'put a $1 in a jar' one is well known. (The Team takes the money and buys donuts every so often, for example.) Or, try having the late person sing a song after the stand-up. Very effective for many. Or, have the person eat a pickle (in the morning). I have not done this, but I hear that a pickle tastes bad in the AM.
Now, if a team member sends in one's answers to another team member before the stand-up, then one is not 'late'.

6. They only answer the 3 questions. The 3 questions are only a help. The Team should talk about the most important stuff in 15 minutes (max) to land the plane. Together. Especially if some Sprints have failed (not gotten all stories done) and poor daily info feels like a root cause, then explore this.

7. Have the Daily Scrum around the Scrum Board. Finally, a positive one. I strongly encourage teams, especially beginning teams, to have the Daily Scrum around the Scrum Board, and to move the cards in the meeting. It is magic. (Lots of studies and theory explain what the magic is, but do you need to go there?) Yes, the works a lot better if the team is collocated.

Why do we have a daily Scrum?

Well, it's just like Fred Brooks said in The Mythical Man-Month.
'How does a project get one year late?'
'One day at a time.'

If we take and address the top impediment each day, we are much more effective as a team.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

New Courses

All up-coming courses are posted on And you can see the calendar in the widget to the right.

We are excited, for sometimes different reasons, about each of these courses. We have enjoyed the people we have met (so far) in each of these cities. We enjoy working with the co-leaders. And each of these cities, each in its own way, is meaningful to us. And of course, we are always delighted to be talking about, and helping others with, Lean-Agile-Scrum.

As a quick summary for the next 2 months, we have the following:

May 11-14: Ottawa: CSM & Workshop (Sold Out). With Catherine Louis.

May 18-19: NYC: CSM Course

May 25-26: Charlotte: CSM Course

Jun 8-9: Atlanta: ScrumU: CSM Course. With Kristine Shannon.

Jun 15-16: Washington, DC: CSM Course

Jun 29-30: Montreal: CSM Course

Jul 13-14: Lima, Peru: CSM Course

Jul 20-21: Charlotte: CSM Course

Please contact us if you have questions.
We have other courses 'in the works' which we will announce shortly.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The hardest thing about Scrum?

to hold as 'twere the mirror up to nature: to show virtue her feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure.

What is best thing about Scrum?

Wow. There are so many good things, hard to choose the best.
  • That we get to be ourselves (less than we pretended sometimes, more than we showed before)
  • That we get to help others more effectively
  • That we get to tell the truth
  • That we deliver more business value (pretty important in a recession)
  • That we can see the truth better
  • That we can see the progress we have made (eg, by removing impediments)
  • That we have more fun
  • That we get to enjoy being in and contributing to a respectful team
  • That we can have more pride in our work
OK, fine, but what is the hardest thing about Scrum?

Well, at first, it seems like figuring out all the practices is often the hardest. All the fine art of doing Scrum.

Then, Scrum makes more apparent all the problems we have doing our work. And new product development is always hard. And our organizations, it becomes quickly apparent, are beyond stupid in how they support the team. So, these painful truths are hard.

Then there is the relentless pursuit of perfection. It is hard, everyday, to admit that you and the team are not perfect yet, and there are more impediments to remove, more Kaizen to do, more change. Relentless. And hard on the ego. One wants to believe one can plateau out, one has reached perfection, and can mentally rest. Accepting this never-ending road is hard (although, once accepted, more fun).

Finally there is the mirror. "Hi. I am Joe. I am a recovering waterfallic." We have to admit that deep in our hearts, Scrum values and principles forever elude us. Yes, we get them some, maybe more on some days than others. But even the best of us want to follow other values and other principles sometimes. Even I (whomever "I" is).

I want a silver bullet.
I want to tell people how to do it.
I want to make the Team self-organize. [Is this an oxymoron or what? But we, in effect, say these things to ourselves.]
I want to be seen as the smartest (as though that were relevant to the Team's success).
I want to have a contract, not accept that collaborating through change is more valuable.
I want to prove that my box/silo, which I can fully control [quite an illusion that one], is successful. Rather than accept that I only influence the success of the team. And that the only meaningful success is team success, really customer success.

And many more.

It is so easy, so normal, to think we 'get it' when we don't.

I think it is very hard to see, and hard to accept, that we ourselves are stupid and revert back to 'wrong' ideas.

How to deal with this?
Umm. Very hard. Only simple things can be said. Continually question whether our thoughts and suggestions are consistent with Lean-Agile-Scrum values and principles. Allow others to continually question that. Assume that we are making some errors in this way, and ask ourselves "where are the areas where I am most violating the values and principles of Lean-Agile-Scrum?"

Let us struggle with this, with some compassion for ourselves. But with some renewed energy also, to, for example, ask for feedback.

PS. And we hope you like the Picasso. Girl before a mirror. Museum of Modern Art, NYC.