Thursday, December 31, 2015

Management Scrum Team - Part 4

This is the 4th of 4 parts.  See here for the 1st part. Links to all 4 parts are there. Or search to the right. *** Retrospective.  Again, telling the truth here can be difficult. The whole MST comes to this meeting at the end of every Sprint. For a 2 week Sprint, maybe 2 hours. The purpose: To get better. What do we do in the meeting? We discuss the good and the bad.  Some of the bad gets added to the impediment list (a list of things we want to fix or mitigate to make things work better here). I suggest we give the SM (the ScrumMaster for the team) a 10 minute time-box to explain what he has done this past 2 weeks. Which impediments he has worked on, what solutions he has gotten implemented, how much the velocity has increased because of his efforts (or efforts he drove). People say things like “wow, I guess he did something useful!” This is kind of like a ‘demo’ for the SM. We identify the biggest impediment for the MST itself.  As of NOW. We do this quickly. And we spend most of the time working together to fix the Top Impediment for the Team. As examples, the MST might:
  1. devise a solution together
  2. plan the execution of the solution
  3. build a business case (eg, to justify spending some money). Is it clear now that the benefits are much higher than the costs? Etc.
The business case might go to the CEO or even the Board for a decision.  Often the business case simply enables the Team to work through the information and convince themselves of the best solution.  Often, also, the MST starts a business case, and someone else (the SM?) refines it, improves it, fleshes it out, and completes it later. Who 'fixes' the impediments?  Well, it depends.  The SM, the MS Team, or people outside the MS Team.  Depends on several factors. The key thing is that the Retrospective enables them to get better each Sprint. Better can be measured many ways, but typically as higher velocity for the Team. This is more effective, in a bigger way, than the SM working in isolation. And more useful than just identifying the (usually smaller) day-to-day impediments in the Daily Scrum meetings. *** How much difference could an MST make? Hard to say.  We do not have enough experience in enough situations to know well. My experience suggests that in about 3 sprints, the MST is working at 'normal' level.  Maybe 4 sprints.  Typically.  But the problem is you had no 'before' metrics on the 'velocity' of the MST.  So, there is nothing to compare the new Scrum velocity to. The good news is you now have a metric for the productivity of the MS Team.  They may not estimate the 'story points' well yet.  But they are learning. Usually you find that 'the velocity is lower than we wanted'.  Is that really a surprise?  (CEO, you did know that already! Right?) Now you have an approach to getting better as a Team.  And for avoiding your weaknesses (of individuals) and for drawing on your strengths (as a Team). The difference can be huge.  If people engage, if you allow yourselves to see the truth, if you have the courage to take reasonable actions. *** One key issue.  I think it is typical to find that the people you have in the 'management team' are not the right balance of people for a good MST.  The MST must be balanced against the vision and the items in the PB.  Often you see an imbalance. Thus, you often need to move some of these people outside the MST, and probably add some other 'skill-sets' to the MST (new people). This is a feature, not a bug.  Meaning: seeing what kinds of people you really need in the MST is a big help. *** Those are my simplified and initial ideas on an MST. I hope my humor about the problems of life and the problems we often have being managers was taken the right way. Manager work is hard, and being a manager is hard.  I do have sympathy, despite my sometimes sarcastic tone. One could cry about the situation, cry at the measureless waste in the lives of the managers and the people they manage, and the impact on the customers.  Or one could laugh. I choose to laugh. This problem of measureless waste and 'not good enough yet' is true for all of us.  And it is sad and we can be sarcastic.  Just to be sarcastic is not good enough.  We must act to improve things, as best we know how. In this vein, one must have sympathy for managers.  In my opinion, they are usually not trained well to be managers. In fact, they are generally mis-trained (trained wrongly).  And the Peter Principle (they rise to their level of incompetence) is too true.  And their 'boss' is too...hmmm....lacks the courage to fix it when the Peter Principle occurs. These are good people, some of our best usually, but badly trained and often badly positioned.  To the degree we can fix this (and I think we can, at least some) it can make for a big improvement. *** Please give me and us your feedback and suggestions. That covers the main things in Scrum that the MST must do. It gives a quick overview. It definitely does not answer every question you will have. Folks: Careful doing this at home. It may look easy on paper, but you will want to get all the help you can to learn how to do it semi-professionally as soon as possible. Get training, get coaching, at least. Now, please send me your reactions and comments. Joe at      

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