Monday, February 17, 2014

A compassionate reading of the Agile Manifesto

The four points of the Agile Manifesto read
  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation 
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation 
  • Responding to change over following a plan
which Agilists are at pains to point out does not mean: "no process, tools, contracts or plans", but -- as the manifesto goes on to say -- "while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more".

Now Olaf Lewitz has written a wonderful articulation of why the items on the left are more highly valued than those on the right:
Now, when I read the four statements from a compassionate point of view, having worked with hundreds of organisations where people cling to documentation, plans, contracts, processes and roles, I have a more holistic perspective.  
All of the things on the right are commonly used for three purposes:  
  1. To hide lies, to avoid trust, 
  2. To cover somebody’s ass (make sure it’s not my fault), and 
  3. To defer acknowledgement of uncertainty. 
 The basic emotion behind all of these strategies is fear.
In other words: the items on the right give protect against negative outcomes and the related fears, while those on the left emphasise freedom and fruitfulness.

Depending on the situation one may need to play some defence, but the ideal is to move forward positively.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Scrum Master characteristics: From Good to Great

A fantastic blog post from Geoff Watts ( enumerated desirable characteristics of good Scrum Masters, and how to take them to the next level in Towards a Definition of a Great Scrum Master. He used elements of the list in his book: Scrum Mastery: From Good to Great Servant-Leadership.

I've added categories and reformatted the original list for reference and readability:

A good ScrumMaster will hold team members to account if needed.
A great ScrumMaster will hold the team to account for not holding team-mates to account.

A good ScrumMaster encourages people to talk to each other.
A great ScrumMaster encourages people to listen to each other.

A good ScrumMaster says what needs to be said.
A great ScrumMaster knows the power of silence.

A good ScrumMaster helps every member of the team grow. 
A great ScrumMaster encourages growth as a team. 

A good ScrumMaster notices areas for improvement in the team. 
A great ScrumMaster recognises & highlights strengths of the team for them to build on.

A good ScrumMaster will coach the team to succeed. 
A great ScrumMaster allows failure & encourages the team to learn from their mistakes (from Christina Ohanian).

A great ScrumMaster is chosen by the team and Product Owner. 
When she's done all she can, it's time for another great ScrumMaster (from Mike James).

A good ScrumMaster serves the team. 
A great ScrumMaster fosters servant-leadership throughout the team. 

A good ScrumMaster  is wary of influencing the team with what they say & do. 
A great ScrumMaster can act normally and the team still make their own decisions.

A good ScrumMaster will be indispensable to a team. 
A great ScrumMaster will make themselves dispensable. And wanted.

A good ScrumMaster asks to understand so they can serve. 
A great ScrumMaster asks so the team understands and can serve itself.

A good ScrumMaster helps teams use "yes, but" effectively. 
A great ScrumMaster helps teams find more space for "yes, and".

A good ScrumMaster facilitates co-operation between people. 
A great ScrumMaster facilitates collaboration.

A good ScrumMaster listens to what is said in the daily scrum. 
A great ScrumMaster listens to what is not said in the daily scrum.

A good ScrumMaster will help maintain team harmony. 
A great ScrumMaster will guide a team through disharmony to reach a new level of teamwork.

Inspect and Adapt
A good ScrumMaster helps a team meet their definition of done at the end of a sprint. 
A great ScrumMaster helps a team extend their definition of done.

A good ScrumMaster will help teams optimise their process. 
A great ScrumMaster will help the team get past process.

A good ScrumMaster helps the team hold a balanced retrospective. 
A great ScrumMaster helps the team hold a focused retrospective.

Working with the Product Owner
A good ScrumMaster facilitates the Sprint Review so the team gets to demo to the Product Owner . 
A great ScrumMaster ensures that the PO is already aware so the demo can be for other stakeholders.

A good ScrumMaster will be a bridge between the Product Owner and the team. 
A great ScrumMaster will reduce the need for a bridge.

A good ScrumMaster helps write stories so team is ready for sprint planning. 
A great ScrumMaster helps the Product Owner  make time before and during the Sprint to write and talk to the team.

Relationship to the larger organization
A good ScrumMaster protects the team from distraction. 
A great ScrumMaster finds the root cause of those distractions and eliminates them.

A good ScrumMaster helps a Scrum team survive in an organisation's culture. 
A great ScrumMaster helps change the culture so Scrum teams can thrive.