Archive for category Kaizen
Ever since I was a child I have had this instinctive urge for expansion and growth.
To me, the function and duty of a quality human being
is the sincere and honest development of one’s potential.
Working as active Scrum Practitioner for almost 9+ years I have come up with my understanding of what is Scrum Master’s role, service to the team and key responsibilities. Earlier I have written about what Scrum Master should master, here I would like to concentrate on 8 Key Aspects of Scrum Master work. Focus areas so to say. Here those are….
- Facilitates Sprint Planning Meeting
- Facilitates Sprint Review Meeting
- Facilitates Backlog Refinement (aka Grooming) Meeting
- Facilitates Sprint Retrospective Meeting
- Facilitates Daily Scrum
- Facilitates Release / Roadmap Planning Sessions
- Facilitates whatever/whenever else Team and/or stakeholders communication is required to be facilitated (not about any collaboration)
Purpose: to improve shared task clarity, planning, bring in more transparency over status quo for team to see where do they stand (and plan to go, and what have they achieved and how they want to improve) and their work results, help team to be able to enhance communication and perform their daily work
- Cultivates “us” vs. “me” culture and mindset
- Enables and fosters team to self-organize
- Helps team to make decisions
- Supports team through stages of its development
- Coaches individual team members on communication, collaboration and teamwork when necessary
- Increases “bandwidth” of communication among team members
- Observes team and talks to every single team member
- When required does one-on-ones to help through raising conflicts
- Navigates conflicts (involves management when necessary)
Purpose: to build up better team => better understanding each other => improved collaboration among team members => improved team performance
- Guards team agreements, decisions and process (e.g. retrospective decisions, agreed “howtos”, DoD, DoR, review process, etc)
- Make team stick to its agreements, drives teamwork and respect towards owning decisions, leading to performance improvements
- Keeps balance between fulfilling business (Product Owner) needs and maintaining team sustainable pace, so that business needs are addressed by PO requests while team development and pace is not forgotten.
- Makes sure environment is as Team empowering as possible. Empowerment raises team feeling of ownership that rises up dedication and servers to better results
- Helps the team and Product Owner to maintain their artifacts (product backlog, sprint backlog, task and action boards, sprint/release burndown charts, tickets comments, story maps, etc.)
Purpose: create and maintain environment where high demand is possible. Here is why that is important
Impediment “Fisher” & Resolver
- Creates environment for effective impediment “fishing” and removal. Cultivates transparency and information radiation as pre-requisite for impediment clarity and removal
- Enables team to respond to impediments
- Raises awareness of team’s impediments
- Coaches team in resolving impediments (the one’s that could be solved by team)
- Helps team to discover new impediments (wastes). Constantly questions the status-quo
- Helps to resolve impediments / take ownership of those cannot be solved within / by team
- Improves efficiency of the team by helping with eliminating impediments
- Escalates and follows up on impediments to where they belong
“High Focus” Promoter
- Shields team from external interferences (extra tasks, todos not agreed with Product Owner, etc)
- Enables team to concentrate on most important todos, achieving “state of flow” and high concentration.
- Helps to avoid wastes caused by context-switching and to avoid team member burn-outs
- Gardens team’s sustainable pace, so that combined with “empowered” environment of high demand is possible
- Increases feeling of “urgency” and highlights how much is left to achieve (e.g. tickets, story tasks, story points, etc.), e.g. with the help of burndown charts, tickets left, etc.
- Helps team to focus on regularly achieving small thing to create feeling of fulfillment and good progress
Motivator and Coach
- Promotes positive thinking, open, honest and respectful feedback culture
- Motivates team to improve team productivity regularly
- Helps to raise team morale, to increase dedication and to improve team deliverables
- Helps to create feeling of achievement
- Creates environment of excellence and continuous improvement (and mindset of seeking for improvements)
- Creates mindset of “quality first”, intolerance to poor quality and continuous improvement
- Regularly takes care of team’s “happiness” (and involves management when necessary)
- Coaches and teaches required mindset, frameworks and engineering practices (Lean thinking, Scrum, Kanban, XP, pair programming, continuous integration, test automation, etc.)
- Teaches and integrates new team members into working process and agreements (and into the team)
- Serves as agent for change and positive challenger of the team
- Reflects integrity and leads by example (e.g. being on time, continuously self-improving, sticking to agreements, etc.…)
- Reflects Lean thinking and Agile principles to the team
- Reflects on reality and promotes transparency on status-quo to question
- Makes things measurable where applicable and possible to illustrate team progress: brings transparency about what is done, how much is achieved, so that weaknesses are easier to identify and potential improvements are easier to see
- Helps team to radiate information (e.g. burndowa, burnup charts, impediment boards, hapiness matrix, knowledge matrix, peerwork matris, etc.)
- Introduces required measurements for team to see regularly its work results (e.g. tickets achieved, stories done, story points achieved, bugs popped up/fixed, retrospective decisions implemented, ..)
- Uses collected data to think and question team and act if required
Agileist: outside of Scrum Team
- Shares Agile/Lean mindset within organization
- Shares best practices and tools, so that other Scrum Masters can benefit / see different perspective of managing things and company can benefit from enriched toolbox of methods and practices
- Collaborates and helps other Stakeholders to learn how their requests could be fulfilled with the team doing Scrum (or Kanban), so that other Stakeholders could get their requests address while team’ pace is also protected
- Helps to improve organization by creating learning organization
- Helps to address organization’s impediments
Last and not least there are many other things that do not belong to this structure. Those are dependent on situation and circumstances. And those are still handled by great Scrum Masters 🙂
I always wanted to come up with the collection of my favorite” Teaming Up” Retrospectives, those that allow to build up steel-strong teams, increase connection bandwidth between team members and increase motivation on teamwork. So here is it…
Check in before you start…
To start building up a team you need to cultivate Trust among team members. This is foundation you have to establish, otherwise open talk is impossible. One of the best way to check in for Teaming up retrospectives is to offer one of those statements to the team and ask each team member to reflect on Teamwork clearly with the statement like “What is in that for us?” or “How do you understand that?” or “Why you think this is important for us as a team?”
Here are some examples of statements you can use to ask these questions:
1. Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job they could, given what they knew at the time, their skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand.
2. At the end of an iteration everyone knows so much more. Naturally we will discover decisions and actions we wish we could do over. This is wisdom to be celebrated, not judgement used to embarrass or de-motivate.
3. Team is a partnership of unique people who bring out the very best in each other, and who know that even though they are wonderful as individuals, they are even better together.
- Coming together is a beginning;
- Keeping together is progress;
- Working together is success.
Then I would suggest to move to one of the following exercises …
Exercise 1: My Personal Poster (shorten the distance between us)!
When: with new team / getting to know each other, helping to build up personal connections.
Heads up: may be touchy-feely to some team members (especially shy ones). Make sure people do not feel uncomfortable “revealing” their personal.
Script: We are going to get to know ourselves better! Opening yourself creates relationships!
Please fill in the following template and prepare poster of your life and share it with the colleagues 🙂
- My Name
- 3-4 facts on my personal
- Decisive (crucial) events in my life up to know that influenced who I am most:
- (Could draw timeline of your life with some important data you are willing to share)
- What do I do in my spare time (hobbies, activities)
- What are my personal strengths?
- What are my personal weaknesses (might be tough one)?
- What has been a source of pleasure for me today?
- What kind of secret about myself am I willing to reveal to you?
As soon as poster is ready team members take turn to tell their “Stories” followed by team questions. Aim is to learn as much as possible about team member to understand his/her past and what makes him/her acting in a certain way.
Exercise 2: Cool/Uncool Team member (to share what we want / want to avoid)
When: when you sense team starts having some issues with the “norms” or unspoken “rules” (with the aim to have
Heads up: Make sure it is not turned into personal “blaming” session.
Script: We are going to develop ongoing guide for desired and undesired team behavior .
Please imagine two hypothetical team members (no real persons and names are allowed):
- Cool guy, team member of my dream 🙂
- Uncool guy, team member I would not like to work with 😦
Describe what each of those hypothetical characters does, how behaves one treat/behavior pattern per sticky note that are important for you. Mark positive ones with (+) and negative ones with (-). Prepare to share and discuss with colleagues. Perhaps clustering similar topics and prioritizing would help. I did this excerscize for many teams, – some were discrubing their team without names, others – went quite abstract.
If discussion is held too abstract ask team: “Do we have similar issues?”, “Which ones?”
Exercise 3: Team Matrix (to share openly how do we feel and want to change)
When: there is need to share how does each team member feels him/herself in a team and about teamwork.
Heads up: create safe environment! Make sure no accusation happen.
Script: Please prepare your answers for the following questions (one per sticky note):
- How do I feel myself in the team?
- How I would like to change it?
- How I would like that person X changes certain behavior (how do I feel)?
- If X changes that what do I offer in return?
- How I am ready to help my team?
RULE: no accusations expressed as wishes!
Write those questions on the whiteboard on the left while put team members names on the top, to form matrix. Offer each team member to fill his column, explaining his position followed up by an open discussion.
Exercise 4: Brilliant moments (to learn from our positive past)
When: when there is need for a team to appreciate their positive past and learn from their great moments.
Heads up: n/a
Script: We are going to examine what moments of the past we would like to repeat and how make them influence our team positively and stronger!
Split team in pairs and ask them to interview each other. Prepare interview template and hand over (see below). Ask interviewer to fill it during Interview. First ask to execute only part 1:
- Your brilliant moment: ask to describe certain situation when something really worked in recent past, that team member considers as achievement.
- Why was this moment so brilliant? What was so special on this brilliant moment for her/him?
- What else?
Then ask pairs to switch roles and redo Part 1 for other team member.
Afterwards ask each of interviewers to write down what they have learned about their pair also filling Part 2:
- Because of what you have just said, it appears to me that you are someone who is / has / can….
Then again ask to share findings with pair and think together to answer part 3:
- If these strengths would play a larger role in your work life, what would you notice?
- What else?
- What little things could their colleagues might notice?
- Some small actions that she/he might try in the next days?
Then let everyone tell the story of team member they have interviewed to entire group. Then let open discussion, sharing findings and decisions.
Exercise 5: Our Personal Communication Style (to learn how we are communicating)
When: with new team / getting to know each other, helping to learn their similarities / differences in communication style.
Heads up: n/a
Script: We are going to experience how we like to communicate and in what way it is better to approach certain team
Brainwriting exercise: My communication style (underline what is more relevant to you)
- Do I prefer read or listen?
- Am I fan of short statements or do I prefer long reports?
- Do I want long meetings every month or prefer short meetings more often?
- Do I like to know entire story, every single bit, or do I want to know just the headline (big picture)?
- Is it sufficient someone says something to me once or do I have to be reminded several times until I notice?
Brainwriting exercise: colleagues communication style (underline what is more relevant to your colleague)
NOTE: split in pairs or consider colleague sitting left/right to you
- Does my colleague prefer read or listen?
- Is she/he I fan of short statements or prefers long reports?
- Does he/she want long meetings every month or prefers short meetings more often?
- Does she/he like to know entire story, every single bit, or wants to know just the headline (big picture)?
- Is it sufficient someone says something to me once or do I have to be reminded several times until I notice?
- Is my colleague totally focused on his work and therefore unapproachable or he is someone who is more team oriented and more pleasant and social?
The exercise is to guess which team member prefers what and learn from those diverse preferences.
Exercise 6: appreciation game (to flourish energy of team members)
When: to help team show appreciation to each other and provide constructive feedback
Script: We are going to thank each other for certain things.
Create half circle of chairs. Place another chair on the other side facing the rest. Ask team for trust and respect, honesty and attention.
To start, ask one person to volunteer to be in the ‘Main Chair’. Other members take turns, to say things they liked about the ‘Main Chair’ person help to the team. Following statement might be used:
- “You really helped team when.. and when..” ( 2 statements) followed by
- “What would be great to have more is….”( 1 statement)
Many Agile coaches have their own list of top failure modes. My favorite one is Mike Cohn’s: “How To Fail With Agile: Twenty Tips to Help You Avoid Success“.
But I also want to publish my winning list of things that impact teams and undermine their trust in business and Agile (combined from experience gained observing different teams at different times, so no particular team is meant here 🙂 ).
So tips are written from the Product Owner perspective:
1. Argue in front of team at Sprint Planning. Let them see you were not capable to decide what you want to build them. Moreover, involve them into arguing. This will demonstrate how your (PO) team misses integrity;
2. Demonstrate that being on time does not matter: interrupt meetings with calls, side talks and questions. Leave the room occasionally and be late regularly. Doing this will make it almost impossible to demand on-time delivery from the team;
3. Continuously fail to deliver INVEST stories and integrity in sprint goal/product backlog. Let stories w/o details thought through, so that team feels you had not invest enough time to prepare them. This will also make it easier for team to fail delivering outcome of that stories to you, will make things more ambiguous, so that no one will understand where is failure or what was wrong and will never learn from it, so that improvement will not be feasible;
4. Ignore team signals on complex stories (the ones that are above ~13 story-points, the ones that are risky, big, and usually need to be analyzed and split into smaller chunks in advance). Just let big stories that have big doubts, leading to easier underestimations, over-commitments, sprint failures, causing less team confidence, further under-commitments and wastes of all kinds;
5. Present deadlines ignoring reality “I do not care how you do it, it MUST be done”. With this “masculine” management style you can always push things forward as Agile teams just delivery chain, so they must obey and no matter what they think and capable of;
6. Never share the Product Vision and mid-long term roadmap with the team (just keep it secret);
7. Ignore technical debt (just concentrate on #5);
8. Bombard team with in-sprint questions and “Can you do it now please?” tasks. Explain them that SCRUM is good but now we need to be more “FLEXIBLE”. Moreover, assign tasks to team members without talking to entire team. Demonstrate that you were not been able to plan things for an iteration, this will ruin team trust that they are working on most valuable things and completely undermine their ability to deliver;
9. Never groom your backlog just leave it to the sprint planning meeting when it is already too late. This will lead to long and stressful discussions as you will have to do it mid-planning,will drain team energy, lead further to fatigue, wrong estimations, poor planning and sprint failure;
10. Always try to find something that team did wrong to pin point and focus on blaming. This is proper way to avoid Kaizen and let team protect themself by “storytelling”;
Recently I observed an interesting trap one team fall into. When asked how confident guys feel about hitting the target, they was almost jointly saying they’re absolutely confident, however burndown chart trend told me they won’t make it.
Well, I am absolutely sure that this is what we all want to have – 100% confidence, however here’s the dangerous trap.
We may stay satisfied and oversee problems (or pretend that tomorow the problems will be gone). Or try not to rise them. Or feel uncomfortable rising them. Or think that others will feel uncomfortable if we raise them, etc…
But, they will NOT disappear. Problems usually have tendency to pile up… And when such a team recognizes that, it’s already too late…. and painful.
Kaizen mindset and “Toyota way of Lean Leadership” cultivate culture of “continuous crisis” that requires continuous improvement . Only having daily cultivated feeling of urgency and need, maintains the rhythm of tense and productive environment that reduces risk of facing a FAILURE.
As Toyota management team stated in 2010:
“We realized we need to develop a grater sense of urgency, in our business. Success is good, but without urgency serious weakness sets in, customer focus declines, creative ideas dry up and before you know it, you’re in trouble”.
So here is the trick to recognize: before you know it, you’re in trouble.
But the word and concept has negative tone and may have de-motivating impact on a team. How to make it distinct and positive?
Here is an advice…
Unlike panic or hysteria, urgency is a constructive, ordered and focused sense, therefore it should not de-motivate. Simply because it results in targeted and the only correct decision and action. Deffer commitment + deliver fast, guys!
To illustrate this imagine fighter aircraft pilot that needs to make the only correct decision and act accordingly within 10 seconds left before he may crash. And here is the difference that also proven by multiple real-life cases:
- Panic: an ordinary pilot most likely starts to hit all buttons around (maximizes focus and work-in-progress) or worse, thinks about death (we will fail…), not believing that this happens to him (we will not fail, I do not see problem, it’s not about us/me…);
- Urgency: trained pilot usually freezes for 7 seconds (analysis, defer commitment), makes decision, then within 3 remaining seconds quickly does (focused, fast) the only correct action to stabilize aircraft;
Feel the difference?
A takeaway is simple: stay open-eyed with reality, constantly challenge your confidence, do not fall into trap of satisfied optimism, distinguish among your will and reality, spread urgency around and stay hungry © for constant improvement.