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Scrum Master Toolbox Podcast

Every week day, Certified Scrum Master, Agile Coach and Business Consultant Vasco Duarte interviews Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches from all over the world to get you actionable advice, new tips and tricks, improve your craft as a Scrum Master with daily doses of inspiring conversations with Scrum Masters from the all over the world. Stay tuned for BONUS episodes when we interview Agile gurus and other thought leaders in the business space to bring you the Agile Business perspective you need to succeed as a Scrum Master. Some of the topics we discuss include: Agile Business, Agile Strategy, Retrospectives, Team motivation, Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review, Backlog Refinement, Scaling Scrum, Lean Startup, Test Driven Development (TDD), Behavior Driven Development (BDD), Paper Prototyping, QA in Scrum, the role of agile managers, servant leadership, agile coaching, and more!
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Now displaying: March, 2018
Mar 30, 2018

No surprise in that title, hein? I guess not. But this is an aspect very often ignored by manager, team members and, unfortunately, also by us, the Scrum Masters. In this episode we discuss anti-patterns (estimation as an anti-pattern, with references to #NoEstimates hashtag on twitter and the #NoEstimates book), but also dive deeper into what Systems Thinking is, and how it can help us navigate the complex organizational anti-patterns we need to be aware of, and deal with.

In this episode we discuss Systems Thinking (a good book to get started is: Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline), and Craig Larman’s Laws of Organizational Behavior. Finally we also talk about Laloux’s Re-inventing organizations.

 

About Chad Beier

Chad’s first experience with Scrum was in 2005 on a global team responsible for consolidating financial software. After some dark days of death march projects, he left his traditional business analyst and project manager roles behind. He is now consulting organizations as an external change agent and organizational agility advisor.

You can link with Chad Beier on LinkedIn and connect with Chad Beier on Twitter.

Chad’s company is: Whiteboard Consulting.

Mar 29, 2018

Scrum Masters become a force for change over time. This “fate” we meet, sooner or later, requires us to be aware of different stages in our role. In this episode we discuss 5 steps that are critical in a Scrum Master’s journey according to Chad.

Featured Retrospective format of the week: The Thirty-Five

There are many retrospective formats that try to illustrate or visualize problems and opportunities. This week we talk about a completely different approach. A format named after the process of the retrospective. The Thirty-Five format for a retrospective is based on the idea that it is easier to prioritize when we compare only two items. This is a very cool format for quick group prioritization, where the prioritization naturally emerges from the discussion happening in the pairs. A great format for that difficult prioritization step that helps you choose the action to take this Sprint!

 

About Chad Beier

Chad’s first experience with Scrum was in 2005 on a global team responsible for consolidating financial software. After some dark days of death march projects, he left his traditional business analyst and project manager roles behind. He is now consulting organizations as an external change agent and organizational agility advisor.

You can link with Chad Beier on LinkedIn and connect with Chad Beier on Twitter.

Chad’s company is: Whiteboard Consulting.

Mar 28, 2018

Many organizations are set up around the concept and idea of projects. Projects are the way we get work approved, funded, controlled, and ultimately released. Organizations set up their governance around projects with the customary PMO (Project Management Office) to help perpetuate the governance pattern. But how do we adopt Agile in this kind of environment. This story is about avoiding Death March projects, and what Chad and his colleagues tried to change. It’s a story about how sometimes we are the “insiders” in the change process, and how hard that role is.

In this episode we refer to an illustrative example of what it is to be an insider in a change process, Gaping Void’s “change the system from the inside” cartoon. We also refer to Steve Denning’s The Agile of Agile book and we even discuss music! Don’t miss Chad signing “Tenessee” a tribute Scrum parody song at Music City Agile.

 

About Chad Beier

Chad’s first experience with Scrum was in 2005 on a global team responsible for consolidating financial software. After some dark days of death march projects, he left his traditional business analyst and project manager roles behind. He is now consulting organizations as an external change agent and organizational agility advisor.

You can link with Chad Beier on LinkedIn and connect with Chad Beier on Twitter.

Chad’s company is: Whiteboard Consulting.

Mar 27, 2018

Email is a very helpful tool. It has a lot of things going for it. Email gives us a quick way to jot down some thoughts and ask a colleague (or many) for help. It helps keep track of conversations. It even enables remote teams (with limited overlap in working hours) to communicate without loss of memory. However, it also has some bad sides when misused. In this story we explore how certain uses of email can be destructive for a team, and some tips on how to detect and avoid that anti-pattern.

Featured book of the week: Flawless Consulting, by Peter Block

Scrum Masters act as consultants. They help, but are not responsible for the outcome of the team. They answer, and most importantly, ask questions to help the team learn, reflect and advance. So, we must understand how to be a good consultant. Flawless Consulting, by Peter Block is a book about how to be a better “helper” (read consultant) for the teams and organizations we work with.

 

About Chad Beier

Chad’s first experience with Scrum was in 2005 on a global team responsible for consolidating financial software. After some dark days of death march projects, he left his traditional business analyst and project manager roles behind. He is now consulting organizations as an external change agent and organizational agility advisor.

You can link with Chad Beier on LinkedIn and connect with Chad Beier on Twitter.

Chad’s company is: Whiteboard Consulting.

Mar 26, 2018

When we start in a new organization, it takes a while before we understand all the anti-patterns around us. And something innocent, like a manager asking for a burndown chart, can quickly spiral out of control if we don’t pay attention. In this story, Chad shares with us how sometimes, focusing on metrics and transparency can destroy trust. Listen in to learn about one anti-pattern of the use of the Sprint Burndown, and how that can quickly destroy trust in your organization.

 

About Chad Beier

Chad’s first experience with Scrum was in 2005 on a global team responsible for consolidating financial software. After some dark days of death march projects, he left his traditional business analyst and project manager roles behind. He is now consulting organizations as an external change agent and organizational agility advisor.

You can link with Chad Beier on LinkedIn and connect with Chad Beier on Twitter.

Chad’s company is: Whiteboard Consulting.

Mar 24, 2018

Erwin has his own company, and invests his own money in that company. For him #NoEstimates solves a clear problem: too much time wasted estimating, instead of producing.

He challenges us to investigate how much money and time we already invest in that process, and then to measure the benefits. Are we getting enough return on the time and money we invest on estimation?

We learn about Erwin’s story of adoption. How he started with gradually larger projects, even at larger clients, and what he learned about the dynamics that push companies to make larger and larger decisions. Those larger decisions look like they require estimates, but why aren’t we questioning the need to make large decisions (large batch)?

We mention Lean Startup by Eric Ries, a book that changed the way many look at investment decisions, and the process of discovery for product development.

The CEO approach to #NoEstimates

Knowing that Erwin is a CEO of his own company, and invests his own money into that company, makes it easy to understand why he is so pragmatic. When you use your own time, and your own money to grow a business you don’t have time for “grand theories”, you need to use methods that work. And that’s what Erwin shares with us: his own approach to product development.

In a blog post about Complexity, Erwin explains some of the reasons why he has developed his own approach to product development, and why he believes it is better than the old methods he used while consulting large organizations.

In his work as a consultant he worked for an organization that had an extreme problem: they made most of their revenue in a very short amount of time (you won’t believe me if I write it, you have to listen to it!). For that company being late was not an option. He, and his colleagues needed to find a way to deliver on-time, with 100% certainty. That sure sounds different from a “good estimate” as the PhD’s in estimation promise us (“within 25% of the actuals 75% of the time”). In these cases is where #NoEstimates shines, and Erwin explains how.

We review the contributions to the #NoEstimates movement by Neil Killick and the Extreme Contracts book by Jacopo Romei.

 

If you want to know more about #NoEstimates, visit this page with 20 articles from 6 different authors.

 

About Erwin van der Koogh

Erwin is the Founder & CEO of Bitgenics, the startup behind Linc, a next generation hosting platform for Progressive Web Applications and JavaScript Front-ends.

He is a recovering management consultant who’s been sober for about 2 years and counting. Living in (sometimes) sunny Melbourne he is a sought after speaker on the intersection of business, technology and complexity.

You can link with Erwin van der Koogh on LinkedIn and connect with Erwin van der Koogh on Twitter.

Mar 23, 2018

Systems, the collection of all the stakeholders and actors, that we work within are not always aligned. A common anti-pattern is when only part of the company is on board with Agile. What happens then? We need to be aware of our supporters, our detractors and the “on-the-fence” stakeholders we need to work with.

In this episode we discuss such a story, and how we - Scrum Masters - can understand and react to those challenges.

 

About Heidi Araya

Heidi is an Agile coach who has been working with remote teams since 1999. She aims to show teams and enterprises the value of a cohesive vision and mission, systems thinking, and self-organizing teams. An active member of the Agile community, she trains and speaks at events and conferences worldwide.

You can link with Heidi Araya on LinkedIn and connect with Heidi Araya on Twitter.

You can join Heidi and other coaches every month for a virtual meetup at https://www.coachingagilejourneys.com.

Mar 22, 2018

Heidi shares with us 4 characteristics she has identified in successful teams, the ultimate measure of our Scrum Master success.

We also talk about how retrospectives can be used to assess our own impact as Scrum Masters.

In this episode we mention a tool you can use to keep a finger on the happiness pulse of your team: BlogYourMood.com Do you have experience with that tool? Please share that below!

Retrospective format of the week: The Futurspective

In Futurspectives (for example: success criteria futurspective) we look at the future. We understand what it would look like to “succeed” and we backtrack, asking what got us there. Heidi suggest you use this format if you want the team to “step out” of the complaining cycle. We also discuss how to turn those Futurspectives into actionable output.

 

About Heidi Araya

Heidi is an Agile coach who has been working with remote teams since 1999. She aims to show teams and enterprises the value of a cohesive vision and mission, systems thinking, and self-organizing teams. An active member of the Agile community, she trains and speaks at events and conferences worldwide.

You can link with Heidi Araya on LinkedIn and connect with Heidi Araya on Twitter.

You can join Heidi and other coaches every month for a virtual meetup at https://www.coachingagilejourneys.com.

Mar 21, 2018

We don’t always work with teams that are ready, or even able to change as much as we know they need to. What do we do then? In this episode we discuss some of the reasons why we may want to step back, and not change too much. We also discuss what we might want to study and learn before we try to change anything.

 

About Heidi Araya

Heidi is an Agile coach who has been working with remote teams since 1999. She aims to show teams and enterprises the value of a cohesive vision and mission, systems thinking, and self-organizing teams. An active member of the Agile community, she trains and speaks at events and conferences worldwide.

You can link with Heidi Araya on LinkedIn and connect with Heidi Araya on Twitter.

You can join Heidi and other coaches every month for a virtual meetup at https://www.coachingagilejourneys.com.

Mar 20, 2018

When things don’t go well we are tempted to act. “Just do it!” we hear often. But is that always the right approach? In this episode we explore some of the problems teams experience, but we also discuss the temptation to act too early, and too often. Understanding a problem deeply does not come quickly, and management is often rewarded for action, not understanding. So, how can we - as Scrum Masters - resist the temptation to act before we understand?

Featured book of the week: The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt

The Goal by Goldratt is a book that anyone interested in process improvement should read. A classic that established Theory of Constraints as a popular approach to continuous improvement in the manufacturing world, The Goal also has many lessons we can apply to creative work like Software Development.

 

About Heidi Araya

Heidi is an Agile coach who has been working with remote teams since 1999. She aims to show teams and enterprises the value of a cohesive vision and mission, systems thinking, and self-organizing teams. An active member of the Agile community, she trains and speaks at events and conferences worldwide.

You can link with Heidi Araya on LinkedIn and connect with Heidi Araya on Twitter.

You can join Heidi and other coaches every month for a virtual meetup at https://www.coachingagilejourneys.com.

Mar 19, 2018

From NASA to Scrum consultant, Heidi has collected a lot of experience of how to apply Agile in diverse environments. From all of those experiences she collected many lessons about working in large organizations, distributed teams and other environments where even finding the root of a problem is difficult at best! In this episode Heidi shares some of the tools that she uses to make those problems visible, and quickly find the causes to tackle.

 

About Heidi Araya

Heidi is an Agile coach who has been working with remote teams since 1999. She aims to show teams and enterprises the value of a cohesive vision and mission, systems thinking, and self-organizing teams. An active member of the Agile community, she trains and speaks at events and conferences worldwide.

You can link with Heidi Araya on LinkedIn and connect with Heidi Araya on Twitter.

You can join Heidi and other coaches every month for a virtual meetup at https://www.coachingagilejourneys.com.

Mar 16, 2018

When teams, and organizations grow in size they suffer from totally different problems from when they were smaller. That’s to be expected. However, we often react by “doubling down” on what worked before, even if that is not the best approach. Felix shares a story of a growing organization, and the struggles they went through to be able to cope with that growth.

In this episode we refer to the book “Team of Teams”, by General McChystal, which explains how you can work with extremely large teams.

 

About Felix Handler

Felix likes to bring out the best in as many people as possible by providing an environment in which people can sustainably thrive. After his Bachelor in Computer Science he wanted to develop people rather than software. He also is part of 12min.me, a movement for inspiring people.

You can link with Felix Handler on XING and connect with Felix Handler on Twitter.

Mar 15, 2018

Each Scrum Master should spend some time reflecting on their work, and its impact. Felix likes 4 questions that he asks regularly to understand the impact of his work.

He also shares some tips to check if the team is evolving and trusting each other.

Retrospective format of the week: the Starfish retrospective

Similar to the good/bad or keep/drop formats, the Starfish retrospective also focuses on some categories of problems/work. However, it does so in a more subtle way. As Felix describes it, it allows for more space to be creative because of some ambiguous categories like “What should we start doing?”

 

About Felix Handler

Felix likes to bring out the best in as many people as possible by providing an environment in which people can sustainably thrive. After his Bachelor in Computer Science he wanted to develop people rather than software. He also is part of 12min.me, a movement for inspiring people.

You can link with Felix Handler on XING and connect with Felix Handler on Twitter.

Mar 14, 2018

Companies that are successful are likely to grow. As they grow, they enter the meeting inflation period, and some may even become meeting obsessed. In this episode we review such a situation, and the tools and approaches Felix used to create a healthier culture around meetings. He shares many tips on how to re-evaluate and eventually drop some the meetings that end up removing the focus from the real work.

 

About Felix Handler

Felix likes to bring out the best in as many people as possible by providing an environment in which people can sustainably thrive. After his Bachelor in Computer Science he wanted to develop people rather than software. He also is part of 12min.me, a movement for inspiring people.

You can link with Felix Handler on XING and connect with Felix Handler on Twitter.

Mar 13, 2018

Teams want to do their best, and many want to deliver high-quality. It is only natural that they would focus on improving the quality of the software that they develop. However, without the understanding of why the quality is important, we may get stuck in an infinite loop of bug fixing. In this episode we review such a story, and how Felix was able to help the team understand better their true goal.

Featured book of the week: #NoEstimates, how measure project progress without estimates

This week we discuss the #NoEstimates book, and how it helped Felix adopt Agile ideas in any kind of project.

 

About Felix Handler

Felix likes to bring out the best in as many people as possible by providing an environment in which people can sustainably thrive. After his Bachelor in Computer Science he wanted to develop people rather than software. He also is part of 12min.me, a movement for inspiring people.

Mar 12, 2018

Adopting Agile in a co-located organization is hard enough, but when you need to adopt Agile in distributed team, things get even more complicated. In this episode we discuss how Agile adoption in a distributed / remote team can create problems that are hard to solve, unless you are ready for it. We also discuss many different tips on how to tackle agile adoption in a distributed organization.

 

About Felix Handler

Felix likes to bring out the best in as many people as possible by providing an environment in which people can sustainably thrive. After his Bachelor in Computer Science he wanted to develop people rather than software. He also is part of 12min.me, a movement for inspiring people.

You can link with Felix Handler on XING and connect with Felix Handler on Twitter.

Mar 9, 2018

Where does the need to micro-manage and control come from? In a system there may be many causes for that pattern. In this episode Leonardo shares a story with us, where the system was stuck in this command-and-control anti-pattern. We discuss the reasons for that, as well as how that may look like in some companies.

 

About Leonardo Bittencourt

Currently Leonardo is a Scrum Master at Equifax Ireland. Focused on building high performance teams through Agile and/or Lean adoption, he is an enthusiastic about Lean and Agile mindset in the Software Development industry as the transformation agent to create great working environment as well as products that matters.

You can link with Leonardo Bittencourt on LinkedIn and connect with Leonardo Bittencourt on Twitter.

Mar 8, 2018

Leonardo shares with us 3 questions he asks himself when thinking about what defines success for him in his Scrum Master role. During this episode he also shares with us some of the tips he’s collected along the way, and help him tackle the challenges he sees in his work.

Featured Retrospective format for the week: PopcornFlow

PopcornFlow is a method by Claudio Perrone, that helps us be deliberate with our experimental approach. That method can also be used to structure our retrospectives. Read more about PopcornFlow.

Leonardo also shares with us some important resources: The Agile Retrospectives book by Diana Larsen and Esther Derby, and the always useful FunRetrospectives.com website.

 

About Leonardo Bittencourt

Currently Leonardo is a Scrum Master at Equifax Ireland. Focused on building high performance teams through Agile and/or Lean adoption, he is an enthusiastic about Lean and Agile mindset in the Software Development industry as the transformation agent to create great working environment as well as products that matters.

You can link with Leonardo Bittencourt on LinkedIn and connect with Leonardo Bittencourt on Twitter.

Mar 7, 2018

Teams, and their stakeholders tend to think that the more they invest in planning, the easier the work will go. However, there’s a lot of problems a plan does not solve. For example, more time in planning does not ensure we know “why” we are working on a specific product or feature-set. How can we help the teams go from task-orientation to goal-orientation? If we are able to bring in that change, the team is more likely to feel satisfied, the product owner is more likely to get what they want, and ultimately we create the environment for self-organization to emerge.

Listen in to learn about Leonardo’s journey with that team, and how he helped the team and PO go from detailed plan, to a shared Sprint goal.

In this episode we discuss the template for defining a Sprint Goal, by Roman Pichler, whose blog you can find here. And we also talk about David Marquette’s work, whom we’ve interviewed on the Scrum Master Toolbox Podcast.

 

About Leonardo Bittencourt

Currently Leonardo is a Scrum Master at Equifax Ireland. Focused on building high performance teams through Agile and/or Lean adoption, he is an enthusiastic about Lean and Agile mindset in the Software Development industry as the transformation agent to create great working environment as well as products that matters.

You can link with Leonardo Bittencourt on LinkedIn and connect with Leonardo Bittencourt on Twitter.

Mar 6, 2018

Teams can be their own worst enemies some times. In this story, Leonardo shares the story of a team that slowly entered a negative self-defeating pattern: they didn’t believe any of the positive feedback they got, but felt destroyed by any of the negative comments that were coming their way. The team did not believe in their own goodness. How do you get out of such an anti-pattern? Listen in to learn how the team entered this pattern, and what Leonardo tried to do to get the team out of that self-defeating loop.

Featured book for the week: Coaching Agile Teams, by Lyssa Adkins

Leonardo shares what he learned from Coaching Agile Teams, by Lyssa Adkins, a book that explains the different aspects of the Scrum Master role and Agile Coach. And helps us define our own coaching approach for the teams we work with. Every team is different, and this book helps us reflect on those differences.

 

About Leonardo Bittencourt

Currently Leonardo is a Scrum Master at Equifax Ireland. Focused on building high performance teams through Agile and/or Lean adoption, he is an enthusiastic about Lean and Agile mindset in the Software Development industry as the transformation agent to create great working environment as well as products that matters.

Mar 5, 2018

When we start as Scrum Masters, there’s a lot of things we don’t know yet. Not only are we not able to see the anti-patterns, but we also don’t know how to react to the problems we face. Scrum has in itself a set of patterns that help us when we are starting out, but sometimes we need more than that. In this episode we explore the story of when Leonardo was just starting as a Scrum Master. The anti-patterns he saw, and the steps he took after he learned some hard lessons.

 

About Leonardo Bittencourt

Currently Leonardo is a Scrum Master at Equifax Ireland. Focused on building high performance teams through Agile and/or Lean adoption, he is an enthusiastic about Lean and Agile mindset in the Software Development industry as the transformation agent to create great working environment as well as products that matters.

You can link with Leonardo Bittencourt on LinkedIn and connect with Leonardo Bittencourt on Twitter.

Mar 2, 2018

The system around us (policies, rules, culture, etc.) influences the teams we work with. But how can we detect those influences so as to be able to react to them? Ryan suggests we start by looking at the team setup and shares examples how a simple change in team setup (from module/component to cross-functional teams), can lead to major changes. Team setup is one of the first system conditions we should analyse and act on!

 

About Ryan McCann

Ryan is a former waiter, car detailer, line worker, cemetery worker, intern, financial analyst, tech support rep, team lead, QA manager, Scrum Master and Product Owner. Current husband, father, school board member, community volunteer and agile coach. He believes in building trust and social capital, which is not easy for any of us (himself included)…Ryan does his best everyday to help teams make this happen.

You can link with Ryan McCann on LinkedIn and vist Ryan McCann’s website at: MaybeMyDesk.com.

Mar 1, 2018

When we start our roles, we often (and rightly so) focused on the process. How to get people to understand and benefit from the power of Scrum. This focus on process may seem counterproductive because, after all, our success depends on the success of the people around us. But is it? Listen in to learn how Ryan uses his process experience to build trust with the team, which he later on turns into a critical ingredient for his own success as a Scrum Master

Featured Retrospective format for the week: “Proud, thankful, learned”

Ryan breaks the rules once more by introducing, not one, but 2 retrospective formats that empower the team to find, and focus on the most important improvements for them.

The first format is “Proud, thankful, learned”. Three simple headings that help the team focus on, and amplify the positive things that happened during a Sprint. Consider also using this (in a shorter version) as a check-in exercise.

The second format is “Lean Coffee”. A simple way to generate and prioritize possible improvement items.

 

About Ryan McCann

Ryan is a former waiter, car detailer, line worker, cemetery worker, intern, financial analyst, tech support rep, team lead, QA manager, Scrum Master and Product Owner. Current husband, father, school board member, community volunteer and agile coach. He believes in building trust and social capital, which is not easy for any of us (himself included)…Ryan does his best everyday to help teams make this happen.

You can link with Ryan McCann on LinkedIn and vist Ryan McCann’s website at: MaybeMyDesk.com.

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