We have read or re-read Fixing Your Scrum: Practical Solutions to Common Scrum Problems by Todd Miller and Ryan Ripley cover-to-cover, if you don’t count the index at the back of the book (and I certainly do not). As a wrap-up, I want to briefly consider three points.  

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Chapter 15 is the final chapter in Fixing Your Scrum by Todd Miller and Ryan Ripley. Next week I will sum up my thoughts on the book and the lessons I have derived during the re-read.  We will also announce the next book in the Re-read Saturday series. Right now Monotasking by Staffan Nöteberg is in first place in our poll. Make sure to make your voice heard; vote now below. 

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Chapter 10 in Fixing Your Scrum, Practical Solutions to Common Scrum Problems, by Ryan Ripley and Todd Miller, dives into planning.. Sprint planning one of the major events in Scrum. All sprints should start with planning (not planning is one of the silliest but common antipatterns). Todd and Ryan begin the chapter by reminding the reader of the definition of sprint planning and the output of the event. The outputs of planning are a sprint backlog containing a forecast, the Sprint Goal, and knowledge. I am always amazed by the amount of information and knowledge generated during planning, as the whole team knows what they are going to tackle and how they are going to tackle it.  Planning is a TEAM EVENT. The scary part of this chapter is that none of the antipatterns Todd and Ryan identify in this chapter are common. 

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Chapter 9 in Fixing Your Scrum, Practical Solutions to Common Scrum Problems, by Ryan Ripley and Todd Miller, tackles the sprint. To paraphrase the Beach Boys

Everybody’s gone sprintin’

Sprinting’ Scrum-i-a

Along with the Daily Scrum, the sprint has become ubiquitous. The technique of timeboxing using a sprint is one of the first indications that a team is using Scrum. As with any powerful and useful technique, there is a natural tendency to bend, fold, staple, and hybridize the idea leading to all sorts of different problems. I have worked teams that adopted one-week sprints (and got a huge value from the quick feedback) and I have run into teams with multi-month sprints (these almost always end up ending badly). The Scrum Guide (new version), as the authors point out, states that sprints are one month or shorter. The sprint is a timebox in which work is done and a scaffold for the Scrum events.

The first of the antipatterns that Todd and Ryan tackle is one of the most common that I observe, the need for a special Sprint. There are nights when I lay awake contemplating the possibility that someone or some school somewhere is teaching newly minted Scrum Masters to add special sprints. Todd and Ryan point out any number of different variations on the special sprint theme;  sprint zero, design sprints, development sprints, integration springs, hardening, testing, bug, and planning sprints.  Maybe even sprints for sprints. In the end, what is being described is a timeboxed waterfall approach. If I was going to do waterfall I would want to timebox, but I would not call them sprints NOR would I try to rationalize that this was any form of agile. These special timeboxes are an attempt to deal with organizational issues that can span organization design or lack of training without addressing the underlying problem. A classic example of this issue is the testing sprint (development is done in one sprint and then testing in the next). Having written a few lines of code in my career facing this type of scenario, I can assure you that trying to get back into the same frame of mind as you were when you originally wrote the code isn’t easy and causes a lot of rework and technical debt. These types of issues are often dismissed as “culture.”  Remember that culture is a choice, not an excuse. 

Another of the common antipatterns is the “variable-length sprint.” Honestly, until three months ago I would have said that I had not seen this antipattern in nearly half a decade. People who don’t like timeboxes generally have gravitated toward Kanban or gone back to waterfall. To my shock, when gathering information to bid on a piece of work, I ran into an organization that blithely announced that they regularly changed the length of a sprint because they weren’t going to get everything done (they also had a testing sprint afterward). The product owner was less than sanguine as she had zero idea of when anything would be delivered and spent a decent amount of time making excuses to customers. I did not bid on the job and note on LinkedIn. Unfortunately, I now have encountered this old bugaboo several more times (all in one geographic area). Some of the issues reflect the lack of knowledge needed to break work down, having hit a velocity standard, or the ability to control work entry. Changing the sprint length does not address the root cause of the behavioral problem, but rather masks them.

The sprint is one of the most ubiquitous artifacts of agile, even when they are not using Scrum. Sprints are timeboxes that help teams to focus on delivering a specific goal and then get feedback quickly. Sprints are great but don’t work well when they are modified to hide organizational problems. 

The Coaches Corner in this chapter hit home for me the second time I read the book. The value of works like books, blogs, and podcasts change as we encounter situations in our careers. The exercise in the coaches corners provided me with ideas to help a group of people doing very different and unrelated work identify the common parts of their work-life so they discover how they could work together a little (and a little better). 

 If you have not bought your copy — what are you waiting for? Fixing Your Scrum: Practical Solutions to Common Scrum Problems 

Previous Installments

Week 1: Re-read Logistics and Front Matterhttps://bit.ly/3mgz9P6 

Week 2: A Brief Introduction To Scrum, and Why Scrum Goes Badhttps://bit.ly/37w4Dv9 

Week 3: Breaking Bad Scrum with a Value-Driven Approachhttp://bit.ly/3stGc9Q 

Week 4: The Product Ownerhttps://bit.ly/3qpKvSn 

Week 5: The Product Backloghttp://bit.ly/3cAEk9c 

Week 6: The Development Teamhttp://bit.ly/2OLVAAs 

Week 7: Embracing The Scrum Master Role –  https://bit.ly/3m0HB5D 

Week 8: Managementhttps://bit.ly/31Kv39l 

Chapter 8 in Fixing Your Scrum, Practical Solutions to Common Scrum Problems, by Ryan Ripley and Todd Miller tackles management. The gap between labor and management is an age-old problem. I am sure that the artisans and workers that constructed the pyramids had their own version of Dilbert. The focus on the team, a core tenant of agile and Scrum, is perceived as exacerbating the management versus worker dichotomy. By identifying anti-patterns and proposing approaches to solving those issues this chapter is useful for bridging the gap. 

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