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This week in SPaMCAST 568 marks the return of Sandeep Koorse.  Sandeep brings deep insight into the Agile mindset, passion, and experimentation. All three are required for a healthy team. Sandeep last appeared as part of SPaMCAST 511.

Sandeep is an innovative leader with over 15 years of experience in helping companies achieve higher results through a careful evaluation of their processes and their technology. Known for determining the metrics and behaviors that promote consistent excellence then sharing those values with colleagues through influence and authority. Recognized by peers for exceptional problem-solving abilities, excellent communication skills, and a passion for the community. Reach out to Sandeep at sandeep@koorse.com (more…)

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SPaMCAST 508 features our interview with Vasco Duarte!  Vasco and I discuss vision and product owners. The product owner role is crucial. To be effective, the product owner must be able to articulate a vision for the product they champion.

Vasco Duarte’s Bio in his own words:

I want to transform product development organizations into product business organizations. I do that by focusing the work of the product development teams on the end-to-end life-cycle of their products. From Concept to Cash and Back!

Currently a Managing Partner at Oikosofy.

Product Manager, Scrum Master, Project Manager, Director, Agile Coach are only some of the roles that I’ve taken in software development organizations. Having worked in the software industry since 1997, and Agile practitioner since 2004. I’ve worked in small, medium and large software organizations as an Agile Coach or leader in agile adoption at those organizations.

I was one of the leaders and catalysts of Agile methods and Agile culture adoption at Avira, Nokia, and F-Secure.

I host a daily podcast where I interview Scrum Masters about their daily challenges and insights: https://scrum-master-toolbox.org/

You can read more from me at my blog: http://SoftwareDevelopmentToday.com

You can join me on twitter: @duarte_vasco

Re-Read Saturday News

In week 4 of re-read of The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande (use the link and buy a copy so you can read along) we tackle Chapter 3, The End Of The Master Builder.  In Chapter 3 Gawande identifies the scenarios in which checklists have an impact.  Checklists provide value even in the most complicated scenarios.

Current Installment:

Week 4 – The End Of The Master Builderhttps://bit.ly/2BmIGBc (more…)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat’s the difference between an Agile coach and a scrum master? A quick internet search returns a variety of competing opinions (and a lot of ads for training classes).  This is not an arbitrary question – these terms have a great deal of power to set expectations for behavior. While some of the components of the roles are similar, the two roles are different in at least one major way –  scope.

Both Agile coaches and scrum masters help teams.  Both roles are tasked with helping Agile teams use Agile values and practices to deliver value to the organization.  Agile coaches and scrum masters use similar techniques to guide, facilitate, and coach teams so that they learn and use Agile techniques, confront delivery problems as they occur, and work together as a well-oiled unit.  If we stopped here the two roles would be the same. However, the scope of the two roles is different.

Agile coaches typically pursue the implementation of an organizational vision of Agile, or are tasked with delivering external knowledge and expertise to a team.  In both cases the coach is external and is not a member any specific project team. In order to effect change from the outside the project, the coach needs a broader exposure to Agile roles than a typical scrum master.  A coach should have played all of roles on an Agile team multiple times. They have the gravitas to influence without direct authority and from outside the team. They interact with a team or teams, and then let the team synthesize and internalize the advice. The Agile coach is typically the voice of Agile at an organizational level.  This generally requires broader exposure and experience with Agile techniques, which is why many organizations use external consultants to play this role. The need for an Agile coach is generally transitory, specifically they are needed when external injections of knowledge or energy is necessary to help ensure the application of Agile continues to evolve.

On the other hand, the scrum master is the team’s tactical coach (scrum defines the team as the scrum master, product owner and the development team). He/she facilitates the team’s use of Agile techniques and helps to protect the team from the outside world. Scrum masters are the voice of the process at the team level.  Scrum masters are a critical member of every Agile team. The team’s need for a scrum master is not transitory because they evolve together as a team.

The role of an Agile coach and that of scrum master have similarities, but also significant differences.

For a Product Owner, a larger teams means more complexity!

For a Product Owner, a larger teams means more complexity!

As organizations find that using Agile delivers higher levels customer satisfaction, higher quality and greater efficiency and effectiveness, they try Agile in more situations. One of the most common scenarios that organizations struggle with as they expand their use of Agile is with larger and larger projects. One common stumbling block is implementing the product owner at scale. Getting the product owner role wrong is a problem. The product owner plays a pivotal role in an Agile project. One of the critical aspects of the product owner role is the relationship between the product owner and the team, stakeholders/customers and Scrum masters. As projects are scaled, these relationships become more complicated.

Product Owner to Team(s): On paper, the relationship between a product owner and team is fairly straightforward. The product owner owns and prioritizes the backlog, provides a product vision, involves customers, users, and other stakeholders and collaborates with others on the team. But, the role is more complicated; the product owner is also a leader, mentor, politician, and confidant, just to name a few roles. Add more teams to a product owner’s plate, and the relationships get even more complicated because the number of possible combinations required at any one time increases.

Product Owner to Stakeholders/Customers: The product owner is the primary facilitator and connector between the team or teams and external stakeholders. The product owner gathers needs and priorities that he or she leverages to prioritize the backlog. As projects become larger, the pool of stakeholders and customers will increases, which will complicate the role of the product owner. It requires judgment and tools to balance needs as in order to prioritize. As a project grows the number of groups of customers and stakeholders generally increase.

Product Owner to Scrum Master(s): The relationship between the product owner and Scrum Master(s) should be fairly straightforward. The product owner prioritizes, makes decisions and connects the team with stakeholders, while the Scrum Master mentors and facilitates the team. My observation is that real life is more complicated. The two roles often blur based on the personalities of the people involved. As the number of teams and Scrum Masters increase things get messy if roles blur. Since the relationship between each combination of product owner, Scrum Master and team might be slightly different, it will be difficult to predict the outcomes of interactions as people and groups involved in the project randomly work together.

If a large project chooses to leverage several product owners, the potential combination of relationships between the additional product owners and the stakeholders, teams and Scrum Masters increases dramatically, as does the level of complexity. We will discuss this possibility later in this series on scaled product owners.

The relationship between product owners and other constituencies in a project gets more complex as the number of parties increase. Complexity requires a proactive mitigation to avoid the possible negative aspects, such as communication failure, quality issues, reduction in efficiency or simple project failure. We will tackle techniques to mitigate the complexity that scaling an Agile project can cause in the product owner role in the next installment.

Listen to the podcast.

SPaMCAST 315 features our essay on Scrum Masters.  Scrum Masters are the voice of the process at the team level.  Scrum Masters are a critical member of every Agile team. The team’s need for a Scrum Master is not transitory because they evolve together as a team.

In this edition of the Software Process and Measurement Cast we debut a new column.  Gene Hughson brings the wisdom from his Form Follows Function blog to the SPaMCAST.  Gene appeared on SPaMCAST 268 to talk architecture, people and process.  We are glad to have him back on a regular basis.  This first column discusses the idea that quick fixes might not always be the right answer!

The essay on Scrum Masters begins:

The difference between facilitating and enabling is at the core of the Agile concept of self-organizing and self-managing teams. An effective scrum master should be a facilitator in a well functioning Agile team. However, when there is a breakdown in a self-organizing and self-managing team, sometimes scrum masters become enablers. This makes scrum masters more like project managers. A facilitator helps to unstick something that has stopped or creates an environment where progress can be made by the team.  An enabler provides the team with permission for making a decision.  For example, I recently watched as a team asked their scrum master if they were allowed to hold an interim show and tell/demonstration to prompt the product owner for feedback. The team saw the scrum master as an enabler rather than a facilitator.

Listen to the rest on the Software Process and Measurement Cast!

Call to action!

What are the two books that have most influenced you career (business, technical or philosophical)?  Send the titles to spamcastinfo@gmail.com.  What will we do with this list?  We have two ideas.  First, we will compile a list and publish it on the blog.  Second, we will use the list to drive “Re-read” Saturday. Re-read Saturday is an exciting new feature that bagan on the Software Process and Measurement blog on November 8th with a re-read of Leading Change. So feel free to choose you platform and send an email, leave a message on the blog, Facebook or just tweet the list (use hashtag #SPaMCAST)!

Next

SPaMCAST 316 features a return visit from Dr. David Rico.  We talked about the cost of quality and Agile. Does Agile impact the cost of quality?  Dr. Rico walks us through the evidence that not only does Agile improve customer satisfaction but it also improve the cost of quality.  If you are interested in effectiveness, efficiency and quality then this interview for you!

Upcoming Events

DCG Webinars:

How to Split User Stories
Date: November 20th, 2014
Time: 12:30pm EST
Register Now

Agile Risk Management – It Is Still Important
Date: December 18th, 2014
Time: 11:30am EST
Register Now

The Software Process and Measurement Cast has a sponsor.

As many you know I do at least one webinar for the IT Metrics and Productivity Institute (ITMPI) every year. The ITMPI provides a great service to the IT profession. ITMPI’s mission is to pull together the expertise and educational efforts of the world’s leading IT thought leaders and to create a single online destination where IT practitioners and executives can meet all of their educational and professional development needs. The ITMPI offers a premium membership that gives members unlimited free access to 400 PDU accredited webinar recordings, and waives the PDU processing fees on all live and recorded webinars. The Software Process and Measurement Cast some support if you sign up here. All the revenue our sponsorship generates goes for bandwidth, hosting and new cool equipment to create more and better content for you. Support the SPaMCAST and learn from the ITMPI.

Shameless Ad for my book!

Mastering Software Project Management: Best Practices, Tools and Techniques co-authored by Murali Chematuri and myself and published by J. Ross Publishing. We have received unsolicited reviews like the following: “This book will prove that software projects should not be a tedious process, neither for you or your team.” Support SPaMCAST by buying the book here.

Available in English and Chinese.

In this edition of the Software Process and Measurement Cast we debut a new column.  Gene Hughson brings the wisdom from his Form Follows Function blog to the SPaMCAST.  Gene appeared on SPaMCAST 268 to talk architecture, people and process.  We are glad to have him back on a regular basis.  This first column discusses the idea that quick fixes might not always be the right answer!

The essay on Scrum Masters begins:

The difference between facilitating and enabling is at the core of the Agile concept of self-organizing and self-managing teams. An effective scrum master should be a facilitator in a well functioning Agile team. However, when there is a breakdown in a self-organizing and self-managing team, sometimes scrum masters become enablers. This makes scrum masters more like project managers. A facilitator helps to unstick something that has stopped or creates an environment where progress can be made by the team.  An enabler provides the team with permission for making a decision.  For example, I recently watched as a team asked their scrum master if they were allowed to hold an interim show and tell/demonstration to prompt the product owner for feedback. The team saw the scrum master as an enabler rather than a facilitator.

Listen to the rest on the Software Process and Measurement Cast!

Call to action!

What are the two books that have most influenced you career (business, technical or philosophical)?  Send the titles to spamcastinfo@gmail.com.  What will we do with this list?  We have two ideas.  First, we will compile a list and publish it on the blog.  Second, we will use the list to drive “Re-read” Saturday. Re-read Saturday is an exciting new feature that bagan on the Software Process and Measurement blog on November 8th with a re-read of Leading Change. So feel free to choose you platform and send an email, leave a message on the blog, Facebook or just tweet the list (use hashtag #SPaMCAST)!

Next

SPaMCAST 316 features a return visit from Dr. David Rico.  We talked about the cost of quality and Agile. Does Agile impact the cost of quality?  Dr. Rico walks us through the evidence that not only does Agile improve customer satisfaction but it also improve the cost of quality.  If you are interested in effectiveness, efficiency and quality then this interview for you!

Upcoming Events

DCG Webinars:

How to Split User Stories
Date: November 20th, 2014
Time: 12:30pm EST
Register Now

Agile Risk Management – It Is Still Important
Date: December 18th, 2014
Time: 11:30am EST
Register Now

The Software Process and Measurement Cast has a sponsor.

As many you know I do at least one webinar for the IT Metrics and Productivity Institute (ITMPI) every year. The ITMPI provides a great service to the IT profession. ITMPI’s mission is to pull together the expertise and educational efforts of the world’s leading IT thought leaders and to create a single online destination where IT practitioners and executives can meet all of their educational and professional development needs. The ITMPI offers a premium membership that gives members unlimited free access to 400 PDU accredited webinar recordings, and waives the PDU processing fees on all live and recorded webinars. The Software Process and Measurement Cast some support if you sign up here. All the revenue our sponsorship generates goes for bandwidth, hosting and new cool equipment to create more and better content for you. Support the SPaMCAST and learn from the ITMPI.

Shameless Ad for my book!

Mastering Software Project Management: Best Practices, Tools and Techniques co-authored by Murali Chematuri and myself and published by J. Ross Publishing. We have received unsolicited reviews like the following: “This book will prove that software projects should not be a tedious process, neither for you or your team.” Support SPaMCAST by buying the book here.

Available in English and Chinese.

Don't fall into the trap of assuming that the project sponsor can fill all roles.

Don’t fall into the trap of assuming that the project sponsor can fill all roles.

Project sponsors play a critical role in all projects. Sponsor’s  typically are senior leaders in an organization with operational roles that make playing multiple roles on a project difficult at best.  Project sponsors have the bandwidth to take on the project sponsor role, their day job and no other project role, therefore project sponsors are not project managers, Scrum masters or product owners.

Project managers develop plans, report and track progress, assign work and manage resources. Sponsors, on the other hand, provide direction and access to resources. Sponsors are informed by the project manager. On large or medium sized projects, the project manager role is generally a full-time position while the sponsor (generally a member of senior management) spends the majority of his or her time managing a portion of the business rather than a specific project.

In Agile projects the roles of the project sponsor and Scrum master are sometimes confused. A Scrum master facilitates the team. The Scrum master continuously interacts with the team ironing out the interpersonal conflicts, focusing the team on the flow of work and ensuring that nothing blocks the team from achieving their sprint goals. The sponsor provides motivation and exposure for the team at a higher level. A sponsor has issues and blockages escalated to them when they are outside of the team’s span of control. As with the project manager role, the Scrum master’s role provides intimate day-to-day, hour-to-hour support for the team while the sponsor is involved when needed or called upon.

Rarely is the sponsor the product owner. The only time I have seen the two roles combined is in very small organizations or in very small projects (and it wasn’t a great idea in either case). While both roles represent the voice of the business and the organization, a sponsor typically brings significantly more hierarchical power to the table. This positional power tends to dampen important Agile behaviors such as collaboration and self-organization. The product owner role will draw significantly on the time and focus of the project sponsor, which can cause them to take their eye off the direction of the business having negative ramifications.

As noted in The Role of The Project Sponsor, sponsors provide teams with a goal or vision, with access to resources and the political support needed to stay focused. The role can’t be played well by those in the organization without the needed sources of power, interest and resources needed to empower the project. Nor can someone play the role without the time needed to invest in the role. Project sponsors are typically senior leaders within an organization that are tied closely to the day-to-day operations of the organization, which makes it difficult if not impossible for them to play the role of project manager, Scrum master or product owner.

It Takes A Team

It Takes A Team

Hand Drawn Chart Saturday

An Agile team is comprised of a product owner, team members (all disciplines needed to deliver the project) and the scrum master. Delivering on the team’s commitment is the ultimate measure of value. The scrum master helps to create an environment for the team to work together. Over the life of a project, everyone on the team has to lead and facilitate for the team to effectively deliver value.

Leadership in Agile projects has multiple layers. Product owners provide visionary leadership. Scrum masters provide process leadership and day-to-day leadership is more situational and generally defused across the entire team. Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard, leadership gurus and authors, have both written that effective leadership is task-relevant. Task-relevant means that the task will determine the type of leadership and in an Agile who provides that leadership.  The focus of any Agile team changes over the life of project based on both on the stories being worked on and the barriers being addressed. As the focus changes, the mantle of tactical leadership typically changes. In a typical sprint, the product owner’s leadership will be most apparent during story grooming and planning as the focus changes to analysis and construction  development personal provide leadership.  When the focus turns to proving that a story is done the focus changes again and the testing role typically provides leadership until the team drives a story to completion when the cycle begins again. The scrum master facilitates that ebb and flow reflecting their own form of leadership.

The primary role of a scrum master is as a facilitator. That responsibility does not have to be shouldered alone.  All team members are responsible for keeping work flowing, for unsticking work when it gets stuck and for helping to create an environment to maximize the delivery of value. Every member of the team has eyes and ears and within the boundary and intimacy of the team and the responsibility to help each other meet their common goals.

While a product owner prioritizes and a scrum master facilitates, it takes a whole team to deliver.  The whole team is responsible for getting the job done which means that at different times in different situations different members will need to provide leadership. Every team member brings their senses to the project-party, which makes all of them responsible looking for trouble and then helping to resolve it even if there isn’t a scrum master around.

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Divided loyalties makes for a bad scrum master. Don’t be a fox watching the hen house!

Not everyone who has the characteristics of a scrum master should be a scrum master. Here are five very simple guidelines to let you know who shouldn’t be the scrum master:

  1. The project or program manager.
    Classic project managers make very poor scrum masters in most cases. Project managers that have plied their trade by directing, controlling and enabling teams are the antithesis of a scrum master. It can be very difficult for project or program managers to shed their role as an enabler. I often see scrum masters with project management backgrounds revert to directing work in periods of stress.
  2. The product owner.
    Ruma Dak talked briefly about this recently on her blog. I agree with the thesis that product ownership is a full time job, making it difficult to do another full time job at the same time.  Even if both roles could be done at once, as the product owner it is very easy to sacrifice the team’s needs to attain more of the business’s needs. This can set up a classic ‘fox watching the hen house’ scenario.  While I strongly believe that having a product owner act as a scrum master is a bad idea, I have seen it work well for a short period of time in one project.  In this circumstance the original scrum master had left the company and the product owner stepped in while a replacement was found. It worked, but it was not sustainable as the product owner already had two jobs (his normal day job and the role of a product owner).
  3. The team’s line manager.
    One of the worst scenarios for the scrum master role is the team’s line manager. I can’t conceive of how this would facilitate the creation of an empowered, self-organizing team. Consider most anything else rather than this option.
  4. The busiest person on the team.
    The next worst person to fill the scrum masters role is the busiest person on the team. Interestingly if you ask for volunteers, this will be the person that is most apt to put their hand up. General rule (you can violate a guideline with proper caution, you should not violate a rule), if the person you want to be the scrum master does have time to do the job well find someone else.
  5. Anyone that does not want to be the scrum master.
    If you do not want to be a scrum master you will not do a good job.

Finding a scrum master begins with understanding the role and finding a person that has the necessary characteristics.  Next, does the person have the time and the passion? Finally consider whether there are conflicts of interests that using a product owner or line manager can cause.

2014-02-22 09.35.39What are the characteristics of an effective scrum master? Different projects, team and organizations could generate an infinite set of lists with an infinite number of attributes, but the core attributes of a scrum master are:

  • Aggressive facilitator: We defined a facilitator as someone that helps to unstick something that has stopped moving and creates an environment where progress can be made by the team. An aggressive facilitator actively looks for bottlenecks and environmental issues to maximize the delivery of value.
  • Voice of the scrum process: The scrum master must be the champion of the process.  The ability to champion requires that the scrum master be well versed in Agile processes so that the team can focus on meeting its commitments, rather than making a specific Agile technique fit the team’s need.
  • Acts as servant leader: A servant leader facilitates collaboration not only by creating a learning environment, but also by helping the team to establish a vision and goals. A servant leader builds trust in a variety of ways including providing the team with the environment needed to make decisions and self-organize.
  • High-touch people person: A scrum master needs to be a people person because teams, at their most basic level, are groups of people pursuing a common goal. The scrum master needs to connect with team members so that he/she can understand their needs, support collaboration and help break down barriers.
  • 110% self-starter: Scrum masters can’t wait to be called upon to facilitate. Scrum masters must be vigilant, observing the ebb and flow of team interactions and by helping to identify and highlight potential barriers to delivery.
  • Team first orientation: Scrum masters need to put aside many of their own needs in order to satisfy the needs of the team. Egocentric leadership tends to confuse their needs and capabilities with those of the team reducing their effectiveness as servant leaders and facilitators.
  • Empathy is the ability to share the emotions and experiences of other makes it easier to put the needs of the team first.  Without empathy, a scrum master will have difficulty building trust with and among team members making it difficult to be a servant leader and a facilitator

An effective scrum master makes the team better by prioritizing the team’s common goal. Staffing a scrum master position is more than just repurposing a project manager or business analyst, rather it is means finding an individual that can facilitate delivering value as part of team.

The scrum master helps the team find the right road.

The scrum master helps the team find the right road.

In the movie Independence Day, the US President played by Bill Pullman, calls on his fellow pilots to help plow the field so that the character played by Randy Quaid can attack the alien craft. Pullman was facilitating Quaid though both a call to action and active participation. The scrum master’s job in most cases is to facilitate plowing the field for the team. This creates an environment for a team to grow and deliver value, while keeping outside influences from sapping the team’s energy. Here is the scrum master’s job description:

  • Responsible for ensuring that the Scrum practices and rules are followed.
    Ensure that the team is disciplined about the Agile practices and techniques that they have chosen to support team effectiveness.
  • Teaches the team by coaching and leading.
    The scrum master teaches the team how to use Agile practices and to deal with issues, rather than jumping in and supplanting the team’s actions.
  • Helps the team understand and use self-organization and cross functionality.
    The scrum master fosters an environment that helps the team become a team, rather than a collection of individuals. The scrum master helps to create this environment by asking questions, sharing problem solving techniques and mediating interpersonal differences.
  • Removes impediments.
    The scrum master facilitates the resolution of bottlenecks that are blocking the team’s progress.  When impediments are outside of the team’s ability to control (for example waiting on a deliverable from another team or vendor), the scrum master acts will pursue the problem so that others on the team can continue to be focused on delivering functional software.
  • Ensures that the team keeps itself functional and productive.
    The scrum master needs to observe how the team is working together and to facilitate action when the team is not performing optimally. The scrum master generally makes sure the team knows where they are during a sprint or iteration using tools like the burn down, burn up charts and card walls so that the team can take action.
  • Enables close cooperation across all roles and functions.
    Teams share work, provide support to each other and swarm to tasks or stories when needed.  In order to provide that level of support, it is import for all roles on a team to cooperate. This means that there can’t be a “us vs. them” relationship between any of the roles on the team. Team sharing and learning sessions are some the the techniques that scrum masters can use to teams learn each others roles and functions.
  • Shields the team from external interference.
    At times outsiders will pull at team. External interference is a specialized form of an impediment that tends to drain time or focus from the team. The scrum master will deflect or absorb as many requests that will take the team’s focus away for meeting their commitments and delivering value.

The scrum master needs to create an environment for the team to prosper. The list above outlines the responsibilities that the scrum master must tackle to be effective. As you can see, a scrum master is more than an administrator or planner. The scrum masters facilitates the whole Agile team in attaining their the ultimate measure of value by focusing on the people on the team’s needs and how they are using the process.