Going beyond just Scrum ceremonies

Last post 01:13 pm July 31, 2019
by Nitesh Bansal
12 replies
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07:57 pm July 22, 2019

Hello people,

I have been a Scrum master for a team since almost 1,5 years now. We as a team have made some progrss on Scrum journey.

We are doing the ceremonies, team shows concern about Velocity charts, estimation etc.

But I still get the feeling that we are not making best use of Agile. Yes, we have found some value in Scrum, but we have not unlocked its full potential. I still have an impression with team members, management kind of trying to fit-in Traditional SDLC and fit it into Scrum. I still see heavy designs being done upfront, feedback loops are still very long.

I'm wondering what can I do as a Scrum master to trigger an open conversation and move the team forward on the path of truly adopting Agile (I'm stuck as I have never worked in a truly Agile environment myself, it is my first real experience with Agile and as a scrum master).

I also thought of organising a session with the team to discuss the value gained from Scrum, but I'm afraid it may just trigger Scrum bashing and won't have a positive result. 

Please suggest, how can I move forward?

09:02 pm July 22, 2019

Is there a sense of urgency for agile change? If so, where does it come from and how is it being communicated?

09:36 pm July 22, 2019

I also thought of organising a session with the team to discuss the value gained from Scrum

Instead of scheduling a meeting, have you considered making your observations known publicly, and at the moment such observations come to mind?

Don't delay posing powerful questions and thoughts that may make things more transparent to others and increase their willingness to try something different.

Just a suggestion, but if you haven't yet, please read the Pizza Hut / Subway analogy in the thread below that may help others in your organization recognize their own wasteful dynamic and a potential change that seems much better and more Agile:

https://www.scrum.org/forum/scrum-forum/16922/agile-and-scrum

Good luck!

09:41 pm July 22, 2019

Another source for the Pizza Hut / Subway analogy.   Thank you @Curtis Slough!

https://www.scrum.org/forum/scrum-forum/29009/regarding-hybrid-agile

10:58 am July 23, 2019

Is there a sense of urgency for agile change? If so, where does it come from and how is it being communicated?

There is no sense of urgency and it isn't coming from anywhere. It is just me as a Scrum master thinking on how can I further help the team evolve and develop a more Agile mindset.

Instead of scheduling a meeting, have you considered making your observations known publicly, and at the moment such observations come to mind?

I have tried asking some open-ended questions during the Retrospectives, but our Retros are usually short, so we never really deep dive in the subject. I thought that a dedicated meeting may trigger more focused discussion.

And secondly, yes I can ask questions, but I myself don't have answers. I am also have a developer and I have no experience in working in all Agile setup. So, also I don't have good success case studies to inspire them.

01:49 pm July 23, 2019

And secondly, yes I can ask questions, but I myself don't have answers.

But why do think you must know the answers for your questions ? I mean isnt it good to just put those questions/observations and let the team discover it. 

04:19 pm July 23, 2019

And secondly, yes I can ask questions, but I myself don't have answers.

Personally, I don't think there are any answers...just options.  A large part of being a Scrum Master is seeing opportunities, bringing them up with the team, discussing whether they feel it is an opportunity, and then facilitating discussions/experiments to take advantage of it. 

There are a lot of people in this world that a lot of opinions (I admit I'm one of them) and significant experience (Not sure I think I fall into this category yet).  But none of us have all the answers. Listen/read everything you can to broaden your knowledge base but respect that you won't have all the answers nor will every team need the same answer. 

I have tried asking some open-ended questions during the Retrospectives, but our Retros are usually short, so we never really deep dive in the subject. I thought that a dedicated meeting may trigger more focused discussion.

Maybe it is time for you to start a deep discussion. Remember that in the Retrospective the Scrum Master participates as a member of the Scrum Team.  The purpose of the Retrospective is for the Scrum Team to discuss how they work together as a team and identify opportunities to improve.  So why would you need a separate meeting to do exactly what the Retrospective is designed to do? 

07:30 am July 25, 2019

Indeed, it is a good to start raising my observations. I have tried already, but I have not really obtained the answers/feedback I wanted to see.

When  I say separate meeting, I mean a separate retrospective, our usual retro is clubbed with the Planning and lasts max 20 minutes. We usually don't go deep into issues, I know, it isn't ideal, but impossible to go for regular 1 hour retros. We touch upon subjects and if something needs a long discussion, we plan a separate meeting.

04:06 pm July 25, 2019

...our usual retro is clubbed with the Planning... 

What do you do during Planning if you do it all during Retrospective? 

...and lasts max 20 minutes...

So you would have 40 minutes left of an hour to discuss what is actually supposed to be discussed during the Retrospective. 

I know, it isn't ideal, but impossible to go for regular 1 hour retros. We touch upon subjects and if something needs a long discussion, we plan a separate meeting.

Why is it impossible for a regular 1 hour meeting? If the team has availability for multiple meetings that most likely more than 1 hour collectively, why can't you get a single hour to discuss ways for the team to improve their abilities to become a better self-managed, self-organized team? If this is how the team prefers to work, I'm not going to say it is wrong but it isn't Scrum. 

I'm a bit curious how you came up with the 1 hour time-box for the Retrospective. The Scrum Guide says that Retrospective should not be more than 3 hours for a 1 month Sprint.  Are you doing 10 day Sprints?

 

01:42 pm July 26, 2019

We do 10 days sprint (2 weeks)

And we have 1 meeting around 1,5 hours for Sprint planning and retrospective.

Besides this, we usually have couple of grooming meetings per sprint depending upon the need.

In 1,5 hours of sprint planning, we usually do the planning for 1 hour and 30 minutes are left aside for retrospective.

It is difficult to get people on board if I say, lets do 1 hour retrospective.

What usually works for me: We touch upon points in the 30 minute retro. Besides this, we are kind of self organized in a way that if team needs to discuss something (it could be something discovered during Retro), we call for a meeting during the sprint, but we do not necessarily put a label(retrospective) on it. If we put a label like Retrospective and reserve 1 hour, people would come de-motivated saying another Scrum meeting.

05:08 pm July 27, 2019

As a Scrum Master, you have a variety of actions and stances available to you. Your primary responsibilities include teaching Scrum theory, practices and rules as well as the three pillars of empiricism.

In this situation, your team might not understand the rules of Scrum, specifically, in relation to Scrum Events, their purpose, timeboxes, and outcomes. It might be a good place to start as a teacher and coach, go back to basics.

As any other Scrum Event, a Retrospective is important and it serves a specific purpose. This should be your first stop for team improvement discussion, not a separate meeting. The four events in Scrum very designed to minimize the need for other meetings. Use those events wisely.

In addition, as a Scrum Master, at some point, you might need to take executive action and uphold Scrum.

08:17 pm July 27, 2019

@Nitesh Bansal, When I read your post, the below line from the 12 Principles came to my mind.

Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.

I can relate to the situation you are facing and I am sure its not an easy place to be in. From my observation, it appears your team isn't so motivated to work as a team or to adopt a new mindset of working. Have we tried to understand why? As @Ian Mitchell asks, is there really an urgency to change? If not, then why is Scrum being imposed on the team? Why is Scrum making the team uncomfortable?

Also, is the work complex and adaptive? Does it require constant feedback from the stakeholders? How often are the stakeholders inspecting the Increments? If there is an answer to these questions, I believe the use of Scrum is helping.

We are doing the ceremonies, team shows concern about Velocity charts, estimation etc.

What value do you get by doing ceremonies vs. attending events?

But I still get the feeling that we are not making best use of Agile. Yes, we have found some value in Scrum, but we have not unlocked its full potential. I still have an impression with team members, management kind of trying to fit-in Traditional SDLC and fit it into Scrum.

After, reading this paragraph, I kinda felt the same that your organizational culture is just super-imposing Scrum over an existing Waterfall approach. Why do you feel that you are not making the best use of Agile? Can you explain what you were expecting and where you are not meeting the mark? Similarly, could you explain why you feel Scrum's full potential has not been unlocked?

01:13 pm July 31, 2019

Hi Steve,

What value do you get by doing ceremonies vs. attending events?

We do all Scrum ceremonies including Retrospective (shorter than the norm and combined with sprint planning). We as a team use the Sprint planning to ensure that we commit what we can deliver and we commit to what generates Value.

We do Refinements to ensure that our user stories are clear to us when they are discussed in Sprint planning.

We do daily standups, the main take-away here is an opportunity to share news about deployments, request for code reviews or quick discussion on any impediments.

 

You really put it right when you say the following:

After, reading this paragraph, I kinda felt the same that your organizational culture is just super-imposing Scrum over an existing Waterfall approach

Indeed, Scrum has been kind of imposed by the management. People in the team do worry about the Scrum KPIs like velocity charts, sprint goals, but it is done more in the spirit that if those KPIs don't look good, management will ask questions.

Otherwise, the approach to solve a problem is very much Waterfall. We are doing a redesign of a complex existing system. And the approach adopted by Architect and other stakeholders was very much Waterfall. We have a full design now in front us and we have to kind of make it work. 

Other developers share the concern that this isn't really an Agile way of working, but they can't do much if Architect and Product owner don't care at all about Scrum.

My expectation from the team is that they understand Agile and start approaching problems in an Agile way, some are on board with this approach, for others, this is just to make pretty excel graphs for management.