How to help a (zombie) SCRUM team from the inside

Last post 03:45 pm August 2, 2020
by Simon Mayer
6 replies
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03:30 pm July 25, 2020

Hi all,

I am working as a software developer in a new SCRUM team (less than one year old), in a big company which is pretty unfamiliar both with software development and with SCRUM (they are trying to adopt SAFe on a company level).

I myself have 20+ years of experience in software development, and 3+ years in Agile (SCRUM + eXtreme Programming).

But most of the team members have very little o no experience at all with Agile, and some of them are also junior in software development. Most of the team is made of members external to the company (I myself am a freelance consultant).

We are working on a new software project since October 2019, but useless to say that our day-by-day is still too much distant from what SCRUM should be. I guess we all know very well the symptoms of a zombie scrum team... yes, my team has them all!

But also: the scrum master himself has many years of experience in business management, but is pretty new to scrum instead... He often gives advises that are clearly against the basic rules of scrum (for example advising to not use the Fibonacci sequence, using 1 sp = 1 work day, not running the retro, encouraging to estimate tests and development separately...)

As s senior consultant, at the beginning I was very enthusiastic and confident that I could be an active change agent, both for the team and for the company, in their journey towards agile and scrum.

When we didn't yet have a scrum master, I had tried to apply as a part-time scrum master but they said they preferred having me as a full-time dev.

I tried to give some suggestions by using what I had learned in my previous scrum experience. But lately I feel that whatever I do, there is very little help I can give when the scrum master himself does not act as a coach for the team, and most of the team members seem not to be wanting to improve our daily process (maybe because most of them are from an external company?).

Of course, I don't want to just stand up and start pointing fingers to all other team members: I don't like this approach, and anyways I don't think it would be of any help.

But since most of the sprints we don't even run a retrospective, I really don't know how I could help the team to improve...

 

I hope someone out there can give me some advise, or anyways have some ideas to discuss about how any single team member can actively help the whole.

Thank you for reading so far.

 

 

07:51 pm July 27, 2020

I am working as a software developer in a new SCRUM team (less than one year old), in a big company which is pretty unfamiliar both with software development and with SCRUM (they are trying to adopt SAFe on a company level).

Who in the organization actually wants Scrum to be implemented at a company level? Where is sponsorship for the Scrum framework coming from, and who is creating the requisite sense of urgency for organizational change?

12:47 am July 28, 2020

Did the C-suite make it clear that the company will transition to an Agile mindset? If not, team members will consider it optional. Also, the company should invest in trainers who can come on-site (well, virtual for now) and train and certify everybody affected. Otherwise, it sounds like the Wild West.

06:59 am July 28, 2020

Hi @Ian Mitchell and @Mark Adams,

thank you for jumping into the thread.

I don't exactly know "who" is wanting to make the organizational change, but I'd say say that it's clear enough in the company that they are doing this transition.

All employees have participated to at least one two-days agile training with external coaches. Teams are re-organizing "the scrum way", everybody knows about "agile" and "scrum" (even though, most rumours I here are not positive).

However, after the initial two-days training (four actually, since I participated both to the team and the scrum master training) I didn't see any further coaching. I had already suggested to my referring manager to consider adding some more continuous training and coaching, but apparently the suggestion was not considered worth to be followed.

From your comments I take it that in these situations help should come "from above", and not from "the inside"?

A single (or a few) team member cannot do anything to help and act as a change agent?

08:21 pm July 28, 2020

but apparently the suggestion was not considered worth to be followed.

Did you find out why not, and whether the consequences are understood?

From your comments I take it that in these situations help should come "from above", and not from "the inside"?

A single (or a few) team member cannot do anything to help and act as a change agent?

The Scrum Values of commitment, focus, respect, openness, and courage can be demonstrated "from the inside". Remember also that the Scrum Master has a service to the wider organization, and to help people understand which of their interactions with a Scrum Team are helpful, and which aren’t.

01:03 pm July 29, 2020

Ok, so I take it that the first help should come from the scrum master himself?

I will get back to my manager and ask for some more information to better understand how the company is moving to achieve this transformation.

Thank you for pointing me in the right direction

03:45 pm August 2, 2020

But since most of the sprints we don't even run a retrospective, I really don't know how I could help the team to improve...

First of all, I'll quote from the Scrum Guide:

Scrum’s roles, events, artifacts, and rules are immutable and although implementing only parts of Scrum is possible, the result is not Scrum.

Without a Sprint Retrospective each sprint, it is not Scrum.

You might therefore want to take any appropriate opportunity to point that out to your Scrum Team; and particularly to the Scrum Master.

In your situation, without time dedicated for a Sprint Retrospective (or even if the subject is too urgent to wait for the next retrospective), I would probably look for an opportunity for a private discussion involving the whole Scrum Team.
I would look to establish the level of support for Scrum within the team, and I would particularly want to understand if the Scrum Master is interested in fulfilling the role as defined by the Scrum Guide.

I would look for opportunities as a united Scrum Team to at least get clarity about who wants to work with Scrum, and why. That is a prerequisite for further action.
If it's not possible as a united team, it's much more difficult, but I would most likely be open with the team that I intend to escalate the situation and ask for help. If I could still do this with the support of part of the team, or I could find a way to empower the Scrum Master to do this effectively, I would.
Ultimately if I am unhappy with the situation, and these efforts don't result in suitable change, I would consider resigning.