Doing agile vs Being agile and role of SM

Last post 07:01 pm April 8, 2021
by Alexander Leanza Bøhnsdalen
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06:59 pm April 6, 2021

I am a ScrumMaster of a software development team.

 

We have been doing Scrum for some time now (before a Kanban but no one followed WIPs) so from that on I had tried to guide the team on the values, events and why is the importance the Scrum framework. For example I explain that if we do refinement and planning and define goals, it will help to focus, to commit it will help to coordinate in daily stand ups towards the goal. As a consequence,  if for example a developer in the stand up offers to test or do an another activity outside the specialization to accomplish then goal, then  we will be in the path towards being agile. 

I see a misconception that the some members of the team thinks, that if the team decides whatever decide even outside the framework this is being agile.

So for example if we stop having goals, and if we stop refinement 1 sprint in advance so we stop planning, then it is ok as well as long as the team decides. 

As a ScrumMaster I feel frustrated, even though I have tried to explain the benefits of values that for some think that they can come up with their own framework and is fine. Sometimes of course working outside a comfort zone to be more effective can make people not to change. 
 

I mean do not get me wrong it is ok to experiment, but is there a limit on that? 
 

let’s say that Scrum is a wheel.. so the we all can experiment with using aluminum to make it lighter, or another rubber to have a better grip. But will we experiment with square wheels? We all know that they do not work. It is scientifically proven, we know that it does not work. 
 

So for me being agile is “to find ways to get what the customer wants, in less time, less waste and more quality” 
So decisions from the team to make them more “comfortable”, like not having goals, is not necessarily more effective and less transparent. But then since the team decides is that being agile?

If as a Scrum Master I disagree some interpret as if I want to follow the scrum values as some sort of prescriptive document. 
But I believe that if we change, we should “measure” the change if it is for the better and towards customer satisfaction , less waste, less time and more quality...  not just any change is being agile. 
 

Is it ok for me as a Scrum Master to express the disagreement on certain decisions or philosophies if they go against the agile principles and framework? Or this makes me some manager? 
 

If the team decides anyways to work more ineffectively even though my workshops or explanations on why is better to live this values or principles, am I still accountable? 
 

Another example: 

The team thinks that we are having too many meetings, so they want to cut time on Retros like to start writing posted notes on what to went well or bad before the meeting, even though I explained that then it will make difficult to do more fun and different Retros... is it ok that the team decides the less time on this? Is that being agile? Or should the ScrumMaster not let this happen? 
 

 

07:30 pm April 6, 2021

So for me being agile is “to find ways to get what the customer wants, in less time, less waste and more quality” 

Merriam-Webster provides this as a definition 

marked by ready ability to move with quick easy grace

having a quick resourceful and adaptable character

I think that your definition captures one aspect but it doesn't provide full context.  The concepts of the Manifesto for Agile Software Development is based on the premise of empiricism. It suggests values and principles that can help groups become more agile in their actions by embracing empiricism. Empiricism is based upon the principle that you learn based on what has happened and all decisions should be made based on your current knowledge.  Make a decision, do something, inspect the outcome, adjust as appropriate. 

I see a misconception that the some members of the team thinks, that if the team decides whatever decide even outside the framework this is being agile.

Why is that not agile? Doesn't their desire to change how they work lead to self-management and self-organization?  Adaption is a Scrum Value.  The Scrum Guide has this in the section that describes Adaption

 

Adaptation becomes more difficult when the people involved are not empowered or self-managing. A Scrum Team is expected to adapt the moment it learns anything new through inspection.

The section of the Scrum Guide that describes the Scrum Team says this (emphasis by me)

Scrum Teams are cross-functional, meaning the members have all the skills necessary to create value each Sprint. They are also self-managing, meaning they internally decide who does what, when, and how.

You say that you are trying to help them appreciate the Scrum framework but then don't agree when they try to self-organize.  This is from the Scrum Guide section describing the Scrum Master

The Scrum Master serves the Scrum Team in several ways, including:

  • Coaching the team members in self-management and cross-functionality;

Your actions and the question you asked seem to go against that.

The Scrum framework does provide process.  Process is decided by the people in the Scrum Team.  As a Scrum Master you should be encouraging them to experiment and adapt. If you have some information that would be useful to the team, you should share it.  But remember that no one leads the team or makes decisions for them. Present your opinions with evidence to support why you have that opinion. But be prepared to let the team decide how they want to proceed.  Sometimes making a mistake is the best way to learn.  Don't prevent them from failing but guard them from significant failure. 

 You mention "the framework" multiple times but mostly in reference to agile.  I am not sure what you mean as an agile framework. There are many frameworks that can promote agility, Scrum being just one and it might not be the right one for a team. Did you have a specific agile framework, different from Scrum, when you wrote this?

07:50 pm April 6, 2021

So for me being agile is “to find ways to get what the customer wants, in less time, less waste and more quality” 

Is the Product Owner satisfied that good value is being obtained? Is the team delivering valuable Done increments of usable quality, every Sprint, without the elements of Scrum being in place?

10:36 pm April 6, 2021

Hi Ian,

Thank you so much for your feedback.I just need some guidance.. I find the role of the Scrum Master confusing from time to time,

Here is were I see the thin line where I think people have different opinions on up to which degree the Scrum Master should be "influencial" for the team or not. Is the scrum master a "True" leader? 

I understand the coaching part... but I think that sometimes we have to step up and evaluate the maturity of the team due to rotation as well.. forming, storming, performing... if the team is forming, also we could look a bit into mentoring in the beginning? or being Scrum master should only  be about coaching? 
 

You say that you are trying to help them appreciate the Scrum framework but then don't agree when they try to self-organize.  This is from the Scrum Guide section describing the Scrum Master

In the example I describe of "some" members, on not want to do planning or not having goals, not all of them..That is why my concern... and they want to influence over the others. 
 

    Why is that not agile? Doesn't their desire to change how they work lead to self-management and self-organization?  Adaption is a Scrum Value.  The Scrum Guide has this in the section that describes Adaption

So Adaptation is not a scrum value, Adaptation is a pilar of emprisism, is about continuous improvement.  And I said "Improvement" not focussing in a plan and focus, is an improvement? Where would be the empirical data on that? 

Scum values are "Committment", "Focus", openeness, respect and courage, 

And clearly then Committment and focus would be missing... so is that being agile? 

So the scrum guide says

The Scrum Master serves the Scrum Team in several ways, including:

  • Coaching the team members in self-management and cross-functionality;
  • Helping the Scrum Team focus on creating high-value Increments that meet the Definition of Done;
  • Causing the removal of impediments to the Scrum Team’s progress; and,
  • Ensuring that all Scrum events take place and are positive, productive, and kept within the timebox

So I agree that nothing should be imposing to the team. But as a Scrum Master I feel responsible to make it visible with information that not having focus, committment will not lead to efficiency and will produce a Lean waste. 

If we do not plan and have a goal, do the Stand ups make sense to have for example? Can we really coordinate towards something and self organize in 2 weeks so effectively as if we had goals and a plan? 

As as a Scrum Master should I not guide the team or at least recommend a direcction based in true agile values? 
 

 I think that your definition captures one aspect but it doesn't provide full context.  The concepts of the Manifesto for Agile Software Development is based on the premise of empiricism. It suggests values and principles that can help groups become more agile in their actions by embracing empiricism. Empiricism is based upon the principle that you learn based on what has happened and all decisions should be made based on your current knowledge.  Make a decision, do something, inspect the outcome, adjust as appropriate. 

So does the knowledge of the Scrum Master counts based on knowledge taken from scientific papers, reading books on others experiences of other teams or even this forum? or not? Is not the Scrum Master a team member
 

The Scrum framework does provide process.  Process is decided by the people in the Scrum Team.  As a Scrum Master you should be encouraging them to experiment and adapt. If you have some information that would be useful to the team, you should share it.  But remember that no one leads the team or makes decisions for them. Present your opinions with evidence to support why you have that opinion. But be prepared to let the team decide how they want to proceed.  Sometimes making a mistake is the best way to learn.  Don't prevent them from failing but guard them from significant failure. 

Yes, I do agree with that. In the end the team decides, but then we should gather data to see if the change or experiment was an improvement or not ..or should limit myself to coach? Just to clarify, my definition of coach is not having or giving opinions, right?  

 

10:41 pm April 6, 2021

* Sorry meant Daniel in my post above... 
 

11:00 pm April 6, 2021

Hi Ian
 

Is the Product Owner satisfied that good value is being obtained? Is the team delivering valuable Done increments of usable quality, every Sprint, without the elements of Scrum being in place

You have a good point, this is something I will give a look into...

01:09 am April 7, 2021

There is too much emphasis on self-organizing teams. Well, a team could self-organize into a mutiny and decide to play ping-pong and not work.

Agile or not, workers need to understand that they are employees in a hierarchical organization and that Agile is just another business process improvement initiative to make them efficient and effective at building great products which benefits the company and makes customers happy. And that means that decisions will be made by leadership which the team will need to adhere to. That is how a company runs.

03:09 pm April 7, 2021

@Mark Adams states reality, unfortunately.  However, I usually see that as process decisions and not practice decisions.  But it is very difficult to rebel against the people that influence your paycheck and that is often taken advantage of.  

Is the scrum master a "True" leader? 

Sort of as it depends on what you call a "leader". A Scrum Master is a servant leader. They serve the team in order for them to be successful at achieving the team goals and delivering value.  For me the "leader" part of that is when a team cannot come to a decision because of split opinions, the Scrum Master can make a decisions based on a compromise with the clear understanding to the team that it is a place to start and adapt as the team sees fit.  This decision is not something that the Scrum Master arrives at on their own. It is to help a team that has acknowledged a need but are dead-locked on how to address it. 

if the team is forming, also we could look a bit into mentoring in the beginning? or being Scrum master should only  be about coaching? 

I feel that there is a very fine line between mentoring and coaching.  My opinion is that a mentor is someone that is viewed as being available to help with issues by offering help to analyze and reach conclusions.  A mentor might suggest a solution but will do so by explaining why they feel that solution could work while others won't.  They do not tell people what to do. They help the individuals learn how to become more proficient at their job.  A coach teaches individuals and teams how to execute specific plans. But it doesn't stop there because a plan is based upon specific responses/occurrences and those do not always happen. So a coach also has to teach how to react to unexpected situations and still achieve the goals. So, yeah a Scrum Master can be a mentor and a coach but neither of them will tell people how to work. 

That is why my concern... and they want to influence over the others.

Why is that a problem?  A team has to be allowed to do things differently in order to determine the "right" way for them. Who's to say that those individuals influence others to stop having the Daily Scrum only for some of them to realize how beneficial the event was and suggest bringing it back? As I said before, mistakes and pain are great motivators for change.  But human nature is that change has to be something that the individuals are willing to do.  How many times have you been told what to do by someone but you didn't agree with their edict so you superficially abided, never realizing any benefit?  

So Adaptation is not a scrum value, Adaptation is a pilar of emprisism, is about continuous improvement.  And I said "Improvement" not focussing in a plan and focus, is an improvement? Where would be the empirical data on that? 

You are correct, I misstated.  So let's look at it from a pillar perspective as it is stated in the Scrum Guide 

empirical Scrum pillars of transparency, inspection, and adaptation

Improvement is when something becomes better over previous situations.  Empirical data is based upon the information you have acquired by doing things in the past.  There is nothing that I have ever read that says all empirical data is positive.  Often negative data is a better impetus for change.  So not focussing on a plan can be great empirical data on the benefits of following a plan.  Empiricism is rooted in learning from what you do, taking that knowledge in consideration for the future, and adapting your activities based upon those learnings. Your adaptions come from transparency and inspection.  If you have empirical evidence to present to the team that not doing a Daily Scrum would negatively impact them, then you should be making that transparent.  But unless the team is not holding a Daily Scrum, how would you have that evidence?  Where is the empirical process when you make decisions based upon what has happened to others alone?

And clearly then Committment and focus would be missing... so is that being agile? 

If the team is committed to doing something as a group and they focus on doing that there is nothing missing. If the team decides together on what they want to commit to and focus on, then I think it is agile.  Is it the correct thing to commit and focus on?  Who knows until you try it. 

But as a Scrum Master I feel responsible to make it visible with information that not having focus, committment will not lead to efficiency and will produce a Lean waste. 

I applaud you for this and I think you are absolutely correct.  But you have to make everything visible and be willing to let the team try things in order to lead to efficiency and reduce Lean waste.  What is efficient for one team might be waste for another. 

Yes, I do agree with that. In the end the team decides, but then we should gather data to see if the change or experiment was an improvement or not ..or should limit myself to coach? Just to clarify, my definition of coach is not having or giving opinions, right?  

I provided my definition of coach above.  A coach absolutely has and gives opinions.  And sometimes those can be strong opinions. But in the end a coach creates a team that can work together, adapting as needed, to reach shared goals.  For example, every sports team has a coach and a shared goal, usually to win and be the best team.  The coach will teach the teams plays or strategies.  But the coach also educates the team on how to react to changes in conditions and still make progress towards the goal.

07:01 pm April 8, 2021

Hi Daniel 

I think you answer is brilliant!! This helps me a lot to analyse and clarify the role of SM in a more specific way on mentoring and coaching. I am very grateful for your effort in answering this!

Related to Mark comments,

There is too much emphasis on self-organizing teams. Well, a team could self-organize into a mutiny and decide to play ping-pong and not work.

Actually a similar concept is being tried to be adopted by agile companies to include Management on a higher level to define the direction or the "What"  and then teams self organize on the "how", in this way, it makes it more difficult to self organize into what Mark refers as into mutiny and decide to play ping-pong and not work.  It is called the Tight-loose-Tight approach. 

I will invite you to read this article: 

https://www.humanize.no/blog/Tight-Loose-Tight