Scrum Masters: How to approach the following situation and what steps to take

Last post 07:15 pm May 21, 2021
by Daniel Wilhite
2 replies
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08:53 am May 21, 2021

Recently I've joined a company as a Scrum Master and was asked to support one of the scrum teams. This specific 'scrum' team has not been supported by a scrum master up till now and as such have implemented their own 'scrum' way of working. 

The situation is as following:

  • The team is part of a tribe
  • They plan their work per quarter
  • The team works Kanban
  • The team has 9 team members + Product owner
  • The workload is huge
  • There is lots of unplanned work vs planned work
  • Not al the pre requisites for a scrum team are in place (like DoD, time to do proper retrospectives)

I've noticed the team is very much open to improve their way of working, they want to be more innovative and deliver more value in sprints however currently they just don't see any way to do this.

I have a few things in mind in which I could support this team towards a more efficient and mature way of working however I'd love to hear how you kind people would help to improve this team. What would be your first step and next steps to support this team?

Cant wait to read your responses! Thank you in advance! 

06:43 pm May 21, 2021

I've noticed the team is very much open to improve their way of working, they want to be more innovative and deliver more value in sprints however currently they just don't see any way to do this.

If they can't, what are senior leadership doing to create, communicate, and reinforce a sense of urgency for organizational change?

07:15 pm May 21, 2021

Based on the "situation" you described I would start with ordering of the "to-do" column on their Kanban board.  Order it for value, not priority.  Focusing on the items that provide the most value will help them to improve their satisfaction with the work that they are doing.  

Get them to stop planning a quarter's worth of work and start planning in smaller increments.  Since they are used to quarters, have them try breaking it into monthly plans. I use that because the Scrum Guide states that ideal Sprints are at most a month. From the Scrum Guide

Sprints are the heartbeat of Scrum, where ideas are turned into value.

They are fixed length events of one month or less to create consistency. A new Sprint starts immediately after the conclusion of the previous Sprint.

This will help them start to feel like they are able to deliver the work they planned rather than constantly adapting because of the amount of work that is coming in. It may even lead them to want to try smaller increments.

Backlog refinement will help with the workload that is huge.  It will also help to order the "to-do" column to provide the most value items at the top. 

Those would be my first things to address.  If you can get them working on those three things you can slip in getting them to work on a Definition of Done, Sprint Goals, and other things that can help them become more successful.