Tag Archive: scrum

The Happiness Index is a pattern taken from Jeff Sutherlands paper ‘Teams That Finish Early Accelerate Faster’ I implemented the pattern with a team a couple of years ago and found it to be a very useful metric. I’m a strong believer in human centred behavioural metrics which inform intelligent decision making.

The Happiness Metric accurately told a story of 6 or 7 months on our team where we encountered a situation where the current backlog we were working on got pulled just prior to release and we went in to a Waterfa(i)ll style 3-4 month  traditional discovery phase.

The way I facilitated this with the team was at the end of the retro I stuck two post-its outside the room with “How happy are you with the company?” and “How happy are you with your role?” on them and asked everyone to stick post it’s underneath on a scale of 1(low) to 5(high) on their way out the room.


The output was tracked on a spreadsheet and then visualised  in a basic graph.


What is interesting is that the happiness of the team with their roles was substantially more resilient than their feelings about the company. We were a tight knit team and this shows the importance of strong team relationships which can sustain the team through tough times. The Sprints were 2 week iterations so from Sprint 6 to Sprint 01 represents about 5 months. Although every team is different, this empirical data would suggest a mature ‘healthy’ team can support a 4 to 5 month rough patch before losing motivation in their role. In this case a traditional project discovery phase was managed in a typically top down way and left the team in a perpetual spike cycle with no output except for estimates against a growing and churning backlog.

With the index as evidence I worked with the team running workshops and challenging the traditional project management approach to give them hope that there was an end in sight. The knowledge of how the team felt enabled me to adjust my coaching strategy accordingly.

I would suggest that you consider adopting a metric of this nature.

A note on Metrics:

When applying the rule ‘you improve what you measure‘ as distinct from the over used Peter Drucker quote ‘If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it’, you need to be wary of the negative scenario this creates; in other words whilst you concentrate efforts on improving your measured metric you are likely getting worse in an area that is not being focused on.


This article has been inspired by a former colleague who has recently taken up the mantle of Scrum Master. As a new Scrum Master you face very unfamiliar Yodachallenges and your success is very much based on your ability to utilise coaching and soft skills to gently guide your team and colleagues. As a bit of fun, I’ve used some quotes from Yoda to frame the top 10 tips for Scrum Masters:

10. “To be Jedi is to face the truth, and choose. Give off light, or darkness, Padawan. Be a candle, or the night.”
–YODA, Dark Rendezvous

Scrum is an MRI scanner on the business you work with and the team you are coaching. The outcome of a successful Agile transformation is the exposure of issues that impede the progress of the team. The number one role of the Scrum Master is to remove these issues wherever possible or enlist help if the issues lie beyond the scope of the team.

Light the way to a brighter future for your team – remove impediments

9. “On many long journeys have I gone. And waited, too, for others to return from journeys of their own. Some return; some are broken; some come back so different only their names remain.”
–YODA, Dark Rendezvous

Each Sprint is a journey, as is the process of Agile transformation. The path of that journey is illuminated by the Sprint Burndown Chart which at once celebrates success and exposes a deviation from the path or Sprint Goal. Scrum is as heavy or light on metrics as you choose as a team. I would recommend that a Sprint Burndown Chart is created manually or reported daily if you have the software in place to do this. The chart should be displayed prominently on you whiteboard or other information radiator.

Take the journey with your team and share the path – Show the daily burn down

8. “To answer power with power, the Jedi way this is not. In this war, a danger there is, of losing who we are.”
–YODA, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, “Lair of Grievous”

Know that you are a Servant Leader and you should be available at all time to serve the needs of your team and facilitate Scrum process. It’s highly likely that you will encounter Product Owners or other colleagues that enjoy the Command and Control approach to management. Command and Control is not the way of the Scrum Leader. You must find ways to protect the Scrum team from legacy power structures and guide colleagues by becoming an exemplar of Servant Leadership.

A key part of the Scrum process is Stacking the Backlog. The Product Owner is the only person who can prioritise the backlog, but the backlog is open  to other people to add items and is owned by the team. As a Scrum Master, a great way to facilitate the output of useable high quality chunks of software is to facilitate Stacking the Backlog. The process of Stacking the Backlog is the breaking down of large User Stories to smaller Stories that can be delivered in a single Sprint. The Scrum Master should support the Product Owner.

Know that you are a Servant Leader – Facilitate Stacking the Backlog and support the Product Owner

7.”When nine hundred years old you reach, look as good, you will not, hmmm?”
–YODA, Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

It’s important to have a sense of the legacy the team is leaving behind. Time and time again we encounter legacy code that is extremely difficult to maintain and re-develop. A good Scrum Master encourages Agile engineering practices which build quality in to the software development process at the start. Bear in mind that a hyper-productive team will make a hyper-productive mess. Simple practices such as Pair Programming produce code the team can be proud of.

Be mindful of the software legacy you are creating – Implement Agile Engineering practices.

6.”If no mistake have you made, yet losing you are … a different game you should play.”
–YODA, Shatterpoint

A key principle of Scrum is ‘Inspect and Adapt’. The Sprint Retrospective is the key meeting to examine the process the Team is using and enable the ability to provide continuous improvement. Empiricism is built in to Scrum right from the Daily Meeting, to the Burndown and finally the Sprint Retrospective.

Engage the team in continuous improvement – Facilitate the Sprint Retrospective meeting and act on it’s findings

5. “Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those who transform into the Force. Mourn them do not. Miss them do not. Attachment leads to jealousy. The shadow of greed, that is.”
–YODA, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Scrum is a team game and it’s vital that work is accepted by the team as a whole. Scrum helps to engage the individuals in the team and reduces the dissatisfaction that leads to people leaving the business. Inevitably over time people will move on. The concept that you need to grasp here is ‘Bus Factor’. Bus Factor is the number of team members who could leave before the team ceases to function. Teams that consist of specialists have a very high Bus Factor i.e. code ownership and knowledge of the codebase is held by one individual.

The team should take the next available Story not ‘cherry pick’ from their comfort zone – Develop a cross-functional team

4.”No! Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.”
–YODA, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Scrum has a simple set of rules that make up a complex game. The implementation of those rules is straight-forward and the framework and roles should be followed closely. There is a tendency to try to cherry pick parts of the framework and do the bits that fit easily with the existing culture. Commonly you may come across Product Owners that are Scrum Leaders or Scrum teams that have Project Managers. Be clear that mixing roles or missing roles is like having a game of football without a referee or goalie – it just doesn’t work.

Follow the Scrum framework – Ensure the correct roles are in place to guarantee success

3.”Lost a planet, Master Obi-Wan has. How embarrassing. How embarrassing.”
–YODA, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

Communication is key to the success of a Scrum team. The Daily Meeting ensure that at least once a day the team has the opportunity to let each other know how they are getting on. The Scrum Masters role is to facilitate the meeting. Be wary of the team reporting to you – they should be speaking to each other. If necessary make an excuse and don’t attend the meeting for a few sessions allowing the team the space to speak to each other.

Encourage communication – Ensure the Daily Meeting takes place

2.”Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.”
–YODA, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

The incisive nature of Scrum is intimidating to incumbent power structures and those that hide behind them. The role of the Scrum Master is to educate and act as an Agile Ambassador. The business benefits of adopting the framework need to be repeatedly emphasized and communicated to the wider business. Return on Investment and the continual release of reliable and working software are two of the key factors that should be explained regularly and clearly to everyone involved.

Become an Agile Ambassador – Communicate the benefits of Scrum

1. “When you look at the dark side, careful you must be … for the dark side looks back.”
–YODA, Dark Rendezvous

The responsibility for the adoption and practice of Scrum, lies with the Scrum Master. The Scrum Master shows by example that the techniques and framework of Scrum is the most successful way to move forward. If as the Scrum Leader you start to miss elements out or take the line of least resistance that these cues will be picked up by the team and the business and the benefits of Scrum will not be realised.

Walk the walk and talk the talk – Take responsibility for the adoption and practice of Scrum

Thanks for looking over Yoda’s top ten tips for new Scrum Masters.
Here they again in summary:

10.   Light the way to a brighter future for your team – Remove impediments
9.     Take the journey with your team and share the path – Advertise the Daily Burndown
8.     Know that you are a Servant Leader – Facilitate Stacking the Backlog
7.     Be mindful of the software legacy you are creating – Implement Agile Engineering practices
6.     Engage the team in continuous improvement – Facilitate Sprint Retrospectives, act on findings
5.     The team should take the next Story not ‘cherry pick’ – Develop a cross-functional team
4.     Follow the Scrum framework – Ensure the correct roles are in place to guarantee success
3.     Encourage communication – Ensure the Daily Meeting takes place
2.     Become an Agile Ambassador – Communicate the benefits of Scrum
1.     Walk the walk and talk the talk – Take responsibility for the adoption and practice of Scrum

If none of that helps then watch – Sh*t bad Scrum Master say…

Have you got any hints and tips you’d like to add to Yoda’s list?







Creative Commons License
All work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

There is a lively debate around whether the Death Star could be classed as an Agile Project. I would suggest, that it’s more relevant to look to the Rebel Alliance. The Alliance shows us a good example of a cross-discipline hyper-productive Scrum Team in action.

The Death Star project does have a clearly defined Vertical Slice, which would seem to point to an Agile approach. The planet-destroying superlaser was delivered as a functional artifact whilst other less important features were dropped.

On closer inspection however we could surmise that the legacy command and control management structure has produced a flawed ‘Scrumbut’ implementation.

The failure to embrace good Planning and Engineering Practices left the weapon with a fatal flaw – open exhaust conduits that allowed it’s destruction.

Don’t be too proud of this technological terror you’ve constructed.” Darth Vader

Clearly a reference to ‘gold-plating’. It seems that Darth Vader was not attending the Daily Meeting or Sprint Review. I’ll leave you to decide whether Darth Vader was a Product Owner or Scrum Leader.

The Death Star was an Agile Project | Hacker News

1] Ackbar, Return of the Jedi “It’s a trap!” [2] The Emperor, Return of the Jedi “As you can see, my young apprentice, your friends have failed. Now witness the firepower of this fully ARMED and OPERATIONAL battle station!” qa-ds1-15215: I was checking out the design and noticed that thermal exhaust port AH-51 is open to the world.
Death Star II As an Agile Project

So, Vader takes an Agile approach. He prioritizes the features list (“Look, we really need the big laser thing; our customers will just have to come to us at first.”), and he works in vertical slices. At the end of the movie, it seems to have paid off.

A recent marketing campaign for MS Project postulated that Luke Skywalker achieved his goal in Episode IV using a traditional Gant Chart. I’m somewhat sceptical – the intuitive nature of the force and the distributed nature of the Jedi are far more akin to a self-organising Agile model.

The Episode IV team comprising Luke, Han, Leia, C3P0, R2D2, Chewy and OB1 is clearly a hyper-productive, cross-discipline Scrum Team. Conforming to the 7+ or -2 team number ‘sweet spot’. The team follows the pattern of an effective geographically distributed(at times) Scrum.

InfoQ: Jeff Sutherland: Reaching Hyper-Productivity with Outsourced Development Teams

Nathan Marz explain Storm, a distributed fault-tolerant and real-time computational system currently used by Twitter to keep statistics on user clicks for every URL and domain. Founding members of the ICAgile Consortium, Ahmed Sidky and Alistair Cockburn, discuss IC Agile, along with Bob Payne, a consultant, coach and trainer.
Distributed Teams Content on InfoQ

InfoQ.com (Information Queue) is an independent online community focused on change and innovation in enterprise software development, targeted primarily at the technical architect, technical team lead (senior developer), and project manager. InfoQ serves the Java, .NET, Ruby, SOA, and Agile communities with daily news written by domain experts, articles, video interviews, video conference presentations, and mini-books.

Gamification is part of a new vocabulary which seeks to describe the fusion of different disciplines. As I’ve read more deeply about Gamification, I’ve come to realise that the concept is easily identifiable within the Scrum Framework. For an example the Daily Meeting has many facets which seek to open channels of communication through Gamification. The Daily Meeting is built around a few simple rules which you can easily set in to a game metaphor (in bold):

1. The same time every day – The fixture
2. All the team must attend – You must be part of the team to play
3. Team stands-up and huddles – Many games engender a sense of proximity to ensure involvement and to provide an immersive experience
4. Takes place in the same place – The pitch
5. Time-boxed to 15 minutes – The game is time-limited to promote intensity
6. Early meetings should adhere to three questions – Simple rules promote inclusion and participation

  • What did I do yesterday
  • What will I do today?
  • What’s in my way?

7. Use a speaking token – A ball or baton is thrown from player to player
8. Signal the end – The whistle is blown and the game is over

The Scrum Master acts as a referee facilitating the meeting but not interfering or running the meeting. The Daily Meeting is a perfect example of how Gamification can help us be more effective at delivering a ‘product’, managing our time and transforming the world of work.

The Scrum Framework introduces Game Mechanics to the workplace and by doing so delivers business advantage.

Have you used Gamification in your products or workplace? Is ‘Gamification’ part of a new vocabulary or empty hyperbole?

Further information on Gamification

A great place to start looking at real world examples of Gamification is this article by @adachen:

Sharleen Sy has written a good article on why Game Mechanics work:

Seattle’s Tech Flash has a great article on how Gamification has impacted business and science:

Microsofts Ribbon Hero is an example of Gamification of software applications:

I previously wrote about the benefits major marketing agencies were experiencing by implementing Agile techniques within their business. Taking that concept one stage further I’ve re-engineered Mike Cohn’s ubiquitous Scrum framework diagram to show how Teehan and Lax’s six steps to Adaptive Marketing can be applied to this process.
Mike Cohn’s Scrum Framework Copyright 2005 Mountain Goat Software
Adaptive Marketing Using The Scrum Framework  – Diagram
Creative Commons License
All work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

The Six Steps are as follows:

1.     Product Backlog

The agency and client define the objectives of the engagement and establish several key performance indicators. The first step is all bout establishing the vision with the client and producing a product backlog with the team.

2.     Sprint

The creative team is dedicated to the project for a set period of time allowing them to focus on the task. Creating the Sprint is a familiar concept to Agilists and it makes perfect sense in the context of a marketing campaign.

3-5.     Meetings

Steps 3 -5 are encompassed in the Empirical framework of Scrum. Ideas are rapidly developed, tested and deployed
Ideas evolve and adapt over time. Performance is closely monitored allowing the team to make adjustments.

The combination of Sprint Planning, Daily Meetings, Sprint Review and Sprint Retrospectives all support an inspect and adapt approach to marketing.

6. Sprint Review and Retrospective

Project success is determined by achieving the KPIs. The Sprint Review meeting covers the necessary KPI’s to ensure that all activities match a state of ‘done’ and whether the process and campaign were successful.

Using the Scrum Framework gives transparency to the Adaptive Marketing process, a corner-stone of the Agile approach.

Do you practice Adaptive Marketing or have you implemented Agile at Enterprise level? Have you used the Scrum Framework outside of Software Development? How did it go?

Due to the volatility of our developer resource we recently decided to opt-out of Scrum and adopt Kanban. Kanban is an Agile technique that is less prescriptive than Scrum. There are many similarities between the two systems including the use of white-boards and post-it notes to track progress. An important difference is that the white-board is owned by the process not the team. The board makes transparent, the flow of work through the team.

The white-board has similar columns: not done, in-progress, done. The columns have an agreed limit on how many jobs can be in each column. We agreed on up to two per developer.

Kanban does not have any notion of a Sprint. Kanban limits the number of items that can be in-progress by WIP (work in-progress). WIP limit is the key method to tweak and optimise the flow of work.
So the response time (how long it takes to respond to a change of priorities) of a Kanban team is however long it takes for capacity to become available. Capacity is measured by the general principle of “one item out = one item in” (driven by the WIP limits). You don’t have to wait for the next Sprint to progress work and testing, deployment and review are all a continual process. Due to the emphasis on experimentation and the Scrum mentality to ‘Inspect and Adapt’, we decided to include Daily Stand Ups’ in our version of Kanban.

The basic steps we took to complete the adoption were:

1. Agree Kanban adoption with Dev Team Manager

Senior management was concerned about compliance for audit purposes and the possible breakdown of process. We allayed any fears by emphasising the similarities with Scrum process.

2. Agree with Product Owner

The P.O had previous experience of Kanban in a production environment and was therefore happy to adopt the process and added value based on their own experience.

3.Training session and agree column names and WIP limit with team

There was some trepidation and a lot of discussion around WIP limits and whether the whole process offered anything better than ‘just a list’. I emphasized that though Adaptive rather than Prescriptive Kanban offered the opportunity to maintain process and measure flow.

We had a planning meeting and jumped in. The interesting thing is that quite quickly we identified that testing was a bottle-neck. We knew colloquially that this was the case but the Scrum board had never exposed the relationship between testing and deployment. We tended to remove all the jobs at the end of the Sprint and the tasks that had been awaiting test or had been tested and not deployed would be forgotten. We adjusted our working practices and white-board to clearly show whose responsibility it was to test code in Development and in our Main environment.

Our team has become less volatile recently and we have returned to the more familiar territory of Scrum. Utilising Kanban was beneficial and we have reverse engineered some of what we learned back in to our Scrum process.

Have you had any adventures in Kanban?

E-book – kanban v scrum.pdf

I’ve blogged before on the role of being a designer in a Scrum Team. I thought it would be interesting to micro-blog my actual experiences of participating in the Sprint.

Day 1
First day of being back in the Sprint with the developers. I’m feeling the subtle pressure (or is that motivation?) to get my tasks done on time. We are working on a high-profile project and I can’t afford to hold up development by not having the design work completed.

Day 2
The wireframes have been created but the layouts are all wrong, so I need to pull my finger out! The 960.gs CSS framework is a great help in the creation of the wireframes.

Day 3
I forgot to update my tasks before I left last night. Consequently we are behind on our Burndown Chart. I have to confess to the team that I didn’t practice what I preach. A humbling experience and I will definitely remember tonight and also cut some slack to my team in the future if this happens on the odd occasion.

Day 4
Chris Brogan recently said that “doing is more fun than planning”. Turns out he’s right. I’m enjoying keeping track of my tasks and having the opportunity to move my post-its across the board to ‘Done’. I think if you haven’t been in the Scrum you are losing a vital perspective on how the Sprint dynamic encourages a feeling of success.

Day 5
The post-its that have been bought from a local supermarket keep falling off the board. I had heard the team mentioning this, but hadn’t completed appreciated how annoying it is. The next purchase of post-it’s will be the genuine thing.

Day 6
I’ve cheated and added some additional screens to an existing task. I can’t decide whether this is utilising Scrum in a flexible way or I’m committing a Scrum sin. I’ll pick up the issue in the retrospective with the team.

Day 7
The Sprint has blipped. We have a developer unexpectedly out for two days. That’s a lot of ground to make up and we may need to take something out of the Sprint to compensate.

Day 8
In the Pre- Sprint Planning Meeting with our Product Owner we discussed a new design for a Blog Template. I promptly forgot to include that in the task so now I have to make up the time. In this situation wireframes are a great solution. Wireframes provide the developers with the information they need to get going whilst buying some time to complete the design.

Day 9
Being more physically involved in the Sprint has made me realise that the whiteboard could do with an overhaul. The board should be at the centre of the team, radiating information out to the wider business.

Day 10
I’ve gained final approval the last of my design work so my active tasks in the Sprint are set to Done. I’m back to the role of Scrum Master but I’ve learned a lot and been reminded of how it feels to be ‘in the Sprint’.

Day 11
I was reading ‘Agile Coaching’  and came across the following link:
Combined with my recent interest in visual thinking, this opened my mind to the possibilities of expanding the purpose of the current whiteboard. The current board is simply a ‘task board’ and there is a clear opportunity to make it a ‘team board’.  We are shortly transitioning to VS 2010 Agile 5.0 templates. After that change has been completed I’ll talk to the team about shaking up the whiteboard.

Day 12
It’s the last day of the Sprint and we managed to bring it in on-time. This is a great achievement as we lost some resource and velocity mid-sprint. I will be including my work in future Sprints, as it’s been a great reality check.

Are you a designer in a Scrum Team? Should design work be included in the Sprint? Let me know what you think.

What I have quickly found is that it’s really hard to protect developer’s time on Blue Sky Days. We had two issues which I would have usually rushed through, but this is the first time I had awarded Blue Sky days to the team. It would have completely undermined the concept if I’d asked them to do this work. I made a pragmatic decision to hold back the work but it was difficult not to interrupt their day.

I ensured that the team understood that they had the time to investigate new development work or any technology that interested them. In my absence a developer was approached with a serious pricing issue – I was glad to hear on my return this had been dealt with in a timely manner. I was also gladdened that the principles of self-organising had shone through. It does show however that the Scrum Leader has to be ever vigilant to protect developer’s time if the concept of Blue Sky Days is to have validity.

The pot of gold is somewhat elusive but if we allow teams the chance to explore, they might just find one.

Are Blue Sky Days worth their weight in gold?

Below is a link to a Blog Post by Robert C Martin. He is colloquially known as Uncle Bob and was a pioneer of XP practices. I’ve recently been booked on to a Scrum Leader Certification course and have seen many posts on the perils of employing Certificated Scrum Leaders with little or no commercial experience.

Uncle Bob goes further in his critique claiming this trend could create the type of elitism that made the Waterfall software development model implode. In an explanation of why waterfall failed he says:

“There were the elite Architects, Designers, and System Analysts who did the real engineering by satisfying the first two phases of the waterfall.  And then there were the grunts who actually had to make everything work in the final phase.  When the project got behind schedule, it was the grunts who worked overtime.  When the project failed, it was the grunts who bore the blame.”

I believe I fall in the justifiable category of existing professionals who are seeking Certification to further my knowledge of Agile/Scrum. As Scrum Leaders we need to be mindful that we are here to serve the developers and help them get better at what they do by applying those practices.

Give it a read, we can all learn from the mistakes of Waterfall.


Uncle Bob followed this up with a definition of a valid certification route:


Are you getting Certification for the right reasons?
As an employer would you choose a Certified Scrum Leader over a more experienced uncertified candidate?

Designers v Developers

The amusing Infographic created by Six Revisions:


Started me thinking about the role Scrum has in breaking down barriers between disciplines.

Scrum teams derive their strength and ability to deliver diverse projects by focusing different skill sets in to one team. The input of design or testing is similar to Pair Programming in that the developer works closely with a team member from another business discipline. Partners from testing, design or other areas are swapped in and out depending on the needs of the project.

Working as a designer in a Scrum team I work closely with the developers to achieve excellence in User Experience. The team has recently won an industry award for delivering outstanding functionality in a high-profile website. The award was achieved by the marriage of technical excellence and elegant User Experience.

The fusion of different disciplines in products such as Microsoft Blend, Adobe Flash and Xcode’s Interface Builder reflect the needs of an audience, which expects a good user experience in a product that ‘just works’. Agile software development breaks down barriers and encourages communication between team members, which helps us to produce great products.

The mythical ‘designer/developer’ or devigner that excels in both disciplines is just that, a myth. 
The strength of the Scrum approach is that it encourages developers to understand and get involved with the User Experience and designers to appreciate the technical excellence required to make a product fly.

It’s a party not a war – or do you disagree?