Scaling Scrum – Scale Value, Not Headcount

Org Charts By Manu CornetScaling scrum is all the rage. People love to debate the merits of the various scaling frameworks: LeSS, SAFe, Nexus, Scrum@Scale, Discipled Agile, FAST Agile, and others. The underlying assumption is that the way to scale up value production is by increasing the number of people and teams. More people and teams can get more done, right? Perhaps, but there are significant costs to scaling up headcount, and alternative ways to scale up value production.
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Agile Conferences For 2021

Image From Chicago Scrum GatheringI recommend conferences and MeetUps as a great way to learn, network, and earn Scrum Educational Units (SEUs). This past year was challenging for such events. Many were cancelled. Some managed to inspect and adapt, moving online.

I’m pleased to share our 2021 list of agile, and agile adjacent, conferences. It’s the largest list we’ve ever published.

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Velocity: Is More Really Better?

Red CorvetteA product owner recently asked if it was okay to want more velocity from their team. Their team usually completed product backlog items (stories) that totaled about 180 points every sprint. The product owner thought: if my team could increase velocity to 200 points every sprint, that would be better.

I think it’s very much a part of the human condition to always want more. However, I’m not sure velocity is what you want more of.
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Sprint Review – Key To Higher ROI

Sprint ReviewScrum teams are expensive. Salaries and the other costs of maintaining a team represent a significant investment. A well run sprint review can dramatically improve the return your organization gets on this investment (ROI). Sadly, sprint review is widely misunderstood, and poorly implemented. The result is wasted time and lost opportunity. Let’s explore how to unlock the value of sprint review.
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Easy Estimation With Story Points

Relative estimation, using story points, has proven itself superior to traditional time-guessing approaches. Common approaches to creating story point estimates, notably planning poker, aren’t great at getting the whole team involved in the conversation. Usually, only the outliers participate. This article describes a better approach, which Agile Learning Labs has been using with our clients for over a decade.

How To Start

Estimation gridThis approach assumes that your team already has some estimated items in your product backlog. If you don’t, no worries, just use The Team Estimation Game to create your initial estimates. The Team Estimation Game was invented by Steve Bockman, who we at Agile Learning Labs were fortunate to work with for several years.

So, you have some product backlog items (stories) with estimates and some new items without. Start by laying out the Fibonacci numbers on a table, or in a shared spreadsheet. When doing this online I usually use Google Sheets, as they allow the whole team to interact with a spreadsheet in real time. Next, take the stories that have estimates and put them in columns under the number corresponding to their estimate. Thus, all of the one-point stories will be under the number one. All of the two-point stories will be in a column under the number two, and so on. All of the unestimated stories are in a stack on the side of the table, or in their own column in your spreadsheet.
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GROW Your Retrospectives

Question:

I have been assigned as the PO to a non-development scrum team for product marketing. After one week of work, we have delivered only 2 banner ads from a team of 10 people. The problem seems to be the process of approvals, reviews, kickoffs, briefs, tickets etc that need to happen in order to deliver the work. How would you coach me to help everyone see that our current process could be improved?

Answer:

Chris Sims with a plant.My first recommendation is to address this in the team’s retrospective. As product owner, it’s appropriate for you to say you would like to see the team get more ads, or other product backlog items, done in a sprint. Be a bit careful though; it’s very easy for the team to hear that as you blaming them or thinking that they’re not working hard. From the tone of your question, I don’t think that’s where you are coming from, but still be aware they may interpret things that way.

In the retrospective, you might consider using the GROW model that I’ve been writing about recently. GROW is designed for coaching, but it’s also great for structuring a retrospective. It stands for: Goal, Reality, Options (and Obstacles), and Way Forward. It’s an arc that you, or the scrum master, might guide the team through.
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Coaching Questions With GROW

Chris Sims with a plant.My previous article covered the GROW coaching model. This article builds on that by adding coaching questions. Questions are a powerful tool a coach uses to help the client find their own way forward. While the coach can provide information and guidance, a key element of coaching is supporting the client in solving their own problem.

Some questions help the client see things in a new way, or consider things they hadn’t before. Much of coaching is deep listening. Questions are the invitations we give to our clients, asking them to share with us. They also allow the coach to gently guide the client’s examination of the situation, and ultimately move them into problem solving and action planning.
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GROW Coaching Model

Agile coaches often encounter clients that are stuck. They know what they are doing isn’t working, yet they can’t find their way out of the dysfunctional cycle. At least, not alone. The coach’s job is to help their client:

  • gain deeper understanding of their situation
  • create a vision for a better future
  • identify obstacles & options
  • create an action plan

 
Chris Sims with a plant. GROW is a framework that a coach uses to guide their client through this process. The client might be an individual, team, or even a whole organization. GROW is an acronym for the stages of the coaching process: goal, reality, obstacles (and options), and the way forward (will do). Let’s walk through the stages of the model, in the context of Scrum.

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Online Office Hours With Chris, And More!

Chris Sims Office HoursThe COVID-19 situation has brought many changes and challenges. Every change creates new possibilities for something good. For Agile Learning Labs, it gives us the opportunity to connect with our community in new ways.

Online Meetups

We are moving our MeetUp group online. The Scrum Professionals MeetUp group is going to resume our regular schedule starting this month. Tune in every third Wednesday of the month for a talk or workshop, as well as facilitated open discussion. We will continue having time for job seekers and companies to connect.

Online Office Hours

Every Monday afternoon, you are invited to join me for my open office hour: 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM PDT. This is your chance to ask me anything, and get free advice and coaching. I’m planning to use a Lean Coffee approach to structure each office hour, so the most important and popular topics get the most attention. Each office hour will be listed as a free event in the Scrum Professionals MeetUp group.
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