Conducting customer interviews is a great way to validate, or invalidate, your product idea. Interviewing potential customers is almost always a cheaper and faster way to learn what your customers’ needs are, compared to building the product first and then discovering that you built the wrong thing. Even with an existing product, you can discover which new features will be most valuable through customer interviews. Here’s a great video that explains how to do it.
A scrum master wears many hats including teacher, mentor, coach, and facilitator. Each is a different stance the scrum master might take when interacting with the scrum team, or others in the organization. Part of the art of being an excellent scrum master is being able to select an appropriate stance for a given situation. We also need to be able to flow between them, inspecting and adapting based on the situation and the needs of the people involved.
This is the act of showing or explaining something to someone so that they acquire new knowledge. The scrum master is an expert in scrum and related agile practices. The scrum master spreads this knowledge throughout the organization, enabling people to engage in their work more effectively.
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The big news from the Dublin Scrum Gathering is that Cathy Simpson has become a certified scrum trainer. This is a monumental accomplishment. She is one of less than 250 people in the world, and less than 30 women, who hold this certification. We have had the privilege of working with Cathy over the past 3+ years and supporting her as she climbed this mountain. It’s been inspiring to see her do all of the work required. We couldn’t be more proud of her.
David Marquet was about to become a submarine commander. He spent a year learning everything about the boat he was going to command. Two weeks before he was to assume command he was given a different sub, and the only thing he knew was that it has the reputation for being the worst in the Navy. He made it the best. Here’s how.
Product team is starting to assign business values to epics so we can, along with effort estimates, set correct priorities. However, we also have quarterly goals. Once we reach the end of a quarter, if an epic is not completely done (all stories under it), how do we get partial credit?
I recommend rolling the value down from the epics into the stories themselves. This way, you can see what you delivered in the quarter. Keep in mind that value estimates, just like effort estimates, are really just a tool to help with planning and decision making. At the end of the quarter, I’d like to see you focusing on the awesome stuff you delivered and what your customers’ reactions were to that new functionality.
I recently had a conversation with Dave, over at the Mastering Business Analysis podcast, about splitting big user stories down into smaller stories. The interview was a lot of fun and it’s available now. You can get it direct from the Mastering Business Analysis website, or point your podcatcher at one of these links:
You can also read about splitting user stories at SmallerStories.com.
This question came from a client: What is the project manager’s role in scrum?
In answer to your question about project managers, there is no project manager role in scrum. The duties of a project manager gets split between the product owner, scrum master, and the development team.
The product owner has the vision of the product and is the business representative accountable for making sure the business is kept up to date about the product, the schedule, and the budget. The product owner does this in multiple ways including:
- Grooming and refining the product backlog
- Understanding the development team’s velocity so he/she has a sense of when backlog items may be ready for release
- Communicating frequently with the stakeholders
- In the sprint review meeting, helping the team demonstrate new features and facilitating conversations with the stakeholders on the direction of the product and the product backlog
- Sharing and maintaining a budget
How should we form scrum teams as our organization adopts scrum?
Deciding how to form teams, and which people should be on which teams is the work of management. Of course there are many ways management might choose to do this. One of the most effective ways I’ve found to figure out roles in a scrum transition is to let people decide for themselves! This may sound shocking (who lets employees or even worse, contractors, decide what role they will fill), but we’ve seen it work very well. The operative word is transformation. The power in scrum comes from its focus on self-organizing teams producing value rather than individuals doing work.
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How long should we time box the prep time before the first sprint starts – i.e. the time used to decide on a product that has a good chance of meeting the goals, make effort and business value estimates and get the top product backlog items to be sprint ready?
I would look for the shortest time you can to prep. To get started in a sprint you need a team and a product backlog. You don’t need a complete and perfect product backlog – since more product backlog items will get added as you go along and existing items will be altered and sometimes removed. I would start working and refining the backlog as you go – so you don’t end up with a “design sprint” that takes longer than a sprint itself.
The Scrum Guide outlines that up to about 10% of the development team’s capacity will be used in backlog refinement activities. These activities are ongoing and collaborative between the product owner and the development team. The scrum team decides how and when refinement is done. In the initial sprints, that activity might look like several backlog refinement meetings to get the backlog to a state where there are 2-3 weeks of sprint ready product backlog items. After that it may look like one refinement meeting per week and the development team members doing research, prototyping, etc. to get information to refine the product backlog items.
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