How do the 3 Scrum Roles Promote Self-organization?

The Scrum Team consists of 3 distinct Scrum roles that promote Self-organization: the Scrum Master, the Product Owner, and the Development Team. The accountability of each role complements the accountability of the other roles. Hence, collaboration between these roles is the key to success:

  • The Scrum Master, through servant-leadership, coaches, facilitates, educates, and guides the team to solve its own problems by using the three pillars of empiricism. The Scrum Master understands that constructive disagreements are necessary to build high performing teams. The Scrum Master allows the team to learn from the cycle of failing, trying, and failing again. The Scrum Master also helps self-organization by proactively and uncompromisingly removing impediments that are beyond the team’s self-organization capability.
  • The Product Owner closely interacts with stakeholders and product management to identify the most valuable work. TheThe 3 Scrum Roles

    The 3 Scrum Roles

     

    Product Owner relies on the Development Team for the actual delivery of a potentially shippable software increment in every Sprint. At every Sprint Review, the stake- holders help the team in shaping the future product.

  • The Development Team members collaboratively select their own work from the Product Backlog ordered by the Product Owner. They collaboratively create actionable activities to realize their forecast as reflected in the Sprint Backlog. They replan their work on a daily basis within the time-boxed Sprint to optimize the team’s output. They deliver a potentially releasable increment (integrated with increments of other teams, if multiple teams are involved) of software at the end of each Sprint. This self-directedness, the ability for people to direct their own work, motivates them and reinforces self-organization.

One of the best examples of self-organization comes straight from Ken Schwaber’s blog post “Self-Organization and Our Belief That We Are in Charge.”

I pose the following question to Scrum Masters: What is the best way to organize 100 developers into Scrum Teams?

According to Ken, he would

let the developers self-organize themselves into Development Teams as per the recommendation in The Scrum Guide that has all the cross-functional skills to build an integrated done Increment every Sprint. The Scrum Master may remind them that all one hundred people must be engaged meaningfully and that mentoring is expected. The Scrum Master may have the lead developers lead a discus- sion about the software and architecture to be worked on, with the underlying dependencies. The Scrum Master may have the Product Owner discuss the intricacies of the Product Backlog. And, if they organize sub-optimally, they can correct and continually adjust team membership as they find out more. Promote a learning organization with Bottom-up intelligence. So the one-hundred-people group self-organizes and divides itself into teams.

This is one of the topics from my book – Scrum Insights For Practitioners: The Scrum Guide Companion“. Happy reading!

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on how the Scrum roles can further promote Self-organization.

How Is Emergent Architecture Handled in Scrum?

Scrum embraces the Agile principle of emergent architecture and design. Architectural needs emerge due to functional and non- functional requirements. Certain nonfunctional requirements like security, deployment platforms, compliance, and scalability are often of very high value and ordered high in the Product Backlog. Usually some parts of each of those nonfunctional requirements are required for an initial release of a minimum viable product.Business-facing functionality (i.e., functional requirements) also drives architectural and design needs as well. In Scrum, each Sprint serves to build at least one piece of business-facing functionality that has at least some tiny amount of value. So as we evolve the system, we build only enough architecture and design to support the functional and nonfunctional requirements that we are focusing on for that Sprint.

Important: In every Sprint at a minimum we have to build at least one piece of that business-facing functionality, regardless of how many nonfunctional requirements and architecture we are also focusing on.

Then with every subsequent Sprint, more and more of the architecture and design emerges in response to more and more high-ordered requirements. The purpose of this is to build architecture and design only in response to the highest-valued requirements at the top of the Product Backlog.

 

An example of how Architecture is handled in Scrum.

Emergent Architecture

Emergent Architecture

In the example shown in the chart, in Sprint 1 the majority of the work done by the Scrum Team is on architecture/infra- structure; however, enough business-facing valuable functionality is still released by the team to deliver value and validate the current architecture work. As the team progresses further Sprint over Sprint, the architectural needs decrease, and the value-driven business functionality delivered increases.

The Development Team also ensures good architecture by ensuring a set of guiding architectural principles that every Development Team member understands and follows while writing code. In addition, architecture is an ongoing discussion in the Development Team focusing on implementing current Sprint Backlog items.

This is one of the topics from my book – Scrum Insights For Practitioners: The Scrum Guide Companion“. Happy reading!

You can read more about Emergent Architecture and Design here.

How Does Scrum Promote Self-Organization?

Self-organization is something that cannot be imposed on the team. Self-organization does not mean a free run where Development Team members can do whatever they desire. Self-organization happens by setting clear boundaries within which the empowered team members can organize their own work.

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The Three Pillars of Empiricism (Scrum)

Empiricism means working in a fact-based, experience-based, and evidence-based manner. Scrum implements an empirical process where progress is based on observations of reality, not fictitious plans. Scrum also places great emphasis on mind-set and cultural shift to achieve business and organizational Agility.

The three pillars of empiricism are as follows:

Three Pillars of Empiricism

Three Pillars of Empiricism

  • Transparency: This means presenting the facts as is. All people involved—the customer, the CEO, individual contributors—are transparent in their day-to-day dealings with others. They all trust each other, and they have the courage to keep each other abreast of good news as well as bad news. Everyone strives and collectively collaborates for the common organizational objective, and no one has any hidden agenda.
  • Inspection: Inspection in this context is not an inspection by an inspector or an auditor but an inspection by every- one on the Scrum Team. The inspection can be done for the product, processes, people aspects, practices, and continuous improvements. For example, the team openly and transparently shows the product at the end of each Sprint to the customer in order to gather valuable feedback. If the customer changes the requirements during inspection, the team does not complain but rather adapts by using this as an opportunity to collaborate with the customer to clarify the requirements and test out the new hypothesis.
  • Adaptation: Adaptation in this context is about continuous improvement, the ability to adapt based on the results of the inspection. Everyone in the organization must ask this question regularly: Are we better off than yesterday? For profit-based organizations, the value is represented in terms of profit. The adaptation should eventually relay back to one of the reasons for adapting Agile—for example, faster time to market, increased return on investment through value- based delivery, reduced total cost of ownership through enhanced software quality, and improved customer and employee satisfaction.

Scrum works not because it has three roles, five events, and three artifacts but because it adheres to the underlying Agile principles of iterative, value-based incremental delivery by frequently gathering customer feedback and embracing change. This results in faster time to market, better delivery predictability, increased customer responsiveness, ability to change direction by managing changing priorities, enhanced software quality, and improved risk management.

This is one of the topics I covered in my book – Scrum Insights For Practitioners: The Scrum Guide Companion“. Happy reading!

Book: “Scrum Insights For Practitioners”

I am pleased to announce my new book — “Scrum Insights for Practitioners: The Scrum Guide Companion”. Thank you all for your support and help.


The Scrum Guide
holds the bare and essential rules of Scrum. It provides sufficient information to understand Scrum but leaves much open for interpretation by readers and practitioners. When individuals and organizations follow The Scrum Guide blindly, without understanding the real, deep essence of Scrum—the principles and values underpinning the framework—they likely will fail to reap all the benefits Scrum has to offer.

Scrum Insights for Practitioners fills in some gaps in the understanding of Scrum for individuals or organizations practicing Scrum. This book can be thought of as a companion to The Scrum Guide. I encourage readers to first read The Scrum Guide if you are new to Scrum before reading this book, as this will help you reap the maximum benefits.

Scrum Insights for Practitioners is a perfect companion to The Scrum Guide that helps the practitioners master the Scrum framework by gaining in-depth practical insights and helps answer questions such as these:

  • What are some common myths, mysteries, and misconceptions of Scrum?
  • The Scrum Guide recommends three to nine members in a Development Team, but we have fifteen members. Is this Scrum?
  • Can you share some tactics to do effective Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review, Sprint Retrospective, and Product Backlog Refinement?
  • My designation is development manager. Does this mean I have no role in Scrum?
  • How is Scrum Empirical?
  • Can Scrum Master and Product Owner be the same person?
  • We don’t have a Scrum Master. Are we still practicing Scrum?
  • What does Self-Organization really mean?
  • How does Scrum embrace the four values and twelve principles of the Agile Manifesto?
  • Please share a case study on Scrum based product development?

Recommendations for the book from the Scrum champions

Take advantage of Hiren’s vast experience and avoid making the common errors people make as they begin their journey. This book contains a wealth of practical information that will be useful to readers as they work to implement the basic theory found in The Scrum GuideSteve Porter, team member, Scrum.org

In his book Scrum Insights for Practitioners, Hiren has extended the core rules of The Scrum Guide with practices he has found useful. Hiren answers questions regarding Scrum that potentially remain unanswered even after one reads The Scrum Guide. Hiren dismantles common misconceptions about Scrum, regardless of the source of such misconceptions. Hiren elaborates on basic information provided in The Scrum Guide, as well as on the principles underlying ScrumGunther Verheyen, Author of “Scrum — A Pocket Guide, a Smart Travel Companion”

Hiren Doshi has written a fine companion to The Scrum Guide, filling in some of the intentional gaps left in the Scrum framework. Using this companion along with The Scrum Guide will undoubtedly improve the outlook for those teams that internalize its teachings.”Charles Bradley, ScrumCrazy.com

This book will help you understand the nuances of Scrum. It takes a very practical approach toward implementing Scrum without compromising on its values and principles. A useful and handy reference for Scrum practitioners!—Gopinath R, Agile coach and practitioner

Currently the book is available as a physical copy on Amazon. The Kindle version to follow shortly.

I sincerely hope you find great value in each and every page of the book.

Enjoy Reading. Happy Scrumming.

Myths, Misconceptions & Mysteries Of Product Ownership

Here’s what the Scrum Guide says about the Product Owner Role:
“The Product Owner is responsible for maximizing the value of the product and the work of the Development Team. How this is done may vary widely across organizations, Scrum Teams, and individuals.”

Who is an effective Product Owner in Scrum? Is (S)He a requirements typist, user story writer, business analyst, domain expert, maybe all of the above? What are some effective practices of Product Ownership? What are the biggest myths and misconceptions around Product Ownership?

Five of the most respected Scrum.org PSPO Trainers – Ralph Jocham, Mark Noneman, Erik Weber, Hiren Doshi, and Simon Reindl talk and answer questions on Product Ownership myths, misconceptions and mysteries of Product Ownership.

15 things a Professional Scrum Product Owner (PSPO) actually does

15 things a Professional Scrum Product Owner (PSPO) actually does

PSPO_jpeg

The Product Owners – Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos

  1. The Professional Scrum Product Owner (PSPO) is an Entrepreneur – a value Maximizer & Optimizer
  2. The PSPO sets a solid vision to help the Scrum Team keep laser sharped focus and direction that helps with incremental progress at the end of each sprint
  3. 1 Product == 1 Product Backlog == 1 Product Owner. Having one PSPO for the product helps with the clarity & focus, ensures quick decision making, and single person accountability for the success of the product.
  4. To validate the idea the PSPO frequently releases the increment of software to market to gain real customer insights
  5. The PSPO has the final say on the order of the Product Backlog. The PSPO orders the PBIs in the product backlog by keeping the Value of the PBI, the dependencies between PBIs and the dependencies on the other products in mind.
  6. The PSPO ensures that most valuable functionality is generated all times by the Development Team.
  7. The PSPO accounts for the Return on Investment and Total Cost of Ownership before a feature is built.
  8. The PSPO ensures that all work done by the Development Team originate from the single Product Backlog – a single source of truth.
  9. To determine the value of the product being delivered the PSPO might use metrics like time to market (cycle time / lead time), percentage of the functionality in the released product used by the customers & the overall customer satisfaction
  10. The PSPO is accountable for Interacting and engaging with the Stakeholders.
  11. The PSPO comes to the Sprint planning with a clear business objective in mind and works with the Development Team to craft a sprint goal based upon the forecast
  12. During the actual Sprint the PSPO is accountable for the Product Backlog Refinement, but may delegate the work to the Development Team.
  13. The PSPO  is the only one who can abnormally terminate the Sprint in case the Sprint goal becomes obsolete.
  14. The PSPO Is just one person and not a committee
  15. The PSPO builds trust by closely working with Development Teams. He is not hesitant to delegate the work of writing user stories / Product Backlog items to the Development Team.

Feedback on the Professional Scrum Foundations workshop

This video captures the feedback from the students on the Professional Scrum Foundation workshop facilitated in India. The students share their learnings on how writing granular user stories, story splitting, defining clear Scrum roles helps with agility. They talk about values and principles like self-organization, empowerment, Courage and Respect needed to embrace Agility. They also talk about the interactive and intensive, hands-on and powerpoint free facilitation of this PSF workshop.

Evidence-based Estimation

An analogy I can think of is… I want my dart to hit the dart board, and not necessarily the bull’s eye…. as it calls for a lot of details which apparently is missing during estimation. However, if my dart doesn’t hit anywhere on the dart board… it’s almost like shooting in the dark; a very disappointing estimation scenario.

A vast chunk of new teams struggle in arriving at a correct project estimate; with most them failing due to a huge variation (with estimated Vs actual)! Very few succeed in this journey by coming closer to the actual in the initial cycles itself.

Project managers in traditional development focus on detailed scope, so that the cost, estimate, and time are accurate and frozen before kick starting a project. How far this is successful and precise is debatable! In agile projects, during release planning the development team arrives at a high-level estimate for each story in the product backlog normally in story point which aids in finer estimation during sprint planning. This helps the team to get started, rather than wait for all the project details to get finalized.

Story point is an arbitrary measurement of a feature’s size relative to other features and not the time needed to complete a feature. For example, by looking at the picture of the whales you cannot determine the exact age or weight of each whale but can compare the size of each with respect to each other. This is a very handy approach as detailed information to estimate the effort may not be available so early. Story points are used to calculate how many user stories a team can complete in a sprint which is termed velocity.

The story point size assumptions are interpreted using an estimation scale, the most common ones include numeric sizing (1 through 10), t-shirt sizes (XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL, XXXL), Fibonacci sequence (1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, etc.), etc.

A team to get started with story point estimating must be clear, synchronous, and agree upon the below aspects (I call it the ‘Five subtle rules’ as they are hidden and work at the back of our mind.).

Common reference – Each team member estimating should have a same reference. For example, the size L to measure a story point size should be the same criterion for everyone in the team. Any conflict with respect to the reference index results in huge variation and wrong estimation. Agreeing upon a common reference is very critical.

Collective wisdom – Estimation is a team activity and hence all should participate in this. Having one person do this will be a huge risk as the margin of error will be high! However, a collective decision helps in arriving at a common estimate which in all probability will be accurate.
In addition, during relative estimation the team should also take into account the effort, complexity, and uncertainty for every story before arriving at a number.

Effort – How much effort a story would take to complete, relative to the reference story.

Complexity – How complex is the story with respect to the reference story.

Uncertainty – How much risk/unknowns a story holds relative to the reference story

Even with this common agreement, it may still take a few iterations for the team before arriving at a common estimation value. With estimation being definitely hard, how do we get the best estimates of story size?

Why not take a closer look at “Evidence-based estimation”, learn from experience, become proficient with every calibration, and adopt during the initial project estimation phase to understand its true benefits!

Here is the approach a team should take to proceed with “Evidence-based Estimation”:

Let’s consider a scrum team of 7 members commence a 2-week sprint of 10 working days. With 6 hours as the effort per day, the capacity would approximately be 7 * 10 * 6 = 420 hours.

  • During the 1st sprint planning meeting, the team begins story estimation from scratch with no story points assigned to stories in the product backlog.
  • A story is picked from the product backlog followed by task and time breakdown for each. This step continues till the estimated capacity adds to about 400 hours/5 stories (considering the average team capacity is 420 hours).
  • Through the sprint, the team works towards completing all the planned stories.
  • Just before the retrospective meeting, the team assembles to story point the completed stories (definitely now with some experience/evidence).
  • Among the 5 stories, the team picks the one with medium effort, complexity, and uncertainty and assigns a story point (keeping the 5 subtle rules in mind). For example, when we take an estimation scale of 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13; this story is assigned a story point of 3 and it becomes the common reference story. A closer look at this exercise clearly indicates that the story point number is emerging out of working experience/evidence and not by mere guess work!
  • The team continues story point estimation for all the stories in Sprint 1 (per Step 5) and assigns a value lower, higher, or the same when compared to the reference story point.
  • As the team proceeds from one story to another, the comparative reference points become varied apart from being evident which helps them with better estimation. At this point if the team feels a need to refine the previous estimates, they can. The idea is to get better estimates with experience that are realistic.

The teams may decide to use this estimation during the initial few sprints till they are confident of the process. With experience, the team becomes an expert and are equipped at deriving an almost accurate story point during the release planning (rather than after the completion of a sprint), thereby aiding in better agility and transparency.

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