Scrum.org PSF – What, Why, and How?

Certifications and training courses help establish a fact that the participant knows about a subject and can be questioned to ascertain. The Scrum.org, Professional Scrum Foundation (PSF) is one such course that prepares you for the Scrum world.

Here is a straight-to-the-point short post about PSF. Like our course curriculum, trainings, and our consulting, we like to get straight to it than beat around the idea!

 What is PSF?

Professional Scrum Foundations or PSF helps master everyday Scrum duties and responsibilities. This covers the eligibility needed to appear for the prestigious Professional Scrum Master Credential examination.

 Why should I do PSF?

To lead better, function effectively as a Scrum-practitioner, and be a self-organized Scrum player. Without these, effective deliveries of project leave a lot desired. A Scrum master is someone who has to learn to be active and deliver effective value. The PSF foundation course will enable you to attempt the PSM I assessment and prove your mettle.

How do I do PSF?

We at PracticeAgile.com help train our students to learn and master PSF. The course comprises of expert instructions and team based exercises that help you gain mastery over Scrum nitty-gritties, lead teams to collaborate more. We will cover:

  • Fundamentals of Scrum
  • The Scrum Framework
  • Mastering Scrum
  • Planning with Scrum
  • Getting Started and keeping Scrum healthy

It’s a Hands-on workshop where we do scrum from the trenches. An example case study of an HTML based website is carried out, where we build the Website as a Scrum-project over duration of 4 sprints. It helps get first-hand experience on how to deal with dependencies and integration challenges in scaled environment.

Contact us through my linked in presence or drop us a note at Practiceagile.com. Happy to answer any queries you have about PSF. For folks based out of Mumbai, India and nearby areas, we have a training scheduled next week. Check the training calendar to know more and register.

Agile Coach Toolkit #4: Effective Facilitation

As an Agile Coach, you frequently encounter situations which demand quick thinking to get things moving in the right direction. Over time I have found few techniques which come out handy and always keep these in my playbook in case need arise. This is the fourth part in the series of tools that I have found useful in my role as Agile Coach – Effective Facilitation.

Purpose – As a Scrum Master, you will need to facilitate Scrum events, decision making, conflict resolution and other critical discussions. This will require some preparation and deliberation to ensure the goals are met.

Description – Facilitation is needed to ensure that the group works cooperatively and effectively. As a Scrum Master, you will need to take care of a few aspects to help meet the goal(s) of the discussion. Tips for effective facilitation are listed below –

  1. Ensure that everyone participating in the discussion understand its purpose. You would need to set the context at the beginning and may have to reiterate once in a while when you see that the discussions are digressing from the context.
  2. Working agreement at the beginning will help. E.g., mobile/ electronics usage, punctuality, participant expectations, etc. Listing the Scrum values, especially if you are going to deal with conflict resolution may help the discussion.
  3. If the event/ meeting is not interactive, you may want to spend some time take some time to find the root cause.
  4. Create a safe environment for people to speak by ensuring that people focus on task at hand rather than pointing fingers. Immediately interject if there are any personal attacks.
  5. Use Timeboxing to ensure that discussions are productive.
  6. Balance the discussions so that introverts feel included in the discussions.
  7. As a facilitator, you need to read the mood in the room to take breaks at regular intervals to keep the energy level high for productive discussion.
  8. Be neutral in your stance and do not take sides (beware of your implicit bias during heated discussions)

Have you used this technique in coaching your team? If yes, please share your story.

References

Agile Coaching – Rachel Davies, Liz Sedley

Scrum Insights for Practitioners – Hiren Doshi

Agile Coach Toolkit #3: Asking Powerful Questions

As an Agile Coach, you frequently encounter situations which demand quick thinking to get things moving in the right direction. Over time I have found few techniques which come out handy and always keep these in my playbook in case need arise. This is the third part in the series of tools that I have found useful in my role as Agile Coach – Asking Powerful Questions.

Purpose – As a Scrum Master, you will deal with different personas in the Scrum Team with clear goal to build a high performing team. Dealing with human psychology is complex at best (though I feel that it is chaotic at times). At times you are pulled into situations where there are conflicts among the team members and you may need to coach them to ensure it is constructive and doesn’t go down into war zone.

Description – Coaching is a guided discussion meant to sort out conversations, set goals or learn new behaviors. Start your coaching conversation by welcoming the participant and asking the person what he/ she would like to get out of the discussion. This will help set the objectives for the discussion and serve as a guardrail for channeling the conversation. This stage should not take more than 10% of the time.

Let the participant open up and talk about his/ her concerns. To get the person open up more, you may need to ask open ended question like –

“Tell me more about it?” or “What else?”

In order to gauge if the person has tried solving the issue by himself/ herself, you may ask below question –

“What have you tried and how has that worked out?”

Sometimes I find it helpful to ask below question to understand the person’s emotional state by asking –

“How does that make you feel?”

In addition to helping the person express his/ her feelings, it also provides us with good insight into how emotional aspects play into the issue. One of the useful follow up questions I find helpful is –

“If you were to give a suggestion to friend who in this scenario, what would it be?”

This helps the person to take a step back and analyze the problem from third party perspective. Sometimes, even a short question like below also help explore few options

“What is possible?” 

Unless that person has not come up with options and you want to give any suggestion, first ask the person –

“May I offer you a suggestion?”

Then add your thoughts by stating –

“Have you explored … <option>?”

After the conversation has run its course, you would like to wrap up by asking the participant to summarize the take aways and next steps to ensure there will be a fruitful follow up. This should ideally be no more than 10% of the entire conversation.

Have you used this technique in coaching your team? If yes, please share your story.

References

http://www.coachingagileteams.com/2008/04/15/agile/powerful-questions-for-agile-teams/ – Lyssa Adkins

Agile Coach Toolkit #1: 5 Whys

As an Agile Coach, you frequently encounter situations which demand quick thinking to get things moving in the right direction. Over time I have found few techniques which come out handy and always keep these in my playbook in case need arise. This is first part in the series of tools that I have found useful in my role as Agile Coach – 5 Whys.

Brief History – This technique was originally developed by Sakichi Toyoda and was used within the Toyota Motor Corporation during the evolution of its manufacturing methodologies. It is a critical component of problem-solving training, delivered as part of the induction into the Toyota Production System.

Purpose – 5 whys can be used for:

  1. Root Cause Analysis during Sprint Retrospectives
  2. Identifying impediments

Description – Discuss with team members to look at the issue and ask “Why?” up to five times to get beyond habitual thinking. It is imperative to distinguish causes from symptoms and pay attention to the logic of cause-and-effect relationship to identify the root cause. Be empirical in the investigation by leveraging the facts for decision-making.

Example – An issue identified is “poor Sprint Planning”. Let’s find the root cause for this problem.

  • “Why was Sprint Planning poor”?
    • “Well, we did not have a clear objective and the PBIs were not ‘Ready’
  • “Why were the PBIs not ‘Ready’”?
    • “The team did not meet for Product Backlog Refinement meetings”
  • “Why did the team not meet?
    • “Yes, we were supposed to meet on Thursday from 4 to 6pm, but the CEO called for an impromptu All-hands at the same time”
  • “Why wasn’t the meeting re-scheduled”?
    • “Well, there is no owner for the meeting”

So the real root cause for poor Sprint Planning was no accountability of the Product Backlog Refinement meetings. It is very important to identify the root cause, come out with action items for improvement, identify an accountable person from the Scrum Team and agree on the expected time frame for putting the improvements into practice.

Have you used this technique to identify the root cause of any problems? If yes, please share your story.

References

Scrum Insights for Practitioners – Hiren Doshi

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5_Whys – Wikipedia

Agile Retrospectives – Esther Derby, Diana Larsen

Scrum Chapter Mumbai – “Leading Agile adoption”

Goal to answer the question:

“As an aspiring Agile Coach, I want to learn how to lead Agile adoption for my 1st prospective client, so that I can deliver maximum value and improve their ROI for the investment they make in me”

We had some excellent discussions.

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Some insights we gained from our discussion:

  1. Understanding ‘The why”: Why is the organization is trying to embrace Agile?
  2. Derive the baseline of where the organization stands before the Agile journey
  3. Facilitate retrospectives and interviews with the C-level executives, mid level managers and the foot soldiers to understand the culture of the organization as well as their Agile readiness.
  4. Educate the organization on the new ways of working and get a top-down and bottom-up buy-in. This can include trainings, brown bag sessions, etc.
  5. Define quantitative business metrics to measure the progress with the idea of continuous improvement and the understanding that all we need to do is try to be “better than yesterday”
  6. … and many more

The 2nd edition of Scrum Chapter Mumbai is planned on Saturday, March 24th from 4:30pm to 7:00pm.

Topic:  Moving from “ScrumBut” to “ScrumAnd

3 Scrum Roles Promote Self-organization

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.

Emergent Architecture Handled in Scrum

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.

Read More

Three Pillars of Empiricism

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!

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