Agile Coach Toolkit #2: Timeboxing

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 second part in the series of tools that I have found useful in my role as Agile Coach – Timeboxing.

Timeboxing is a time management tool that allocates a fixed time period, called a timebox, to an activity. Timeboxing is generally used for ensuring that effort is spent well on activity at hand and reduce waste.

Benefits of Timeboxing

  • It help everyone aligned and focus on the problem/ issue at hand.
  • Timeboxes encourage the team members who are working hands-on on the problem to create the best possible outcome in the time allotted, within the current context.
  • Timeboxing serves as guardrails and make the team safe by restricting the risk.
  • It avoids procrastination by helping the team to avoid distractions and prioritize their work.
  • It helps prevent unnecessary perfectionism by the team members.

Note of Caution – As a Scrum Master, timeboxing would be a great tool in your kit. But care must be taken in certain scenarios –

  • Do not go aggressive in timeboxing a particular discussion that the team may be engaged in. Sometimes they may be ‘in the zone’ and shorter time duration my end up doing more damage than to help them.

I have found this simple and yet effective idea of timeboxing very beneficial in my role and would encourage Scrum Masters to leverage it in their roles. You may find it helpful to remind the team about time whenever they tend to digress from the problem at hand. Sometimes a periodic reminder helps ensure that discussions/ activities keep progressing.

Have you used this simple technique in your role? If yes, I would love to hear back from you.


Scrum Insights for Practitioners – Hiren Doshi – Wikipedia

Raffle for PSM workshop, Mumbai (2 Tickets)

In 2007, Ken Schwaber allowed me to attend his Certified Scrum Master class in Boston for a mere $200 (for certification and meals) for a ticket that had a price of over $2000 then, because he probably saw the hunger in me to learn Scrum. Ken’s gesture of goodwill gave me a tremendous boost in my Agile journey.

Today while gearing up for the exciting PSM class, which I will be co-teaching with another mentor of mine Steve Porter, I want to happily contribute back to the community. I will raffle 2 heavily discounted tickets for the workshop on 16th – 17th March in Powai, Mumbai to anyone who shares the same passion to embark on this awesome journey. You will only pay INR 8500 (Regular ticket price of INR 24998+GST). The cost includes PSM I assessment fees, the premium training material and the cost for the food. I will also provide a hard copy of my book Scrum Insights for Practitioners, which will be co-signed by Steve Porter. I will pick 2 names randomly (you will have to trust me on this) on Monday, 12th March and names will be announced at 5:00pm. Please submit your names by 3:00pm March 12th. 

Registration Link:

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.

Scrum Chapter Mumbai - Feb 2018

1st Edition of 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"

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

Sprint Planning

Sprint Planning

Being the first event for Scrum team at the start of a Sprint, Sprint Planning tends to set the tone for the entire duration of Sprint. Doing the right things at this stage will help reduce the stress on the team and prevent cascading effect of any issues that may hamper the Sprint progress. With that in mind, I wanted to share a ready reckoner for Sprint Planning.


Product Owner

Scrum Master

Development Team


Occurs at the beginning of the Sprint to collaborate and come up with work plan for the Sprint


  • Product backlog
  • Latest product increment
  • Projected Development team’s capacity during the Sprint
  • Past performance of the development team
  • Definition of “Done”
  • Retrospective Improvements
  • Impediments

General Responsibilities

Ensure that PBI’s under discussion are “Ready” for selectionFacilitates the event

Ensure attendees understand the purpose

Maintain Time-box

Invite technical and/ or domain experts as needed

Part I: What work can be done?

Discuss the objectives and PBI’s (wish list) for Sprint

Provide PBI’s details

Select and forecast the functionality to be developed

Craft Sprint Goal

Part II: How the work will get done?

Clarify selected PBI’s and make trade-offs

Discuss Acceptance criteria

Be a neutral party to facilitate negotiations between PO and Development teamDecide how selected PBI’s will be converted to “Done” product increment

Renegotiate selected PBI’s with Product Owner, if too much or little effort is needed to convert the PBI into product increment

Create Sprint Backlog: PBI’s and delivery plan


Sprint Goal:

  • Objective set for the Sprint based on the selected PBI’s
  • Guidance for Development Team for the Sprint
  • Gives some flexibility to Development Team regarding implementation of the selected functionalities
  • Should be a logical function that makes Development Team work together rather than working in silos
  • Sacrosanct and doesn’t change throughout the Sprint


Sprint Backlog:

  • It contains selected PBI’s, tasks breakdown and plan to deliver the product Increment
  • Be prepared with PBI’s under discussion
  • Follow Scrum values throughout the meeting
  • Keep stakeholders abreast with the decision post the meeting
  • Listen actively
  • Liaise between Product Owner and Development Team
  • Help keep the discussions on track and time boxed
  • Follow Scrum values throughout the meeting
  • If necessary to keep discussion on track, coach the team on purpose of the meeting
  • Ensure appropriate understanding of PBI’s and acceptance criteria
  • Be cognizant of “Done” and Retrospective commitments
  • Follow Scrum values throughout the meeting
  • Ensure everyone is aware of impediments you foresee that are out of your control
  • Negotiate on “Done” for more PBI’s to be completed
  • Take sides during the discussion
  • Overcommit training

Some feedback from my students for trainings (PSF / PSM)

Feedback on the training (PSF / PSM):

Highly Enthusiastic , with good interactive teaching style , making sure that everyone is active in the class, great way of answering questions with examples

Highly energetic with several anecdotes and practical learning shared during the session. I loved it!! All questions got answered, and plenty of insights shared. Extremely grateful to you for sharing your insights and making me unlearn & learn Scrum.

Full points for the effective teaching methods employed and your enthusiasm. The answers to the questions demonstrate your Scrum Knowledge and several examples you quote from the industry speak wide experience as a trainer.

Hiren has excellent hold on the subject and explains in such an effective manner that you get answer of further potential question.

Energy is awesome. Scrum knowledge is rated 10/10

Feedback on my book – Scrum Insights for Practitioners:

There are numerous books about Scrum – this begins where most writers stop … Here, not only the Scrum Guide Scrum Insights for Practitionersis reworded, but knowledge and experience are conveyed by one who has Scrum knowledge

Excellent. Lucid and interesting, EASY to READ and UNDERSTAND. Overall 101/100

Good List down of point and Ideas for beginners to start with . It acts as a support system for the baby who is trying and learning to walk.

Very insightful and practical. Helped me understand the spirit of scrum and how it can be practically applied.

Got 77/80 in PSM1 !!! Your book is an absolute Bible on Scrum!

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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