February’s Q & A Panel

Q: How should a scrum team deal with a situation where the “scrum master” / team leader does not appear to be following scrum principles and values? 
Ivor Chomacki – Solutions Analyst 

The Panel’s Answers


tomasz-kI guess that this can be generalized to any feedback that you would give to your SM/Leader. In Scrum the natural place to act is the retrospective. I would recommend handing it in a NVC manner but it’s easier said than done particularly if the value that’s missing is openness and transparency.

In my opinion the basic question here is if the Team will find the will to act?

Time and time again I’ve seen Teams not caring enough to fix their situation and as with the “boiling frog” – the situation will usually deteriorate over time.

Ahmad FahmyIf the scrum master does not appear to be following the scrum principles, he/she is probably not a scrum master. If the team leader does not appear to be following the scrum principles they are probably not “leading” the team.

The more likely scenario is that this person is a manager that has been rebranded as a scrum master or falsely branded as a “leader.” One of the core tenets of a scrum is a self organization team.

A self organization team is fundamentally at odds with a manager whose job it is to “organize resources.”

Given the above inferred context, I can offer the following nested if 🙂

If Scrum was decided by the developers(bottom-up) as a framework for developing software without the buy in from the top, then do not do scrum. Rather invest your efforts in engineering practices such as those found in XP or the clean code software craftsmanship movement.
If It is both top down and bottom-up then and the problem is the middle. I would suggest an open an honest conversation with said scrum master or team leaders and a suggestion they attend a class or do some reading. Failing that, I would speak to the top.
If the scrum master just doesn’t know scrum, even if they are well intentioned, they may not be suitable to coach a young team through adopting scrum.
else Please provide more context.

simon powersDear Reader 😉

That is a good question. Agile has many layers, and the tools and practices are the most visible but least powerful. Next comes principles and values. If a SM or anyone else for that matter has mastered Agile only to the depth of tools and practices, then they will need (more) coaching and experience.

Some principles can be gained from the Principles behind the manifesto and from a wide variety of other reading material. The Scrum guide doesn’t specifically have principles but does touch on the empirical process, promoting Transparency, Inspection, and Adaption. In addition, there are the principles of Kanban (see Mike Burrows book) and XP (see Kent Beck’s classic) to draw upon.

Values such as Transparency, Respect, Honesty, Courage to speak up, we can get from XP and other processes. Reading the 5 dysfunctions of a team, and digging into Lyssa Adkins and Michael Spayd’s work on Coaching Agile Teams is also a must for SMs and coaches. That was what got me started.

As a pragmatic step, I would look at what problems or pain points are resulting from the deviation? Is the deviation deliberate? Is it a customisation due to environmental or cultural issues that are beyond the influence of the SM? Often, such deviations have their root cause in wider organisational and cultural incompatibility to the Agile way of being. I would try to solve these issues through the coaching body, or at least make them transparent.

January’s Q&A Panel

The passing of another year allows us to pause and reflect on the previous year, as well as to set out a path to further develop and address the challenges for the upcoming one.

What then, for you, were the key learning points, either from the numerous thought leaders in attendance at AWA events in 2015 or from your own experiences, and where do you think there is further work to be done in 2016 to ensure even more success with respect to scaled agile adoption?

Read Here.

March’s Panel

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