It´s exciting, it´s experiental, it rocks! Currently we (that´s Zanox)´re partnering with Beuth Hochschule für Technik Berlin on a 2 semester dev-project. We as Zanox brought one of our product ideas together with Chris, one of our best Product Owners, and from Beuth Hochschule there´s a dev-team of 8 students (4th + 5th semester) to work with us. We just entered the second 2-week-sprint yesterday and are excited by how things develop. We´ve got the gut feeling that the team really got a good grasp of our business model already, which is kind of amazing.
How did it all begin? Through some mysterious ways and networks (basically I talked to someone, who knew someone, who knew someone, who knew someone and so on…) we got in touch with Siamak, the guy taking care of this project at Beuth Hochschule. He ran the whole thing first time one year ago and this is the second iteration of this approach to expose students to Agile / Scrum and real world software development projects. He was looking for industry partners to work with various student teams and invited us for a real pitch with other companies: there were 5 dev-teams and about 7-8 companies, e.g. some startups and 2-3 bigger ones, to win a student team for them. Well, of course we rocked and we absolutely feel that we pitched the best students for our team. Our expectations are high, they will build a rockin product for us that will make us hundreds of thousands in cash
The real excitement and challenge comes through the distributed structure of our team. The guys study different courses and so on but commit to dedicate about a full day each week. So, we mainly working from our office, the students, each in some different place, 8 people, and we wanna work Agile! Bi-weekly we have a 90 minutes slot in which Chris and I are present at University and have a 30-minutes-planning-30-minutes-retrospective-30-minutes-planning-session with the guys. Actually we had the first of those sessions yesterday and it went surprisingly well. We decided for now to have a Skype-group-chat + video calls as our communication channel and Trello for our backlogs and documentation. I feel actually quite good so far about these communication channels.
Sprint one was mainly about the guys understanding Zanox, creating their own Publisher accounts at Zanox, getting familiar with our web-services and creating some wireframes. The just started 2nd sprint contains already a lot of technical prototypes. If the guys are good, we´ll soon have the sceleton of our architecture
In any way, it is really interesting to work in this setup and we are looking with excitement forward for the product and the experiences we´ll make. I´ll keep you updated on what happens.
I worked in 2 organizations as a Scrum Master and so far there were always other Scrum Masters working with other teams. This, first of all, is quite enriching, since then as a Scrum Master you have other peers, with whom you can dicuss, brainstorm and consult on the work you do.
Now, a Scrum Master role can contain a lot of different things to do (see 42 tasks for a Scrum Masters job) and depending on your organizational context you will put more emphasis on some stuff or other. On one hand what you do is defined by the concrete needs of your teams and your organization, on the other hand I would argue that each Scrum Master is in a different stage of his personal development and also from his personality and likes would favor some dimension of his role more than others. One might be more interested in supporting his teams technically as an Agile Coach, helping them to understand and apply XP practices, ATDD or Continuous Delivery. The next might be very interested in organizational development, fighting to bring Dev and Ops together in DevOps or on influencing the organizational mindset and setup by being involved in an Enterprise Transition Team (we have one by the way, yeay!). Then there might be the guy, who likes to be involved also in organizational learning like triggering learning circles, organizing FedEx-Days and so on. Actually the variety of things you can work on as a Scrum Master is what attracted me to the role in the first place.
Now, as time goes by, at some point I realized that you cannot do it all at the same time. At this point, you need to start making conscious decisions on what to invest your time into. This in itself is difficult. Since I work in this role, I work on my self organization framework with using my calendar, “Personal Kanban”-boards, my notebook and mindmaps. After I switched from working with one team to a second on my current job this even gets more challenging, and I want to emphasize here my very deep conviction that there is only so much people and teams, you can effectively support, at best one team with up to 9 people (see “A Scrum Master Manifesto“). Yesterday I put a table to my second team and I start switching seats from day to day and sit with each of them. Ok so far so good.
The next thing that comes, and we are right now in this process, is to organize the work that is above the team level, with your peer Scrum Masters. Topics or questions here can be
- who organizes the technology org´s FedEx-Days, Bugbash-Days, or Open Space sessions?
- do I apply with my teams, what I think fits best for them, like applying Scrum or Kanban or a mix of them, configuring thier Jira Backlogs personally for their specific context, or do I synchronize every decision with the bigger organization and all the other teams in the hope that this gives synergy-wins?
- who takes care of the stuff that no one wants to do, like organizing the reconstruction of the physical office space and creating seat plans for every one (probably one of the most frustrating jobs ever in history ?
- on and on it goes…
So, all the above needs to have some kind of structure. In my current org we are 4 Scrum Masters. We tried out having a Scrum Master Board which contained the work above the team level. This board went through various iterations. The experience though is that by time and the single Scrum Masters being less or more busy with their teams, the standups at that board get less and less committment and single people will feel like… “Gosh, why do I have to do all that work and the other guys don´t help me?”. This feeling amplifies with the above described situation that each Scrum Master might want to focus more on one area or the other. So while one guy really wants to focus on supporting his teams e.g. in their engineering practices, the next finds it very important to work stuff on the department level. Let´s call the first person here Scrum Master X and the second Scrum Master Z. Scrum Master X feels the standups and above team work as a burden and distraction from his important task of teaching the team engineering skills. At the same time Scrum Master Z will look at the board each day and feel “Arghhh, am I the only one who brings all these so important organizational topics forward!?” This creates friction due to the differing expectations to one’s role and therefore to the peer Scrum Masters and can grow serious frustration among the Scrum Masters.
Hmmm. Sounds familiar? Yes? No?
Ok, here we are. But now… what to do? What we want to try is that each Scrum Master creates a map with how he sees his current role and also with how his currently ideal role would look like. With that we want to come together to first of all understand the viewpoint of the peers. As a next step we will probably have to come up with a negotiation on how to shape the focuses of our roles. Our hope is to get role clarity and get clear on the expectations that one has towards the other. Having all this done, we will be a super motivated team (or maybe group) of Scrum Masters, bringing our organization to the best it can be (I´m optimistic!).
I´ll keep you updated on our progress!
This is what happened at a workshop at our annual company event…
Around 80 people from technology from Berlin, London, Amsterdam, Stockholm and Poland arrived in a creatively prepared location at a hotel in Potsdam. On a big wall an Open Space Market was built by sticky tape and paper cards. People sat around an imaginary stage (drawn again by sticky tape) on chairs or directly on the floor. After our CTO Daniel and special guest Mike from UK motivated the crowds for the coming FedEx-Day, a line of people with creative ideas formed around the stage. Those guys promoted their ideas each in a 30 seconds lightning pitch and sticked it to the Open Space Market on the wall. Then people distributed themselves all over the place with flipcharts to sketch out their ideas and to discuss them with interested followers. You could hear a buzzing all over the place and feel the creative energy all around. From time to time you could hear the sound of a Vuvuzela, signaling the people that the next round of idea sharing started. At the end again some of the guys reported and marketed their ideas. Even by trend more shy people felt encouraged to jump on the stage, grab the mike and promote their ideas. All in all the Open Space session was commented on “the most energetic, creative, useful business session ever”. As memory around 40 flipchart papers full of creative ideas remain and the hunger to implement those ideas on FedEx-Day!
Conclusion: Open Space is a very interactive, scalable, easy to prepare and over all a fun format. It can be used perfectly to prepare ideas for FedEx-Days, Hackathons etc.
Thanks to Robin Eggenkamp for the great photo of the 3 Scrum Masters!
Last Sunday I enjoyed Berlin in spring. I felt the evening sun gently shining into my face, grasped the livelyiness of people enjoying springtime in the park, and relaxed, sitting at Landwehrkanal and watching the ducks and birds on and over the water. What can be better?
As I was sitting there I reflected on my last years in Berlin, I looked back and was thankful for many things I have been given here. Also I tried to connect all that to the vertical relationship to God. I do that from time to time, usually on Sundays. Taking time off. Not passive, but active time off. I love that rythm.
Rythm, reflection and vision are ingrained into Scrum. There were some nice discussions on rythm recently, e.g. on Agile Anarchy and also I discovered this older New York Times article ‘Bring Back the Sabbath‘. I see parallels from Scrum to the Judeo-Christian tradition. There is rythm in creation, 7 days. The Sabbath or Sunday at the end of the week or at the beginning of the week, depending on how you look at it from the Jewish or Christian tradition. 6 days are there to work, to do the best job possible. The 7th day is there to actively rest and shift focus from the horizontal to the vertical relationship. Here is also the recomittment to the bigger vision and to reflect how that connects to the rest of life.
Rythm, reflection, vision exist in Scrum as well as in the Judeo-Christian tradition.
My coaching education calls itself “integrative coaching”. But what does that actually mean? German Senior-Coach Klaus Eidenschink provides the foundation for integrative coaching in his essay “Jenseits von Beliebigkeiten – Integratives Coaching” (beyond the arbitrary).
According to Eidenschink in every coaching process there are underlying psychological backgrounds, methods and techniques, that in most cases, the coach isn´t aware of. This stems from the history of coaching as a mix of therapeutical theory, management theory and so on. In fact, sometimes these theories are even diametrically opposed to each other. This gets problematic when a coach is trained one-dimensional and without scientific background knowledge. He then is condemned to focus on the toolkit he has been given. In the worst case he cannot serve the coachee with his unique situation in a wholistic sense (multi-dimensional), but instead he can only focus on applying his toolkit to achieve “some” results. Eidenschink therefore demands a meta-model-view of the coachee as human being underlying every coaching process.
Eidenschink therefore provides the following meta-model for coaching:
I won´t go into detail here on the 5 dimensions, but actually it is highly interesting to think through those dimensions and have them in the back of your mind, when working with a coachee.
When you look into philosophy, theology, sociology then the meta-model-view of human beings is nothing new to you. In fact the more interesting question is “which meta-model-view actually reflects reality best?” However one answers this question is defined by his view of the world. Important, I think, is that a coach can give this answer to the coachee at the beginning of the process to provide transparency!
Finally… the integratively thinking coach works with a wholistic meta-model in mind when he works with a coachee. He integrates methods and techniques to explore or serve those 5 dimensions of his unique coachee and his unique situation. This then helps to serve the coachee wholistically instead of arbitrarily firing a toolset at him.
I’m a coach. At least I´m in the process to get one. Today everybody is a coach. Coaching is an inflationary term. Therefore it is important for a coach to be able to explain, what his understanding of coaching is!
Here´s mine (ongoing definition, comments appreciated )…
“Verstehen kann man das Leben rückwärts, leben muß man es aber vorwärts.” Sören Kierkagaard
Bedeutung von Coaching für mich…
Veränderung ist in unserem 21sten Jahrhundert zum ständigen Lebensbegleiter geworden. Dies gilt für unser individuelles Leben als auch für Organisationen aller Art. Coaching ist für mich eine lebendige, kreative, herausfordernde und zielführende Beziehung, welche Menschen und Organisationen dabei hilft, sich auf Veränderung aktiv, mutig und ihren Werten und Vision gemäss einzugehen und diese zu gestalten. In diesem Veränderungsprozess ist der Coach Prozessexperte und Mitstreiter, der an den Coachingnehmer glaubt und diesen ermutigt.
Ziele von Coaching…
Im Coaching zielt der Coach darauf hin, den Coachingnehmer (-oder Organisation) in seiner individuellen Zielsetzung und Zielerreichung zu unterstützen, wobei er immer dessen größere Vision und Werte im Auge behält. Der Coach kommt nicht mit vorgefertigten Lösungen, sondern fordert den Coachingnehmer heraus, aus seinen eigenen Möglichkeiten heraus Lösungen zu erarbeiten. Dadurch stärkt er die Kompetenzen des Coachingnehmers, was wiederum zu neuen Möglichkeiten für diesen führt.
Werte im Coaching…
Der Coach vertraut in den Coachingnehmer, dass dieser in sich selbst die notwendigen Möglichkeiten besitzt, um seine Ziele zu erreichen. Er sieht ihn daher als Gegenüber auf Augenhöhe an, mit dem er gemeinsam im Team auf seine Ziele hinarbeitet. Dabei steht der Coach dem Coachingnehmer als transparentes und ehrliches Gegenüber bei, das sich nicht scheut, diesen herauszufordern, neue und unbekannte Wege zu erkunden, bzw. seine Grenzen konstant zu erweitern.
I am listening to in to the audio book version of William Bridges´ “Managing Transitions – Making the most of change” these days on my way to work. He talks about transition management which is really the inner / psychological counterpart to change management.
He describes every transition as being a mix of 3 things… an ending, the neutral zone and a new beginning. Here some of his thoughts in the significance on “endings”:
“The single biggest reasons that organizational changes fail is that no one has thought about endings or planned to manage their impact on people! People forget that while the first task of change management is to understand the desired outcome and how to get there, the first task of transition management is to convince people to leave home. You save yourself a lot of grieve, if you remember that!”
Thinking about my own life and virtually any transition period, the most recent one switching from a sabbatical into work again, this is so true!
I wrote down the following checklist for myself and will try that on some smaller changes happening for some of the teams I work with:
- have I made it clear of why the ending is necessary for the continuity of the organization?
- did I study the change carefully and identify who is going to loose what, including myself?
- do I understand the subjective reality of the losses to the people who experience them?
- have I acknowledged those losses with sympathy?
- have I permitted people to grieve and protected them from well-meant attempts to stop them expressing their anger and sadness?
- have I publicly expressed my own sense of loss, if I feel any?
- have I found ways to compensate people for their losses?
- am I giving people accurate information and am I doing it again and again?
- have I identified clearly what is over and what isn´t?
- have I found ways to mark the ending?
- am I being careful to not denigrate the past and found ways to honor it?
- have I made a plan to give people a piece of the past to take with them?
- is the ending we are making big enough to make the ending in one step?
Let´s see how these questions can be applied in the everyday smaller transitions of a Scrum organization.
!! WARNING !! this blogpost is written in the spirit of Bob Marshall´s Agile Blogging method …
Cool! We have great friends and they took care of our 1 year old daughter the whole day, so my wife and I could attend a workshop on intercultural marriage!
I heard of all that in snippets before but the guys from Team F put it together really well. I realized how much I represent the individualist culture whereas my wife definitely comes from a collectivist one. I am direct in my communication, I wanna hear yes and no, for me it is important what´s right and wrong, true and false. For my wife it is more dancing around a topic, her experiencing the world is more whole, contextual, for her the group she belongs to is important. I do low context communication, my wife high context communication (oh, by the way, I´m German, my wife South Korean!).
Communication with different cultures is not easy, but it enriches so much to learn about how other cultures tick!
As a sidenote, I wonder how Scrum works in a collectivist culture, where loosing one´s face is the worst thing that can happen to one.
Let´s see how communication with my wife improves
A couple of weeks ago I was lucky to attend a Retrospective Training led by Josef Scherer in Berlin. The content was all taken from the Agile Retrospective book by Derby/Larsen. I knew and used that book before, but having someone let me experience stuff out of it, was a very different and powerful learning experience. I really enjoyed it
Josef is trained in Coaching and therefore brought in many thoughts from the Coaching world. Based on some of the ideas of the training I structured my most recent retrospective with some Coaching like activites and ideas:
- solution focused (instead of the more typical problem focus)
- interview technique for the gather data phase
- physical scaling (from 1 to 10) in the room
The latter I found extremely cool, as for some topics, e.g. “How innovative do you rate our team on a scale from 1 to 10″ people positioned themselves from 1 to 8 and you could see the difference in perception. Once the team had answered, why they put themselves on where they stood, the next question was “What would we have to do, so that next time you move 1 or 2 points forward?” We filled some posters with many good ideas and finally selected some to put into action in the next sprint.
The team liked the diversion to the usual timeline and so on stuff. It encouraged me to try out more ideas from Derby/Larsen´s book!
Thanks to Josef for the inspiration in the training
In 2011 I spent 3 months of my parental sabbatical in Seoul, South Korea. Among other things I took a 10 week class in Korean. I had searched Google before on Scrum and Agile in Seoul but hadn´t found much. Once my Korean was at the level to type Hangul, the Korean alphabet, I searched for Scrum (스크럼) Seoul and pretty quickly found the site of the the Agile User Group in Seoul (yeah!).
I figured out the organizer of that group, namely June Kim (김창준) and asked him when the User Group would meet. In his reply he told me that would be in a couple of weeks. Also he asked me if I would share on my Scrum Master experiences at Ableton in a spontaneously organized smaller setting. Actually I was hesitant in the first moment, since I hadn´t given a presentation even in German before.But, in the second moment I thought, wow, this is a cool experience to share my experience with a Korean crowd.
Some weeks later we met about 12 people and I shared on Agile in Berlin, Germany and also on my own experiences. People from smaller and bigger companies showed up, e.g. Yahoo and LG and of course June Kim, who is kind of an Agile person of the first hour in Korea.
Afterwards we went to a German Beerplace called “Oktoberfest” and had some beer and sausages. I had a really interesting discussion with June and another guy on June´s Agile Coaching approach and life!
Some weeks later I got a response from Bas Vodde, whom I emailed some weeks ago, since he gives classes all over Asia. I received the contacts of Wisang Eom and 2 other people working as Agile Coaches at LG. I met with them for dinner and we had a very good discussion on the spread of Scrum at LG, the cultural challenges through the strong Korean hierarchical system and again on life in the software industry in Korea. This was really an awesome evening (by the way… Koreans like beer).
As I understood Scrum is far less popular in Korea than here in Germany. Probably like Germany some years ago. While we have access to lots of resources in Germany, including training through Agile consultancies, conferences and access to many of the US speakers, in Korea there is much less of that. The first reason is the language, since Koreans are not so used to speak English, and the second is, that traveling within Asia is pretty expensive compared to the European low cost travel. So for an speaker from US (say Jeff Sutherland) it is pretty easy to visit Europe, give some trainings first in London, the Denmark, then Germany, then Switzerland, in Asia this does not work out so easily. They were actually quite jealous to our access to Agile resources in Germany
My 3rd contact and I was really amused and honored, was when a couple of weeks later I got an email from a girl organizing the “first” Agile unconference in Seoul (at least I understood that) end of November in Seoul. I was asked to be one of the keynote speakers (thanks again, what an honor for a young Scrum Master like me). Unfortunately I had already booked my tickets back for middle of November, that would have been awesome!
So back in Berlin now. I hope to see some of the guys again when I visit Korea next time!