Sunday, May 31, 2015

How to build resilient Scrum teams ?

Some time back I attended a session on raising resilient kids. I learnt that building resilience is all about building the ability to bounce back and learn from all kinds of adversity—including setbacks, threats, stress and trauma.   

Here are some notes from the session.

How to build resiliency in kids?

1. Providing unconditional love and acceptance
2. Trust them
3. Provide safe environment for them to fail
4. Trust their problem-solving skills
5. Encourage independence and let the child solve its problems
6. When they are hurt, listen to them calmly and provide them comforting feeling
7. Let the child know the consequences of bad behavior
8.Set the expectations and rules of the game
9. Provide enough freedom to be creative
10. Accepting your kid as he/she is the key to making them resilient

In fact as part of coaching engagements, this is exactly what we encourage Scrum teams to be.  A Scrum Master should work towards building resilient Scrum teams. 

How do you build resilient Scrum teams ?
Just replace “kids” with “scrum teams” :-)  in the above section and you have the answers.
Bottom-line is, a Scrum team should be trusted and encouraged to solve their problems.  

There is a huge misconception in the Scrum world that “Scrum Master”(SM) is there to remove the blockers/impediments, and I would strongly discourage this characteristic. 

As long as Scrum Master is solving all the challenges, the team stays crippled and dependent on SM. Sometimes the SM must consciously step back and allow the team to struggle to solve their problems.

With the right environment and boundary conditions in place, the team should be allowed to work on the goal. The team should be trusted and encouraged to figure out the solution. When they fail, instead of punishing them, they should be comforted, and support should be given.

Before I conclude this short post, What other characteristics have you observed in resilient teams?

Photo courtsey:

Friday, May 22, 2015

Are you building product for the customer or the PO ?

One of the biggest challenges facing the Scrum community is understanding the role of Product Owner(PO).

Most of the Scrum teams believe that  PO is a mediator between the customer and the teams. That is, there is a strong belief that PO gathers requirements and passes it to the team. This way of working is the most ineffective way of doing software development. Any hand-off creates wastes and also, PO would end up becoming a bottleneck.


Instead, the most effective way would be for the PO to facilitate the conversation between customers and the teams as much as possible.The direct conversation is not only effective but reduces ambiguity,delay and avoids wastes.


Yes, I understand organizations say it is difficult to get customers on board and spend effort, time, money to engage teams. I guess this is where the organizations need to make a call, whether they want to build great products for the customers or the product owner !!

Monday, May 04, 2015

Stop following the successful companies

It is a common practice to look at successful people and learn the “best practices” as much as possible. The belief is that, by copying the successful practices, we become successful as well. My question is, does that really work ?   Can you become successful investor like Warren Buffet by reading every article/book written about him?

Even many organizations are obsessed trying to copy the practices from Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc. There is nothing wrong with it. However, I believe that one could learn more from failures than successes. So, focusing on the stories from failed companies would be more valuable than popular/successful companies.


There are couple of other reasons why I believe it is time to stop following successful companies:

1. Successful companies became so while they learned from many failures during their journey. Each failure would have enabled them to build some kind of structure to support from future failures and making them resilient. The media in turn focuses only on the “final” state of the company rather than the journey.

One would never get a chance to understand the “resilient structure” that has been built in place to withstand failures.  That’s why, copying only the “practices” from the final state without having a proper resilient structure in place will cripple companies even with a small tremor.

2. There is always a third dimension that you would never get to see.  In another research, the scientists found a pattern of increase in ice cream sales to increase in deaths due to drowning. They were baffled until they realized the 3rd dimension to this data/research.

The ice cream sales increased mostly during the summer, and this is the time where most kids would like to relax and enjoy swimming in rivers/pools as compared to winter months. This increase in swimming proportionality increased the fatalities as well.  As a researcher, if you ignore the 3rd dimension, in this case, the seasonal impact on ice cream sales, one would end up banning the ice creams.

Similarly, the success of every organization would involve some kind of 3rd dimension which is difficult to know/understand. Trying to copy simply the practices could be more harmful than helpful.

Toyota is my favorite example. 1000s of books have been written about Toyota Production system, Lean thinking, etc. Even Toyota allows people to visit their factories and learn from them. The question is, can you become like Toyota by copying their practices?   One would never be able to replicate Toyota or any other successful company. The success comes only from learning that typically happens through failures.  One should try to build their own set of practices based on their context/experiences.

That is; it is very important for organizations to build safe to fail and fail-fast/fail-often culture.

Going forward, start chasing the stories from failed companies and stop following the successful/popular companies.