Sunday, March 15, 2020

Newsletter #45 : Role of a Scrum Master in LeSS


Toyota Production System: Respect for People
As many might already aware, Toyota Production System was not a planned design. It was created in response to the need to survive the world war and to improve the profitability in a low demand environment.  The variable demand created a lot of waste due to unavailability of tools, skills and methods.

In the whole process of elimination of wastes, focus on quality lead to the discovery of ideas like JIT and in-turn kanban. However, Toyota also realised that without respect for people, things will fall apart.

So, if you are interested in applying the ideas from Toyota Production system, Kanban, WIP limits, etc form the tools part and their foundation lies in the respect for people.
As per the book "Scaling Lean and Agile Development" 

Broadly, the global or system goal of lean thinking at Toyota is to go from “concept to cash”  or “order to cash” as fast as possible at a sustainable pace— to quickly deliver things of value (to the customer and society) in shorter and shorter cycle times of all processes, while still achieving highest quality and morale levels. Toyota strives to reduce cycle times, but not through cutting corners, reducing quality, or at an unsustainable or unsafe pace; rather, by relentless continuous improvement, that requires a company culture of meaningful respect for people in which people feel they have the personal safety to challenge and change the status quo.

In the product development frameworks like Scrum, LeSS the respect for people is created through Servant leadership and Self-Management principles.

Continuous improvement and Respect for people are the two pillars of the Toyota house. Continuous improvement culture cannot survive without respecting the people. Respecting the people doesn't mean get along without causing any friction and not about following the orders. It is about treating people as whole and complete rather than a transactional relationship. Respect for people is to create an environment for people to use their complete mental ability to succeed, learn and grow.

My observation in organisations has been to use words like Kaizen(continuous improvement) but without any focus on respect for people.

Further reading:

Interesting article: Why Net Promoter Score(NPS) is past it's prime

Key snippets from the above article

The Net Promoter Score (NPS), which has long been used to measure the loyalty of firms’ customers, is under fire for becoming the false god of corporate America. In a searing article, the Wall Street Journal last week labeled NPS “a dubious metric” — one that is routinely cited by CEOs in earning calls and that somehow, magically, never declines.
There are at least three big reasons why.
1. NPS misses the employee connection. NPS says nothing about employee experience. What good is a figure that shows how many customers would recommend your company versus how many are unhappy if your employees — your prime ambassadors to customers — are unhappy themselves? If you’ve ever encountered a surly store associate or a hostile customer-service rep (and I know you have), you intuitively get the connection between customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX).

2. NPS is obsolete because so much has changed. Since the introduction of NPS, customers’ expectations have soared and companies’ access to information about them has increased dramatically. Today, consumers expect next-day delivery of online purchases — with tracking and free returns. They use social media to publicize their favorite companies and brands, and excoriate those that deliver bad experiences.
3. NPS is a backward-looking “point in time” metric. Today, we have the tools to run dynamic, “living” metrics that spin up virtuous circles of benefits and keep them spinning.

Read the complete article here

Interesting article: Why great employees leave great cultures?

Key snippets from the above article

Culture is often referred to as “the way things are done around here.” But to be useful, we need to get more specific than that. I’ve been working in HR for over twenty years, and the best companies I’ve worked with have recognized that there are three elements to a culture: behaviors, systems, and practices, all guided by an overarching set of values. A great culture is what you get when all three of these are aligned, and line up with the organization’s espoused values. When gaps start to appear, that’s when you start to see problems — and see great employees leave.
These gaps can take many forms. A company might espouse “work-life balance” but not offer paid parental leave or expect people to stay late consistently every night (a behaviors-system gap). You might espouse being a learning organization that develops people, but then not give people the time to actually take classes or learn on the job (system-behaviors gap). Maybe your company tells people to be consensus-builders, but promotes people who are solely authoritative decision makers (behavior-practices gap).
Gaps like these are never solved by turning culture over to a Chief Culture Officer or pulling together culture committees.
How, then, do we repair a flagging culture? A place to start is by reviewing the behaviors, systems, and practices in place in your company.


A common culture-building practice is the creation of value statements. But the real test is how leaders behave; how they enact these values, or don’t. People watch everything leaders do. If leaders are not exhibiting the behaviors that reflect the values, the values are meaningless.


Every process that is created, every system installed, every technology that is used, every structure that is designed, every job title that is given will reinforce or dilute the culture.


Practices include everything from company events, running meetings, feedback processes, to how decisions are made.
Do you have repeatable decision-making processes in place? Are meeting participants expected to be collaborative and consensus-driven, or is some conflict OK? What should managers talk about in performance reviews?
Practices need to change as the company changes — as it grows, reorganizes, or faces new threats. Once-useful practices can quickly become stale, meaningless, or even counter-productive. If the original intent of an off-site retreat was to help teams bond, what needs to shift now that the company has tripled in size?

Read the complete article here

Systems Thinking

A system is made of two or more parts. As we know a system is a continuum that is each system is hidden within a larger system and also, hides smaller systems. The idea of the system itself is based on our mental model. Most of the organisational system that we tend to address are made of both humans and technical interfaces.

Meadows and many thought leaders say the system is defined by the boundary we draw. However, the boundary is mostly a virtual boundary we draw to focus on a particular problem.  The boundary itself is challengeable as it is influenced by our mental model of the world.

When we tend to address the problems in the organisational systems, we tend to believe we know the answers or solutions. However, we forget that our solution is based on a certain mental model of the organisation.  Then the question is, how do you validate your mental models?  The best way is to expose it to the outside world and get it validated. This is where the culture of transparency and safety comes into the picture. I call this a foundation of everything at work. 
Our ability to achieve the results we truly desire is typically eroded when we hold thoughts and feelings that:
  • Our beliefs are the truth
  • The truth is obvious
  • Our beliefs are based on real data
  • The data we select are the real data
In my LeSS trainings, I use the Causal Loop modelling(Systems Modelling) as a way to expose the mental models of individuals to get it validated. Of course, there are various other tools that could be used.   It is important to ensure that models are exposed and shared with each other while making the decisions. In fact, many of the organisational visioning and discovery exercises are supposed to be the platform to share the mental models. However, these exercises fail miserably when there is no safety net and still run top-down.

Ladder of inference is another tool..

Below is excerpt from this wonderful article about mental models

The ladder of inference is a tool, first developed by Chris Argyris, that provides a structured way for us to reason as to why we don’t usually remember where our deepest attitudes or deep-seated behaviours came from.  These may include fear of the unknown or of something new.  Fear of trusting persons.  Fear of believing someone other than themselves would look out for their best interests.  The data is long lost to memory, after years of inferential leap.  Before long, we come to think of our longstanding assumptions as data, but we are several steps removed from data.

The Ladder of Inference describes the automatic thinking process that we all go through, usually without even realizing it, to get from a fact to a decision or action. The thinking stages can be seen as rungs on a ladder
Using the Ladder of Inference
You can’t live your life without adding meaning or drawing conclusions. It would be an inefficient, tedious way to live. But you can improve your communications through reflection, and by using the ladder of inference in three ways:
 Becoming more aware of your own thinking and reasoning (reflection);
 Making your thinking and reasoning more visible to others (advocacy);
 Inquiring into others’ thinking and reasoning (inquiry).

Fascinating quote 

We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are. – Anais Nin

Large-Scale Scrum(LeSS)

Role of a Scrum Master in LeSS
Scrum Masters are responsible for a well-working LeSS adoption. Their focus is on the Teams, Product Owner, organization, and development practices. A Scrum Master doesn’t only focus on a team but also on the overall organizational system.
A Scrum Master is a dedicated full-time role. One Scrum Master can serve 1–3 teams.
The initial focus of a Scrum Master towards the team(s) is high, but it should decline over time. When the teams are formed, the Scrum Master spends a lot of effort educating and coaching the team(s) in self- management, inter-team coordination, and increased shared responsibility. Over time, the team(s) rely less on their Scrum Master as they take on all responsibility by themselves.
The maturing of teams is one reason many Scrum adoptions opt for part-time Scrum Masters. But in LeSS, the Scrum Master isn’t a part-time role. When the Scrum Master’s first Team has matured, then she may take up another team—in fact, up to three. Being a Scrum Master for multiple teams automatically shifts focus to the bigger picture of the organization and the Product Owner.
LeSS recommends the following five tools for Scrum Master
  • Question  As a Scrum Master, you act as a mirror to everyone to help them reflect and improve.
  • Educate  As a master of Scrum, you have a deep understanding of Scrum and need to help the team understand why Scrum is the way it is.
  • Facilitate  Show the teams how to do LeSS events, and have productive conversations by facilitating them.
  • Actively do nothing   You need to create space for people to take responsibility. 
  • Interrupt   Teams need to learn by themselves but when things do get out of hand, then you interrupt to avoid irrevocable damage.

Ref: Large-Scale Scrum

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Upcoming Events
Look forward to public courses in Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and India in 2020.  Possibly expanding to other countries.

Many might not know that I also offer Certified LeSS Executive trainingThis is specifically for senior leaders who might be interested in learning the intricacies of management and structure to influence the culture. 

Please reach out:  venky at for further details.

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