In May 2016, Rocket Nine Solutions hosted Large Scale Scrum Training (LeSS) with Craig Larman in Southern California (Orange County in the greater Los Angeles area).
In this video, Scott Dunn, owner and CEO of Rocket Nine Solutions shares his impressions of our first Large Scale Scrum Training (LeSS) with Craig Larman.
Rocket Nine Solutions hosted a three-day LeSS practitioner workshop in May 2016. We had eighteen in attendance, many coaches, agilists, both from in the area and from out of town. If you’re interested in scaling and in more of a pure scrum approach, Large Scale Scrum Training (LeSS) is a great option. Craig Larman, author of four books on this topic, taught our class. He’ll be coming back again in September. We highly recommend it. The agile coaches had a lot of great things to say about it, and we were all challenged in our thinking. All the great things I’d heard from others about the Large Scale Scrum Training (LeSS), are absolutely true.
If you’re looking at scaling and you’re trying to help your organization as aScrumMaster or an advanced ScrumMaster, you will find great tools for the toolbox. We got into systems thinking:
How do you lead a transformation
How do you prepare leadership and the organization for adoption
Large Scale Scrum and Scaling Frameworks
We have hosted the Scaled Agile Framework class a number of times. Large Scale Scrum (LeSS) is more of an approach that’s not as prescriptive and therefore organic. The teams need to learn how to solve those problems, so you’re going to dive deep into giving them thinking tools on how to do that and how to empower them to solve their own problems.
What roles are really necessary?
In the Certified ScrumMaster classes we do every month, one of the first questions is: Besides those three roles in scrum, ScrumMaster, product owner, and team; what about the project manager? the manager? etc? Those we tackle front-and-center on day one in the Large Scale Scrum Training (LeSS). If you’re interested in some of those things, you’re beyond one, two, three teams, Large Scale Scrum Training (LeSS) is something you definitely should take a look at. We highly recommend it. Feel free to check out the other videos on the site to find out more, and if you have any questions, contact us. We’ll be glad to help out. Thanks and good luck on your journey.
Scaled Agile Framework – SAFe and Large Scale Scrum – LeSS
In the coming quarter, Rocket Nine Solutions is hosting both Scaled Agile Framework – SAFe and Large Scale Scrum – LeSS classes by partner trainers. Why both? Aren’t they competing methodologies for the implementing agile in large organizations? In fact, both have their strong points. As we continue to work with local SoCal and Bay Area companies to apply an agile approach to their product development (and Ops, HR hiring and Sales and Marketing processes), we’ve seen a few consistent patterns that we can provide training to help with, beyond the basics of Certified ScrumMaster and Product Owner training.
Scaled Agile Framework or SAFe provides a proven framework with additional roles and structure layered on top of Scrum to address these issues by having a Product Management group that determines the work ahead for all the teams for the next two to three months. How much of this work and how the teams coordinate doing the work is accomplished via a large all-hands planning meeting. In my opinion, this event is the magic of SAFe. Determining roles, training everyone, getting the large backlog ready in detail and priority – that’s the hard prep work. Like with painting, quality prep work leads to quality results. You could say that SAFe tries to improve the way work gets done using best practices of lean and agile in large environments.
Large Scale Scrum – LeSS
Large Scale Scrum or LeSS looks first for ways to reduce the size of the effort, looking at our typical approach of adding coordination layers as the equivalent to adding bottlenecks – more people and events to go through to get things done. Looking at Scrum simply, and it’s lean roots, small, co-located, cross-functional teams working closely with the customer is the surest way to get product development flow. How a company can refactor the way work itself gets done, from concept to cash, is what LeSS is starting off with. You could say that LeSS re-imagines the way work gets done using the principles of lean and agile and best practices of large agile companies.
What strikes me most about the LeSS workshop is that everyone I know that has taken it, strongly, emphatically recommends it. And these are recommendations from leaders in the global agile community. It’s a very deep dive.
For my current coaching client, with 14 teams in seven locations, we are sending all ScrumMasters and some managers to the Leading SAFe class, but also some leaders and the most passionate agile advocates to the LeSS class.
Take a look at the classes and what might help your organization find and take it’s next step. Feel free to reach out to me to discuss them. Better yet, set up a conference call with your leadership for a Q&A and experience reports.
You have a problem with management. Well, at least according to the main agile survey, you probably do.
Per VersionOne’s annual survey, management support is one of the top barriers to adopting agile in your company. And it’s getting worse – growing from 24% of respondents in 2009, to 30% in 2013. Add in 53% of those polled saying that “Inability to change organizational culture,” 42% “General resistance to change,” and 35% “Trying to fit agile into a non-agile framework,” and we have a big problem with management and leadership understanding, supporting and (preferably) leading this change that agile and Scrum (and SAFe and kanaban and XP and LeSS) all bring about).
Part of the problem with management is that it typically hasn’t been trained in what being agile means. I’ve trained thousands of ScrumMasters, but only asked to come and train leadership a dozen times or so. Therefore it’s understandable that they may not know how to support the teams’ efforts. They know what they’ve done for years, and try to map it back (if not force-fit) that into this new paradigm. If you add to this recipe that most people respond poorly when asked to lead something that they don’t know (not the expert, not comfortable, know that they know less than others in the room), you can see why they might actually pull away and back towards what they do know and feel competent in.
Not coincidentally, training or certification for management and leadership is the most requested to the Scrum Alliance. I am part of a Scrum Alliance workgroup on this training, and there should be the first level of the leadership certification announced at the April 2016 Scrum Gathering. Topics include: Supporting Self-Organizing/Self-Managing Teams, Developing Collaborative Multi-Team Environments, Guiding Organizational Transformation and Change, Unblocking Agility Constraints at the Organizational Level, Creating a Culture of Trust and much, much more.
Here at Rocket Nine Solutions, we are piloting the training at clients we are coaching, so let us know if your leadership might be interested as well.
Agile Assessment Tool for Organizational Growth – AgilityHealth – René Rosendahl – SoCal Agile Leadership Summit
René Rosendahl was one of the speakers at our SoCal Agile Leadership Summit on November 6, 2015 at the Disney Grand Californian hotel. René shared about their experience implementing the Agile assessment tool for organizational growth – AgilityHealth.
René recounts his journey from a smaller company of around 450 people to an acquisition into a larger of company of 30,000 with over 20 different business units. From 20 or so SCRUM teams to over 180 domestic SCRUM teams. This kind of growth and diversity comes with challenges for the organization that aims to be agile. They’re not doing governance. They are not telling people, “This is how thou shalt do Agile…” For René and his teams it’s about making things easier, change management, assisting and helping. They want to promote using Agile to deliver business value in a predictable or responsive fashion depending on the flavor of the business unit. Assisting new teams to get up and running with Agile. Establish teams. Consistently continue to improve. Scaling: there needs to be a way for teams to organize within each business unit and across.
With the AgilityHealth Agile assessment tool the team works with a facilitator that’s trained in this process and this tool. The process requires two and a half to three and a half hours to complete a strategic retrospective. The team goes through, answers a bunch of questions, and what comes out of this among other things is a graph of the strengths and weaknesses of that team. The areas are clarity, performance, leadership, cutler and foundation. Those are the key elements of what a healthy Agile team should be looking at. Within that there are different subsections. The team can zoom in to any area to explore more. The team would then look at their “agile health radar”. The team sees this in real time as they go through the facilitated session.
If you would like to learn more about René Rosendahl’s leadership experience implementing agile on a broad scale and his experience with the Agile assessment tool AgilityHealth, you can read more on his blog Pragmatic Agility.
First, a manager of a group should not be that group’s scrum master-manager. I have yet to have met one other coach or trainer who doesn’t agree with that. All sorts of bad things happen there, but primarily, the team can’t improve on any area that challenges their scrum master-manager or in some way implies that the scrum master-manager wasn’t doing something right. Also, all ideas or the “best” ideas have to or are deferred to the scrum master-manager, if they are seen as the “smartest person in the room.” Some of my worst teams were in this spot and had problems because of this.
Management does not equal Leadership
Secondly, Thomas Crane’s The Heart of Coaching describes some of the differences between a traditional manager role and leadership. Management is good for conformity and compliance to process. Leadership is leading in new directions to new places, humbly learning as you go and the courage to take on risks and uncertainty, gaining the trust of the team to do so by understanding and articulating the common problem(s) they’re facing and why they are the right people for this moment to overcome and get breakthrough to the new place/level/normal.
The Law of the Lid
Referencing John Maxwell’s leadership laws: People only grow to the level of the leader. So, whatever you put over or on top of a team or group, that will be the height that the team can reach. That might speak something to you already.
What To Do with the Manager
Just ask the manager to be the scrum master for a different team. That’s what one company did in San Diego, and it made an immediate difference. Better yet, ask the team to rotate the scrum master role. Then the team will find their preferred scrum master.
Today we want to talk about overcoming obstacles, or how not to do Scrum but. We have folks in the classes who commonly come with real agile challenges. These are good to hear about and good to share about within class. So, let’s walk through a few of the typical “Scrum but” agile challenges:
We are doing Scrum but…
we have Distributed Teams
we are working with Hardware and Software
we are working in a Structured Environment with a PMO
we are working on a project with Fixed Scope and Fixed Budget
Can we do Scrum in the face of these agile challenges? Yes, absolutely you can. Is it harder? Sure. But, I’d rather be doing Scrum with these agile challenges, than doing Waterfall anytime.
On those very large projects, you might look at the Scaled Agile Framework for some guidance.
Scrum but… Distributed Teams
Most commonly, we hear, “Can you do Agile and Scrum with distributed teams?” Yes, you can. Is is challenging? Yes, it is. However, it’s better to be doing Scrum with distributed teams, than doing Waterfall with distributed teams.”
Despite being distributed, if Scrum is going to be effective, we are still going to have all of those same meetings; the planning meeting, the daily Scrum, the sprint review and the retrospective, with everyone on the team. Remember, Be Agile. You can do Scrum, but we want to Be Agile. Remember: …individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
Your daily Scrum might end up being at 9pm or 10pm. When I was working with a team in Hyderabad, that’s when ours was. Sometimes we had a sprint review at 10pm with stakeholders coming on the line to look at what the team had done. Don’t sacrifice those! Lots of folks say, “Well, we’re distributed, so we don’t do a daily Scrum. We just can’t make it work. So, we’re doing Scrum but we don’t do the daily stand up.” Eliminating the daily scrum is only going to hurt you, in terms of distributed teams. We’ve certainly seen cultural differences, where maybe it’s harder for one group to raise concerns or issues. Now, all we’ve done is cut that problem at the knees by saying, “Well, they’re not talking as much.” So, now you’ll find out in the sprint review that that’s actually not what they thought that they would be doing. So, watch out for that one.
Scrum but… Hardware and Software
We’ve also had plenty of people come in, more and more, and saying, “We’re doing hardware and software. So, can we do Scrum with that?” I agree, again, it is harder, but I’d rather do hardware and software with Scrum than with Waterfall. In this case, you might need longer sprints. The most common sprint length is two weeks, but maybe that’s a little tight for hardware/software work that we would do. Maybe go out to 4 weeks. I just don’t want it to be, “Well, yeah, this sprint took a little longer so it’s going to be 5 weeks, or 6 weeks for this iteration.” Again, “we’re doing Scrum but our sprint lengths aren’t fixed,” and that would cause some problems. We’ve done a number of hardware/software instances with Scrum. There are lots of case studies around that, as well, that you could take a look at.
Scrum but… Structured Environment with a PMO
Last commonly, people say, “Well, we’re in a structured environment with a PMO and we’re matrixed, and we’re a very large organization, so can we really do Scrum there with these teams, and being self-organizing?” Yes, you can. There’s a large healthcare organization that we worked with, with over a dozen teams, where the PMO actually acted more like an Agile PMO, and helped us slot out which teams would be working with which Product Owners when, and were very helpful to us as we did the work underneath all that.
Scrum but… Fixed Scope and Fixed Budget
There may be issues with fixed scope and fixed budget that we might look at. But even within that, I don’t mind high level scope that we can still be flexible underneath. The principles are we’re going to flex on scope. If it’s a high level, maybe a 1 or 2 pager about what we’re after with this project, within that date, I think we can still do that. We just really have to work with our product owners to know that there are plenty of options to get from Point A to Point B that they’ve committed to delivering. We have some flex in there that we can leverage for the team. So, yes you can still do fixed scope and budget. Again, I’d much rather be doing a large project effort with using Scrum, for that visibility that we’re going to get that we’re really on track across multiple teams, than surprising us at the end that maybe we’re not really on track.
Also, on those very large projects, you might look at the Scaled Agile Framework as some help, too.
Watch out for doing Scrum but, and good luck on your journey.
At Rocket Nine Solutions, we are excited to tell you about a special event we have coming up: our inaugural Southern California Agile Leadership Summit in Anaheim at the Disney Grand Californian on November 5, 2015.
Executive Support… or the Lack Thereof
The summit is an opportunity for coaches of agile transformations at companies as well as their leaders and stakeholders to come and hear sessions targeted just for them.
The number one problem we see with coaching clients is lack of executive support. From the executive side, they often don’t have training. It’s hard to support somebody you don’t fully understand. For people to truly be bought in, they often need to know what’s expected and that they can succeed.
In the summit what we’re hoping to do is put information and relationships in front of them in a community environment that will help them understand what’s expected and how they can succeed. That will go a long way toward helping the coaches.
My number one mistake…
…when I first started out was that I wasn’t involved in community. I often went weeks or months of hitting my head against a wall. When I would talk with others at a conference, they’d say, “Oh yeah don’t do that. I did that once and didn’t try that again.” Getting involved in community would go a long way to help you in your success. The role of the ScrumMaster or a coach in the organizations is challenging and full of areas like servant leadership and coaching and educating and evangelizing, that we could stand to learn a lot from other coaches as well.
At the Southern California Agile Leadership Summit we plan to surround you with folks that we’ve worked with and who have been successful, to hear their stories and help you parlay those into success for you and your organizations as well. Bringing together Coaches and the Stakeholders and sponsors so you can learn from other organizations how they have success. Agile transformation isn’t months, but often years of a journey.
Challenges and Wins
Some of the Challenges we expect to discuss include:
Scaling agile for very large programs with dozens or many dozens of teams
Agile and geographically distributed teams
Siloed pockets of knowledge
Agile and the matrixed environment
Here are some of the Big Wins other companies have had:
400 or 500% improvement in productivity
Dropping a bug defect backlog by 90%
First to market features up 50%.
Learn from Others
There are real wins out there if we can tap into that and learn from others. The Summit is where you can have conversations around what this change will look like and hear people’s real stories and really try to leap frog and move forward quickly based on that. We often don’t know what our vision or our road map looks like for Agile adoption and transformation. This is chance for you to sit and do the work of mapping it out.
Who Should Come
Please consider coming to the Southern California Agile Leadership Summit. Bring those in the trenches such as your coaches or senior ScrumMasters as well as your guiding coalition, those of your peers who are also involved in success. It might be the head of the PMO, the head of development, the head of quality.
On a leadership level we will challenge leaders to do just that. Cast the Vision, show the shining light of the goal we’re trying to get to and rally folks behind you to get success on that. To be successful in our roles we need to know two things, what’s expected of us, and that we can succeed. We want to equip you to feel like you can be successful at just that. Please consider coming to the Southern California Agile Leadership Summit. It’s an event limited to only 50 people.
The Southern California Agile Leadership Summit will be held at the Disney Grand Californian on November 5, 2015.
The Southern California Agile Leadership Summit is sponsored by Scrum Alliance:
Become part of something bigger than you alone. With over 375,000 members worldwide, Scrum Alliance brings you together with like-minded people who are passionate about Scrum and who are changing the world of work every day.
We are a nonprofit membership organization that encourages and supports the widespread adoption and effective practice of Scrum. We provide advocacy, community, and education to support this movement, equip our members, and help them succeed with Scrum in software development and beyond. Learn more at www.ScrumAlliance.org and come sprint with us!
Does your management think scrum is a gym membership?
Deciding to use Scrum is a transforming decision.
We have people say that they want their kids to go to traditional public school so that their kids can participate in sports. The general reason is because it changes the kid. The structure and goals of the game, the rules, the individual piece you play and try to master, and all the practicing can have a profound effect on a person.
I say this because some companies decide to use Scrum, but with an attitude of doing a set, individual exercise program, and not a team sport.
Consider the difference of these two scenarios. If I’m going to the gym from 4 PM – 5 PM, what I’ll do is up to me. Sure, I know there’s recommendations, but in the end, I’ll do what I want. I’ll do, or not do, some exercises. I might shave a few reps off of some exercise that’s “too hard.” I might skip certain days.
On the other hand, If I show up to team practice from 4 PM – 5 PM, do I get to decide what I’ll do? What I’ll do is not solely up to me, because I’m part of a team and listen to the coach. What about if I have a bad attitude, am slacking, or decide to leave early? There’s going to be a problem.
Those deciding their company will be agile or use Scrum should realize that it’s not something that they’re checking off, but an experience that they’re entering into that will change them, their structure of how work flows to the teams, the teams, and the team members themselves. And being changed is actually the reason we have our kids join the team, not so that our kid runs faster, makes fewer mistakes, or gets done earlier. Those are nice additional benefits, but not the goal.
If your company has started off with your management thinking scrum was a minor change, consider getting a private training with us to get everyone on board for a true agile transformation. You might also consider some of the approaches I discuss in one of my posts on getting management support for agile:
As we coach organizations, I come across a common problem of team members not bought into Scrum, resisting the changes or having a negative attitude towards them. Every time, those members had no Scrum team training.
But consider how you would feel if someone above said you “had” to do something, but never walked you through it, or even asked what you thought about it? The book Influencer by Joseph Grenny explains that for people to take on change, they need two things – understanding what’s being asked of them, and confidence they can do it. Without Scrum team training for each of your team members, it’s unlikely they’ll feel that way, and they’ll understandably resist it.
The Value of a Place to Ask Questions
Scrum team training creates a space for members to ask questions. Regardless of the response, I find that most people that ask questions don’t need to be right, so much as they need to be heard. Even a response of “I don’t know the answer to that, but it’s a good question. I’ll look into it and get back to you.” goes a long way toward feeling valued and respected, and being more likely to follow the lead.
One Option for Scrum Team Training
Maybe you don’t feel comfortable providing Scrum team training yourself, or you don’t have the budget to bring someone in. One option that we’ve provided is an overview course on Front Row Agile. Team members can do it on their own, or you can bring them together for a couple Scrum team training meetings to go through it and discuss. Some teams go through a section of a video during a lunch (provided, of course!) once a week for several weeks. There are other great video courses on Front Row Agile, too, on coaching, management and more.