Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Roles and Tasks of a Scrum Master

May this list be used to guide and answer questions of what is the role of a scum master and what do they do but not seen as a definitive checklist.

Special thanks to Ron Quartel, Angela Harms, and Srinivasa Badrinarayanan for helping perfect this list.


  • Facilitate Daily Scrum
  • Facilitate Retrospectives
  • Facilitate Sprint Planning What
  • Facilitate Sprint Planning How 
  • Mediate conflicts 
  • Backlog creation and grooming


  • Alert for learning opportunities
  • Provide feedback to team members
  • Reinforce agile principles
  • Reinforce  agile values
  • Encourage collaboration
  • Foster team self-organization
  • Challenge team with adopting agile best practices
  • Challenge team with adopting technical practices
  • Be courageous to deliver bad news early 
  • Relay single coaching message to team 
  • Relay organizational message to team
  • Mentor team members one-on-one
  • Help team inspect and adapt definition of done
  • Help team inspect and adapt working agreements
  • Help team learn to self facilitate
  • Respond to managements needs

Servant Leader

  • Protect scrum team from distractions
  • Help remove impediments as needed but help team self-organize
  • Be contact person for all things
  • Radiate project status visually to management, stakeholders, and team
  • Ready to work as a team member to support the process
  • Help maintain tools (backlog, metrics, radiators etc.)

Team Member

  • Execute PO and DEV tasks when able
  • Help create product roadmap
  • Help groom backlog 
  • Help write user stories
  • Help slicing user stories
  • Help write acceptance criteria
  • Help prioritize backlog
  • Help task stories
  • Help write sprint goals
  • Help wherever possible
  • Collocate with team


  • Introduce best practices at relevant time
  • Exchange experiences with other process and technical coaches within the organization
  • Encourage agile technical practices within development team
  • Help further agile community within the organization
  • Provide learning opportunities to organization (talks, workshops, etc.)
  • Retire irrelevant practices as necessary


  • Learn everything agile continuously through conferences, user groups, blogs, books, etc.
  • Visit other agile adoptions
  • Be coachable by other coaches

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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Smaller Stories as a Super Power

Is your team struggling with estimating stories because of unknowns? Has forecasts of work to be done in an iteration become guesswork? Do you find stories ready for review going back in progress because of an unclear definition of done? Are low priority features being developed?

All of these problems were persistent in a team I coached. Of course there were multiple options for incremental change but the option with the lowest investment but greatest impact was coaching around smaller stories to the team.

I observed and received feedback that challenging the product owners and development to adopt smaller stories for two iterations impacted planning, development, morale and trust positively.

The product owners changed how they prioritized work with small stories. Stories were pulled to play horizontally not by vertical chunks on the story map. They were able to discover that development could now play stories with the most value first and the business would now see a slice of the product across features.

The guesswork of estimating stories was removed with smaller stories because there were nominal or none unknowns. The acceptance criteria for the stories were minimal and meaningful conversations around it occurred that provided clear understanding to development on what it meant to be done.

Achieving the goal of defect free stories became attainable with small stories and technical practices. Confidence in code quality strengthened between development and the product owner with the ability to close multiple stories daily. The product owner was now able to see progress early and often.

Tracking the cycle time of the smaller stories was described as an adrenaline rush for development as they saw themselves going faster.

As a coach I surely had butterflies when the team decided to change their working agreements so that they would only play small stories; as well as, the team requesting more coaching on how to split stories.

Up next the team moving away from pointing stories and basing forecast on past performance of the number of stories delivered.

I am sold that small stories are a super power!

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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

It's Your Fault Retrospective

Retrospective of "It's Your Fault" session at the 2014 Self.Conference in Detroit

Immediately after our self.conference session "It's Your Fault", Gerry and I took a few moments to discuss the session feedback, what went well, what we could do better, and what we would toss out if we were to do this talk again.

Participants rating of the session was about 4.7 out of 5. Some things that helped make it successful that I would do over is . .
  • communicating learning objectives early in the session
  • capturing participants thoughts on key topics instead of feeding them all the answers
  • allowing the audience to apply techniques we introduced so they feel as if they can utilize them immediately
  • annotating the session Kanban stickies with approximate time we should get to that topic to help us monitor time
  • incorporating music as participants walked in, during activities, and leaving the session to set the tone for a relaxed an open atmosphere
  • soliciting participant feedback on how to improve with a rating of 1 needs work to 5 awesome with suggestions of improvements
  • investing the time to create an engaging slide deck
  • creating a blog article and posting before the session so participants can immediately access session details and additional information
But there was still room for improvement. The session was fast paced and jammed with a lot of information and exercises to keep within our 50 minute time box. Therefore the session felt a little bit rushed and if we had more time we would of loved to provide . . .
  • more time for the audience to get settled in
  • more examples of real experiences
  • little stronger connection/tie-in of the learning objectives with session activities
  • demonstration of the perfection game for participants before they tried it out
  • more time to answer audience questions
  • a recorded session for participants to refer back too (the slide deck received over 350 views in an hour after posting but I wonder how beneficial it was without the details recorded)
I look forward to the opportunity to do this session again.

Read the original blogpost on the session here:

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