Author: S Vasudev

Initial coaching interventions for Retrospectives

As a coach, a recurring situation one faces, towards the end of the first sprint after the coaching has started, is the push and shove to the retrospective. After seemingly making the team understand that two key aspect of Agile Scrum are to surface the problems at the earliest and avoiding any kind of waste. I naively expected that the team will be eager to do the retrospective, but wiser now. The team will be scrambling to wrap up the work and close all stories to meet the sprint commitment made, the sprint will be kept open till the the very end and at times a few hours into the next sprint. The Sprint Planning for next sprint has to start, the Sprint Review needs to happen for stories to be closed, where is the time for retrospective? Can it be done next time? At times they combine Retrospective and Sprint Planning, which results in speeding through the retrospective and getting quickly into the planning. Add to this the different locations and time zones of the PO and Scrum Team. The retrospective at times is scheduled after Sprint Planning, which is anyway better than not having it at all. So here is how it goes, the three questions are asked, inputs collated and a mail sent to all stakeholders and the collated inputs made available in a common area....

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Initial coaching interventions for Sprint Planning

Teams new to Scrum have a product backlog. The backlog will be groomed to some degree, typically have clarity for up to one to two sprints. The priority will be clear, with fair amount of detail on the requirements. The estimates may be present, it could be story points or a masked form of an effort estimate. The Product Owner (PO), who is not co-located in most of the teams will participate in Sprint Planning and along with the Scrum Master and team pick a set of stories to be done in the Sprint. After this the team jumps into doing the work. Detailed Sprint Planning is given a miss as PO will not be available for the entire duration and the team reluctant to do task based estimate for variety of reasons, if they do it is done by a few senior members of the team. This is where the first intervention from coach is needed, coax them to do detailed planning i.e., break down the stories into tasks and corresponding effort estimates. Insist that the entire team be involved and ensure that they balance the work they are taking up with the capacity the team has. Here is where they get to see one of the characteristics of Scrum – uncovering the problems at the earliest, and as a coach one should ensure that they become aware...

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An illustration of a PM coaching transformation

Many are curious to know what kind of transformation one can expect through the PM coaching. Sharing one instance of it as an illustration. Please note that each participant and their transformation is unique in itself, depending on where the participant stands, willingness to change and support from the manager. The profile of the participant was as follows: Technically very capable Tended to over-commit to customers Set high expectations for his team Could be terse and not supportive of team members Tended to treat all team members alike Viewed as being a bit of a “loner” Schedule pressures often resulted in his ending up doing many team member tasks by himself He was well aware of some of the above and some were inputs from his manager. Elements of above were included in his Personal Development Plan (PDP), which is used through the coaching. I worked with him over a period of few months with a monthly face to face meeting, supported by email and phone interactions as needed, typically at least a couple per week. What is detailed below is a brief summary of the steps and outcomes. The approach I took was to encourage him to apply some of the techniques of Scope, Time and Stakeholder Management, it is easy to start on the hard/science part. He was eager to practice these techniques, which he has just...

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Tracking in Agile projects

During a workshop on Agile Scrum, for participants new to Agile, a question came up – how is tracking in Agile different than in traditional project management? A very interesting question, which cannot be answered in short – covering some aspects, more to elicit interest in those new to Agile Scrum. In a typical project, the team members report the progress made on their task, in one of the following ways – in a team meeting, one on one meet with the PM, update the information in a in-house or a deployed tool. This is in most cases is a measure of progress, in terms of work that is accomplished, it is subjective and as perceived by the individual. This often is done once in a week or two weeks. Next, the PM looks at these inputs and interprets where the project is headed. This information is then shared back with the team. Often, there is a time gap between the team reporting and receiving the interpreted or worked out status. If the progress is not as expected, the message is likely to be received with some degree of irritation/annoyance – a natural human reaction to unfavorable tidings. The PM has to get the team to make renewed commitment to meet the goals. In Agile the progress is shared in daily stand ups, remaining work updated on the burn-down chart, the...

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Networking – when and how to begin?

One is never without a network and if you are reading this – it may be more to know how to grow it and/or to overcome obstacles, often due to one’s level comfort with so called “networking”. If you look at how you: got the opportunity to work in your current position got into your college/school got your house on rent or bought your apartment you will see that a network – formal, informal or virtual (internet based) was at play. I will focus on growing your professional network and a few simple steps for it and not delve into specifics of social media, as all of you would be familiar with it. First, start with your existing network – which will be your current and past colleagues, your college and school alumni, friends and family. See that you stay in touch with them, by meeting them up or electronically, if you are not in touch start right away. Sending greetings for important occasions, festivals and events is a good way to start. Make it a point to call a few of them over the commute/ weekends and work on the complete list slowly and steadily,  start at top the list again once you complete it. What if you need to ask for a reference or a favor from a person with whom you are not in regular touch. The best...

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