Monday, March 28, 2016

Say No to Ugly Metrics

One of the perks of my job it that I get to interact with plenty of talented and smart people.  One of them is Andrew Keener and I had the opportunity to spend a few hours with him over beer to discuss game theory, the philosophy of social contract theory and metrics to improve scrum teams.  It was heady stuff and I enjoyed every moment of it and wanted to share a little of the experience with you.

Keener has a very in depth discussion of scrum in metrics on his blog on linkedin.  I will let you read that on your own.  This week I wanted to discuss his notion of ugly metrics.  According to Keener, an ugly metric is one that reinforces the dysfunction of the organization rather than provide a means to improve performance.  Business people want to measure productivity and provide objective measures for how the people under them are doing.  The trouble is that for a creative endeavor like software development it is hard to come up with meaningful ways to do the measurement.

I try to track things which are concrete like bugs in production, how many story points successfully completed by the team, and number of stories flagged as technical debt by the team.  This way we have a means to see where we are and how we can improve. If I started using these metrics as a means of performance then my developers would begin to game the system to drive up their numbers. This inspired the famous 1995 comic strip from Scott Adams below.

So as a scrum master it is our duty to measure things which are relevant to our teams.  It is also important to use those measurements to inspire positive behavior and performance rather than encourage dysfunction in the team.  Otherwise, you are no different than the pointy haired boss Scott Adams loves to mock in his comic strip.

Until next time.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Fighting the F.U.D. as a Scrum Master

Fight the F.U.D.
The world of technology is awash in acronyms.  These acronyms rise and fall with much of fashion in the technology world.  A few of them have lingered over the years and represent a common knowledge among technology people.  This week I want to talk about F.U.D. and how you can fight it.

According to the urban dictionary, the term F.U.D. is an acronym for fear, uncertainty and doubt. The term was born during the start of the open source movement as companies like Microsoft and Cisco used disinformation to try and undermine the credibility of open source advocates.  The idea was that if they could create fear of the new movement, uncertainty of their goals and doubt about if they could actually solve business problems then they could maintain dominant market share.

Since these early open source days, Microsoft has dropped the F.U.D. campaign and has eagerly embraced open source and cloud computing with its Microsoft Azure tools.  It is positive development and has been a money making strategy for the company.

As a scrum master you are going to deal with F.U.D. every day.  Organizations, are riddled with fear of changing how they do business.  Any uncertainty is intolerable to executives and business leaders.  Finally, doubt is going to be used at every turn to try an undermine efforts for change.  To address fear, start small with an individual or team and show how the process works.  A person scared of heights will jump on a zip line if you can prove that they will not fall off the line or injure themselves.  Uncertainty is easily dispelled with hard data and evidence that the new ideas are working and improving performance.  Doubt, is eliminated by your personal conviction as a scrum master and by more real world evidence.

I am not saying there is a magic bullet to deal with F.U.D. but as a scrum master you need to be aware of it.  Otherwise, any effort you make to try and improve the organization is going to be fruitless.

Until next time.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Devotion matters

Devotion is harder than it looks
I work as a scrum master and technology professional.  It is not an easy job.  I am expected to run meetings at all hours of the day.  I communicate with developers half a world away.  I spend weekends and evenings retraining myself to stay on top all of the latest trends and topics.  I am compensated for my work but it really isn’t enough for the sacrifices which are expected of me on a daily basis.  So what drives a scrum master to do what they do?  It is devotion.

This week I wanted to talk about devotion and how it helps a scrum master get through the difficult periods of work and life.  When I was growing up, my aunt was a nun.  It did not seem like a big deal to my mother or the rest of the family.  It was her job.  She was a teacher and administrator and to have those opportunities in the early 1960’s she became a nun.  It didn’t seem to me like a religious calling but just something that came with the job.  As I grew older, it became obvious that my aunt sacrificed much to become a teacher and administrator.

She was not allowed to have a telephone in her room.  When my mother wanted to speak with her she had to get permission from the Mother Superior to speak with my aunt.  My aunt couldn’t keep a pet to keep herself company.  She had to live a life of celibacy so she was forbidden to have a boyfriend or husband.  She was even forbidden to rent an apartment and she did not have any say on where she worked.  She went to where the arch-diocese sent her.  She made these sacrifices because she loved teaching children and giving them an opportunity to succeed.  It was her devotion.

I talk about it as devotion rather than dedication because, to me, the different between the two traits is one of desire.  Dedication is something you do because you have a sense of duty or obligation to do it.  This is why many employees are dedicated.  They feel they have no choice to engaged in this type of commitment because they will be judged wanting.  Devotion is something you do out of love and commitment to the cause you are working.  Thus, my aunt was devoted to helping children and the sacrifices she made to make that happen were things she made gladly in order to help her cause.

This is how I think about being a scrum master.  You go into it as a devotion.  You have to like people.  You have to like developers.  You have to want to make a difference in your organization.  You are going to give up weekends and holidays.  You will have lonely moments and you will be giddy with success.  That is what devotion is all about giving up something of yourself for a cause you believe.  I am devoted and more scrum masters should be too.

Until next time.