Agile 2018

Agile 2018
Speaking at Agile 2018

Monday, December 5, 2016

Good Scrum Requires Organization and Improvisation

Good Scrum is like good jazz
The life of a scrum master is a daily adventure.  No two days are the same.  One day everything is going well and the next you are confronted with a production server meltdown.  You have tremendous responsibility but no authority to get anything done.  This week I want to talk about two skills you will need to develop to be successful, organization and improvisation.

As scrum master presides over a fluid and ambiguous environment.  Product owners want to succeed.  Finance people are tracking the money.  Your boss wants to know when you are going to push code into production.  To answer this and numerous questions which come up during your work day, you must be organized.  I keep file folders with information regarding each project.  Additionally, I insist that the product owner and the team keep the product backlog neat and tidy.

Use your source control and project management tools to the best of your ability.  It does not matter if you use Jira or TFS 2015.  These software products are designed to keep you organized.  If you want to be old school, use a whiteboard and post-it notes; as long as the information is accurate and readily available to everyone.

I like to use the “arms-reach” rule.  This rule states that any and all information about a project should be within arms reach of the scrum master.  So when your boss asks how the sprint is going, you can show them a burndown chart.  A developer might have questions about the I.P. addresses of a server.  You should be able to reach an excel spreadsheet or file folder in your drawer to return that information.  It will enhance your credibility with the organization and the people who work with you.

Finally, do what many people in the media business do; they keep a schedule file.  They have twelve folders for each month of the year.  They have additional folders for each day of the month.  When you need to do something date sensitive place, it in the correct month and date folder.  Each day you pull the current day's folder, and that provides you with an agenda fo what needs to do.  Once you get into the habit of doing this, you will wonder how you lived without it.  Once you get into the habit of doing this, you will wonder how you lived without it.  

The next skill I strongly recommend is improvisation.  Being able to respond to change over following a plan is a tenant of the agile manifesto and a great definition of improvisation.  In a typical day, a scrum master will reschedule a backlog refinement meeting to help a developer with SOLID development or they will spend time with finance people to explain the scrum process.  You need organization so depending on what happens the information you need is in “arms-reach, ” and you can change direction.

Improvisation does not mean making stuff up or bullshitting your way through your day.  It means addressing the unexpected with the correct response.  When humor is required, use humor.  When it is necessary to be firm, you will have to act.  It requires organization and mental disciple.  The way to develop those skills is by taking some improve classes or getting involved in organizations like ToastMasters.  There you will learn both public speaking skills and the ability to think on your feet which are key to improvisation.

So to summarize, to improvise you need organization.  Developing these two skills will make you a better scrum master.

Until next time.