This One Goes To 11

My starter list of eleven potential blog post topics

One of the more fun parts of being a scrum master is coming up with ways to get your teams to think about their process from different angles.  This blog provided just such an opportunity.  Here’s how.  Every sprint, we retrospect on what went well, what didn’t, and the actions we will take in the next sprint to either fix at least 1 of those things that went wrong or institutionalize one of the good practices.  You know?  Good solid Agile team behavior.  We add them as a sprint task whenever practical.  and we engage in continuous improvement.


Retrospection isn’t always easy.  People get tired.  Irritability can lead to outbursts or worse–silence.  So, occasionally, prior to retrospection, (particularly if it has been a brain draining two weeks), I have the team engage in either a learning game about Agile, or I have them engage in some sort of puzzle or discussion that forces them to disengage from their everyday work.  Unplug.

But sometimes, I think a team needs to retrospect on Agile as a whole.  I mean, the scrum master can coax and guide and question the team all he or she wants to work on small areas of improvement, but getting the team to talk about where they are with Agile as a whole is quite a bit harder.

Unless you are writing a blog.  THEN, you get to kick off a discussion like this:

“Hey, I’m writing a blog about the things that cause pain in Agile?  I can’t think of a better group to ask than a team that is fully immersed in the culture and practices on a daily basis.  Let’s take a few minutes to brainstorm on the things that cause you pain, raise concerns, or make you scratch your head.”

This lead to a nice list.  We got to engage in discussion on some of the items, clearing up confusion.  We got to talk about the way things are supposed to be vs. the way they are currently, but most importantly, we got to talk about plans to improve.  It was like creating a backlog of “Ways we can be better at Agile.”

And I gotta say, it was pretty darned cool.  I love my teams.

So, here’s the combined list from two teams with which I did this exercise.  A good number of these I have answers for (or at least good anecdotes for how they were encountered in the field), and my goal is to convert as many of these as I can into blog posts (and in some cases, workshops):

Well, there are 11 main items.  I didn’t count the sub-bullets.  If I did, how would I have been able to give Nigel one more tip-of-the-hat?

  1. The Importance of the Product Owner—there are reasons there are books on this subject
  2. Dedicated Scrum master—how important is it?
  3. Planning with Hours instead of points?
  4. Agile Sprint Struggles:
    1. -Late Sprint Testing—how do we avoid just a fast waterfall
    2. -How should defects be handled?
  5. What does “Agile” mean? “I can tell you what I want, anytime I want, and how I want it –because you’re Agile, right?”
    1. -Failures to roll out Agile at the company level
    2. -Ways to help your business “get it.”
    3. -The Scaled Agile Framework debate—let it go.
  6. Meeting Business needs quickly—can Agile go any faster
    1. -Do you wanna go Faster? Getting to understand flow
    2. the fixed gear analogy
    3. -Product Ownership and the responsibility of swapping
    4. –messaging: not killing your children—focus on the gains
    5. –Hardest part of Product Owners job—adjusting the volume
  7. Challenges of small teams: easier to manage, but single points of failure
  8. When Agile teams are asked to work with others on non-agile projects
  9. Long range or even mid-range planning
    1. -Why some teams struggle–”If it’s written, we committed to it, right?”
    2. -Ships at sea, ships in the harbour analogy
  10. Prioritization impacting efficiency
    1. -Pre-sprint: who owns prioritization?
    2. -Product Owner: Mayor of backlog town.
    3. -Planning: Negotiating to the last point
    4. -Planning: why the team owns the sequence
    5. -Planning: Gut Sizing—try this experiment
    6. -Mid-sprint changes: They can happen, but they should hurt
    7. -UAT and Agile -when a demo is just not enough
  11. Agile Project Success: Installing a New Learning Management System
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