Saturday, May 11, 2019

On Being There

I remember a few years ago, a fellow wandered into a standup after being rather MIA for two weeks. As in, he was physically in the building, just ignored all the normal “rituals” around Agile, and Scrum in particular. Now, this was interesting, because people would see him in the hallways, his calendar was always full, but the items were blocked so no one could see what they were, including the manager and team lead. He would not answer phone calls, return emails and mysteriously was never at his desk.

Then came the day he showed up in a standup toward the end of the sprint.

“Hey, I don’t have any tasks on the board so I was doing other stuff.”

“Like what?”

“Oh, stuff that Bill asked me to do. It has been keeping me busy. What are you guys all doing?”

This was brought back to me very, very vividly a few weeks ago.

Since the first of the year, I’ve been working across Michigan, some 180 miles, from where I live. So drive to the office crazy early Monday morning, staying a few miles from the office location during the week, then driving home Friday night. This presents a bunch of challenges, as one might imagine. The family/home/pets/friends/relationship stuff is hard when you are home almost 72 hours per week and sleeping a fair portion of that time (as I am reminded often, I’m “not 40 anymore.”)

Then add to this, trying to fit in with a bunch of pipe band drummers you are supposed to be working with, but that has turned into “giving guidance and offering suggestions” based on recordings, simply because practice happens evenings during the week, 185 miles from where I am. So, one of the very, very rare weekend practices, I walked in and found… I was not fitting in. At all. That is really bad when you are supposed to all play things together, the same way.

Why? How’d this happen?

Simple. Minor little things were agreed on when the four of them were there, and worked on, and internalized – and then when I showed up, it was “Oh, yeah. Um, we changed that a little so now it is THIS. OK?” One or two of those are not a big deal. A bunch can be added over 3 months of work.

This is in addition to the stuff I WAS told about. “Oh, we changed the ending to this tune, so, here’s what it looks like. OK?”

The point of regular, weekly rehearsals is to keep everyone aligned and moving the same direction. The goal is to make sure there are no major, and only a very few minor, differences in style, interpretation and technique. Most importantly, to make sure the shared vision and purpose are present and driving the approach to music and presentation.

This, by the way, is the purpose behind the “rituals” of Scrum – the standups, the refinement meetings, the retrospectives and the demos – moving toward a more perfect alignment in purpose and reason for the team and the product.

All it takes is one person missing then magically showing up to totally disrupt the results.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

A ScrumMaster Has No Name

Let me start very directly for those who really don’t like reading my
normal format blog posts:
If you are hoping that becoming a ScrumMaster will win you praise and
broad recognition and honors and be recognized as THE PERSON who
saved these troubled projects or made the teams awesome, this is not
the role, or the job, for you.
If you are hoping that becoming a ScrumMaster will get you the needed
authority to compel people to obey your command and deliver awesome-
ness every 2 weeks, this is not the role, or the job, for you.
If you are hoping that becoming a ScrumMaster will result in teams
improving performances, increased quality and time to delivery will get
you the satisfaction of knowing you helped people make things happen,
deliver items of value to their organization and its customers and have
the team not even notice you in the corner getting things to happen,
then this might possibly be the role, or job, for you.
That’s the gist. 
Now to explain.
At one time, many large, usually European although some American,
cities had such things as “Gentleman Clubs.” Now, these were not the
ilk of certain business establishments today that advertise themselves
as such. Instead, they were rather formal places intended to provide
people of a certain, order shall we say?, with a place where they could
step in, find a welcome from the staff, have a beverage and maybe
some refreshment, smoke a pipe (perhaps) or play a hand of cards or
simply have conversation with polite, like-minded individuals.
These would be arranged and ordered much as society itself was –
there were those that were for the “better sorts” (meaning wealthy,
particularly coming from older, more established wealthy families)
and other aimed at other levels of society – men of business, or
whatever. They would discuss politics, indeed, rather famously there
were a pair of such clubs in London, aimed at the very upper levels
of Society, very similar expectations (qualifications) to become a
member. The great differentiator, was, what political party you
supported: Tory or Whig. Yes, yes, yes. I am well aware there were
radical followers of Wilkes who were reformist Whigs, of sort, but
still, they were the main two parties.
Anyway, you see my point, I think.
There have been “clubs” for some time.
Frankly, becoming a ScrumMaster does not get you into one of the
"better clubs." Walking into a room does not get you hushed awe,
deferential bows, looks or even glances. Members of the “better
classes” will not come over quickly to greet you or take your hand.
We are not the ones for whom such things are ordered.
We might very well be the ones making sure they are ordered and
the members of the Club coming in are greeted appropriately and
have their needs attended to. The members of the Club might
know our name, typically the surname or family name, for that
is how such things work.
“Ah, Walen. Very good to see you again. How are things this
“Oh, thank you sir. It is good to see you back as well.
Mister/Doctor/Sir/Lord {name} is in the {some} room and asked
I let you know should you arrive this evening. Can I help you
with you coat, hat and walking stick? Can I have Barlett bring
you your usual?”
Well, maybe we aren’t in a Georgian era Gentleman’s Club
in London. (I’m fairly certain we are not based on the fact it
has been a while since I’ve heard conversation of that manner
that was not part of a stage production or a tongue-in-cheek
But the analogy holds, I think.
Our purpose as ScrumMasters is to help facilitate the work
people do. Help them answer questions they are not sure
how to frame, let alone ask, and help them discover more
apt lessons than “Try vertical slicing of this story…” 

Because, much of the time, without an understanding of the
work at hand, such things are rejected as buzz-word non-
sense, and rightly so.
Our purpose as ScrumMasters is to help facilitate the
communication that must happen on projects, large or small.
We can ask “would a meeting with {person} or their manager
help get these answers? Would you like me to set something
up since they are not responding to emails or phone calls?”
Our purpose as ScrumMasters is to help remove roadblocks or
impediments. The Scrum Guide (OK, I know LOADS of people
have never actually read it, maybe it might be a good idea if
you’re going to call yourself a ScrumMaster or Scrum Master
or some variant of that) makes that really, really clear. We don’t
need to be the one fixing the problem or removing the roadblock.
Sometimes we might be.
My standing “humorous/joke advice” for newly minted Project
Managers holds true for newly minted ScrumMasters/Scrum
Masters/Whatever: “Make sure the coffee and tea are fresh and
that people have their beverage of choice available. Bring it to
them if need be.” (Yeah, I’ve offended people with that line.)
Back when I was writing and fixing customer-facing production
code, sometimes in the middle of dealing with a serious problem,
the thing that really would have helped, and the thing I could
really use except my brain was too closely engaged in the problem
at hand to stop and go get, was a cup of fresh coffee. Someone
walking in and handing me a coffee (or tea or some carbonated
& caffeinated beverage) when I was neck deep in broken code
was a life-saver.
When team morale is an impediment. DO SOMETHING. Bring
them coffee, tea, bagels, donuts, muffins, cookies/biscuits, sweets,
nuts, fruit – SOMETHING. Let them know you are aware of what
is happening, that you recognize you cannot help with the technical
problems (unless you can) and you can contribute THIS to the effort.
When they are done and walking toward the door, don’t forget to
give them the correct coat, hat and walking stick. When everyone
has headed out, then make sure the room is tidy, then get your
muffler and hat from the hook in the staff/servant’s room, and
quietly head out the back door.
Because it is about the team. It is not about you.
A ScumMaster has no name.