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What Is Iteration Planning and How to Do It Effectively?

Iteration planning is considered as the lifeline of Agile framework and plays an important role in the cadence delivery of the product in incremental releases. It is very critical to do iteration planning effectively to ensure we remain productive and add business value with each sprint. An Iteration Preparation Meeting is a crucial ceremony during an IT project development stage for every Agile team that uses Scrum. It's where the team gets together in the next Iteration to chat about work and is structured to help provide a consistent focus and direction for the work ahead. Iteration Planning (Overview)Iteration planning is one of the important ceremonies in the Agile framework. The aim of iteration planning is to set a few high-level goals for what to achieve during the iteration, to create a sufficiently comprehensive plan detailing who needs to do what to achieve those goals, and to determine how to measure what you have achieved. Iteration planning is usually conducted at the start of an iteration with the entire team in a group, including key stakeholders, generally lasting one to a few hours. It means that the whole team knows what needs to be achieved, and they are committed to the results of the team.  In certain cases, it is preferred to allow a smaller subset of individuals, such as the project manager, an architect and an analyst to meet in advance with a draft iteration plan. For the team to complete the collection of top-ranked product backlog products, the iteration planning plays an important role. Based on the duration of iteration and team velocity, this is a time-boxed arrangement. A crucial feature of an iteration is to concentrate the team on a measurable benefit that is deliverable in the short term. To make sure that you do not lose concentration on what to achieve during the iteration, document 1-5 high-level targets. Usually, for each iteration, the project plan may specify one or more goals, and those goals are used as a starting point. If you need to explain the goals when you prepare your iteration, do so. Inputs to IP & Planning the Iteration :   The IP goals are typically based on the following factors: Critical risks not yet mitigated: Iteration priorities also involve the most significant risks being pushed down.  The time allocated to the iteration: Iterations are timeboxed, so the Project Manager must ensure that the iteration priorities are achievable in relation to the time and resources allocated to the iteration.  The highest priority features: To ensure that the essential features of the application are built and checked early on, specifications are prioritized. Iteration Planning Steps- Before starting, make sure, the user story in the product backlog have been sized by the team and a relative story point value has been assigned. The product backlog is stacked to reflect the product owner 's preferences. For these rated backlog products, there is a general understanding of the acceptance requirements. Per iteration, there is an iteration plan that can describe who will execute the work item for how long a time.  Since iterations are time-boxed, by calculating how many hours of real work can be taken on, we need to consider how big our 'box' is. Let's say you have 6 team members, and you have 15 working days in your iteration, and you can do 5 real hours of work per person and day on average. This will earn you 6x15x5h = 450 real work hours. Notice that only 4-6 hours of actual project work every day is done by the average team member, with the remainder being consumed by e-mails, meetings, and other routine tasks not specifically related to the project. For all the high-priority items in the Work Items List, the team can then review and amend priorities to ensure that a significant work item is not skipped, which will otherwise fall far below the list of what can be taken on in this iteration. The essential features for a product backlog item for the purpose of iteration planning are:  The iteration is small enough to be done.  We can check whether it was correctly implemented or not. There are two steps in designing the contents of an iteration: deciding how many user stories will fit into the iteration, then breaking down those stories into assignments and appointing owners. Sizing refers to a user story's relative reach, which is normally performed in relative points. When it is first developed, during backlog refining sessions, and before the planning meeting, the team regularly estimates the size of a user story. The team should know what story at the top of the backlog will fit into the iteration by the time preparation starts. Estimation refers to the breakdown of tasks into a user narrative. When the steps taken to produce a user story are established, an hourly estimate is provided for each mission. This figure keeps the team updated on how close it is to completing a mission. The team also recognizes how many task hours each member of the team has available in the iteration (known as capacity) to avoid overburdening of individuals. In planning sprints, there are two general approaches: velocity-driven planning and capacity-driven planning. Velocity driven Sprint Planning  Let 's start with velocity-driven sprint planning since it's the simplest to explain. Velocity-driven sprint preparation is based on the idea that in the next sprint, the amount of work a team can perform is approximately equal to what they have done in previous sprints. This implies, of course, that the team is working on similar work from sprint to sprint, consistent sprint lengths, and so on, such as a constant team size. Each of these assumptions is usually true and violations of the assumptions are easily recognized that is, the team knows this in advance when a sprint switches from 10 to nine working days, as in the case of a holiday.The following are the phases in velocity-driven sprint planning:  Determine the historical average velocity for the team.  Select the number of items for the product backlog equal to that velocity.Most teams stop there. Others include an extra step:  Identify the activities involved in the user stories chosen to see if it feels like the correct amount of work.  And there will be some teams moving even further to:  Estimate the assignments to see if the task total is in line with previous sprints. Capacity driven planning The product owner, the Scrum Master and all members of the agile team are involved in a capacity-driven sprint planning meeting. The product owner brings into the meeting the top-priority product backlog items and presents them to the team, usually beginning with a summary of the high-priority items collection.After a high-priority item has been selected, team members discuss the work involved and determine the activities needed to produce the product backlog item. The hours for each item would also be approximately calculated by most teams. These figures are tentative since the figures can only be used to impact the number of items that are brought into the sprint and the product backlog. Estimates do not need to be accurate to do so. Do not ask or expect a team to think about any job that will be completed during the sprint. That is not only unlikely, it is needless, too.The team members ask themselves, "Should we commit to this?" after they have defined tasks and approximately calculated the hours for that one product backlog item. When the team decides that a product backlog item can be shipped, they pick another item and repeat the procedure. And they continue to repeat it until anyone says that they are unable to commit to the product backlog item chosen. If someone is unable to complete the item in the sprint, team members can normally address the situation and see if someone else is available to help. Maybe a DBA with rudimentary JavaScript expertise will assist an exhausted developer of JavaScript. You may have noted that no story point or velocity has played a role in the process so far. Although I still recommend providing rapid, high-level estimates of product backlog items in story points.  Iteration Planning Attendees: These are the below attendees for IP ceremonies: Scrum Master: The scrum master serves as an agile distribution team facilitator.  Product Owner: The product owner deals with the comprehensive view and approval conditions of the product backlog.  Agile Team : Agile implementation determines their objectives and sets the estimates of effort necessary for the commitment to be met. Iteration Planning Agenda : The following is an example agenda for iteration planning:  Measure the iteration's available team capacity.  Discuss each story, discuss extensive acceptance requirements, and use story points to provide estimates.  When the team runs out of capacity, preparation ends. Determine and settle on the objectives for iteration. All should be committed to their goals.  Criteria for acceptance are created through dialogue and cooperation with the product owner and other stakeholders. The Product Owner may adjust the rating of the story based on the story's estimates. Velocity Calculation Velocity is a measure of the amount of work that a team can do during a single sprint and is Scrum 's main metric. Velocity is determined by summing the points for all completely completed User Stories at the end of the Sprint. Dividing the total number of story points completed by the number of sprints includes the real velocity. For instance, if a total of 70 points were achieved by the development team over two sprints, the actual velocity of the team will be 35 points per sprint. Capacity planning The agile team quantifies their capacity to do work. Each member of the team decides their availability, considers time off and other possible responsibilities. Other standing responsibilities, such as maintenance, are also taken into account in this operation, which is distinct from the creation of new stories. Using their historical velocity as a starting point, the team makes changes to assess the actual potential for the iteration based on the unavailable time and team members. Story Analysis & EstimationThe team backlog is checked once the team capacity has been identified. Each story, covering relative difficulty, scale, complexity, ambiguity, technical challenges, and requirements for acceptance, is addressed. In order to maintain a common understanding of the individual behavior of each story, teams also use Behavior-Driven Production (BDD). Finally, for the story, the team agrees to a size estimate. Usually, there are also other types of stories on the team backlog, including enablers that might represent infrastructure work, POC, and architectural improvements, as well as work and defect refactoring. They also prioritize and estimate these things. In Scrum, the estimation of the story point of the team, and the resulting velocity, is usually a local and independent matter. The fact that a small team might estimate their velocity to be 50 in such a way, while another larger team estimates that their velocity is 13, is typically not a concern. However, in SAFe, the calculation of the story point must be standardized, so that assessments of features or epics that require the help of several teams are based on the same concept of the story point, allowing a common economic decision-making basis Relative Estimating, Velocity, Capacity, and Normalizing Story Point Estimating- In order to reasonably estimate a story, Agile teams use story points. With relative estimation, the size (expected effort) is compared to another story for each story. An eight-point story, for instance, is four times the effort of a two-point story. The pace of the team is equivalent to the historical average of all completed stories per iteration. The starting point for estimating the potential of a team for a future iteration is velocity. Knowing the skill of a team helps with preparation and helps to restrict Work in Process (WIP). Teams should not take on more stories than their previous pace would imply. Velocity, which is also forecast in story points, is also used to estimate how long it takes to deliver features or epics. Develop/commit to Iteration GoalsWhen the iteration backlog is known, the team turns its focus to synthesizing one or more iteration priorities that outline the work in that iteration that the team intends to achieve. They are based on the iteration backlog from the PI planning case, as well as the team and program PI goals. The closer the PI planning session is to the IP version, the more likely the PI targets will stay unchanged. When the potential of the team has been met, no more stories are taken from the team backlog in terms of committed stories. At this point, the product owner and the team settle on the final list of stories that will be chosen, and the iteration priorities will be revisited and reaffirmed. The entire team then agrees to the objectives of the iteration, and for the duration of the iteration, the nature of the work remains set. Guidelines for Effective IP Some tips for holding an iteration planning meeting are given below: Keep an eye of duration of this event. It should be timeboxed to 4 or less hours. It should be organized by the team and for the team alone. We should keep a check on the historical velocity of team before over-committing the team’s capacity. Source. ConclusionIt is important to ensure that the way you will assess progress at the end of the iteration is transparent to all team members and other stakeholders. The obvious criterion for success should be that you can verify the implemented features. Iteration preparation, either on the first day or a week before the iteration starts, should be performed once per iteration. You should give about 12 hours to finish the process as a facilitator, but there is really no fixed time, it's all about whatever works for your team. Most notably, have fun and remember to celebrate the previous success of Iteration! 

What Is Iteration Planning and How to Do It Effectively?

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  • by Ashish Kumar
  • 21st Dec, 2020
  • Last updated on 17th Mar, 2021
  • 11 mins read
What Is Iteration Planning and How to Do It Effectively?

Iteration planning is considered as the lifeline of Agile framework and plays an important role in the cadence delivery of the product in incremental releases. It is very critical to do iteration planning effectively to ensure we remain productive and add business value with each sprint. An Iteration Preparation Meeting is a crucial ceremony during an IT project development stage for every Agile team that uses Scrum. It's where the team gets together in the next Iteration to chat about work and is structured to help provide a consistent focus and direction for the work ahead. 

Iteration Planning (Overview)

Iteration planning is one of the important ceremonies in the Agile framework. The aim of iteration planning is to set a few high-level goals for what to achieve during the iteration, to create a sufficiently comprehensive plan detailing who needs to do what to achieve those goals, and to determine how to measure what you have achieved. Iteration planning is usually conducted at the start of an iteration with the entire team in a group, including key stakeholders, generally lasting one to a few hours. It means that the whole team knows what needs to be achieved, and they are committed to the results of the team.  

In certain cases, it is preferred to allow a smaller subset of individuals, such as the project manager, an architect and an analyst to meet in advance with a draft iteration plan. For the team to complete the collection of top-ranked product backlog products, the iteration planning plays an important role. Based on the duration of iteration and team velocity, this is a time-boxed arrangement. Product Backlog   Iteration Backlog

A crucial feature of an iteration is to concentrate the team on a measurable benefit that is deliverable in the short term. To make sure that you do not lose concentration on what to achieve during the iteration, document 1-5 high-level targets. Usually, for each iteration, the project plan may specify one or more goals, and those goals are used as a starting point. If you need to explain the goals when you prepare your iteration, do so. 

  • Inputs to IP & Planning the Iteration   

The IP goals are typically based on the following factors: 

Critical risks not yet mitigated: Iteration priorities also involve the most significant risks being pushed down.  

The time allocated to the iteration: Iterations are timeboxed, so the Project Manager must ensure that the iteration priorities are achievable in relation to the time and resources allocated to the iteration.  

The highest priority features: To ensure that the essential features of the application are built and checked early on, specifications are prioritized. 

  • Iteration Planning Steps- Before starting, make sure, the user story in the product backlog have been sized by the team and a relative story point value has been assigned. The product backlog is stacked to reflect the product owner 's preferences. For these rated backlog products, there is a general understanding of the acceptance requirements. Per iteration, there is an iteration plan that can describe who will execute the work item for how long a time.  

Since iterations are time-boxed, by calculating how many hours of real work can be taken on, we need to consider how big our 'box' is. Let's say you have 6 team members, and you have 15 working days in your iteration, and you can do 5 real hours of work per person and day on average. This will earn you 6x15x5h = 450 real work hours. Notice that only 4-6 hours of actual project work every day is done by the average team member, with the remaindebeing consumed by e-mails, meetings, and other routine tasks not specifically related to the project. For all the high-priority items in the Work Items List, the team can then review and amend priorities to ensure that a significant work item is not skipped, which will otherwise fall far below the list of what can be taken on in this iteration. The essential features for a product backlog item for the purpose of iteration planning are:  

  • The iteration is small enough to be done.  
  • We can check whether it was correctly implemented or not. 

There are two steps in designing the contents of an iteration: deciding how many user stories will fit into the iteration, then breaking down those stories into assignments and appointing owners. Sizing refers to a user story's relative reach, which is normally performed in relative points. When it is first developed, during backlog refining sessions, and before the planning meeting, the team regularly estimates the size of a user story. The team should know what story at the top of the backlog will fit into the iteration by the time preparation starts. Estimation refers to the breakdown of tasks into a user narrative. When the steps taken to produce a user story are established, an hourly estimate is provided for each mission. This figure keeps the team updated on how close it is to completing a mission. The team also recognizes how many task hours each member of the team has available in the iteration (known as capacity) to avoid overburdening of individuals. 

  • In planning sprints, there are two general approaches: velocity-driven planning and capacity-driven planning. 
  • Velocity driven Sprint Planning 

 Let 's start with velocity-driven sprint planning since it's the simplest to explain. Velocity-driven sprint preparation is based on the idea that in the next sprint, the amount of work a team can perform is approximately equal to what they have done in previous sprints. This implies, of course, that the team is working on similar work from sprint to sprint, consistent sprint lengths, and so on, such as a constant team size. Each of these assumptions is usually true and violations of the assumptions are easily recognized that is, the team knows this in advance when a sprint switches from 10 to nine working days, as in the case of a holiday.

The following are the phases in velocity-driven sprint planning:  

  • Determine the historical average velocity for the team.  
  • Select the number of items for the product backlog equal to that velocity.

Most teams stop there. Others include an extra step 

  • Identify the activities involved in the user stories chosen to see if it feels like the correct amount of work.  

And there will be some teams moving even further to 

  • Estimate the assignments to see if the task total is in line with previous sprints. 

Capacity driven planning 

The product owner, the Scrum Master and all members of the agile team are involved in a capacity-driven sprint planning meeting. The product owner brings into the meeting the top-priority product backlog items and presents them to the team, usually beginning with a summary of the high-priority items collection.

After a high-priority item has been selected, team members discuss the work involved and determine the activities needed to produce the product backlog item. The hours for each item would also be approximately calculated by most teams. These figures are tentative since the figures can only be used to impact the number of items that are brought into the sprint and the product backlog. Estimates do not need to be accurate to do so. Do not ask or expect a team to think about any job that will be completed during the sprint. That is not only unlikely, it is needless, too.

The team members ask themselves, "Should we commit to this?" after they have defined tasks and approximately calculated the hours for that one product backlog item. When the team decides that a product backlog item can be shipped, they pick another item and repeat the procedure. And they continue to repeat it until anyone says that they are unable to commit to the product backlog item chosen. If someone is unable to complete the item in the sprint, team members can normally address the situation and see if someone else is available to help. Maybe a DBA with rudimentary JavaScript expertise will assist an exhausted developer of JavaScript. 

You may have noted that no story point or velocity has played a role in the process so far. Although I still recommend providing rapid, high-level estimates of product backlog items in story points.  

  • Iteration Planning Attendees: These are the below attendees for IP ceremonies: 
  • Scrum MasterThe scrum master serves as an agile distribution team facilitator. 
  •  Product Owner: The product owner deals with the comprehensive view and approval conditions of the product backlog. 
  •  Agile Team : Agile implementation determines their objectives and sets the estimates of effort necessary for the commitment to be met. 
  • Iteration Planning Agenda : The following is an example agenda for iteration planning:  
    • Measure the iteration's available team capacity.  
    • Discuss each story, discuss extensive acceptance requirements, and use story points to provide estimates.  
    • When the team runs out of capacity, preparation ends. 
    • Determine and settle on the objectives for iteration. All should be committed to their goals.  

Criteria for acceptance are created through dialogue and cooperation with the product owner and other stakeholders. The Product Owner may adjust the rating of the story based on the story's estimates. 

  • Velocity Calculation 

Velocity is a measure of the amount of work that a team can do during a single sprint and is Scrum 's main metric. Velocity is determined by summing the points for all completely completed User Stories at the end of the Sprint. Dividing the total number of story points completed by the number of sprints includes the real velocity. For instance, if a total of 70 points were achieved by the development team over two sprints, the actual velocity of the team will be 35 points per sprint. 

  • Capacity planning 

The agile team quantifies their capacity to do work. Each member of the team decides their availability, considers time off and other possible responsibilities. Other standing responsibilities, such as maintenance, are also taken into account in this operation, which is distinct from the creation of new stories. Using their historical velocity as a starting point, the team makes changes to assess the actual potential for the iteration based on the unavailable time and team members. 

  • Story Analysis & Estimation

The team backlog is checked once the team capacity has been identified. Each story, covering relative difficulty, scale, complexity, ambiguity, technical challenges, and requirements for acceptance, is addressed. In order to maintain a common understanding of the individual behavior of each story, teams also use Behavior-Driven Production (BDD). Finally, for the story, the team agrees to a size estimate. Usually, there are also other types of stories on the team backlog, including enablers that might represent infrastructure work, POC, and architectural improvements, as well as work and defect refactoring. They also prioritize and estimate these things. 

In Scrum, the estimation of the story point of the team, and the resulting velocity, is usually a local and independent matter. The fact that a small team might estimate their velocity to be 50 in such a way, while another larger team estimates that their velocity is 13, is typically not a concern. However, in SAFe, the calculation of the story point must be standardized, so that assessments of features or epics that require the help of several teams are based on the same concept of the story point, allowing a common economic decision-making basis 

  • Relative Estimating, 

Velocity, Capacity, and Normalizing Story Point Estimating- In order to reasonably estimate story, Agile teams use story points. With relative estimation, the size (expected effort) is compared to another story for each story. An eight-point story, for instance, is four times the effort of a two-point story. The pace of the team is equivalent to the historical average of all completed stories per iteration. The starting point for estimating the potential of a team for a future iteration is velocity. Knowing the skill of a team helps with preparation and helps to restrict Work in Process (WIP). Teams should not take on more stories than their previous pace would imply. Velocity, which is also forecast in story points, is also used to estimate how long it takes to deliver features or epics. 

  • Develop/commit to Iteration Goals

When the iteration backlog is known, the team turns its focus to synthesizing one or more iteration priorities that outline the work in that iteration that the team intends to achieve. They are based on the iteration backlog from the PI planning case, as well as the team and program PI goals. The closer the PI planning session is to the IP version, the more likely the PI targets will stay unchanged. When the potential of the team has been met, no more stories are taken from the team backlog in terms of committed stories. At this point, the product owner and the team settle on the final list of stories that will be chosen, and the iteration priorities will be revisited and reaffirmed. The entire team then agrees to the objectives of the iteration, and for the duration of the iteration, the nature of the work remains set. 

  • Guidelines for Effective IP 

Some tips for holding an iteration planning meeting are given below: 

  • Keep an eye of duration of this event. It should be timeboxed to 4 or less hours. 
  • It should be organized by the team and for the team alone. 
  • We should keep a check on the historical velocity of team before over-committing the team’s capacity. 

Source. 

Conclusion

It is important to ensure that the way you will assess progress at the end of the iteration is transparent to all team members and other stakeholders. The obvious criterion for success should be that you can verify the implemented features. Iteration preparation, either on the first day or a week before the iteration starts, should be performed once per iteration. You should give about 12 hours to finish the process as a facilitator, but there is really no fixed time, it's all about whatever works for your team. Most notably, have fun and remember to celebrate the previous success of Iteration! 

Ashish

Ashish Kumar

Senior Technology Specialist

Ashish is working as a Senior Technology Specialist in leading financial bank has more than 13 years of experience in developing enterprise applications

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This will help the team better plan sprints, work collaboratively and improve working practices in order to ensure better output and value.   Motivation for Team Members: Keeping your team members happy and motivated is a Scrum Master’s main job. This includes removing obstacles that may impede the team from performing and helping them work according to Scrum values and techniques. The development team develops the product, and a happy team means a well-built product and satisfied customers. Assistance to the Product Owner:  As a Scrum Master, aiding the Product Owner is a major part of your responsibility. The Product Owner is a major stakeholder in the Scrum team and the Scrum Master aids the product owner in backlog management and by facilitating Scrum events, product planning and by helping the team to identify backlog items. Aiding the Product Owner in issues that they may face with regards to the project, stakeholders or the team will create a positive environment and will make things between the team and the product owner smoother.   Focus on the Challenges: Every Scrum project comes with its set of issues. But an effective Scrum Master will be aware of every challenge or impediment that comes in the way of the development team and takes these problems head on. Focusing on these challenges early on and resolving them is paramount to the success and progress of the team and the project. Appreciation for Achievements:  The focus of daily sprints and retrospectives is often to celebrate achievements and give the development team proper appreciation. A Scrum Master encourages and motivates and this they also do by respective current achievements. While giving advise on how things should be done is necessary, appreciating the team on its achievements is equally important.   Respect for Others: Your team members all have different personalities and each brings their own uniqueness and expertise to the team. No one team member is less or more important than the other. An effective and efficient Scrum Master will recognise this early on and treat every team member with the same amount of respect.  Understanding of Situations in the Right Context:  Not all things are as what they appear. The sooner a scrum master understands this, the better. Situations in context to teams, individuals and even the organization are not always black and white and the Scrum Master must consider the baggage of organizational culture, current systems, internal politics, etc before coming to a conclusion about a team or a team members. Instead, one must attempt to form close relationships with the team and understand the workings of the team and the organizations before passing judgement. Ability to Have Tough Conversations :  You as a Scrum Master are often seen as a problem solver, friend and mentor. But don’t let this image of yours come in the way of making tough decisions or having tough conversations. As a Scrum Master you must have the courage to do the right thing and if this means having difficult but necessary conversations with either the team members, the product owner or the stakeholders, then you must do it.    Courage to Protect the Team:  More often than not, there are unreasonable demands made on the development team. The Scrum Master should have the courage to protect the team and say an emphatic ‘no’ to the Product Owner or the stakeholders.  Accountability: You are accountable for your team’s success as you are for its failures. If as a Scrum Master you want your team to be accountable then the best way to get them to do that is to be accountable yourself. You can do this by being more invested in the day-to-day activities of the team and considering yourself to be a part of the team as well.  Support for Team Members: As a Scrum Master you are not just invested in the project but also in the growth of individual team members. You should motivate, encourage and support your team members to grow and reach heights in their careers.   Deep Commitment: If the team feels that the Scrum Master is committed to the project, committed to the team and committed to the team members, then they are more likely to be open and transparent with the Scrum Master. This trust with the team has to be built so that team members can be open about the challenges they face. The Scrum Master is the voice of the team and must support them at all stages.   Focus on Improvement:  Scrum is all about continuous improvement and the success of the Scrum Master is also tied to the continuous improvement of the Scrum team. If your team is getting better with time then you are doing well as a Scrum Master. From daily sprints to retrospectives, the Scrum Master provides avenues for the team to improve itself, identify problems and suggest solutions to work better.  Conclusion Scrum is the most used Agile framework, yet there are several lessons that organizations need to learn about Scrum before they embark on a transformation journey. This lightweight and easy to use framework can turn around the fortunes of companies if implemented in the right way. It’s important for an organization’s culture to be ready to accept and implement Scrum for project and organizational success.  
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Why Scrum Is Lightweight; Simple To Understand; Di...

85 percent of respondents say Scrum continues to... Read More

Scrum Master – The Scrum Team’s Servant-Leader!

The term servant leader is synonymous with a Scrum Master. But what does it mean? The Scrum Master is a servant leader in Agile projects, but servant leadership goes far beyond Agile, and Scrum Masters serve more than just the team.In this blog we attempt to look at the Scrum Master’s role as a servant leader, what the role entails and the responsibilities of the Scrum Master beyond the team, in context to the organization. What is servant-leadership?The term servant leadership was first coined by Robert Greenleaf in his article “The Servant as Leader”, in which he defined a servant leader as: The Servant-Leader is servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That leader significantly differs from one who is leader first, may be due to the need to acquire power, material belonging, control and authority within the organization. Servant leadership is something very different from traditional leadership, which places the leader at the top of the hierarchy and the employees in the lower rung. Servant leadership, in a sense, is the opposite of traditional leadership, as it places the leader at the bottom of the hierarchy while employees are on the higher rungs. The leaders, in this case, are serving the people above them. Servant leadership refers to leaders who believe in serving people and the community that they are a part of, rather than accumulating power for themselves. This style of leadership emphasizes on helping subordinates better themselves, empowering employees and helping others perform to the best of their abilities.Servant leadership does not prescribe telling employees what to do, instead it helps the workforce find their sense of ownership and unlock their potential to reach their goals. Servant leadership is all about empowering others, which when consistently done can raise morale, enhance productivity and reduce employee attrition.Servant Leadership and ScrumScrum, in a way, is the very essence of servant leadership. Unlike traditional project management methodologies, it does not follow a top-down, hierarchical approach. Instead, decisions are lateral and happen with the involvement of the whole team. Scrum is the perfect approach in which to practice the concept of servant leadership. The 5 Scrum values of Openness, Respect, Commitment, Courage, and Focus, adhere to the philosophy of Servant Leadership. The Scrum Master plays a key role in the development of the product, the team and the organization. The Scrum Guide defines the servant leadership a Scrum Master’s role has to perform in context to the roles mentioned above. The Scrum Values that a Scrum Master practices have a ripple effect throughout the organization. The Scrum Master is seen as an evangelist for practicing and promoting Scrum in the enterprise.The Agile Manifesto and servant-leadershipThe Agile Manifesto states that one must value: Individuals and interactions over Process and tools Working software over Comprehensive documentation Customer collaboration over Contract negotiation Responding to change over Following a plan These again align with the values of servant leadership, which is all about putting people or employees first. The Agile Manifesto describes focusing on building projects around motivated individuals and giving them an environment of support, trust and collaboration—all characteristics of servant leadership.Who Are These Servant Leaders?The Scrum Guide defines the service provided by the Scrum Master as servant leadership. The Scrum Master selflessly provides servant leadership to the development team, product owner and the whole organization. By serving these entities, the Scrum Master can create a high performing team, a valuable product and an efficient organization that is able to meet business objectives and keep customers happy.  Though the term Scrum Master may be deceptive, the Scrum Master is not a master of the team but in fact serves the team in order to ensure smooth functioning and productivity.Servant Leadership and Scrum Master Roles of Servant LeadershipServant leadership:The day-to-day activity of a Scrum Master involves servant leadership. Servant leadership in a scrum team involves performance planning, coaching, helping the team self- organize, resolving conflicts through conflict management, removing obstacles that hinder progress and serving the team. The Scrum Master, while practicing servant leadership, helps the team grow and mature and become independent enough to make their own decisions. Servant leadership in Scrum is all about making the team self-reliant, so they can cope with the pressures of the role. As a servant leader the Scrum Master creates a high performing team, helps them become collaborative and high performing in order to achieve goals and meet the requirements of the customer.  Service to the Scrum Team: As a servant leader, the primary responsibility of the Scrum Master is to help the development team perform. They help the team perform to the best of their abilities by giving them an environment that is conducive to work in, encouraging them, guiding them and removing obstacles that may hinder progress. As a coach, the Scrum Master will guide the team on scrum processes and help them adhere to Agile values during the development of the product. The Scrum Master is responsible for the scrum team’s effectiveness, and they work tirelessly to ensure that the team is motivated, encouraged, creative and innovative. The Scrum Master through servant leadership helps the team improve Scrum practices which helps them become more productive and generate value. The Scrum Team’s role in motivating and helping the team comes through in the daily stand-up meetings that are arranged as part of the sprint. The Scrum Master encourages team members to share their grievances and progress made through the sprint. Team members can talk about obstacles that may be hindering their work and due cognizance will be taken up by the Scrum master to ensure that these obstacles are removed.  According to the Scrum Guide, the Scrum Master helps the Development Team by: Coaching the team in becoming self-organized and cross-functional Helping the Scrum Team focus on creating high-value increments by removing impediments Helping the team deliver within the timeframe of the sprint Service to the Product Owner: The Scrum Master is a servant leader not just for the development team but also the Product Owner. While the Product Owner is primarily responsible for the product backlog, they cannot do this alone. The Scrum Master aids the development team and the Product Owner with effective product backlog management.The Scrum Master is involved at every stage of the product backlog grooming, helping the product owner with Scrum events, product planning and to identify backlog items along with the development team. The Scrum Master helps the Product Owner define the product vision to the team.   According to the Scrum Guide, the Scrum Master helps the Product Owner by: Helping in Product Goal definition and Product Backlog management Helping the Scrum Team understand manage the Product Backlog items Setting up empirical product planning in complex environments and, Managing and facilitating stakeholder collaboration.Service to the Organization: The Scrum Master is a coach and motivator not just for the development team but goes beyond the team to spread the awareness of Scrum in the entire organization. Scrum Masters coach and help teams and departments understand Scrum and develop an Agile mind-set. Besides servant leadership to the team a Scrum Master is also involved in promoting the ideas and values of Scrum. An organization can get an agile mind-set only if the entire organization adopts Scrum and not just a few teams. This is where the Scrum Master comes in, helping other teams not involved with Scum to gain the Agile mind-set, through training and coaching. The Scrum Master is an Agile evangelist and promotes Scrum enterprise-wide.According to Scrum.org the Scrum Master serves the organization by: Leading, training, and coaching the organization in adopting Scrum Planning and advising Scrum implementations within the organization Coaching employees and stakeholders in the way Scrum works Helping stakeholders work with Scrum TeamsSome Servant-Leader Behaviours for every Scrum MasterBeing empathetic: This is the foremost personality trait required for anyone wanting to become a Scrum Master. Your empathy will shine through in your interactions with the team members and your dealings with the stakeholders. You should be able to see problems from the point of view of each party and work towards solving these problems. Caring: As a caring and empathetic Scrum Master, your team will feel free to approach you and share their concerns. Providing a listening ear will make you more approachable. You will be able to more clearly understand the impediments that are stopping project progress and work towards providing a solution.  Managing Conflicts: Not all team members will get along with each other and this can cause disruptions and problems within the team, lowering their productivity. As a Scrum Master you need to be great at conflict management, help others solve their problems, work with each other and create a high performing and harmonious team. Building relationships: You need to build a rapport with your team, the product owner and the stakeholders. This will help you communicate freely and help others approach you with their problems and issues. You need to build that relationship of trust and take everyone along on the journey of success.  Being ethical: Ethics play an important role in software development, especially since software now controls every aspect of our lives. The product created should be free of malice and fraud. The Scrum Master should guide the team in delivering the product at a value and standard that is expected and agreed upon with the stakeholder. There should not be any shortcuts or concessions made on the quality of the product delivered as this will affect not just the Scrum Master and the team’s reputation but will cause a dent in the reputation of the organization.   Conclusion  Servant leadership and the Scrum Master’s role is the backbone of Scrum. The Scrum Master as a servant leader re-emphasizes the values of Scrum and helps to enhance teamwork, collaboration, motivation and value. Under the able servant leadership of the Scrum Master, individual members and the team will grow, become more confident and help in delivering value.  
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Scrum Master – The Scrum Team’s Servan...

The term servant leader is synonymous with a Scrum... Read More

A Guide to Scaling Scrum

Scrum has been proven to work well for small teams. But the true benefits of Agile can only be reaped if Agile and Scrum are scaled at the enterprise level. However, this is easier said than done. According to statistics, 47% of Agile transformations are not successful. While this is a worrying trend, there are still hundreds of organizations who have got it right and are able to survive the competition by innovating faster, delivering value and adapting to changing markets. How are they doing it? By using scaled Scrum.There are several tools and frameworks available for scaling Scrum at the enterprise level. In this blog, we attempt to look at a few of these.  Scaling Scrum with NexusNexus is among the most popular frameworks for scaling Scrum. According to the Nexus Guide, “Nexus is a framework for developing and sustaining scaled product delivery initiatives. It builds upon Scrum, extending it only where absolutely necessary to minimize and manage dependencies between multiple Scrum Teams while promoting empiricism and the Scrum Values.” How is Nexus different from Scrum? Scrum defines three primary roles: The Product Owner, the Scrum Master and the development team. These three roles work together in one team.The Nexus framework consists of several Scrum teams that work together toward a common product goal and defines the Nexus Integration Team as an additional accountability.  Nexus helps to build on the values of Scrum and also solves the collaboration and dependency challenges that tend to occur between teams in Scrum.Benefits of using Nexus Nexus extends Scrum in the following ways:  Accountabilities: Nexus introduces the Nexus Integration Team, which consists of the Scrum Master, Product Owner, and members. This team is accountable for delivering a workable product at the end of each sprint.  Events: Nexus events aim to add to or supplement Scrum events and serve not just individual teams but also the Nexus Integration Team. The objective of a sprint is to achieve the Nexus sprint goal. Artifacts: Although the teams are different, within the Nexus framework they all work towards a single goal and follow a single product backlog. There’s a high amount of transparency and work is allocated to each team. The Nexus Integration TeamAccording to the Nexus Guide, “the Nexus Integration Team exists to coordinate, coach, and supervise the application of Nexus and the operation of Scrum so the best outcomes are derived.” The Nexus Integration Team or NIT comprises of the Scrum Master, the Product Owner and Nexus integration team members. There are generally three to nine Scrum teams working together in Nexus. All of them follow a single product backlog and work towards delivering a single product. The Nexus Integration Team forms an essential role within Nexus and is tasked with providing transparent accountability among the teams in Nexus.Product OwnerThe Product Owner is accountable for maximizing the product value and the work carried out in Nexus. Their primary task is to order and refine the product backlog. Being a member of the Nexus Integration Team, the product owner will work with all the Scrum teams in the Nexus Integration team. The product owner and the teams work towards better defining and refining the product backlog.Scrum MasterJust like in regular Scrum, the Scrum Master in the Nexus Integration Team is also responsible for ensuring that the Nexus framework is understood by everyone on the team as prescribed by the Nexus Guide.   MembersThe members of the Nexus Integration Team are the Scrum team members who aid the Scrum teams in adoption of tools and practices that will help the team and members deliver value at the end of each sprint that meets the definition of done. Nexus Integration Team membership should be considered more important than the individual Scrum Team membership and members should work towards first fulfilling their Nexus team responsibilities.What are the Events in Nexus?Nexus adds or augments the events as defined by Scrum. The Nexus event durations are like Scrum event durations and are guided by the Scrum Guide.  Nexus events consist of: Sprint- A Nexus sprint is the same as in Scrum, at the end of which a single increment is delivered.  Cross team refinement- The aim of Nexus is to enhance collaboration and reduce cross team dependencies. Cross team refinement helps to make dependencies and responsibilities more transparent. This makes it easier for Scrum teams within the Nexus to clearly identify and deliver their allocated tasks.  Nexus Sprint Planning- Nexus sprint planning will involve the participation of the Product Owner and concerned teams' members from each team. The purpose of the Nexus Sprint Planning is to assign and co-ordinate activities for a single sprint.  Nexus Daily Scrum- This is like the daily stand up in Scrum. Nexus daily scrum is used to identify any issues and track progress. Any issues are immediately prioritized and solved so that they do not hinder the work of the developers.  Nexus Sprint Review- This event is held at the end of sprints to provide feedback on the increment that has been built and on any future updates that have to be made. Nexus Sprint Retrospective- Like in Scrum, Nexus retrospectives are an important part of the project and are used to reflect on how quality and consistency can be improved.  Some Nexus ArtifactsNexus artifacts are the same as Scrum artifacts and when implemented correctly ensure transparency and value maximization. Every artifact is designed to give a commitment. For example, the product backlog is the artifact and its commitment is the product goal. Other artifacts and their commitments include: Nexus Sprint Backlog-Nexus Sprint Goal Integrated Increment-Definition of Done Along with Nexus, LeSS is another popular framework for scaling agile.  Scaling Scrum with LeSS The Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS) framework is an offering from Atlassian and is a framework for scaling Scrum to multiple teams that are working on the same product. The idea behind LeSS is to start with a single Scrum team as defined in the Scrum Guide and then replicate it to multiple teams who are working on a single product. LeSS has earned the label of being “barely sufficient” as it is a simple framework to apply and uses the basic concepts of Scrum to scale.  How do Sprint Planning meetings in LeSS work?  LeSS generally carries out sprint planning in two stages. Sprint Planning One focuses on selecting items that are of topmost priority, solving unanswered issues and defining the sprint goal. The Sprint Planning Two is like the sprint plan of regular Scrum and focuses on creating a plan of action for getting things done.  Daily meeting  The daily Scrum meeting in LeSS is similar to how it is done in normal single Scrum teams and involves team members discussing the work accomplished and the work to be done during the day. It is a time-boxed meeting and helps teams address any issues that may be hindering work.   Sprint Delivery Meeting (Review) The sprint review meeting is an essential part of LeSS and helps teams and stakeholders review the product built during the sprint and suggest changes and new ideas.   Retrospective The retrospective for LeSS is similar to one team Scrum. These retrospectives held at the end of the sprint will help teams to reflect on the progress of tasks, and identify the obstacles that may hinder or impede the overall project.  Let’s take a look at some of the other frameworks that are used for scaling agile. Scaling Scrum with SAFe®The Scaled Agile Framework, SAFe in short, follows the principles of lean and agile and helps in scaling Scrum to the enterprise. It helps to manage alignment, collaboration, and delivery from multiple agile teams to ensure enterprise success. It systematically focuses on applying Scrum at each level of the enterprise, to maximize value and ensure a successful agile transformation.A successful SAFe adoption ensures end-to-end business agility with significant improvements in strategy, delivery, execution and business competencies. It helps organizations overcome competition and ensure innovative business solutions to gain customer trust and partnership. The SAFe framework is continuously improvised in order to help organizations cope with the digital age and ensure that business outcomes are delivered.Scaling Scrum with the Scrum@Scale frameworkAnother framework that allows organizations to implement Scrum at scale is the Scrum@Scale framework. This framework expands on the core principles of Scrum and helps to scale Scrum over a wide range of industries and sectors, ensuring customer satisfaction and creation of successful products. It promotes communication across all teams and departments, and optimizes resources, removes roadblocks and ensures creation of innovative products.A Final Word By driving Agile at the organizational level, companies can gain all the benefits of team-level Scrum at scale. More often than not the principles of team level Scrum are not sustainable at the enterprise level and the transformation fails. Tested and proven Agile scaling frameworks are now able to turn this around, and help organizations scale up the principles and practices of Scrum to become more adaptable, flexible and responsive. Professionals can master these frameworks and help their organization adopt the culture, mind-set and principles of Scrum and agile.  
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A Guide to Scaling Scrum

Scrum has been proven to work well for small tea... Read More