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Self-Healing In Scrum – Role Of The Implementation Team

A scrum implementation team is expected to be self-organizing and self-healing. The concept of self-organizing is often discussed whereas self-healing is seldom debated. The scrum implementation team themselves plays a pivotal role in becoming self-healing and this article intends to explore the same. The Scrum Team An Agile Scrum team consists of the Product Owner, Scrum Master, and the Implementation Team. Though there is no prescriptive standard size for a scrum team the latest Scrum Guide suggests that the team should be of size 6 +/- 3. This means that a scrum team may have a team ranging from 3 to 9 members.  As we know the Product Owner though part of the scrum team will most probably be external to the implementation organization. There will be instances where a proxy product owner (typically a business analyst) is assigned in which case that individual may also be part of the internal team. The Scrum Master should be from the implementation organization most often with development and definitely with leadership capabilities. Thus the implementation team may consist of business analysts, UI / UX designers, Software coders and QA engineers at different levels of experience. Today, having a DevOps or SysOps engineer who can ensure Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI / CD) has almost become the norm and will add muscle to the team to enable quick and quality delivery. What is meant by self-healing? Project teams face problems or issues on a day-to-day basis during the lifetime of the project.  These problems may become blockers hindering project progress if not addressed as soon as they come up. Agile teams focus on solving problems with a really quick turnaround time. Traditional project teams often depend on advise or assistance of an external stakeholder to make decisions when faced with a problem. In projects following predictive approaches, a more formal problem solving and decision-making process may be in place that may further delay timelines.  Issues most commonly seen in projects are to do with resource constraints, requirements or scope related queries, quality related issues to name a few. A lot of these problems can be solved through a bit of discussion and negotiation among the team members.  Agile teams are empowered to find ways of taking the project forward. Since the team is small in size and as team members know each other and their capabilities well it is possible for them to have fruitful discussions to solve problems. The team within them trying to find solutions for the problems faced through dialogue, negotiation, and collaboration is thus known as the self-healing nature of an agile team. Product owner role in Scrum maximizes value out of a feature team, project managers finds best project implementation to deploy that value — Beatric Düring (@bea73) April 6, 2011   How can implementation teams ensure that they are more self-healing? The Scrum Master is different from a Project Manager and is expected to play more of a servant leader, protector and facilitator type of a role within the project. Thus the project manager is not a taskmaster but a problem solver guiding the team in achieving the goals. This article is not about the Scrum Master’s role in ensuring self-healing! Collaboration Team members must ensure that whenever problems are encountered, they quickly raise it with the relevant parties. Agile team members must not sit on problems or dwell on the problem, but quickly move on to the stage of identifying the root cause of the problem and to identifying solutions for the same. This can be done through proper communication and collaboration among team members. The team members must be open to discuss even sensitive problems and be honest in receiving or providing comments. Collaboration will help generate solution options (especially through techniques such as brainstorming and mind mapping) that can be further evaluated to determine a logical course of action. The key advice here is, ‘Don’t keep anything on your to-do list for long if you can’t handle it alone. Share it! Telling the problem to someone is often half the solution solved.’ Cross-Functional Teams Agile teams are cross-functional with team members expected to be capable of or be willing to take up challenges. This characteristic most often ensures that there is always someone within the team with the required capability to tackle the problem.   Inquisitiveness  One important trait of a self-healing team member is the willingness to challenge the status quo and to question at all times. The simple process of asking ‘why’ would enable teams to drill down on problems. The inquisitiveness to compare solution options, try them out without any fear of failure means that Agile teams are always willing to learn and improve. This is a key characteristic of a growing and ever improving team. Document findings and apply lessons learnt A good team never repeats the same mistake twice! For a team to be self-dependent they must have sources to which they could refer back. The only way this could be done is by documenting ‘lessons learnt’ from previous experiences. These would then become guidance for the team whenever they face similar problems in the future.  Hence, it is the responsibility of every agile team member to do proper documentation to a level that is necessary. Conclusion The success of an Agile project depends on the team and on how well they could cope up with problems on their own. A self-healing team would drastically cut down on time depending on information and guidance from others. Every Scrum team must aspire to be such a team.  
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Self-Healing In Scrum – Role Of The Implementation Team

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Self-Healing In Scrum – Role Of The Implementation Team

A scrum implementation team is expected to be self-organizing and self-healing. The concept of self-organizing is often discussed whereas self-healing is seldom debated. The scrum implementation team themselves plays a pivotal role in becoming self-healing and this article intends to explore the same.

The Scrum Team

An Agile Scrum team consists of the Product Owner, Scrum Master, and the Implementation Team. Though there is no prescriptive standard size for a scrum team the latest Scrum Guide suggests that the team should be of size 6 +/- 3. This means that a scrum team may have a team ranging from 3 to 9 members. 

As we know the Product Owner though part of the scrum team will most probably be external to the implementation organization. There will be instances where a proxy product owner (typically a business analyst) is assigned in which case that individual may also be part of the internal team. The Scrum Master should be from the implementation organization most often with development and definitely with leadership capabilities. Thus the implementation team may consist of business analysts, UI / UX designers, Software coders and QA engineers at different levels of experience. Today, having a DevOps or SysOps engineer who can ensure Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI / CD) has almost become the norm and will add muscle to the team to enable quick and quality delivery.

What is meant by self-healing?

Project teams face problems or issues on a day-to-day basis during the lifetime of the project.  These problems may become blockers hindering project progress if not addressed as soon as they come up. Agile teams focus on solving problems with a really quick turnaround time. Traditional project teams often depend on advise or assistance of an external stakeholder to make decisions when faced with a problem. In projects following predictive approaches, a more formal problem solving and decision-making process may be in place that may further delay timelines. 
Issues most commonly seen in projects are to do with resource constraints, requirements or scope related queries, quality related issues to name a few. A lot of these problems can be solved through a bit of discussion and negotiation among the team members. 

Agile teams are empowered to find ways of taking the project forward. Since the team is small in size and as team members know each other and their capabilities well it is possible for them to have fruitful discussions to solve problems. The team within them trying to find solutions for the problems faced through dialogue, negotiation, and collaboration is thus known as the self-healing nature of an agile team.

 

How can implementation teams ensure that they are more self-healing?

The Scrum Master is different from a Project Manager and is expected to play more of a servant leader, protector and facilitator type of a role within the project. Thus the project manager is not a taskmaster but a problem solver guiding the team in achieving the goals. This article is not about the Scrum Master’s role in ensuring self-healing!

Collaboration
Team members must ensure that whenever problems are encountered, they quickly raise it with the relevant parties. Agile team members must not sit on problems or dwell on the problem, but quickly move on to the stage of identifying the root cause of the problem and to identifying solutions for the same. This can be done through proper communication and collaboration among team members. The team members must be open to discuss even sensitive problems and be honest in receiving or providing comments. Collaboration will help generate solution options (especially through techniques such as brainstorming and mind mapping) that can be further evaluated to determine a logical course of action. The key advice here is, ‘Don’t keep anything on your to-do list for long if you can’t handle it alone. Share it! Telling the problem to someone is often half the solution solved.’

Cross-Functional Teams

Agile teams are cross-functional with team members expected to be capable of or be willing to take up challenges. This characteristic most often ensures that there is always someone within the team with the required capability to tackle the problem.  

Inquisitiveness 
One important trait of a self-healing team member is the willingness to challenge the status quo and to question at all times. The simple process of asking ‘why’ would enable teams to drill down on problems. The inquisitiveness to compare solution options, try them out without any fear of failure means that Agile teams are always willing to learn and improve. This is a key characteristic of a growing and ever improving team.

Document findings and apply lessons learnt
A good team never repeats the same mistake twice! For a team to be self-dependent they must have sources to which they could refer back. The only way this could be done is by documenting ‘lessons learnt’ from previous experiences. These would then become guidance for the team whenever they face similar problems in the future.  Hence, it is the responsibility of every agile team member to do proper documentation to a level that is necessary.

Conclusion
The success of an Agile project depends on the team and on how well they could cope up with problems on their own. A self-healing team would drastically cut down on time depending on information and guidance from others. Every Scrum team must aspire to be such a team.
 

Rumesh

Rumesh Wijetunge

Chief Innovation Officer - Zaizi Limited, Chief Operating Officer - LearntIn (Pvt) Ltd., Director /

Rumesh is an IT business leader with over 12 years of industry experience as a business analyst and project manager. He is currently the CIO of Zaizi Limited, a UK based data management company heading the operations in Sri Lanka, the COO of LearntIn, a global training institute based in Sri Lanka and is also a lecturer / trainer at multiple private universities on management, IT, business analysis and project management subjects. He is the current president of the IIBA Sri Lanka chapter and is one of the most qualified and sought after trainers in Sri Lanka. Refer his LinkedIn profile for more details and to see more articles he has written on linkedin

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How to Use Scrum Board for Agile Development?

What is a Scrum Board?A Scrum Board or an Agile Board is a visual representation of the work planned, progressed, and completed by a scrum team in a sprint or iteration at any given point of time. The board is comprised of columns that represent various successive states of the workflow progressing from left to right. The work items appear in the column as per their current state in the development workflow and then move across the board from one column to the next till they reach completion or last stage.The “To Do / Ready” and “Done” states appear in almost every Scrum Board, the “In Progress” items can be further categorized into various states e.g. – Analyse, Design, Code, Test etc. These states are solely created as per the needs of the Scrum Team and Project.                                                                                                               Image 1: Simple Scrum Board  Why is a Scrum Board needed? The Scrum Board visually represents the amount of work along with their current states in a Sprint.  The Board speaks to the team everyday about the holistic progress made by the entire team towards their Sprint Goals and provides a sense of accomplishment and achievement when work items are completed. It avoids creation and progress of “Hidden Work” or “Shoulder Tap” injected work that may not be prioritized. In the event of an interruption (like production issue, any new or changed requirements, changed priorities), it helps Business to reprioritize the work items quickly looking at the current state of the planned items in the Sprint.   It also keeps reinforcing road blocks and impediments faced by the team to all the major stakeholders. Any number of written and verbal communication may not be able to visually represent the state of the entire sprintas a whole as effectively as this visual radiator.Scrum board allows teams to manage the flow of work across the sprint as it helps in avoiding multi-tasking, overloading one person because everything is visible and traceable. How to organize a Scrum Board Physical and Virtual Scrum Boards Teams that are entirely collocated can benefit from physical boards that caneven just be a whiteboard placed near their work cubicles. A physical board could also be on a wall having coloured tape for columns and sticky notes for cards.  Team members typically swarm around the board /agile wall/task wallduring their daily stand up or whenever there is a need.                                                                                                                            Image 2: A typical physical scrum board                                                                                                                                 Image 3: A typical Jira scrum boardDistributed teams on the other hand find virtual boards easy to use. There are many tools available in the market to set up Scrum Boardssuch asJira , Rally , Monday.com etc.  In some companies, the Scrum boards are displayed on giant monitors placed near the teams work cubicles. Cards and Columns are the two basic entities on the scrum board.Card is the entity on the board that represents a “Work Item”. A Card can be a User story /Production Bug/Technical Task. During the course of the Sprint these cards travel through the board from left ,“To-Do” to right “Done”.  A Simple Scrum Board for Beginner Teams The Scrum Board below is an example of a typical team board in a software project.                                                                                               Image 4: Typical scrum board for a software projectThe items on the Product Backlog are discussed and as per priority and their readiness, pulled into the “To Do” or “Ready” column during Sprint Planning. At the beginning of a Sprint all items in the “To Do” or “Ready” column comprises the Sprint Backlog of the team. As the Sprint progresses, the items move into the downstream columns until “Done” is reached. A clear “Definition of Done” helps to conclude if the story / task is completed. Usually beginner teams build the board translating the current workflow of their work items into columns on the board. As the teams evolve, they adjust the board accordingly. Effective Visual Representation of data  Information on the Cards Physical Cards usually are post-it notes or sticky notes that carry the User Story/Description, Acceptance Criteria and the Story Points as a minimum. Using post-it notes is a deliberate attempt to keep the story small and avoid loading a lot of work into one story.  In a Virtual board, cards can have exclusive fields to carry information like Project Name/Assignee/Reporter/Created Date etc. These might serve multiple purposes like metrics/reports. Colour-Coded Cards Colour coding is an excellent technique used to convey important information to the audience at the first quick glance.Cards can be colour coded based on their work type like User Story/ Technical Task/Production Bugs. Cards could also be flagged (in the case of a Virtual board) or overlaid with a (preferably) Red coloured card to convey a risk/dependency that needs attention. Swim lanes Defining Swim lanes is a very useful mechanism to categorize the work items on a Scrum Board. They are horizontal rows on the board that carry a specific type of work that is different from the normal/ work categorized by a certain parameter. For e.g. a team that has to resolve emerging high priority production bugs would prefer to use a “Fast Track” swim lane to progress the bug and then continue with their original Sprint work. A team that works on hardware, firmware and software components in a sprint might want to use different swim lanes for each component.  Swim lanes are for the teams. Creating a swim lane for each team member may not be a good idea since the basic guideline for scrum is to work as a team and this representation might affect a team’s mindset. In the board below blue cards are User Stories and green Cards are tasks. Red cards are Production bugs. Some cards are flagged red indicating risks or impediments.                                              Image 5: Example of scrum board with colour-coded cards and swim lanesAspects of Kanban in Scrum Board A common challenge encountered in projects is when tasks accumulate or pile up in a phase or stage of the workflow. There could be several reasons why that happens. But identifying them is the key to solving that challenge and the Scrum Board effectively helps in this. Assume that Cards D, E, F, G have completed development and ready for testing. Cards B, C are being tested. It is day 6 of a 10-day Sprint.  Developers might now bring in H, I from the Ready Column to start development work, creating a bottleneck at Testing.                                                                                                        Image 6: Scrum Board without WIP LimitsConcepts of Kanban can be borrowed into a typical Scrum board to address this. One of the techniques that can be used is to split the column into “In Progress” and “Ready”. This will set the stage for a “Pull” mechanism at every stage in the workflow of a story.  Introducing “WIP Limit” or “Work in Progress” Limit at the columns ensures multiple work items do not pile up at one stage of the process, do not get “pushed” downstream but rather gets “pulled” by downstream process and there is a steady flow created in the system. Considering the team is at day 6 of the iteration, it is recommended the team “stops starting and starts finishing”.  If the team swarms and completes the testing of D, E,F,G there could  be more business value delivered rather than starting development of H and I and having only few of the Development complete cards partially tested. In this scenario, a WIP Limit of 4 at development prevents the team from bringing in more work items into the development phase. The team can now swarm to complete the testing of the developed items taking them to completion.                                                                                        Image 7: Scrum board with WIP limits and columns split into “In progress” and “Ready”Effective use ofthe Scrum Board  Updating and maintaining the Scrum Board Scrum board is owned by the team and it is the team’s responsibility to update the board to reflect the reality.The team also has the responsibility to evolve the board to suit the need of the project by experimenting on concepts of WIP Limit. How best to use the information on the Board Scrum Board can be used to identify bottlenecks in the flow of work. If bottlenecks are identified in one stage of the workflow, the team can resort to Swarming or enforcing WIP Limits. Seeing the work items move through the Scrum board and reach “Done” during the Sprint provides the team a sense of accomplishment. Challenges and ways to overcome them Easier said than done, updating the board is one of the biggest challenges faced especially in beginner teams. Not every team member will be prompt in updating the board. To overcome this challenge, updating the board could be one of the team ground rules with non-compliance attracting fun consequences decided by the team, such as the defaulter treating the team with chocolates/coffee or updating everyone’s scrum board the next day. The Scrum Master can immensely help the team realize the power of the board by using it during agile ceremonies like planning, stand up and retrospectives. 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Scrum Product Backlog and Agile Product Backlog Prioritization

The 21st century has witnessed a major surge in the adoption of Agile with organizations trying to fit into their ways of working to better meet customer demands. As per the 14th Annual State of Agile 2020, 58% of the respondents were using Scrum as the framework for product delivery. It has been noticed that Agile and Scrum are considered as the same thing. Scrum is a subset of Agile where Agile is a way or method of implementing frameworks like Scrum, Kanban, etc. Agile is a timeboxed, iterative way of software delivery focusing on faster time to market and customer collaboration. With a great framework like Scrum, Agile gets a runway to deliver quality products in an iterative, incremental, and timeboxed manner. Talking of product development, be it any framework, we start with the creation of the requirement list. The same applies to Agile too. Here, we term this as “Backlog”. I am often asked about the origin of the term, “Backlog”. Why “backlog” and why not some other word? Well, the term dates back to the 1680s when large logs were placed at the back of a fire to keep the blaze going and concentrate the heat. By the 1880s, the term was adopted in its figurative sense of "something stored up for later use". So, a Backlog is a prioritized list of items the teams’ need to work for the successful delivery of a product. According to the State of Scrum 2015 report, surprisingly, only 56% of the respondents reported using extensive scrum artifacts like Product Backlog and Sprint Backlog. Major success criteria for any Agile project lie in its backlog and it demands a lot of focus both in terms of keeping it refined and updated with current situation. Thankfully, it is the topic of the day, and here we will talk more about it! Product Backlog  What is a Product Backlog? The Product Backlog is the ordered list of requirements of all that is required to successfully deliver it to the client. It contains the prioritized list of requirements that can be detailed or vague and has everything that needs to be done for a particular product. One can visualize it as a big bucket that has all the items/necessities needed for a product to be successful and competitive in nature.  Who owns the Product Backlog? The Product Backlog is primarily handled by the Product Owner who takes care of the client's needs and makes sure the product backlog represents the exact requirement. The product owner is responsible for keeping the backlog healthy and in a state that is readily consumable by the team. The product backlog is never frozen, the items can change as per the demand and market scenario. Anyone can suggest items to be added in the list but the final say will always be on the Product Owner.  Example of a Product Backlog Let’s look at an example to further understand it better: Build a mobile application for a local bank so that the users can access the bank on the go. Product Backlog would look like: S. No.RequirementPriority1Create a sign in page for the usersHigh2Create a logout pageHigh3Create a home page to land after successful sign in to the applicationHigh4Create a page for AccountsMedium5Create a page for Money TransferMedium6Create a page for LoansMedium7Create a page for User ProfileLow8Create a page for 'Contact Us' sectionLowThere can be multiple other requirements both frontend and backend to get this mobile application delivered, but, here for understanding, we are just taking a few of them. Each item in the list will have a priority attached to it, this makes it easy for the development team to pick work once they are done with the one in hand. Product Backlog can also be termed as the master list of requirements. Sprint Backlog What is a Sprint Backlog? Sprint Backlog is a list derived from the product backlog or the master list. When teams start working in Scrum, they have sprints which are a timebox for delivery, it defines when a customer can expect the shipment and at what intervals. The period can range from a week to a months’ timeline. Here, in sprints, the team pulls the work from the product backlog as per the priority and their capacity and put it in a smaller bucket called ‘Sprint Backlog’. It is like delivering the big Product Backlog in chunks called “Sprint Backlog’. The Sprint Backlog can also be defined as a subset of superset ‘Product Backlog’. For a successful product delivery, both are essential, and hence the need to keep them healthy.  Who owns the Sprint Backlog? Sprint backlog is owned by the scrum team andtogether they create their sprint board which consists of the user stories, bugs (if any), and spikes. It is the development team who determines the Sprint Backlog. Here, the Scrum Master can facilitate the Sprint Planning meeting to help the team come up with the Sprint Backlog. The scrum team utilizes the sprint planning meeting to discuss on the sprint goal and the commitment they can make for the upcoming sprint. They pull the items to discuss from the top of the list and create their sprint backlog according to the capacity and complexity of parameters.  Example of a Sprint Backlog So, the sprint backlog is a subset of product backlog and going back to our example let's create a Sprint backlog now: S.No.RequirementPriority1Create a sign in page for the usersHigh2Create a logout pageHigh3Create a home page to land after successful sign-in to the applicationHighIn our example, we have pulled the sprint backlog items from the master list which was already in a prioritized state. Product backlog vs Scrum backlog: Understanding the difference The Scrum Master can help the development team understand the difference between Product Backlog and the Sprint Backlog, this can be done through coaching the teams about the process and the Scrum artifacts and can help the Product owner in maintaining a healthy backlog. The team uses Product Backlog to create their sprint backlog. During the Sprint planning meeting, the development team should talk about the complexity and the efforts needed to get the job done. They pull the items from the product backlog to the Sprint Backlog to be completed in the sprint timebox. How to create a more effective Product Backlog? Effective Product Backlog depends on a clear understanding of the result and the need. The Product Owner must clearly define the requirements that have details enough for the team to get a clear picture of what is needed to be done. The product backlog needs to be a thorough list of all the work that must be done to get the project delivered successfully. Once a high-level list is created, the development team can help in further refining and creating an exhaustive backlog with all the technical aspects needed to deliver the functional side. Creating a backlog should be a collective team effort, this also helps in bringing about the ownership and collaborative environment amongst the group. Though the development team can help the Product Owner in creating a proper efficient Product Backlog, the sole responsibility for the Product Backlog lies with the Product Owner. How to create a better Sprint Backlog? Once you have a good Product Backlog, pulling out the Sprint Backlog gets easy. Sprint Backlog gets its shape during the sprint planning meeting which is the first thing in a new iteration where the team sits together, either, physically or virtually, to discuss the requirements they can work on in a new sprint. Essentially the discussion circles the functionalities, the technical aspect around it, and how much they can load in an iteration. Here, the Scrum Master can help the team with excellent facilitation skills to come up with a sprint goal as a joint team effort. The team pulls up the highest priority items from the product backlog to discuss functionality and complexity, they also converse on the steps they could take to reach the goal. What are the benefits of Backlog Prioritization? Prioritization is one of the critical aspects of a Product Backlog that helps in keeping it in a healthy state. Let’s look at a few of the benefits of prioritizing the backlog: Helps in the Sprint Planning with the story selection as the Product Backlog is already Prioritized. Better visibility to pull items during the iteration if the team has the bandwidth. Effective risk management due to pre-known issues during the grooming of the backlog Improved supervision of dependencies Early return of investment as the requirement follows value-based delivery. %
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