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How to Transition From Project Manager to a Scrum Master

Scrum Masters and Project Managers are not the same roles. I am going to talk about moving from a Project Manager role to a Scrum Master. Why do we need to talk about it? Because many people think they are the same thing with different artifacts or different language being used. They aren’t.You may be considering a change of roles from Project Manager to Scrum Master. You may be forced into such change as your organization is subjected to an Agile transformation. You may find yourself juggling both the roles and struggling with the competing agendas embedded in the two roles.  What I want you to get from this essay is an appreciation of the differences between the Project Manager and Scrum Master and some ideas about how the role of the Project Manager fits into Agile.The benefits of being a great Scrum MasterThe first and obvious answer is the huge drive to have an Agile delivery capability in almost every organization in the world. It’s a hot new job and having these skills and experiences to improve your employment prospects as you look for work.While there are still more Project Manager jobs than Scrum Master jobs on the jobs boards, the number of Scrum Master and similar jobs continues to grow, while the number of Project Manager jobs appears to be steady, and perhaps even shrinking in some markets.Additionally, more and more Project Manager roles require an understanding of and experience in Agile development and management methods, as project performance seems strongly correlated with the use of Agile methods.So, getting good in-depth experience in Agile working is an important step in your professional development, especially if you are a Project Manager involved in technology projects. Doing a job as a Scrum Master is an excellent way to immerse yourself in Agile world and learn the skills, knowledge, and behavior that will help you be a great manager and leader later in your career.But wait! There’s more.Many, many, many people who adopt the role of Scrum Master find their way into a new and fulfilling career. Scrum Masters and related coach type roles are inherently fulfilling for many people. Scrum Masters report a huge sense of satisfaction in being valuable team members and helping those around them grow in capability and deliver successful outcomes.  Becoming a Scrum Master may be the beginning of a whole new career track for you.Why to switch from Project Manager to a Scrum Master roleLet us have a look at the three key areas from where you can make out the decision on why the Scrum Master can be a great alternative for a typical project management environment:The potential to focus on the current taskDuring a project, the Project Manager has to discuss with the Client team and the Developer team to ensure the project goals. Being a Project Manager, it is very time-consuming and burdening as they have to ensure that the team is adhering to their own high standards.Whereas, Scrum Masters set priorities and target depending on sprint cycle. Scrum Master always keeps an eye on the active sprint. Scrum framework reduces distractions and the stress of achieving several different goals simultaneously. Being a Scrum Master, it is very easy to manage the projects as the Scrum framework allows to-Narrow the focusMeasure the results at each SprintGive the fastest deliveryDifferent ways to manage projectsMostly Project Managers spend much of their lives in:Collecting resourcesVerifying the resourcesEnsuring that everybody has what they wantFacilitating communicationScrum methodology allows to solve queries by communicating with the team members. The team can resolve issues without the help of the Scrum Master and the issues which can’t be solved by the team can be raised during ‘Daily Scrum’. Scrum meetings last for 15 minutes. In those 15 minutes, the Scrum Master will come to know the project status and the roadblocks hindering the project success.The Scrum method allows the teams to carry out communication by:Allowing the teams to communicate to solve issues internallyThe Scrum Master can get project status update in 15 minutes of Scrum meetingThe Scrum Master gets the things that can keep the project runningPrepare for what the client likesClients keep project goals like high ROI (return on investment), quality, reliability and higher lead conversion rates, before approaching any company. Along with the goals, clients want to know about the process and a collaborative relationship.Project manager manages the timeline, limitations, and achievements. They decide on the future aspects of the processes. This method is difficult to manage and works smoothly through changing priorities and resources.  On the flip side, in Scrum method goals, priorities, and resources can be set during Sprint planning. Since Sprint lasts for 2-3 weeks, they set target within a timeframe which allows them to accomplish the target in time and with less errors. The Scrum Master, developers, and teams, all are allowed in the Scrum planning process, so everyone can discuss the process for achieving the client’s requirement. This method allows the client to get the regular status of the project and allows us to create an awesome productTips for transitioning from Project Manager to a good Scrum MasterIf you are a Project Manager entering the Agile world, you probably have the reasons to switch from the Project Manager role to the Scrum Master. You already have a definition of a Project Manager’s role in your head.  It is probably based on the PMI definitions around planning, monitoring, controlling and closing a project. Maybe there is something about the accountability for the outcomes, and using the project management industry’s established methods and practices. That’s all good and a great set of knowledge to have.The best resources to learn what is a Scrum Master, what a Scrum Master does are from reading the Scrum guide and from talking to people who have experience in the role, most of whom are very generous with their time and enthusiastic about sharing knowledge and experiences.  The actual description of the Scrum Master role is very simple, clear and succinct.  The stories you get from the experienced people will help you see the complexity of those clear guidelines applied in complex situations.The most important contributions of the Scrum Master role are enabling the team by helping them unlock value from executing the Scrum framework well, being collectively disciplined and organized as a team, and in spending time and energy clearing impediments to the team’s progress.A Project Manager playing a Scrum Master role for the first time, would not be the first person to make the mistake of thinking the role is all about the process control. But it isn’t. It is an enabler role.As a Project Manager, you might hold accountability for creating a plan and for publishing progress reports against that plan to the Stakeholders.  As a Scrum Master, you are accountable for enabling the team to produce a plan and publish progress reports.You may end up being the person who grabs progress data and publishes it, but you are doing it in service to the team rather than to service your own delivery accountabilities. You may have very little to do with publishing progress reports. Anybody on the team or the team collectively can perform that task.Your job is to help the team understand the need for progress reports, to help them find useful methods to get the job done, and to find the discipline to consistently do the job well.The Scrum Master is advised to use the Scrum framework as a tool to inspect and adapt to both the product demands and the capabilities of the team. As your team learns new things, they will prioritize the opportunities and make changes according to the way they operate.  You can help them identify the opportunities and implement them. There are several easy ways to access methods and tools to solve a variety of problems out there, both inside and beyond the Agile toolkits, but the team should not settle for any obvious best practice. Good practices should be used, not to be settled. Always seek better.We have already looked at how your accountabilities change, but a Scrum Master won’t succeed unless they approach the work with the right attitude.  Each team is different, so you should always assess the expectations of the team and the role you play. Also, you will be able to bridge any gaps by using some fair core values based behaviors that people expect from a Scrum Master.Servant leadership — the watchwordThe Scrum Master role is a Servant Leader role. The Servant leaders seemingly face a conundrum that ‘how do I serve and lead at the same time’.  The answer is that you lead some things with authority based on the expertise and knowledge. You also step aside and let others manage their things based on authority, experience, and roles.For example the Product Owner in Scrum has positional authority on the backlog (that is supposed to be based on knowledge, but is also deeply positional.)You are expected to bring an authority, based on knowledge and experience around the  Scrum, team and system dynamics, and it should be valued by the team. To do this effectively you need to follow some tips for transitioning to the Agile Project Manager.Know your stuffKnowing only what to do leads to cargo cult practices and doesn’t engender a learning organization that continually evolves.  How and why Scrum worksWhy does each of the attributes of Scrum bring value?What problems do they solve and why does that part of Scrum work the way it does?You also need to know why Scrum parts work more effectively when it is executed integratively.New Scrum teams: Start with a Big Bang?If you are working with a team which is new to Scrum or Agile practices, as an effective Scrum Master you should also have some expertise in the way you roll in or implement the new Agile ways of working. Should you do a big bang implementation of Scrum, or roll in one practice at a time? Which one should you start with? Which next?The answer will depend on the circumstances of the team and the Scrum Master should have enough experience and wisdom to have an opinion that the team value because ideally, the teams should be deciding how to roll in the practices.Ask outcome-focused questionsAn important operating method for Scrum Masters is to highlight issues and ask questions.  When and if people express interest in the topic being raised, the Scrum Master may then offer advice and suggestion options. Collectively, the team should engage in the issue and decide what to do.  If the Scrum Master feel that the teams are going to make a mistake, you think about whether the mistake will be small enough to be safe and whether the team will take lessons from the failure. If you see risks, raise them and try to influence the down team with the different paths.As you interact with the team, your experience and advice should become more valued by the team over time.  You should build a consistent track record of helping them become a more successful team. You should not have to try to force change, although sometimes you will feel like you do, and some even rarer times you may feel you have to invoke authority from the management to force something.The importance of feedbackScrum and Agile methodology rely very heavily on fast and transparent feedback. As a Scrum Master, you have an initial feedback system laid out from you in the form of the Scrum ceremonies. These are just the beginning though. You and the team should continuously look to tune and improve your feedback systems so that the team can continually find better ways of delivering better business outcomes.Part of the Scrum Master’s role might be to look at the feedback system, to help the team assess whether they are the right ones and to find better ones.  Sometimes, a Scrum Master finds new ideas about feedback that a team might miss. The team members are all heads down building products and solutions and often prioritize ‘the work’ over ‘the system’.But a Scrum Master can bring an outsider’s perspective, or might be more able to observe the wider system the team operates in. Don’t be afraid of expressing your observations and ideas to the team where you have an insight that they don’t have. That perspective can be very valuable.  You will often be the first to see when a change needs to be made and can let the team know it’s time to start thinking differently.Getting feedback on your own performanceHave a plan for how you are going to grow and become great at the role.  Pursue continuous incremental improvement by setting up regular short cycle feedback systems on yourself.  Pause and reflect on how you are going and what you should do to improve. Do it regularly, and no less frequently than the sprint cycle.  Keep checking with the team whether they need help and what they would like you to help them with, and when you are done, check what they thought of your efforts.Get experience, get training, get a coach or mentor and find a community of practitioners that you can connect with and learn from. Leverage the experience from others, as the people who do this work love to help others and make themselves generously available.Traps in transitioning from Project Manager to a Scrum MasterHere are some of the traps in transition that can be avoided by a Project Manager who has recently assumed the role of a Scrum Master.Responsibility to organize meetingsAgile Manifesto principles believe in building projects collaboratively. Scrum Master arranges meetings for the teams whenever necessary. This is unlike a traditional Project Manager who used to be an administrative assistant to schedule meetings for everyone. Scrum and Agile give an importance to the individuals and interactions over processes and tools.Mistaking the ‘Daily Scrum’ as a ‘Status Update’ taskScrum Master arranges the ‘Stand-ups’ to communicate with the team members. The traditional Project Manager keeps track of everyone’s work to update the project plans and finding out the finishing dates. In Scrum, teams act as self-directing and accountable. So, after their transition to the Scrum Master’s role, the earlier Project Managers should be mindful about their perception of “daily scrum”. The point should be sledgehammered to the minds of these new Scrum Masters that daily scrum is only for the purpose of discussion and is not a status update task.Being a ‘Scrum Master’ is the only jobScrum Master’s role should be multifaceted as an SM has to play the ideal servant-leader role. Also, his role keeps changing in some Agile teams. If any task is incomplete and the Scrum Master is capable of doing it, they should pick up and implement the task. Scrum guide states that “helping the development team to create high-value products”, is one of the services of the Scrum Master. Therefore while transitioning from Project Manager to the Scrum Master, it is important to keep in mind that Scrum Master is not a unidimensional role. It entails multiple aspects.Improper Stakeholder Communication ManagementIn Scrum, the progress is measured as a ‘working software per Agile Manifesto’. The issues are raised, analysed and solved by the team with an external help if necessary. The Scrum Master may not be able to manage the objective the team uses to collaborate. The required deliverables may be set already if there is a governing body such as a portfolio management group or a project management office. In such cases, Scrum Masters should spot the reality that issues are flexible and alter depending on the work committed by the team. Detailing out risks can be ignored, as they will be outdated within a few days or even minutes.ConclusionTransitioning from Project Manager to Scrum Master can be a challenging yet fun. You just need to be very careful. It is important to help with reflection and coaching so that the new Scrum Masters leave some habits behind. When it comes to transitioning to the Scrum Master role, you definitely cannot achieve everything overnight. The first vital step is to get laser-focused. Certifications, as we discussed earlier can be the best if not the only way to do it. All the best for your transition.
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How to Transition From Project Manager to a Scrum Master

1361
  • by Craig Brown
  • 09th Oct, 2018
  • Last updated on 18th Jun, 2020
  • 4 mins read
How to Transition From Project Manager to a Scrum Master

Scrum Masters and Project Managers are not the same roles. I am going to talk about moving from a Project Manager role to a Scrum Master. Why do we need to talk about it? Because many people think they are the same thing with different artifacts or different language being used. They aren’t.

You may be considering a change of roles from Project Manager to Scrum Master. You may be forced into such change as your organization is subjected to an Agile transformation. You may find yourself juggling both the roles and struggling with the competing agendas embedded in the two roles.  

What I want you to get from this essay is an appreciation of the differences between the Project Manager and Scrum Master and some ideas about how the role of the Project Manager fits into Agile.

The benefits of being a great Scrum Master

The first and obvious answer is the huge drive to have an Agile delivery capability in almost every organization in the world. It’s a hot new job and having these skills and experiences to improve your employment prospects as you look for work.

While there are still more Project Manager jobs than Scrum Master jobs on the jobs boards, the number of Scrum Master and similar jobs continues to grow, while the number of Project Manager jobs appears to be steady, and perhaps even shrinking in some markets.

Additionally, more and more Project Manager roles require an understanding of and experience in Agile development and management methods, as project performance seems strongly correlated with the use of Agile methods.

So, getting good in-depth experience in Agile working is an important step in your professional development, especially if you are a Project Manager involved in technology projects. Doing a job as a Scrum Master is an excellent way to immerse yourself in Agile world and learn the skills, knowledge, and behavior that will help you be a great manager and leader later in your career.

But wait! There’s more.

Many, many, many people who adopt the role of Scrum Master find their way into a new and fulfilling career. Scrum Masters and related coach type roles are inherently fulfilling for many people. Scrum Masters report a huge sense of satisfaction in being valuable team members and helping those around them grow in capability and deliver successful outcomes.  Becoming a Scrum Master may be the beginning of a whole new career track for you.

Why to switch from Project Manager to a Scrum Master role

Transition Project Manager to a Scrum Master


Let us have a look at the three key areas from where you can make out the decision on why the Scrum Master can be a great alternative for a typical project management environment:

The potential to focus on the current task

During a project, the Project Manager has to discuss with the Client team and the Developer team to ensure the project goals. Being a Project Manager, it is very time-consuming and burdening as they have to ensure that the team is adhering to their own high standards.

Whereas, Scrum Masters set priorities and target depending on sprint cycle. Scrum Master always keeps an eye on the active sprint. Scrum framework reduces distractions and the stress of achieving several different goals simultaneously. Being a Scrum Master, it is very easy to manage the projects as the Scrum framework allows to-

  • Narrow the focus
  • Measure the results at each Sprint
  • Give the fastest delivery

Different ways to manage projects

Mostly Project Managers spend much of their lives in:

  • Collecting resources
  • Verifying the resources
  • Ensuring that everybody has what they want
  • Facilitating communication

Scrum methodology allows to solve queries by communicating with the team members. The team can resolve issues without the help of the Scrum Master and the issues which can’t be solved by the team can be raised during ‘Daily Scrum’. Scrum meetings last for 15 minutes. In those 15 minutes, the Scrum Master will come to know the project status and the roadblocks hindering the project success.

The Scrum method allows the teams to carry out communication by:

  • Allowing the teams to communicate to solve issues internally
  • The Scrum Master can get project status update in 15 minutes of Scrum meeting
  • The Scrum Master gets the things that can keep the project running

Prepare for what the client likes

Clients keep project goals like high ROI (return on investment), quality, reliability and higher lead conversion rates, before approaching any company. Along with the goals, clients want to know about the process and a collaborative relationship.

Project manager manages the timeline, limitations, and achievements. They decide on the future aspects of the processes. This method is difficult to manage and works smoothly through changing priorities and resources.  

On the flip side, in Scrum method goals, priorities, and resources can be set during Sprint planning. Since Sprint lasts for 2-3 weeks, they set target within a timeframe which allows them to accomplish the target in time and with less errors. The Scrum Master, developers, and teams, all are allowed in the Scrum planning process, so everyone can discuss the process for achieving the client’s requirement. This method allows the client to get the regular status of the project and allows us to create an awesome product

method to get awesome product


Tips for transitioning from Project Manager to a good Scrum Master

If you are a Project Manager entering the Agile world, you probably have the reasons to switch from the Project Manager role to the Scrum Master. You already have a definition of a Project Manager’s role in your head.  It is probably based on the PMI definitions around planning, monitoring, controlling and closing a project. Maybe there is something about the accountability for the outcomes, and using the project management industry’s established methods and practices. That’s all good and a great set of knowledge to have.

The best resources to learn what is a Scrum Master, what a Scrum Master does are from reading the Scrum guide and from talking to people who have experience in the role, most of whom are very generous with their time and enthusiastic about sharing knowledge and experiences.  

The actual description of the Scrum Master role is very simple, clear and succinct.  The stories you get from the experienced people will help you see the complexity of those clear guidelines applied in complex situations.

The most important contributions of the Scrum Master role are enabling the team by helping them unlock value from executing the Scrum framework well, being collectively disciplined and organized as a team, and in spending time and energy clearing impediments to the team’s progress.

A Project Manager playing a Scrum Master role for the first time, would not be the first person to make the mistake of thinking the role is all about the process control. But it isn’t. It is an enabler role.

As a Project Manager, you might hold accountability for creating a plan and for publishing progress reports against that plan to the Stakeholders.  As a Scrum Master, you are accountable for enabling the team to produce a plan and publish progress reports.

You may end up being the person who grabs progress data and publishes it, but you are doing it in service to the team rather than to service your own delivery accountabilities. You may have very little to do with publishing progress reports. Anybody on the team or the team collectively can perform that task.

Your job is to help the team understand the need for progress reports, to help them find useful methods to get the job done, and to find the discipline to consistently do the job well.

The Scrum Master is advised to use the Scrum framework as a tool to inspect and adapt to both the product demands and the capabilities of the team. As your team learns new things, they will prioritize the opportunities and make changes according to the way they operate.  

You can help them identify the opportunities and implement them. There are several easy ways to access methods and tools to solve a variety of problems out there, both inside and beyond the Agile toolkits, but the team should not settle for any obvious best practice. Good practices should be used, not to be settled. Always seek better.

We have already looked at how your accountabilities change, but a Scrum Master won’t succeed unless they approach the work with the right attitude.  Each team is different, so you should always assess the expectations of the team and the role you play. Also, you will be able to bridge any gaps by using some fair core values based behaviors that people expect from a Scrum Master.

Servant leadership — the watchword

The Scrum Master role is a Servant Leader role. The Servant leaders seemingly face a conundrum that ‘how do I serve and lead at the same time’.  The answer is that you lead some things with authority based on the expertise and knowledge. You also step aside and let others manage their things based on authority, experience, and roles.

For example the Product Owner in Scrum has positional authority on the backlog (that is supposed to be based on knowledge, but is also deeply positional.)

Servant leadership


You are expected to bring an authority, based on knowledge and experience around the  Scrum, team and system dynamics, and it should be valued by the team. To do this effectively you need to follow some tips for transitioning to the Agile Project Manager.

Know your stuff

Knowing only what to do leads to cargo cult practices and doesn’t engender a learning organization that continually evolves.  

  • How and why Scrum works
  • Why does each of the attributes of Scrum bring value?
  • What problems do they solve and why does that part of Scrum work the way it does?
  • You also need to know why Scrum parts work more effectively when it is executed integratively.

New Scrum teams: Start with a Big Bang?

If you are working with a team which is new to Scrum or Agile practices, as an effective Scrum Master you should also have some expertise in the way you roll in or implement the new Agile ways of working. Should you do a big bang implementation of Scrum, or roll in one practice at a time? Which one should you start with? Which next?

The answer will depend on the circumstances of the team and the Scrum Master should have enough experience and wisdom to have an opinion that the team value because ideally, the teams should be deciding how to roll in the practices.

Ask outcome-focused questions

An important operating method for Scrum Masters is to highlight issues and ask questions.  When and if people express interest in the topic being raised, the Scrum Master may then offer advice and suggestion options. Collectively, the team should engage in the issue and decide what to do.  

If the Scrum Master feel that the teams are going to make a mistake, you think about whether the mistake will be small enough to be safe and whether the team will take lessons from the failure. If you see risks, raise them and try to influence the down team with the different paths.

As you interact with the team, your experience and advice should become more valued by the team over time.  You should build a consistent track record of helping them become a more successful team. You should not have to try to force change, although sometimes you will feel like you do, and some even rarer times you may feel you have to invoke authority from the management to force something.

The importance of feedback

Scrum and Agile methodology rely very heavily on fast and transparent feedback. As a Scrum Master, you have an initial feedback system laid out from you in the form of the Scrum ceremonies. These are just the beginning though. You and the team should continuously look to tune and improve your feedback systems so that the team can continually find better ways of delivering better business outcomes.

Part of the Scrum Master’s role might be to look at the feedback system, to help the team assess whether they are the right ones and to find better ones.  Sometimes, a Scrum Master finds new ideas about feedback that a team might miss. The team members are all heads down building products and solutions and often prioritize ‘the work’ over ‘the system’.

But a Scrum Master can bring an outsider’s perspective, or might be more able to observe the wider system the team operates in. Don’t be afraid of expressing your observations and ideas to the team where you have an insight that they don’t have. That perspective can be very valuable.  You will often be the first to see when a change needs to be made and can let the team know it’s time to start thinking differently.

Getting feedback on your own performance

Have a plan for how you are going to grow and become great at the role.  Pursue continuous incremental improvement by setting up regular short cycle feedback systems on yourself.  Pause and reflect on how you are going and what you should do to improve. Do it regularly, and no less frequently than the sprint cycle.  

Keep checking with the team whether they need help and what they would like you to help them with, and when you are done, check what they thought of your efforts.

Get experience, get training, get a coach or mentor and find a community of practitioners that you can connect with and learn from. Leverage the experience from others, as the people who do this work love to help others and make themselves generously available.

Traps in transitioning from Project Manager to a Scrum Master

Here are some of the traps in transition that can be avoided by a Project Manager who has recently assumed the role of a Scrum Master.

Responsibility to organize meetings

Agile Manifesto principles believe in building projects collaboratively. Scrum Master arranges meetings for the teams whenever necessary. This is unlike a traditional Project Manager who used to be an administrative assistant to schedule meetings for everyone. Scrum and Agile give an importance to the individuals and interactions over processes and tools.

Mistaking the ‘Daily Scrum’ as a ‘Status Update’ task

Scrum Master arranges the ‘Stand-ups’ to communicate with the team members. The traditional Project Manager keeps track of everyone’s work to update the project plans and finding out the finishing dates. In Scrum, teams act as self-directing and accountable. So, after their transition to the Scrum Master’s role, the earlier Project Managers should be mindful about their perception of “daily scrum”. The point should be sledgehammered to the minds of these new Scrum Masters that daily scrum is only for the purpose of discussion and is not a status update task.

Being a ‘Scrum Master’ is the only job

Scrum Master’s role should be multifaceted as an SM has to play the ideal servant-leader role. Also, his role keeps changing in some Agile teams. If any task is incomplete and the Scrum Master is capable of doing it, they should pick up and implement the task. Scrum guide states that “helping the development team to create high-value products”, is one of the services of the Scrum Master. Therefore while transitioning from Project Manager to the Scrum Master, it is important to keep in mind that Scrum Master is not a unidimensional role. It entails multiple aspects.

Improper Stakeholder Communication Management

In Scrum, the progress is measured as a ‘working software per Agile Manifesto’. The issues are raised, analysed and solved by the team with an external help if necessary. The Scrum Master may not be able to manage the objective the team uses to collaborate. The required deliverables may be set already if there is a governing body such as a portfolio management group or a project management office. In such cases, Scrum Masters should spot the reality that issues are flexible and alter depending on the work committed by the team. Detailing out risks can be ignored, as they will be outdated within a few days or even minutes.

Conclusion

Transitioning from Project Manager to Scrum Master can be a challenging yet fun. You just need to be very careful. It is important to help with reflection and coaching so that the new Scrum Masters leave some habits behind. When it comes to transitioning to the Scrum Master role, you definitely cannot achieve everything overnight. The first vital step is to get laser-focused. Certifications, as we discussed earlier can be the best if not the only way to do it. All the best for your transition.

Craig

Craig Brown

Blog Author

Craig’s roles over the past 20 years have involved leading project management teams, projects and programmes, consulting, training and coaching in a variety of aspects of project delivery. Most recently Craig was a program manager on Telstra’s Customer Advocacy journey, working with culture change, Net Promoter Scores, and lean-style customer centred process improvements.

Apart from the disciplines of project and portfolio management Craig is also an Agile and Lean enthusiast with a focus on the collaboration and cultivation aspects of agile practices and methods. Craig runs the Melbourne Scrum User group and also runs meetup groups for Agile business analysis and agile project managers where he helps people navigate their way from traditional roles and thinking to modern ones.

Craig also co-created the LAST conference which is a low cost community driven conference focusing on lean, agile and systems thinking.

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9 comments

Sanvi Raj 01 Nov 2018

Awesome Blog.... informative and knowledge gaining ..Thanks

Mellissa 03 May 2019

Thank you for writing this awesome article. I'm a long time reader but I've never been compelled to leave a comment. I subscribed to your blog and shared this on my Twitter. Thanks again for a great post!

Staci 07 May 2019

Great article! Thank you :)

Nilda 10 May 2019

I like it when individuals come together and share thoughts. Great blog, continue the good work!

Luther 11 May 2019

Thanks for posting this awesome article. I'm a long time reader but I've never been compelled to leave a comment. I subscribed to your blog and shared this on my Twitter. Thanks again for a great post!

R. Beaudet 17 May 2019

Thank you for the good writeup.

Publissoft 24 May 2019

Thanks for posting this awesome article. I'm a long time reader but I've never been compelled to leave a comment. I subscribed to your blog and shared this on my Twitter. Thanks again for a great article!

Alyssia Alexandria 11 Jun 2019

Fantastic thank you for sharing this truly eye opening.

Prem kumar 24 Jun 2019

This information is more valuable & use full thanks for providing such kind of blog...

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In this article we are going to understand the top reasons why we use the Fibonacci series for estimation, and how it works in practice. Before we get to the details, let us try to understand some of the fundamentals. Why do we need to estimate?Estimates help the project team to: Identify the time & effort required to arrive at the project schedule Identify the right number of people required to do the work Arrive at the budget by rolling up the cost of all activities required to complete the work; and Prioritize the work in conjunction with the value that will be delivered. Some software developers fear to provide effort estimates as they are accountable to complete their work within the time.  Hence, they take so much time to get into the details to make sure they have enough information to provide the estimates. This sometimes may not be possible during the beginning of the project as the team may not have enough information on hand to provide the effort estimates for all the tasks to be performed. Hence the order of magnitude (ROM, Budget or Definitive) will be applied at various stages during the project based on the available information to predict the effort needed to complete the activities. Agile Estimation  Typically, in traditional project management, effort estimations may or may not be agreed upon by the entire team. Estimates may either be given by the Project Manager/Tech Lead to the team or the developers/testers may estimate for the piece of work that they have been assigned. This way of estimating a project does not provide an opportunity for the team to collaborate. There may be a difference of opinion with the team members in the effort that need to be spent on an activity. The way the estimations are done within an Agile team is little different. It is just not about the measure used to estimate the effort (for example Story Points), but ensures that the team collaborate among themselves, thus providing an opportunity for knowledge sharing. This helps the accuracy of the estimates when compared to doing individual vs group estimates as the team members come from different backgrounds and roles (developers, testers, quality analysts, business analysts). An Agile team effort estimate focuses on relative sizing of user stories and does not focus on the duration; hence it is faster. The team learns to size the story relatively and accurately over a period of a few iterations (sprints), thus improving the predictability (arrived through establishing consistent velocity over a period of few iterations) as well.  Planning Poker is commonly used as the planning exercise for the team to collaborate and size the stories. Planning Poker uses Fibonacci sequence to assign a value to the epic/feature/story. What is Fibonacci Series?  According to Oxford dictionary, Fibonacci Series is : “ a series of numbers in which each number ( Fibonacci number ) is the sum of the two preceding numbers. The simplest is the series 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144 etc” The formula to arrive at a Fibonacci sequence is: Xn = Xn-1 + Xn-2 This sequence will be slightly modified when used in Agile estimations: typically, it will not have values beyond 100 and may have 0, ½, 1, 2, 3, 5,8, 13, 20, 40, 100. Some teams limit the highest value as 21 and use 0, 1/2, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21. Top 3 Reasons Why Using the Fibonacci Sequence Will Make You Better at Estimating Tasks  1. Weber–Fechner law: “The Weber–Fechner law refers to two related hypotheses in the field of psychophysics, known as Weber's law and Fechner's law. Both laws relate to human perception, more specifically the relation between the actual change in a physical stimulus and the perceived change. This includes stimuli to all senses: vision, hearing, taste, touch, and smell” Applying the law to Numerical Cognition,  “Psychological studies show that it becomes increasingly difficult to discriminate between two numbers as the difference between them decreases. This is called the distance effect. This is important in areas of magnitude estimation, such as dealing with large scales and estimating distances. It may also play a role in explaining why consumers neglect to shop around to save a small percentage on a large purchase, but will shop around to save a large percentage on a small purchase which represents a much smaller absolute dollar amount”  (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weber%E2%80%93Fechner_law) The Fibonacci sequence very well corresponds to Weber’s law. The values in the Fibonacci sequence are about 60% higher than the previous value, and hence applying relative sizing is much easier. It is very challenging to distinguish the size of two numbers which are adjacent to each other, by just looking at the objects. Let us take an example of a football and cricket ball. The approximate diameter of a cricket ball would be 2.8 to 2.86 inches whereas the diameter of a football would be 8.66 inches. It is easy to distinguish the relative size of these two (i.e., approximately the diameter of a football is 3 times that of a cricket ball). However, it is very challenging to distinguish between two cricket balls that vary 1 inch in diameter, unless you measure both. If you look at the Fibonacci sequence, the relative size between two adjacent numbers is more than 60% and this helps us to be able to size them accordingly.   2. Reflect Uncertainty The smaller value assigned from the Fibonacci sequence to a user story usually means that the story is well understood, and the user story follows INVEST (Independent, Negotiable, Valuable, Estimable, Small and Testable) guidelines. Whereas the largest value denotes the story is not well understood or it needs to be broken down further. Smaller stories can be confidently estimated by the team in detail. A general practice from matured Agile teams is that the Fibonacci sequence is restricted up to 21 (0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21) and any story which is of size beyond 21 will have to be broken down further. This ensures that the team is not giving any room for greater uncertainty and good practice for the team to write better stories under the INVEST guidelines. 3. Comparison Though it is not mandatory to use Fibonacci sequence for story point estimations, the sequence is easier to understand and adoptable by the team. Individuals are better at comparison than estimation.  The easy sequence and distinguishable values of Fibonacci sequence helps to estimate by not measuring the objects but by comparison. How Does Fibonacci Agile Estimation Work in Practice?  When do you think is the right time for the Agile team to estimate user stories that are prioritized by the Product Owner in the product backlog? In my experience, I would say that the estimates (story point sizing) should happen during the Iteration/Sprint backlog grooming sessions. This gives the team the time to go through the user stories in detail, collaborate and mutually agree using the Planning Poker exercise.  Then what do we do in Sprint Planning? – This ceremony should be used to pick the stories from the product backlog (fulfils Definition of Ready), that can be completed within the iteration/sprint and then breakdown the stories into tasks and do one more level of estimation which is effort estimation denoted in hours. Let us say a team is assigned a task to estimate a reporting module to be developed: The team would agree that it is a difficult task to provide an effort estimation and it would take a longer time to complete; but how long will it take? Using Simple, Medium and Complex categorization would simply mean that the estimate falls into the Complex category; but how complex is it? Breaking down the requirement into granularized tasks, getting to the minute details and then arriving at an effort estimation would be a complex process and time consuming as well. Can the team take linear sequence (1,2,4,8,10,12,14,16….) and size them for a high-level estimation? Is it possible to size between 50 and 52? What can be defined as the highest scale? Using Fibonacci series helps the team to size the stories which have a distinguishable value and as discussed earlier, matured Agile teams use modified Fibonacci series and have highest scale of 21 to size a story. As discussed above, the Fibonacci numbers are 60% above than the previous number, and that helps in relative sizing. Summary There are various methods to estimate user stories, like T-Shirt sizing, Dot voting, Affinity Mapping etc. Story points is the widely used measurement for sizing the user stories. Fibonacci series helps the team to compare between two stories; and its very nature of distinguishable values helps them to fit the story into the right size that reflects uncertainties, which further helps the team to refine the story to remove those uncertainties. Hope this article was useful to you.
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Why Do We Use Fibonacci Series for Estimation

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Top Agile Methods for Better Productivity

When a Scrum development team works on the productivity of a team using the Agile methodology, the first thing that comes to attention is the metric used to measure how much work the team does in an iteration: velocity. On the contrary, using velocity helps a Scrum development team to determine a team’s average capability on a normal sprint followed by how much they will agree to achieve in the next sprint iteration. The velocity is not preferred to determine the team’s productivity as it is just a simple indicator based on past sprints.The thing that matters at the end is the result and what the team has produced. A team is not recommended to be pushed to fasten its velocity. In the end, the outcome might be unpredictable as the team might economize on acceptance testing, avoid fixing bugs, or minimize restructuring to reach the target velocity. The key to increasing the velocity of the team is to resort to focusing on optimal velocity over time instead of maximized velocity. This also determines the overall quality of the finished product. Here are the top Agile methods involved in Scrum to allow the team to be more productive over time. 1. Eradicating obstaclesOne of the most important duties of a Scrum Master is to get rid of obstacles early and throughout the development process. This begins with asking appropriate questions while User Stories are being written. This gives developers space and time to do their work. While they are working, a Scrum Master also protects the development team from any disturbances from the stakeholders.In situations when the team does get interrupted, it is recommended for the team members to contact the Scrum Master to get their queries and issues resolved. Having a clear and focused mind is the key to operating at the highest level.The most obvious step is to avoid distractions as they are the primary reason for decreasing a team’s productivity. The team is unable to focus when they are asked to clarify why their productivity went down.2. Daily scrum meetings An efficient team always has a small group of professionals, the numbers can go to a maximum of 9. Anything more than that leads to communication issues and more consumption of time in meetings or huddles. A bigger team, in cases, can be split into two or more. A big team leads to more complications and misunderstandings and hence, is not a good idea. A larger team means more loss in information while exchanging thoughts and ideas and that will result in everybody in the team spending more time and effort to get any message or data across. 3. Team Capacity It is a known fact that all the team members must attend the daily scrum every day. The meeting can last for not more than 15 minutes every day to get an overview of the proceedings and the advancement of the undertaken work. All the concerns and ideas put across and need solutions during the meetings can be parked so that all of them can be addressed together. Any topic not related to the purpose of the meeting can be talked about at a fixed but separate time of the day.Furthermore, communicating with each other during the meeting will help in exchanging more information.4. Product backlog The backlog is the key to knowing where a product goes and what needs to be created on priority. So, everything in a project must be kept and properly maintained via a backlog. User Stories should have enough details and can be reordered in case of a change in priority. More accurate User Stories lead to less time consumption for the development team to understand them.An up to date and well-maintained backlog during an Agile project should have enough User Stories for at least one or two sprints.5. Constantly improving mindsetScrum is a continuous method that involves development because the whole method can be changed, not just the software. The point is to find something that requires alterations and to achieve it in the next sprint. This allows the team to tackle one issue at a time and move forward.Finding a clear move in the sprint retrospective to support the team is necessary. Someone must take ownership to act and make things work. This can be achieved by initiating small, easy actions that are less time-consuming first. During a sprint retrospective, it is recommended to take suggestions from each attendee and go for the most appropriate one. After that, a plan will be laid out to realize the chosen idea.6. Interruption bufferWhile running an application in production, it is necessary to keep maintaining and providing new features. However, there can be interruptions, like a bug that needs to be reported urgently or another team needing a developer for assistance. The point is, Sprints will be prone to interruptions, and provisions must be made to deal with these problems. A capable Scrum Master will log all these interruptions noting the number of interruptions, the time consumed in dealing with them and then add them to the next sprint.7. Have a vision of the task at handThe team works more efficiently in getting the deliverables when the Scrum Master already has laid out a blueprint to work on. This also includes having metrics and other relevant charts displayed, doing which will also let stakeholders and colleagues track the production rate.Refreshing the burndown chart daily and displaying the desired sprint result will reflect the customer or team satisfaction. Furthermore, a roadmap showing the working of the product will further enhance the vision of the team. There are multiple ways of sharing information to give everybody the idea of how things are going on while working on the product.To concludeWhen looking at the broader picture of the correct way to motivate a team to get the desired output, a successful team follows a very realistic and simple approach by using plain common sense that is instilled by the Scrum Master. Understanding how the team works and realizing the working style of each team member is one of the most important observations of an adept Scrum Master. It is a collaborative effort that cannot be done by one person but needs responsible efforts from every working member on the task. After all, it is not about ‘Me’ but ‘Us’ that helps in building a product successfully on time.
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Top Agile Methods for Better Productivity

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How Does an Agile Mindset Pave the Way for Professional Success?

In the days before the advent of Agile, most large organizations were run with a bureaucratic mindset. Even as Agile has taken over the world of work today, a large number of professionals and organizations are yet to embrace the Agile mindset as they are stuck in the traditional paradigm.  Traditionally, the primary focus of managers in a top-down hierarchy has been on bringing in funds for the organization and its investors, even as they are sorting out work in line with the rules, jobs, and criteria that have been pre-determined. The existence of a bureaucratic mindset, therefore, promotes hierarchy over collaboration. When the workforce has a bureaucratic attitude, the productivity at an organizational level gets impeded. This is especially the case in situations that are subject to rapid changes concerning business needs,opportunities, or challenges.. What is an Agile mindset? An Agile mindset is a mentality of having a positive, feedback-based,and flexible perspective. This mindset places high regard on mutual respect, collaboration, improvement, iterative construction, and learning cycles. It takes pride in ownership, lays focus on delivering value, and has the inherent ability to adapt to change. An agile mindset is critical to cultivating high-performing teams, capable of delivering amazing value for their customers. The Characteristic Traits of An Agile Mindset An agile mindset can be identified by certain behavioral traits. These are applicable at the level of an individual, team, and enterprise at large.  High degree of collaborative efforts: Teamwork is crucial to foster an Agile mindset. Those who wish to cultivate this mindset should have a thorough understanding of objectives, deliverables, and ownership. Tolerance, mutual respect, and a team-player’s attitude are essential for effective collaboration. Self-motivated: A certain sense of motivation will be displayed by professionals having this mindset. They are often driven enough to execute tasks until completion and even develop better strategies to perform tasks. Self-motivated teams are empowered teams as they are capable of driving success with their efforts while taking responsibility for their actions at the same time. Customer-focused and outcome-driven: Delivering value to customers within the stipulated deadlines and budget is second nature to those with an Agile mindset. Customer’s needs are top priority and an outcome-based approach will be followed to meet them.Speed and Transparency: A quick turnaround time is a hallmark of Agile environments. Work is often done in small increments over time while the feedback loops are shortened to boost progress and reduce errors. Transparency is a trait that every member of the team should possess so that work can be entrusted to them without a second thought. Getting Ahead with An Agile Mindset  A significant aspect of having an Agile mindset is an individual’s willingness to remain unfazed in failure, yet open to learning and growing to prevent the same mistakes. As a professional in the dynamic digital age, one has no option but to embrace changes.  With new technologies, work processes and customer demands emerging daily, cultivating an Agile mindset has become imperative for professional growth. Farsighted organizations have already embarked on their Agile journeys, with 92% senior executives globally believing that organizational agility is critical to business success.  This calls for the need of an Agile workforce and translates into greater opportunities for skilled professionals with an Agile mindset. The true adoption of the Agile mindset cannot happen over-night, it takes a gradual shift in perspectives which will eventually guarantee lasting returns. Attending workshops led by Agile experts is a great way to get started with one’s journey towards developing an Agile mindset. Not only will it help shape one’s mindset but also open doors to exciting opportunities in Agile. 
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How Does an Agile Mindset Pave the Way for Profess...

In the days before the advent of Agile, most large... Read More