Scrum Interview Questions

Wondering how to crack a tricky Scrum interview? Don’t fret anymore! We have brought together a set of Scrum interview questions with answers that you might face during your interview. These Scrum questions and answers will get you acquainted with different types of questions that you may come across during your Scrum interview like Scrum roles, events, artifacts, etc. The following set of Scrum interview questions curated by experts can be your gateway to your next dream job as a Scrum Master, Scrum Project Manager, etc.

  • 4.9 Rating
  • 230 Question(s)
  • 75 Mins of Read
  • 602 Reader(s)

Beginner

Methodologies in the IT world means detailed, stringent, defined principles and mandatory processes and predefined algorithms. Every process or step should be carefully followed in sequence and documented properly.

Scrum is always misunderstood as a methodology rather it is a set of instructions given mainly for the product which has high uncertainties, complexities and unpredictable.

It is a process which works best for all the players emerges from the use of scrum and the boundaries are set by Scrum.

Scrum as a framework describes roles and rules upon principles that help and facilitate people in a low-prescriptive way.

The Scrum framework leaves different options and tactics to play the game as it replaces the defined algorithmic approach with respect to people and self-organization to deal with unpredictability and uncertainties issues. The Scrum core values give direction to the actions and the behavior of the Scrum team, and the additions they make to the framework.

One of the agile methodologies is Scrum which implements Agile principles.

One of the core principles of Scrum is working software over software documentation. But it doesn’t mean there will not be any documentation but yes, they need to keep at its minimum. It is more important to think about users’ goals than to list the attributes of a solution.

  • In Scrum, we consider the requirements as User Stories. They are similar to the use case scenario. But use cases till tend to be larger than single story and can be more prone to containing embedded assumptions about user interface.
  • Use cases are much more complete than user stories. Use cases are designed to be permanent artifacts of the development process while user stories are more transient and not intended to outlive the iteration in which they are developed.
  • In the requirement documents use cases are written so that developers and customers can discuss them and agree to them. User stories are written to facilitate release planning and to serve as reminders to fill in requirements details with conversations.
  • User stories emphasize verbal communication. Written language is often very imprecise, and there’s no guarantee that a customer and developer will interpret a statement in the same way.
  • Traditional documents are very tiring, tedious, error prone and time consuming compared to user stories.
  • In this case, time was wasted writing the three-fourths of the document that the team won't have time to develop, and more time will be wasted as the developers, analysts, and customer iterate over which functionality can be developed in time. With stories, an estimate is associated with each story immediately. The customer knows the velocity of the team and the cost of each story.

Sprint Planning Meeting: 

Attendees: Development team, Scrum Master, and Product Owner

When: At the beginning of the sprint.

Duration: Approx 120 min for a 2-week iteration

Purpose: Product owner comes with the prioritized backlog and then the Scrum Team plans the items they are going to deliver in the Sprint and the way they will deliver them, estimate them, break into tasks.

There are two defined artifacts of sprint planning.

1. Sprint Goal-The sprint goal should be a short description of what the team plans to achieve during the sprint. It is written collaboratively by the team and the product owner.

Example-Implement login functionality of the website.

2. Sprint backlog-The sprint backlog is the output of the sprint planning. A sprint backlog is a list of the product backlog items the team commits to delivering plus the list of tasks necessary to delivering those product backlog items. Each task on the sprint backlog is also usually estimated.

Iteration planning -Iteration is a more generic term with respect to the Agile. It is used for a single development cycle and is used for Iterative and Incremental process. Sprint is Scrum specific hence sprint is an iteration but not all forms of iterations are sprint.

Epic -An epic captures a large body of work. It is essentially a large user story that can be broken down into a number of smaller stories. It may take several sprints to complete an epic. 

User Story- A story or user story is a software system requirement that is expressed in a few short sentences, ideally using non-technical language. It is generally estimated in story points.

Task- A task is a unit of work contained within a story. It is estimated in hours.
An example is given below.What is an Epic User story and task

TDD is defined as programming practice which starts before the development phase starts, unlike Traditional testing. It instructs developers to write new code only if an automated test has failed. The primary goal of TDD is to make the code clearer, simple and bug-free.

TDD is an iterative development process. Each iteration starts with a set of tests written for a new piece of functionality. These tests are supposed to fail during the start of iteration as there will be no application code corresponding to the tests. In the next phase of the iteration, Application code is written with an intention to pass all the tests written earlier in the iteration. Once the application code is ready tests are run.

Any failures in the test run are marked and more Application code is written/re-factored to make these tests pass. Once application code is added/re-factored the tests are run again. This cycle keeps on happening until all the tests pass. Once all the tests pass, we can be sure that all the features for which tests were written have been developed.

Following steps define how to perform TDD test

  • Add a test.
  • Run all tests and see if any new test fails.
  • Write some code.
  • Run tests and Refactor code.
  • Repeat.

What is TDD test driven development

Benefits of TDD

  • The unit test proves that the code actually works
  • Can drive the design of the program
  • Refactoring allows improving the design of the code
  • Low-Level regression test suite
  • Test first reduce the cost of the bugs

TDD & BDD and automated testing

BDD is an extension of TDD. The major difference between TDD and BDD are:

  • Tests are written in plain descriptive English type grammar
  • Tests are explained as the behavior of an application and are more user-focused
  • Using examples to clarify requirements

This difference brings in the need to have a language which can define, in an understandable format.

Features of BDD

  • Shifting from thinking in “tests” to thinking in “behavior”
  • Collaboration between Business stakeholders, Business Analysts, QA Team and developers
  • Ubiquitous language, it is easy to describe
  • Driven by Business Value
  • Extends Test Driven Development (TDD) by utilizing natural language that non-technical stakeholders can understand
  • BDD frameworks such as Cucumber or JBehave are an enabler, acting as a “bridge” between Business & Technical Language

Example:

Scenario: Duplicate email

Where someone tries to create an account for an email address

that already exists.

Given I have chosen to sign up

But I enter an email address that has already registered

Then I should be told that the email is already registered

And I should be offered the option to recover my password

Now after a look at the above example code, anybody can understand the workings of the test and what it is intended to do. It gives an unexpected powerful impact by enabling people to visualize the system before it has been built. Any of the business users would read and understand the test and able to give you the feedback that whether it reflects their understanding of what the system should do, and it can even lead to thinking of other scenarios that need to be considered too.

Advantages of BDD:

– Writing BDD tests in an omnipresent language, a language structured around the domain model and widely used by all team members comprising of developers, testers, BAs, and customers.

– Connecting technical with nontechnical members of a software team.

– Allowing direct interaction with the developer’s code, but BDD tests are written in a language which can also be made out by business stakeholders.

– Last but not least, acceptance tests can be executed automatically, while it is performed manually by business stakeholders.

The four values of Scrum as per the Scrum Guide are:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

Valuing people more than the processes and tools is the main aim of Scrum. Communication is an example of valuing individuals versus process. It is the people who respond to business needs and drive the development process. Daily Scrum meeting and Retrospection is an example of this where each individual will get to interact with the team and leaders directly.

  • Working software over comprehensive documentation

Historically, an enormous amount of time is spent on documentation and was one of the biggest causes of delays in product development and delivery which indirectly leads to customer dissatisfaction. It is a myth that Scrum doesn’t support documentation rather it streamlined the process in such a way which gives the developer an opportunity to work on what is needed and deliver the best quality software which leads to customer satisfaction. Agile documents requirements as user stories, which are sufficient for a software developer to begin the task of building a new function.

The Agile Manifesto values documentation, but it values working software more.

  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

In the Scrum process, the customer has involved even before the project starts (Iteration planning), during the project execution which is sprint review. With this customer collaboration during the entire process, the development phase is quite easy and expected to meet the customer needs. With development models such as Waterfall, customers negotiate the requirements for the product, often in great detail, prior to any work starting which means that requirements are completely frozen and no scope of changing them in between.

  • Responding to change over following a plan

With short sprint cycles, the customer change in requirements can be incorporated easily in the next iteration whereas traditional methods the incorporation of changes in the middle is very expensive.

Agile’ s view is that changes always improve a project; changes provide additional value.

Responding to change over following a plan

Traditional waterfall model treats Analysis, Design, Coding and testing as discrete phases of a software project.

Quality Suffers:

What are the advantages of Agile over waterfall model

First, the project runs out of money until it reached the last phase. This means that a good project tends to cut on the testing phase and the quality suffers.

Poor visibility:

Secondly, because working software isn't produced until the end of the project, you never really know where you are on a Waterfall project. That last 20% of the project always seems to take 80% of the time.

Too risky:

Thirdly you've got schedule risk because you never know if you are going to make it until the end. You've got technical risk because you don't actually get to test your design or architecture until late in the project. And you've got product risk because don't even know if you are building the right until it's too late to make any changes.

Can’t make changes in the middle:

It’s not easy to make any changes in the middle because the architecture and all technical aspects are already closed before the development phase. It is very costly to do those changes in the middle.

The Agile Approach:

Instead of treating these fixed stages Agilists believe these are continuous activities.

By doing them continuously:

  • Quality improves because testing starts from day one.
  • Visibility improves because you are 1/2 way through the project when you have built 1/2 the features.
  • Risk is reduced because you are getting feedback early, and
  • Customers are happy because they can make changes without paying exorbitant costs.

The Agile Approach

Definition of Ready: A sprint is a time-boxed development cycle in which items need to be pulled from the prioritized backlog. However, it is very important that the items (User Story) should be in “Ready state”. Pulling unfinished or unrefined user story will make the current sprint delay its deliverables as well as developer will also not be able to develop the expected functionality.

“Ready” State is clearly depicted in the below diagram.

What is the Definition of Ready and Definition of Done

Definition of Ready is focused on the User Story level characteristics whereas Definition of Ready on Sprint and Release level.

Definition of Done: It represents the acceptance criteria for the Sprint. This list is prepared in discussion/agreement with the Product Owner and Development team on what needs to be completed for user story—it is often standardized across the company in order to deliver consistent product quality.

Sample of Definition of Done is shown below. As per project needs, this can be tweaked.

  • Test conditions are written where beneficial to a story
  • Unit tests written (where crucial ) and passing
  • Acceptance tests written, executed, and passing
  • Functional testing complete
  • System testing and bug fixing for functionality implemented
  • Test cases are written and passing with expected results
  • Regression tested where appropriate
  • Code complete
  • Code committed

Scrum board is highly recommended in the daily scrum meeting.

It gives better visibility not only to the team but other stakeholders too. In case somebody missed the daily scrum, a meeting can quickly go through the scrum board and gather updates from there. It is recommended that scrum board not only has the data of the sprint progress but it should also have sprint burndown chart also so that the team will have updates on the health of the sprint. On top of the board, the Goal of the sprint should also be mentioned along with the Definition of Done list.

Scrum Board

There have been continuous advancements in software development technologies. When talking about software development methods one can simply not ignore the role that testing plays in software development. Therefore, in order to maintain pace with the latest software development technologies testing needs to be done faster than development.

Imagine you are building a big Software-as-a-Service product like Salesforce. The product has 1,000 features, and you also have to release a new feature every other month to keep up with the competition. Now imagine that you have to test that product, check if new features have not affected old features and every feature is working fine. All 1000 of them. Now imagine that you have to test the whole software within a week.

Not possible, right? That’s what enterprise developers thought before automating the process of testing.

Sprint is generally for 2-3 weeks. In that case, to test the whole software is not easy so recommended way is to automation which drastically reduces the time of testing and every sprint delivers the best quality software.

  • When the same test case is to be repeated;
  • When the test cases are very tedious and cannot be performed manually;
  • If you have to run the test cases with different data and conditions several times;
  • When the same test cases are to be executed with different user sets;
  • If saving time is on your top priority; or
  • When test cases need to be executed with various browsers and environments.

Pair programming the term derived from Extreme Programming. Pair programming is a style of programming in which two programmers work side-by-side at one computer, sharing one screen, keyboard and mouse, continuously collaborating on the same design, algorithm, code or test.

One programmer, termed as the driver, has control of the keyboard/mouse and actively implements the code or writes a test. The other programmer, termed as the navigator, continuously observes the work of the driver to identify defects and also thinks strategically about the direction of the work.

When necessary, the two programmers brainstorm on any challenging problem. The two programmers periodically switch roles and work together as equals to develop software.

Pair programming is much more effective as compared to code reviews. For code review, the code needs to be completed, but in programming in pairs leads to correct the code instantly without any waiting period. Pair programming is much more efficient as in code review it could be possible that the programmer might not be around. Fewer chances of bugs being corrected.

Benefits of Pair programming

  • Fewer defects
  • Better decisions
  • Higher productivity
  • Developers confidence
  • Knowledge sharing
  • Learning
  • Team building
Agile Testing
Testing is not a separate phase and carried out as a part of iteration
Testers and developers work together
Testers are involved from the requirements phase so that they will be able to write the test plan and acceptance criteria. Also, Logical Acceptance test cases would be ready along with requirements
Acceptance testing is done in each iteration and customer feedback is taken
Every iteration completes its own testing thus allowing regression testing also in each iteration in case of release of new logic or functionality
Continuous testing with test levels overlap
The entire team is responsible for the testing activity
Client involvement is needed throughout the phase

Testing is iterative and sprints based as depicted in the diagram given below:

Behavior Driven Development

Story points are a relative measure of the size of a user story. A user story estimated as ten story points is twice as big, complex or risky as a story estimated as five story points.

A ten-story point is similarly half as big, complex or risky as a twenty-story point story. What matters are relative values assigned to different stories. Velocity is also calculated by summing the story point estimates for each completed story. Story points are purely an estimate of the size of the work to be performed. The duration of the project is not estimated as much as it is delivered by taking the total number of story points and dividing it by the velocity of the team.

The most common way of estimating a User Story is by using Fibonacci series as it forces them to provide a relative estimate. It is easier for anyone to answer “Is that 5 or 8” rather than 6 or 7?

Why Use Fibonacci Numbers

Retrospection- After the Sprint Review, the Development Team holds an internal meeting to review the Sprint and use it to improve the process (lessons learned) in the next Sprint.

Also, find out what's not working and use the time to find creative solutions and develop an action plan. Scrum Master facilitates this meeting. We generally use sticky notes in which each team member writes three things about sprint (which just got over.)

  1. What shall we continue?
  2. What needs to be stopped?
  3. What needs to be started?

Then the Team looks for underlying causes and agrees on one improvement for the following sprint with acceptance tests built in, along with a commitment to review the results at the next Sprint Retrospective.

Over the course of time, some Scrum practices begin to slip, or the meeting has become perfunctory, not effective.  Let’s look at how you got here through the frame of the usual suspects for an ineffective Retrospective.

The Usual Suspects are:

The whole team thinks it’s a waste of time.

If this is the case then ask the team why it is a waste of time? More likely the meeting is not managed effectively and the outcome of the meeting doesn’t lead to change in the action plan. Set the agenda of the meeting before it starts, and work towards it collectively.

Retrospectives aren’t valuable since we don’t have any impediments.

According to me, this is the biggest impediment like fear of conflict or lack of trust on team members.

 The Retrospective is just too hard.

Some team impediments are big.  Too big to solve in one meeting.  It’s important to make meaningful progress and keep the momentum going each Sprint, and this is most easily done by breaking down issues into something that can be accomplished and has a clear definition of done.

We do it but it doesn’t have an impact.

Scrum is there to help the team to deliver the products at a faster rate with a steady increase in velocity but if the flat-lined means retrospections are not able to find the root cause of it.

If the above conversations are true then the corrective actions need to be taken.

Adopt a new practice to rejuvenate your Retrospectives.  Sometimes it’s as easy as changing the way the question is asked and the Happiness Metric is a great way to do that.  

The Happiness Metric is a simple tool used to focus your Retrospective and collect actionable information.  It works like this:

Ask each Team member:

  1. On a scale of 1-5, how happy are you with your role in the company?
  2. On the same scale, how happy are you with the company?
  3. What specifically increased your happiness last Sprint?
  4. What specifically decreased your happiness last Sprint?
  5. What would increase your happiness for the next Sprint?

By focusing on your retrospective, you will increase velocity, finish early and accelerate faster. Try it, if it doesn’t work there will always be the next sprint.

Continuous improvement is what sustains and drives development within an agile team, and retrospectives are a key part of that.

In the Scrum Guide the role of Functional manager is not specifically defined. As scrum focuses more on the self-organization more of Functional Manager involvement is not required if they do so, then the team is not following the correct way of Scrum.

  • Functional Managers usually retain the job of assigning individuals to projects. They will be expected to continue to make these decisions based on the competing needs and career aspirations of individuals, locations etc.
  • In few organizations the role of a functional manager is accustomed to assigning roles to the individual which now after transition they will not be able to do that as an individual selection of work is a fundamental aspect of how the team self-organize and must be left with the team.
  • They should now start working in the bottom-up approach. The manager should say “Here is our purpose and direction-I will guide and coach.”
  • They also retain the responsibility for developing the people in their groups. Securing the budget and time, encouraging them for innovations, challenging them, build the leader in them are all parts of the functional manager role.
  • They also retain the role of hiring and firing decisions which not even scrum master and product owner has this level of authority.
  • Writing periodic reviews by taking the inputs from coworkers is also the prime responsibility of the functional manager and they will continue to retain them.
  • They can also attend sprint reviews and even quarterly planning meetings.

As per Scrum guide it is recommended to have the scrum cycle or iteration for 2 weeks.

But there is no rule, this can be purely adjusted to 2-4 weeks as per the team and project requirements.

How long the scrum cycle last Who are involved in Scrum cycle

How to decide on iteration? —Check How to decide about the size of the iteration?

The roles defined by Scrum are:

  1. Scrum Master-Servant leader between team and Product owner. Removes impediments for the team and always help them practice good agile practices.
  2. Product Owner-Full control of the product. Key communicator between team and customer. Solves all queries regarding requirements and decide the prioritized backlog.
  3. Development team-Team which works on requirements and built the potentially shippable product.

In addition to the above roles there are Product Management and stakeholders and customers are also involved during sprint reviews and providing feedback.

Planning Poker:

  • The below figure shows the poker cards available to estimate the user stories.
  • Before starting Planning Poker, select one story which is a reference story (from the current backlog or that we have done earlier)
  • In this technique team, Scrum Master, Product Owner will sit around the table (Figure shown below) for the planning poker session.
  • Each team member will have a set of Planning Poker cards of values (0,.5,1,2,3,5,8,13,20,40 and 100) these represents story points in which team estimates.
  • At the start of the session the product owner will read the user story aloud, describing all its features and requirements.
  • Then the team will estimate with the number mentioned on cards and show it to everyone. If all have given the same value then that will become the final estimate.
  • If the values are different then estimators giving highest and lowest values explain their opinions and why these chose this value, until final consensus is reached.
  • A good technique for small number of items in a small team
  • Till the final consensus is reached team will have complete clarity on the user story.
  • If the estimator doesn’t have any idea or couldn’t estimate can show (?) also.
  • If the user story is estimated as above 20 considered as Epic which needs further break down into smaller user stories.
  • Story point estimated as 4 story points is of double the effort, time and complexity then the story with 2 story points.

Planning Poker

A nice feature of story points is that each team defines them as they fit. One team decide them as an ideal day of work (i.e. a day without any interruptions whatsoever-no meetings, no email, no phone calls and so on.). Another team many define a story point as ideal week of work. Yet another team may define as a measure of complexity of the story. The most useful is estimating by complexity. For This we use one reference story and on the basis of that we estimate other user stories. Suppose if the user story is 5 points then and If any user story looks big or complex then reference story we estimate as 8 or more story points and if it looks less complex, we may estimate it as 3 or below story points.

A Story Point is a relative unit of measure, decided upon and used by individual Scrum teams, to provide broad brush relative estimates of effort for completing requirements stated in User Stories 

Story points further used to calculate the velocity of the sprint which is very helpful to predict the release dates.

Attendees: Development team, Scrum Master and Product Owner

When: At the beginning of the sprint.

Duration: Approx 4 hours for a 2-week iteration

Purpose: Product owner comes with the prioritized backlog and then the Scrum Team plans the items they are going to deliver in the Sprint and the way they will deliver them, estimate them, break into tasks. The team can ask questions to the product owner about the user stories if they didn’t understand properly.

I feel there is always an opportunity to improve. A retrospective is an opportunity for the team to inspect and create a plan to be enacted from the next sprint.

Retrospection is held after sprint review and just before the new sprint starts.

This is will be a 1-hour meeting for a 2 weeks sprint, will extend in case of 4 weeks sprint.

Scrum Master is the facilitator of this meeting and he should make sure Product Owner and entire team should attend this meeting.

During the Retrospective team discusses about the 3 things:

1) What went well in the sprint?

2) What could be improved?

3) What we should stop doing?

Scrum Master can ask everyone in the team to write at least 1 answer to each question an

after that they can be discussed with the team. This is the opportunity for each team member to speak up and raise their voice against any decisions or issues.

Once we brainstormed the initial ideas, team will vote for any high priority item to be focussed on during the sprint.

A typical sprint retrospective model

Situation: When there are a lot of issues (Maintenance project or Ticketing project) from the field and the current project is team is handling both the things (current project and field issues) which methodology best suits.?

So, in my opinion the answer will be Scrumban (Scrum+Kanban) approach. Because here requirements are changing so frequently which is hampering the current project and sprint.

Scrumban is specially designed for project that requires frequent maintenance, having unexpected user stories and programming errors. Using these approaches, the team’s workflow is guided in a way that allows minimum completion time for each user story or programming error.

As in this approach we will not take up new task until the high priority task has reached the deploy state.

Few tips for selecting the process are:

  1. Integrate workflows with a task list for better transparency. -Kanban
  2. Scrum for continuously devotion to projects
  3. Visualization of workflow-Kanban
  4. Intense human collaboration and feedback-Scrum.

During the daily Scrum meeting one question should be about impediments, if any team member has any impediments, they should bring it in front of team and team try to find out the solution. Most of the cases team will only figure out the solution but sometimes it is beyond the ability of the team then Scrum Master prime responsibility to listen, understand and remove the impediments.

Recurring impediments should be dealt in retrospectives where team brainstorm and try to find out the root cause of the problem and discuss about the solution.

Having no impediment is itself a big impediment.

Scrum defines only 3 roles-Scrum Master, Product owner and Development Team.

Scrum Master:

  1. Removes the obstacles/impediments that impact productivity.
  2. Shields the people from external disturbance.
  3. Responsible if the scrum process is correctly applied .
  4. Facilitate daily stand ups,other ceremonies ,schedule meetings,demo and other meetings
  5. Help product owner in prioritizing the backlog and any feedback from the team.

Product Owner:

  1. Ensuring that the Team understands items in the Product Backlog to the level needed to start the sprint or the development process.
  2. Responsible for prioritizing the backlog.
  3. Collaboration with stakeholders and customers.
  4. Develop Release plan and release dates.
  5. Provides vision to the team.

Development Team:

  1. The team is self-organizing and cross functional. The team consists of Developers, testers, Devops, Architects, Tech leads, Analysts, Designers etc. Scrum team works closely with each other to build the product incrementally, maximizing feedback opportunities, build with good quality. Incremental deliveries of a product ensure working product is always ready at each increment.

Product Backlog:

  • High level feature descriptions are gathers early but they are minimally described at that time and are progressively refined as the project progresses.
  • It is a list of all desired functionality not yet in the product.
  • It is maintained by the product owner and kept in priority order which is why it is also called as prioritized feature list.
  • Unlike the traditional requirements a product backlog is highly dynamic, items are added, removed and reprioritized each sprint as it progresses and team learn more about product, the users and so on.
  • Changes in business requirements, market conditions, or technology, cause changes in the Product Backlog, making it a live artifact.
  • High ordered items are clearer than low ordered items.
  • More precise estimates are made based on the greater clarity and increased detail.

Sprint Backlog:

  • Sprint Backlog consists of selected items from the product backlog which has complete details and clarity of requirements and on top priority.
  • Sprint Backlog is a forecast by the team that what all functionalities will be made available in the current sprint.
  • The team modifies the sprint backlog as the sprint progresses which helps in tracking the sprint. Modifications includes tasking out the user stories.
  • Whenever some task is completed it is moved to completed and when all the tasks related to one user story reached completion (Definition of Done) state then after sprint review this user story is moved to completion.
  • Sprint Backlog depicts the real time picture which team decided to accomplish in a sprint and it is completely owned by the team.

Product Backlog

Scrumban means combination of Scrum and Kanban methodology.

Scrumban is specially designed for project that requires frequent maintenance, having unexpected user stories and programming errors. Using these approaches, the team’s workflow is guided in a way that allows minimum completion time for each user story or programming error.

As in this approach we will not take up new task until the high priority task has reached the deploy state.

The below board depicts the above situation.

What is Scrumban and Kanban

Let us compare Kanban and Scrum Approach.

Scrum
Kanban
More perspective
Less
Limit your (WIP) PER ITERATION
Limit your WIP (PER WORKFLOW)
Prescribe Roles like: Product owner, Scrum Master
No such prescribed roles.
Scrum resists change within an iteration
Free to add any task in “To do”
Scrum board is reset after each iteration
Not necessarily done as focus is on to finish one task completely and then remove.
Scrum prescribes cross functional teams
Team can set the ground rules as who can change/own the board, experiment and optimize
Scrum backlog items must fit into a sprint
No such rule but Kanban focus on minimizing lead time and level the flow.

In SCRUM, the team meets daily preferably in the morning time when a day starts and this meeting is called daily scrum. This is strictly time-boxed to 15 minutes. This keeps the discussion brisk and relevant. All team members are required to attend the meeting.

Scrum master is optional for the daily stand up.

This meeting should not be considered as a problem-solving meeting. Issues that are raised must be taken as offline right after scrum meetings with specific groups of people.

During the daily scrum each team member should answer the following 3 questions:

What did you do yesterday?

What will you do today?

Are there any impediments in your way?

By focusing on what each person accomplished yesterday and will accomplish today, the team gains an excellent understanding of what work has been done and what work remains. The daily scrum meeting is not a status update meeting in which a manager is collecting information about who is behind schedule. Rather, it is a meeting in which team members make commitments to each other. By this meeting, the team gets an idea about where the sprint is heading towards...Behind the schedule or ahead.

Velocity is a measure of work done by the team in a sprint. It is calculated at the end of the sprint by calculating total story points finished in that sprint.

For example – If the team finished 20 story points in a sprint then the velocity is 20.

It is a key feedback mechanism for the team. It is also a key metric in Scrum.

It is recommended that stories which are incomplete or unfinished the credit to the points should not be given.

Velocity should be tracked throughout the sprint on the Sprint Burn Down chart and should be visible to all the team members. In case of the burn down is not proper Scrum Master and Product Owner can discuss with the team after daily stand up.

With velocity, the product owner can figure out how many sprints this product will the team takes to deliver the desired functionality and is ready to be shipped. Depending on the length of the sprint he can fix the release date of the product.

For an example, if the velocity of the team is 20 story points and total points estimated in the product backlog is 100 then the team is estimated to finish it in 5 iterations (2-week iteration then 10 weeks), in this way it helps in release planning.

It also facilitates how many stories can be finished in one sprint. Most of the sprint velocity keeps on oscillating but average velocity of past 3 sprints is a good measure.

Explain what velocity in scrum is and how it is measured

Below table clearly defines when to use Scrum.

When to use SCRUM
When to use Waterfall (Traditional Method)
Scope not clearly defined.
Scope is clearly defined upfront
Requirements changes frequently
Requirements are well defined
Project is complex and unpredictable
Project is simple and predictable
Incremental results have value and can be used by users (Production)
Product cannot be used unless it reached its milestone
Customer Available
Customer may or may not be there.

There are three different ways of estimating velocity.

  • First, we can have historical averages if we have them. But before using this average whether there have been significant changes in the team, the nature of the project, the technology, team, etc.
  • Second, we can run a few iterations until we finalize on stable velocity (Pilot project).
  • Third, we can forecast velocity by breaking a few stories into tasks and seeing how much it will take to complete an iteration. This process is very similar to iteration planning.

As this is the velocity of the first sprint so that will be rough estimate by the team based on the current knowledge on hand. They are just forecast not set in stone in any way.

Do not take this value as a commitment as this is just an estimate.

After 3-4 sprints team is mature enough to decide on the story points needs to be taken into consideration for the sprint, so even if we go wrong in the first sprint, next 3-4 sprint will give us correct data on velocity.

As shown in the figure below the average velocity is 30.5.

average Velocity

Progress on Scrum project can be tracked by means of a Release burndown chart.

The vertical axis shows the number of story points remaining on the project. Iterations are shown across the horizontal axis. A release burndown chart shows the amount of work remaining at the start of each iteration. This becomes a powerful visual indicator of how quickly a team is moving toward its goal. In the below chart the work is expected to be completed in 7 iterations with 120 story points. First 3 iterations the schedule is behind maybe work has been added or re-estimating of few stories. Then the work is on track and after that, the team made good progress and completed the work.

The burndown chart is an essential part of any agile project and is a way for the team to clearly see what is happening and how progress is being made during each sprint.

Release Burndown chart

This Bar graph shown below is also commonly used to plan release planning.

The Sprint duration should be short enough in order to keep the team focused and also, to keep the business risk acceptable to the Product Owner. Ideally, the sprint length can be short enough to be able to synchronize the development work with other business events. The Scrum guide limits the Sprint length to 1 month but there is no official lower limit. So, 1 week can be often accepted as the shortest sprint duration. So, you can find the length that is best for your team in between 1 week - 1 month.

The Daily Scrum is for the people transforming the Product Backlog items into an Increment. Only the people that are building the product should be present at the Daily Scrum. The Scrum Master enforces the rule that only Development Team members participate in the Daily Scrum to share information with each other that can help them to understand how to organize the work among the team members in a better way to meet the Sprint Goal.

There is no such thing as Sprint 0. It is not a valid Sprint from Scrum timeboxed events. "Sprint 0" has become a phrase misused to describe the planning that occurs prior to the first sprint like refining product backlog, architecture envisioning, prioritizing and release planning etc. This term is confused with the term  "Release 0". It is ideal to talk about Release 0 as opposed to Sprint 0.

The development team can participate in the product backlog refinement anytime during the sprint. Product Backlog refinement is a continuous process in which the development team and the product owner collaborate anytime needed during the Sprint on the details of Product Backlog items. PBR is required in each and every Sprint to refine items to be ready for future Sprints. The Scrum team decides when and how refinement is done.

The Development Team and the Product Owner are responsible for product backlog refinement. During a product backlog refinement meeting, the product owner and the development team communicate and decide the top items on the product backlog. The team can raise queries during the sprint planning session if they find any unresolved issue. The Product Owner and team can discuss with the Stakeholders to find out “what” they want and “why” they want. Once if they are clear with the user needs then they can go for the cross-checking with teams.

Deliver an increment of releasable software, and develop and deliver at least one piece of functionality. The heart of Scrum is a Sprint, a time-box of one month or less during which a "Done", useable, and potentially releasable product Increment is created. This applies to every Sprint. The first Sprint conducted by the development team plays a key role in the Scrum. It also focuses on estimating the availability of the team, selecting the items from the product backlog, and final thoughts. During the first sprint, the development team delivers an increment of releasable software. They also Develop and deliver at least one piece of functionality.

The next sprint begins immediately after the conclusion of the previous Sprint. A sprint begins with Sprint planning meeting and concludes with Sprint Retro. In general, planning for the subsequent Sprint starts after the conclusion of the previous sprint. So, typically the plan for the next Sprint is fixed by the time the previous sprint ends. The actions from the retrospective and demo will go in the product backlog and can be prioritized in a future sprint.

This is the task of the Product Owner. The Product Owner is the sole person responsible for managing the Product Backlog, which includes that the Product Backlog is visible, transparent, and clear to all, and shows what the Scrum Team will work on next. The responsibility of achieving maximum business value for the project lies primarily with the Product Owner. The PO is also responsible for maintaining business justification for the project and articulating customer requirements. A PO represents the voice of the customer.

The Development Team is responsible for managing the progress of work during a Sprint. The Development team is comprised of professionals who work in a Sprint and deliver a potentially releasable product at the end of each Sprint. These increments are created by only the members of the Development team. The Development Team uses the Daily Scrum to inspect a progress toward the Sprint Goal and to inspect how progress is trending towards completing the work in the Sprint Backlog.

Inspection, Transparency, Adaptation. Scrum is founded on empirical process control theory or empiricism. Empiricism asserts that knowledge comes from experience and making decisions based on what is known. The three pillars uphold every implementation of empirical process control are transparency, inspection, and adaptation.

The Product Owner actively asks for stakeholder’s input and expectations to process into the Product Backlog. The Product Owner represents the Stakeholders to the Scrum Team, which includes representing their desired requirements in the form of Product Backlog. The Product Owner has the final call over the Product Backlog.

Scrum is a framework within which complex products in complex environments are developed. Scrum is not a process or a technique for building products; rather, it is a framework within which you can employ various processes and techniques. Scrum Framework is applied to the complex projects in complex environments. If a Scrum team adheres to the Scrum practices, it will help in developing the best quality product within a specified timeframe.

The length of a daily Scrum is fixed at 15 minutes for the development team to a create plan for the next 24 hours and synchronize activities, it does not change with the length of a Sprint. This optimizes team performance and collaboration by analyzing the work since the last Daily Scrum and predicting the forthcoming Sprint work. This Daily Scrum meeting is conducted at the same place and time each day to minimize complexity.

Ideally, it is 3-9. Scrum says team size of 6+ or -3 is the Scrum guide recommendation. Optimal Development Team size is small enough to remain nimble and large enough to complete significant work. Fewer than three Development Team members decrease interaction and results in smaller productivity gains. More than nine members simply require too much coordination.

Development team, product owner, scrum master. The Scrum Team consists of a Product Owner, the Development Team, and a Scrum Master. As the Scrum teams are cross-functional, the development team includes designers, ops engineers, and testers in addition to developers. Each of the Scrum roles has defined a set of responsibilities and they can complete a project successfully only if they accomplish these responsibilities, closely work and interact together.

The Product Owner is responsible for maximizing the value of the product and the work of the Development Team. He/she is the voice of the customer. PO determines the scope of a product and release dates. The PO can attend all the meetings to keep track of the team’s progress. If there are any changes that need to be done, it will be implemented immediately. The product owner wishes that the team will be able to achieve its goal with the timetable.

When the timebox expires.The duration of a Sprint is fixed and cannot be shortened or lengthened. For example, if all the items of a Sprint are not done, the Sprint is still marked as over and the remaining items are moved to the product backlog from where it can be scheduled to any of the following sprint based on the revised priority. Similarly, if all the items of a Sprint are done before time, the dev team is free to pick top PBIs and start working on it.

It is when the Scrum Team and stakeholders inspect the outcome of a Sprint and figure out what to do next. Every event in Scrum, besides the Sprint which is a container for the other events, is an opportunity to Inspect and Adapt. A Sprint Review is conducted at the end of the Sprint to inspect the increment and adapt the product backlog if required. During this, the Scrum Team and Stakeholders collaborate about what was done in the Sprint and figure out any changes to be done to the product backlog during the Sprint to optimize value. Typically, this meeting is a form of the demo of the new features.

Whatever is deemed most appropriate by the Product Owner.The Product Owner decides what makes the most sense to optimize the value of the work being done by the Development Team. The product backlog is ordered based on the value provided to the business. The value may be affected by various other factors like complexity, criticality, and risk but are not the direct basis for calculating the value. The item value being delivered is calculated by the product owner and he/she is responsible for ordering the product backlog.

Consistency reduces complexity. The purpose of the Daily Scrum meeting is to carry out communication between the team members. The Scrum meeting is timeboxed to 15 minutes irrespective of the team-size and is held at the same time and place each day to reduce complexity. Also, it is usually held in the morning time when maximum team members gather to plan work for the day.

The ability to turn the Product Backlog items it selects into an increment of potentially releasable product functionality. The Development Team consists of professionals who do the work of delivering a potentially releasable Increment of "Done" product at the end of each Sprint. The Development Teams are cross-functional teams, with all of the necessary skills as a team to create a product Increment.

To support the Product Owner with insights and information into high-value product and system capabilities and to support the Scrum Master to cause organizational change that fosters empiricism, self-organization, bottom-up intelligence, and intelligent release of the software. Management has no active role in actual product development through Scrum. However, management external to the Scrum team is incredibly important in setting the vision and strategy to guide the overall process to the team for developing a product in the organization.

It means the event can take no more than a maximum amount of time. Time-boxed events are events that have a maximum defined duration. For Example- Daily Scrum meeting is one of the timeboxed ceremonies in the Scrum. This event is timeboxed for 15 minutes (not more than that) and usually held at the same time and place each day. Also, it is usually held at the morning time when maximum team members gather to plan work for the whole day.

The Product Owner. The Product Owner is the sole person responsible for managing the Product Backlog. The PO prioritizes the product backlog during the Sprint Planning meeting for the team members. The PO keeps a vision of the product to build and convey that vision to the Scrum team. Also, the role of the PO is to motivate the team towards achieving a project goal.

8 hours for a monthly Sprint. For shorter Sprints, it is usually shorter. Each Sprint begins with the Sprint Planning meeting. Sprint Planning is time-boxed to a maximum of eight hours for a one-month Sprint. For shorter Sprints, the event is usually shorter. For example- for a two-week sprint, the Sprint Planning meeting can be of 4-hours.

As needed, while taking into account a short-term reduction in Productivity. Teams typically go through some steps before achieving a state of increased performance. Changing membership typically reduces cohesion, affecting the performance and productivity in the short term.

No. Scrum does not have a defined role called “project manager”. A Scrum Team has a Scrum Master, a Product Owner, and a Development Team. As a whole, they have all the controls needed. The project manager role doesn’t exist in a Scrum environment, but the core responsibilities of a project manager do exist like the responsibility of date, scope, budget etc. Many of the responsibilities of a traditional project manager are fulfilled by these roles. So, there is no specific role called project manager when using Scrum.

The primary purpose of a Sprint is to produce a done increment of working product. The heart of Scrum is a Sprint, a time-box of one month or less during which a "Done", usable, and potentially releasable product Increment is created. The more “Done” the increment is, the more useful the feedback that is gathered will be. If something is 99% done, and only 1% work is remaining - it is still NOT DONE, and it has to be added back to the product backlog and re-estimated during the next sprint.

4 hours for a monthly Sprint. For shorter Sprints, it is usually shorter. Sprint Review is a four-hour time-boxed meeting for one-month Sprints. For shorter Sprints, the event is usually shorter.

Sprint Review is held at the end of each sprint. The scrum team shows what they achieved during the sprint in the retrospective meeting. Typically, the sprint review should not take more than one hour per week of sprint duration. It means a 30-day sprint would result in four-hour time-boxed sprint review. Similarly, two-hour review for two weeks sprint. Finally, the length of your sprint review depends on the length of your sprint.

They collaborate often so the Product Owner can make informed decisions in balancing effort and value of Product Backlog items. They also collaborate so the Development Team builds Increments keeping end-user and Stakeholder concerns in mind. The Product owner clearly expresses Product Backlog items, ensuring the Development Team understands items in the Product Backlog to the level needed for developing them and creating the value the Product Owner envisions. The scope may be re-negotiated if the effort grows much higher than anticipated.

The Product Owner is responsible for maximizing the value of the product. The Product Owner is the sole person responsible for managing the Product Backlog. The PO prioritizes the product backlog during the Sprint Planning meeting for the team members. The PO keeps a vision of the product to build and convey that vision to the Scrum team. Also, the role of the PO is to motivate the team towards achieving a project goal.

The Product Backlog is an ordered list of everything that might be needed in the product and is the single source of requirements for any changes to be made to the product. It is a living artifact of product requirements that exists and evolves as long as a product exists. The Product Backlog evolves as the product and the environment in which it will be used evolves. Higher ordered Product Backlog items are usually clearer and more detailed than lower ordered ones. As long as a product exists, its Product Backlog also exists.

The Product Owner creates and sustains a product backlog that maximizes value and represents the needs of the stakeholders. The PO is also responsible for maximizing the value of the product and the work of the Development Team. The primary tool to do so is the Product Backlog. The Product Owner is the sole person responsible for managing the Product Backlog. The PO prioritizes the product backlog during the Sprint Planning meeting for the team members. The PO keeps a vision of the product to build and convey that vision to the Scrum team. Also, the role of the PO is to motivate the team towards achieving a project goal.

Through the frequent delivery of Increments of the product into the market. The Product Owner manages Product Backlog against the assumption that value will be generated. This assumption remains invalidated when not checked against users and market. When a Sprint's horizon is too long, you increase the risk that what is being developed may no longer be desired. Sprints limit risk to one calendar month or less of work.

Technical debt causes a greater percentage of the product's budget to be spent on maintenance of the product. The velocity at which new functionality can be created is reduced when you have technical debt.

Within the Sprint, the Development Team makes the best decisions possible to assure progress toward the Sprint Goal, realigning with the Product Owner once he/she is available again. In a permanent state of unavailability, a new Product Owner needs to be appointed. Development efforts without a Product Owner are not employing Scrum.

Yes, it can start. The first Sprint requires no more than a Product Owner, a team, and enough ideas to potentially complete a full Sprint. It is not mandatory that the Product Owner should be ready with the complete and exhaustive Product Backlog for starting a first Sprint.

The Development Team. As a collective, they have a complete view of the work needed to transform Product Backlog items into Increments of product. The Product Owner is the sole person responsible for managing the Product Backlog. The PO prioritizes the product backlog during the Sprint Planning meeting for the team members. But, it is the Development Team who is responsible for all the estimates. The people who perform the tasks make the final estimate.

At any time when done by the Product Owner or at the Product Owner's discretion. The Product Backlog is dynamic; it constantly changes to identify what the product needs in order to be appropriate, competitive, and useful. Product Backlog items can be updated at any time by the Product Owner or at the Product Owner's discretion.

Based on the value of the items. Scrum Guide uses the term ‘ordered’ instead of ‘prioritized’ for the Product Backlog. The Product Backlog Items are ordered based on the value of the items. For this, the Development team discusses the PBI ordering with the Product Owner. In the end, the Development team has to has to order the items according to their relative importance to each other.

Yes. The Scrum guide recommends that the development team size should be between 3 and 9. We can change the team members as needed while taking into account the short-term reduction in productivity. If we add more team members according to the project requirements or if we subtract the team members, in the end, the Development team has to meet the Sprint goal.

As much as needs to be Done based on the definition of Done. The Sprint Backlog consists of a set of items that deliver the product increment. It is the Development team members that decide what functionality should be included in the next increment. The Scrum Team defines “Done” at the end of the project and would not consider that the end-product is completed unless it matches with the definition of “Done”.

Yes. The Development Team should be cross-functional, capable of completing the Sprint Backlog items based on the definition of “Done”. Not every kind of delivery is acceptable in Scrum, it should be “potentially releasable Increments of the final product of the project”, to help the stakeholders to give feedback.

There are five time-boxed events in Scrum: Sprint, Sprint Planning, Sprint Review, Sprint Retrospective, and Daily Scrum. The Scrum Backlog consists of a list of all the things that need to be done within the project. The Scrum Backlog is maintained all the way through the project.

3 hours. The duration of the Sprint Retrospective meeting varies depending on the sprint length. For a one-week sprint, the meeting should last about one hour; for a two-week sprint, two hours. Teams running four-week sprints should allow three hours for this meeting. Sprint Retrospective is a time-box of 3 hours for a one month Sprint. It’s usually shorter when the Sprints are set shorter.

The main responsibility of the Product Owner is maximizing the value of the project by creating, clearing, and ordering the Product Backlog. The Product Owner is the sole person responsible for managing the Product Backlog. The PO prioritizes the product backlog during the Sprint Planning meeting for the team members. The PO keeps a vision of the product to build and convey that vision to the Scrum team. Also, the role of the PO is to motivate the team towards achieving a project goal.

No. The Sprint Backlog is the representation of the tasks that are drawn from the product backlog to achieve the Sprint goal by the development team.  During the Sprint Planning, the development team sets an objective which is called as a Sprint goal. Only the development team can make changes to the Sprint Backlog as they own it. None changes can be made without the authorization of the development team members.

Every event in Scrum, besides the Sprint which is a container for the other events, is an opportunity to inspect and adapt. Sometimes, Sprint is referred to as just a time frame. It is not an event like Scrum Planning, Scrum Review, Scrum Retrospective, and Daily Scrum.

Empiricism. Empiricism asserts that knowledge comes from experience and making decisions based on what is known. Scrum employs an iterative, incremental approach to optimize predictability and control risk. Transparency, Inspection, and Adaptation are the three pillars that uphold every implementation of the empirical process control.

Scrum does not order when and how to release the product increment. The product owner decides whether to actually release the product or not once the increment is usable and meets the Scrum Team’s Definition of Done. Each increment should be released possibly with no work left undone. This implies that the product owner should be in a position to release a delivered increment instantly and with no further dependency on the development team.

It means that the team must have all the competencies to meet Sprint Goal as per definition of “Done”. Cross-functional teams can be inspected as a team of cross-functional members with domain and functional expertise. For instance, if one is declining a sprint cycle, then members with stronger skills in a cross-functional team can connect and work with other team members to finish the sprint on time. Cross-functional teams are more productive than teams with the same skilled individuals working on related projects.

The value of the product backlog lies in transparency that permits the team members to know what work needs to be done in order to produce a minimum viable product (MVP). Value is an estimated value based on assumptions. It has also to be validated by releasing the increment to the customers. Scrum facilitates early validation.

Scrum Team together negotiates and reaches an agreement. They may use Velocity as a standard to calculate how much work they can take. Product Owner optimizes the teams work by keeping the Product backlog ordered. Only, the Development team can finalize how many Product backlog Items it can complete in the Sprint. The decision of finalizing the number of product backlog items is made by the Scrum team together. They collaboratively negotiate and reaches an agreement.

The Scrum team. The scrum team which includes PO, Scrum Master, and the development team decides the sprint length. The team during retrospective will inspect and adapt on the sprint length and arrive at an agreement. The scrum master acts as a facilitator to help the team arrive at an agreement and he/she will come in only when the team is unable to decide and helps to set the sprint length. Once decided, the duration of sprint usually remains the same throughout the project.

Sprint backlog.Team members are expected to update the sprint backlog at least once a day during the scrum sprint as new information is available. Most of the scrum teams will do this during the Daily Scrum. Scrum master estimates the amount of work remaining in the sprint each day and graphs the sprint burndown chart. The sprint backlog is a plan with ample detail that changes in development can be understood in the Daily Scrum.

They do not play an active role within Scrum, they influence it through other means. Product Owner makes a decision based on the inputs received.

It only lays out the initial known and best understood requirements. The product backlog is a living artifact that evolves and constantly changes to identify what the product needs to be appropriate, useful and competitive. A well-prioritized product backlog not just makes iteration and release planning easier but also reports all the things that the team plans to spend time on, as it should be transparent for both the development team and the stakeholders.

Yes, and it may capture probable backlog items for next Sprint, but the scope of next Sprint is deferred until Sprint Planning. In Scrum, each sprint delivers a potentially shippable product increment at the end of each Sprint. In Scrum, every Scrum event is an opportunity to Inspect and Adapt. In Sprint Review, inspecting the product Increment provides insight and clarity. This newly improved knowledge is used to adapt the next steps i.e. find out what to do next.

There are many product development frameworks that embody the Agile Manifesto values and Principles from the more well known to specific, bespoke frameworks in a single organisation.  The more well-known frameworks and what they contribute to the Agile movement overall are:

The APF is the only Agile framework to include advice and processes specifically about product development governance; aspects such as Product Vision, Objectives, expected Benefits, Business Case, management structure and communication plans.

Other Agile frameworks do not go into these details because they believe that organisations already have governance processes in place; for those organisations that do, the processes are not usually suitable for use in an Agile environment.

Similarly, the APF includes the most information about the processes required to release increments of the product into the live environment.

One of the APF phases, ‘Evolutionary Development’,  can be replaced with other Agile frameworks such as Scrum, Kanban or Lean Software Development.

  • Kanban – the Kanban framework evolved from the visual board that represents product development flow from the Toyota Production System; in Japanese the word is ‘kanban’ with a small ‘k’; the Kanban framework is usually spelt with a capital ’K’.

David Anderson developed the Kanban framework from the concept of a kanban adding required process management aspects.

The values that Kanban brings to the Agile community are:

  • It can be introduced simply into an existing process; the existing process changes from a continual series of ‘Inspect and Adapt’ sessions; there is no need for a large cultural change up-front.
  • It introduces the concept of the ‘kanban board’ that shows product development flow through the development stages; sometimes known as a ‘Story Board’, ‘Sprint Board’ or ‘Team Board’.

XP focusses on software development techniques and as such contributes the following to the Agile community:

  • User Stories – To avoid ‘Requirements Specifications’, early XP practitioners developed User Stories to define ‘requirements’ on 5x8 cards: 

“As a {role name}

I need to {name of business process}

So that {business reason for the business process need}

  • Pair Programming – ‘No line of code is written without 2 people looking at it’.  

This does not double the cost of software development because the reduction in rework needed when using pair programming more than compensates for the apparent extra cost.

TDD is concerned with Unit Tests; other testing, such as system, integration and user testing is carried out much as the same as in any other framework.

Just as with Pair Programming, above, the quality increase of first-pass coding dramatically reduces any necessary rework.

  • Continuous Integration (CI) – With CI a complete build of the parts of the product so far built is done often, sometimes as often as when the source code for each new piece of functionality is checked-in to the source code repository.

CI allows for any integration errors being found as soon as practicable and they are fixed before further development continues.

  • Refactoring – is a technique where the working source code for an object-oriented method/function is split into smaller, very focused and re-useable methods/functions.

Although there are significant costs to refactoring during the product development, the cost of the product maintenance is significantly reduced because the source code is easier to read.

There are not many implementations of XP in the world but, as you are probably aware, the above techniques developed by XP practitioners are used by practitioners in many other Agile frameworks.

The concepts embodied in the LSD Principles can be used to enhance Agile Values and Principles:

Sprint is a time-boxed event that is for a fixed duration of time to allow the SCRUM team to focus on delivering value to the customer by solving important problems. During this time, Scrum team follows SCRUM values and Agile principles and makes sure the team continues to make sustainable progress over a period of time aligned with planned value. Sprint can be of any duration from 1 week to 6 weeks but the most ideal duration is 2 to 4 weeks.

Once a sprint duration is finalized, then it remains unchanged for the current release.

Mandatory Attendees: Development team, Scrum Master and Product Owner

Optional Attendees: Project Stakeholders

When should review be done: The most common answer is to have review/demo at the end of the sprint. However, that works if the amount of user stories to be reviewed is small enough. For complex projects, where the stakes are high, it is recommended to have a regular cadence of review every week for the finished user stories. This reduces risk and allows the developer enough time to make corrections, if something is not found right in the review. For example, It is fine to have a regular cadence of doing technical reviews every Tuesday at 3 PM and Demo of finished stories every Thursday at 11 AM in the morning. If there is nothing to be reviewed or demoed then that meeting can be cancelled.

Duration: 45-60 minutes

Here you are considered as Product Owner. Product Owner should be easily approachable and most likely to be sitting at the same place where the team is located [collocation]. This will increase the collaboration between team and product owner and reduce a great amount of time in clearing team doubts about user stories.

He should be very transparent with respect to goals, aspirations and discussions.

  • Location: A Product Owner should meet the team very often and in a very respectful and transparent manner.
  • Issue discovery: When the  team discovers any issue then they should immediately inform the Product Owner to take the necessary decisions. Therefore, a PO is an empowered person who can handle these situations diligently instead of cribbing or shouting on the team.
  • Requirement Change: In such cases, PO should transparently talk to the team to explain the business need of this change and how it will help the customer. Needless to say, this discussion will need to be backed up with a correct business justification, value generation, time estimates and see if it fits the current sprint or not.
  • Motivation with realistic asks: It is important to remember that commitment towards amount of work in a sprint is a Scrum team’s area of ownership. No one can force Scrum team to pick up more than they can deliver but a PO should try to motivate the team by showing them how they can improve their velocity or value generated. PO can also pitch in while prioritization discussions to help take up important asks first. 
  • Communicating Vision: PO should regularly communicate their vision of providing value to the customer and how the user stories will help achieve those to scrum team. It helps them get aligned with the vision and become part of your journey.
  • Meetings: PO should be part of sprint planning, backlog grooming, sprint review, sprint retrospective meetings for sure. Regarding Daily scrum, their presence is not mandatory because they can refer to the Information radiators to see if the value is being generated.  If a PO wants to attend daily scrum meeting then they are welcome to do so but should be in a passive mode.

Ideally, this should not be the case because the Product Owner and Scrum Master always attend the daily scrum meetings and monitor the information radiators to check the health of the sprint. So the probability of something like this happening is low.

Still if it happens then it should be discussed, reviewed and taken up for discussion in sprint retrospective meetings to understand the root cause and fix for this.

In a short term, the entire Scrum team consisting of PO, Scrum master and development team will need to take a call on whether to keep the functionality as it is or discard it and come back to what was agreed at the beginning of the sprint.

PO is responsible for making sure the releases and sprints align with the product roadmap and business case over a period of time. So as part of those responsibilities, the PO regularly:

  1. Groom product backlog
  2. Communicates and clarifies the vision to the team
  3. Involving the right people
  4. Work closely with Team, Scrum Master, Stakeholder and marketing team.

In order to make sure the product reaches the state where everyone wants it to be, the PO needs to be totally in sync with customer expectations, team progress, and roadmap.

Agile clearly states that PO, Business, Stakeholders and development team should be in close coordination for the entire duration of the project, sprint, and release. So the scenario mentioned here is not possible and should be discouraged at all costs.

In exceptional cases, where PO is indisposed and is unavailable then Project manager, Scrum Master, team should come together to make sure the vision and roadmap is not disturbed and progress continues in the planned manner.

Impediments are obstacles or issues that comes in between the path of the scrum team due to which their speed slow down or they are not able to move forward with their work. Scrum Master should be primarily responsible for handling this situation. If something is trying to block the work of the Scrum team from moving the state from “In Progress” to “Done” state is an impediment.

Impediments may come in any form, few examples are:

  1. Dependency issues with other teams.
  2. Organizational and Business issues.
  3. A team is not trained on the Scrum Process.
  4. Technical Debt.
  5. Unplanned work
  6. Lack of skill and knowledge.
  7. Resource management.
  8. Lack of management support.
  9. External issues- natural calamity etc.
  10. No clarity in requirements.

This question is intended to check if you clearly know where each item lines up. Agile is a framework, a way of doing things. Whereas Scrum is a methodology i.e. a method to do Agile. Similarly, there are many more methodologies in the market, such as Lean, Kanban, Xtreme Programming, Crystal Clear.

The main qualities a Scrum master should possess are:

  1. Responsible
  2. Humble
  3. Collaborative
  4. Committed
  5. Influential
  6. Knowledgeable

The prime responsibilities of a Scrum Master are:

  1. Removes the obstacles/impediments that affect productivity.
  2. Shields the people from external disturbance.
  3. Responsible if the scrum process is correctly applied.
  4. Facilitate daily stand-ups, other ceremonies, schedule meetings, demo and other meetings.
  5. Help product owner in prioritizing the backlog and any feedback from the team.
  6. Facilitation of Retrospective meetings
  7. Workshops for planning, estimation, prioritization, issue resolution, performance improvements

Artifacts are the documents that are used in Scrum. They not only document the progress made so far in the sprint but also serve as a guide for upcoming milestones.

Scrum Artifacts are: Product backlog, Scrum backlog, incremental product, definition of done, information radiators.

Product backlog is collection of all work items that need to get done over a period of time or before project closure. These are items that entered after discussion with customers and end users. Just because an item is in backlog, does not mean it will get done for sure. It has to be backed with good value and the right cost.

Sprint Backlog is the list of work items that are subset of product backlog and are taken up by Scrum team for a given sprint. This is a tentative commitment by team to deliver by end of sprint. Again, having an entry in sprint backlog does not guarantee its success or completion.

Incremental Product: The piece of working software that is delivered at the end of sprint and gets merged to the existing main product and hence, providing incremental value to the customer continuously is the incremental product. This is considered as artifact in Scrum

Yes, Scrum is an Agile Framework. Other agile methodologies are Kanban, XP (Extreme Engineering, Lean thinking).
This same question can also be asked to you as “Do you know any other methodology apart from Scrum?”

This question is intended to check your grasp on the concepts of Agile and Waterfall.

Yes, there are scenarios where using Waterfall is more recommended over Scrum. The most common scenario is when the requirements, design, and timelines are well defined. Then you do not need any product discovery or iterations. You simply do waterfall in such cases and deliver the product.

Similarly, if you have been assigned a complex project of a large scale where nothing is known; not even the boundaries of the project then it is recommended to proceed with waterfall and as things become clearer along the way then you should implement Scrum for those small pieces. So in the end, you will have several scrum projects running under a waterfall program.

A sort of hybrid model.

Many times. Especially when the team is new and they are figuring their way out in the project. Share the experience where you have helped unblock your team but make sure your answer includes the following aspects:

  • How you found out about the issue or the roadblock. Most often, this gets noticed during daily scrum meetings and through information radiators.
  • Then elaborate on how you dug deeper to understand the root cause of the issue. So talk about techniques such as 5-Whys and Fishbone diagram
  • Then talk about how you leveraged your soft skills and knowledge of Agile to connect with stakeholders to get things moving or getting the problem resolved. For example: you might have reached out to someone, or used your negotiation skills etc.
  • Then talk about the solution that you got

For example: 
The team was consistently reporting since last 2 days that their test automation status was 50% and they were doing the investigation for failures. So on the 2nd day, I asked details about the failures and using the 5-why technique, I drilled down to the fact that it had to do something with the build that was released on day before yesterday. So I reached out to the build team and helped establish connect with my team. Using my negotiation skills, we leveraged the use of our automation to save their build time and in return, they would prioritize the fixes our team needs. So we were able to resolve the issue next day and going forward my team worked directly with the build team because I enabled them.

If you have done any certifications then do list them out. <<insert links for KnowledgeHut Trainings registration>>

Important point to note here is that Scrum master does not manage the team [unless they are playing the role of manager also]. Scrum master most often leads the team. So you can clarify this point with the interviewer and then explain about your past experiences where you led more than 1 team.

SCRUM, one of the "Agile Methodologies", is a well-defined set of guidelines that govern the development process of a product, from its design stages to its completion.

Product owner first creates list of user stories along with acceptance criteria. This is akin to requirement description stage in Waterfall model. In Agile, this list is known as product backlog. So PO, does update the proposed value of the stories that will help us in right prioritization.

  1. During sprint planning team pulls the necessary user stories from the sprint backlog, do estimation, and decide on how much work needs to be pulled.
  2. The duration of the sprint is generally 2-3 weeks to complete its defined work for one sprint, but team meets daily (Daily Scrum) to assess its progress.
  3. Along the way Scrum Master keeps them focused on a single goal.
  4. At the end of the sprint, the work should be in potentially shippable-all quality metrics completed and ready to hand it over to the customer.
  5. The sprint ends with a sprint review and retrospection.
  6. After this, the next cycle or sprint begins and the cycle continues till all of the requirements of the product backlog completed.

Scrum is an iterative model of product/project delivery. The only difference is that at the end of sprint, we also deliver an incremental product. Other than that there is no difference. You should note this question is to test your knowledge of concepts.

For example:

It would be wrong to choose anyone of them. Because they together give the best value. Using iterative model, you can get feedback incorporated in your project delivery and hence, provide better value for money to the customer. Whereas incremental delivery allows you to ship consistently at a regular sustainable pace.

Choosing one at the cost of another is not a great idea. So Agile tries to merge both models into one.

However, still if the interviewer forces you to choose then say, if the requirements, timelines, designs are very well known and clearly articulated without any confusion then incremental is better. Because iterative model helps in product discovery in case of ambiguity.

The ideal size of the team is 5 to 9 as per the Scrum guide (excluding Scrum Master and PO). If Scrum Master is also a developer, include him on the team. Collaboration is difficult if the team size is more. A key benefit of five to nine-member team is that communication and management are typically simple and require minimal effort. If the team size is less than 5 than my opinion is that we will not be able to cover all the skill set which is required to fulfil the demand of the project magic figure of 5 to 9 came after long research by Mike Cohn and beautifully explained with “2 Pizza teams.” Book -Succeeding with Agile.

Time boxing concept is aligned to make best use of time and remove unwanted distractions by making the team more focused. It is like packing a suitcase where you have fixed amount of space and you try to fit in as much as possible or required for your travel.

So in time boxing, the tasks are broken up in fixed sizes and team works on them. Since the time is fixed, so there is increased focus of the team to make the best use of time.

To get the best value from time boxing, try to have a reasonable time box window that is neither too harsh nor too lenient.

Requirements are expressed in the form of user stories in Agile. Every feature request is aligned in the form of 3-4 user stories that can be completed over a period of time. Each user story contains certain aspects of the functionality and hence, several requirements. Ideally, when 1 user story gets broken down further, it leads to 10-12 requirements or tasks.

Acceptance criteria of the user stories is a way of telling how the stories will be evaluated and certified upon completion. Complete collection of user stories is a product backlog that is continuously groomed and maintained by the Product owner.

Product backlog gets prioritized and estimated as per release plans and hence, requirements get managed in a more emphatic manner in Agile.·         

Not any one individual is responsible for the deliverables. Deliverables cannot be achieved until and unless the whole teamwork collaborate. It is the entire Scrum team who owns deliverables.

Like other methodologies Scrum is also not suited for all types of projects. It is with due diligence this needs to be decided on project and situation basis.

Scrum is less formal and more flexible, due to this nature larger organizations have difficulty in adopting it as they are rigid in their policies and processes.

The problem mainly arises when the team does not understand either value of the process of Scrum and also not flexible enough to adapt change in requirements. Also without proper guidance and monitoring, this can be used as an excuse for delivering poor quality work

No, it cannot be and should not be. A thorough and detailed review should be done to check suitability. Check this blog for more details: 

https://www.knowledgehut.com/blog/agile/does-scrum-apply-to-all-types-of-projects

In case the scrum master is on planned vacations or out on some emergency, there is always a backup person who can pitch in. In their absence, the Scrum team is responsible to carry out the daily activities with full dedication and responsibilities. However, I have seen cases where another Scrum master have lend their time in the absence or PO or PM pitches in for some time.

In total there are 4 ceremonies. Planning, daily scrum, reviewing and demo, retrospective. If you are asking about some activities that take place before the planning then backlog grooming is also one such activity but that is an on-going activity. And done by PO primarily.

 This is important because:

  • It increases the efficiency of the team by reducing uncertainty and unknowns from user stories.
  • It helps weed out redundant and not required anymore type of scenarios
  • It helps adjust the estimates and priorities at the given point of time
  • Sprint planning becomes a matter of few minutes if backlog is groomed properly.

Scrum is not required where the goal and ask if the customer is small in scope and very straight forward. Similarly, if the scope of the project is huge and dependencies are not known and project is expected to run into years then the overall framework of the project should be traditional [waterfall] with small tracks in that project running in iterative mode.

Biggest advantage is the continuous value delivery to customer and hence, a clear message to the project team about whether they should continue in that path or not.

Minimum Viable product also known as Minimum Marketable feature is a criteria that helps the Scrum team know the bare minimum level they have to deliver before it will be accepted by the customer.

So the PO clearly outlines the MVP or MMF list and tries to target them in the first sprint itself, so that basic customer expectations can be met from sprint 1.

For example: consider a mobile phone company releasing the 1st version of their latest mobile phone that has all the features such as Artificial intelligence and wonderful aesthetics but is unable to make a phone call because that feature will be released later. Do you think you will buy that mobile phone?

No, right?

So for a mobile phone, ability to make a phone call is a MVP or MMF criteria.

A learning vehicle” ~ Eric Ries


The most commonly misunderstood term is MVP. Most people think it means the 

Product with minimum features and functionalities. But this is not true.

MVP means “A minimum viable product is one that already has sufficient attributes to allow you to test its value proposition and business model for which you intend to create when marketing it”.

MVP is the stage of development in which we sum up all the features, test it and deliver to the market to get the response from the market. So we are not investing too much money and effort, but just to get feedback from the customers so that we can inspect and adapt accordingly.

As Ries explains in Lean Startup, “It is not necessarily the smallest product imaginable, though; it is simply the fastest way to get through the Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop with the minimum amount of effort … Its goal is to test fundamental business hypotheses.”

Example-If we want to start a new Ethnic wear company, I could test my vision by making some sketches and stand in some malls or busy market place to get the feedback from customers. I can also put those images on the webpage and ask them to click if they like or any comments/feedback. Both the approaches will give me an idea of people mind about the wear which people has shown more interest. Accordingly, I can base (colour and design) my ethnic wear collection.

Read more in Product Discovery process in question Do you think Scrum adequately addresses the product discovery process.

With the help of statistics from the Chaos report of the Standish group, we can build upon the case that adopting Agile improves the success ratio of the projects. It helps timely delivery, cost control and building better products in a relevant amount of time.

Scrum Master’s job is to make sure the scrum is being followed and applied in a correct way.

Below are a few checkpoints where you can judge if the scrum process is correctly applied or not.

  1. Is team self-organized?
  2. Does the team understand the sprint goal and working towards it or they are working on individual goals?
  3. Does the team collaborate more and share their feedback openly?
  4. In the retrospection, are you getting any inputs from the team on where they need to improve?
  5. Is the team transparent in nature?
  6. Is the team working on inspect and adapt the model?
  7. Is the team mature enough to handle if there is a sudden change in requirement from the customer side?
  8. Is Definition of done followed whenever the user story is ready for review?
  9. Do we have information radiators available for everyone to see and review?
  10. Are there more face to face conversations or emails?
  11. Does team work in a Silo?
  12. Does the team work on an incremental and iterative model?
  13. Does the team think themselves as a Scrum team member, a developer or a tester? If yes, then as a scrum master you need to improve on that mindset?

Self-organizing is a very important concept in the Scrum framework. “The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams”, the Agile Manifesto states.

Self-organizing as the name suggests taking responsibility, showing ownership and having accountability. The team removes obstacles on its own without waiting for a manager or somebody else to come and tell them what to do. Teams choose the best way to do work (tools, technology etc.) and strive hard to accomplish their sprint goals rather than directed by managers from outside the team. They have the best skills, knowledge and abilities, which make them right and best, fit to take decisions on their own. Fail fast rather than at the end should be their working model. Experiment with approaches and learn from failures and continuously adjust and adapt. Sometimes self-organization is also called self-optimization.

This helps by:

  • Facilitating learning and growth within the team as they solve new challenges
  • Improving ownership of the product and hence the quality
  • Faster and on time delivery
  • Accountability and responsibility for tasks and features
  • Problem solving mindset that comes with the attitude of can do.

The question about “shall the team get involved” does not arise in Agile and Scrum because entire Scrum team gets involved in the product discovery process.

A spike is a duration of time included in the sprint planning to allow the team to explore new tasks, plan for next sprints, do research for new ways of solving a problem or even to collaborate to resolve blockers. The team can use this time to get trained on technical or softer aspects also. Having a spike in the schedule builds in the flexibility for the unknown issues that might crop up during the sprint execution.

Sprint 0 is a concept that team needs some time to settle down before delivering actual value to the customer from sprint 1. But it has been misused a lot lately as an excuse to put everything in place then go for sprints. So essentially, the misuse is like doing waterfall in Agile projects.

The correct way of doing sprint 0 is when the requirements are very vague that no user story can be started off or the technology is completely new for the team or the project is so complex that there needs to be a dedicated time for product discovery. In such cases, sprint 0 should be allowed where team resolves these issues and is not bound to deliver any value.

A good scrum team is first of all, a self-organizing team and an empowered team. What does this mean?

This means, the team:

  • Takes responsibility to continue making progress in spite of all blockers
  • Is fully accountable for the deliverables given to the customer
  • Tries to make sure they divide the work among themselves in a fair manner and they take up new tasks once they finish their tasks
  • Respects each other qualities and abilities and complement each other by picking up skills as per their strong areas
  • It is open while discussing issues and blockers and aims to solve problems rather than indulging in blame game or internal politics.

A scrum master enables this behavior by being a great coach and always following in what they themselves preach. Scrum values of Courage, focus, commitment, openness and respect become part of life and actions at all times. Other ways, a scrum master can enable this in the team is by:

  • Understanding team development process [bruce tuckman model]
  • Connecting with team member on their motivation level [maslow’s heirarchy of needs]
  • Enabling system thinking in the team
  • Usage of information radiators
  • Workshops
  • And most importantly, leading by example.

It is a tricky question. There is no specific answer to this question rather there are few questions that you should ask yourself to measure how mature your team is with respect to the Scrum process.

  • Is your team self-organized?
  • Is your customer satisfied with your deliveries?
  • How many field issues after installation of the software?
  • Is the software delivered on time?
  • What kind of behavioural improvement is seen after applying scrum process?
  • Are people transparent and sharing their feedback openly?
  • Are people ready to take feedback from the customers and ready for any continuous improvement?
  • Is the cycle time improving as you progress in scrum?
  • Do you have a predictable delivery or velocity?
  • How did the scrum affect the speed of the delivery?
  • What kind of outcomes you are able to predict because of Scrum?

It is not compulsory to measure each and every point but the interviewer is expecting you to give him a few examples to measure. The customer value and speed of delivery are the two pillars of maturity in your process.

Scrum is best suited for all organizations of any shape or size. Small organizations are most suited to take an advantage of the Agile methodology because they do not have inertia and long processes to hold them back or initiate a change. So small organizations can adopt Agile and Scrum faster.

User story is a story about a user and their experience with a particular feature of the product. As a result, user story is a representation of a requirement in a story form as expected by the end customer. 

In order to create a user story, the technique of “As a ___, I want___ so that I can ___.” Is best suited.

Because it covers the role of the user, actions they want to perform and what expectations they have with the results of those actions.

Once we have the user story available then INVEST Principle can be used to review it.

Example: As a user, I want to login to the screen so that I can book the tickets.

The test for determining whether or not a story is well understood and ready for the team to begin working on it is the INVEST acronym:

I – Independent

N – Negotiable

V – Valuable

E – Estimable

S – Small

T – Testable

The major difference between Sprint and iteration are:

  1. Sprint is used for time boxed duration for project delivery in Scrum
  2. Iteration is a generic term that is used to define any iterative process to create the increment, get it reviewed, release it, take feedback and start the next iteration
  3. When it comes to official terms, then xTreme programming calls them iterations and Scrum calls them sprints.

Advanced

  There are many lists of coaching techniques; the following is fairly a fairly comprehensive list but exhaustive:

  • The 5-minute pre-session Check-In – Let your clients complete a short questionnaire before each coaching session. This helps both you and your clients to recognize their progress and success since the last session.  You’ll find out if there were roadblocks and what they’ve been struggling with. It shows you what bothers them most at the moment and what they want to focus on during their next session.
  • Use the SMART goal setting technique in your coaching – SMART goal setting stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Based.

This technique brings a clear structure into goals.  Each goal or milestone comes with clear and verifiable elements instead of vague resolutions.  The broad goal of “I want to grow my business” will be described in much more detailed and action-oriented steps by the client. The SMART goal could be: “I will win five new clients for my business this month by asking for referrals, creating two useful blog articles and social media networking”. 

  • Let clients write down and share the gold nuggets after each session – Encourage your clients to share their gold nuggets from each session with you; it leaves them with a clear picture of how much value they received from your coaching. 

It’s easy to help them get going with just a few simple questions like: “What was the most valuable takeaway from this session?”. This coaching technique helps you to find out the client’s “A-ha” moments and to avoid misunderstandings. 

If all these notes are organized in a shared stream that is accessible to both you and the client you can reread and recap these nuggets any time at later stages during the process.

  • Ask open-ended questions – Open-ended questions allow your clients to include more information, including feelings, attitudes, and understanding of the subject. This allows the coach to better access the clients’ true thoughts and feelings on the topic. 
  • Use the power of writing – Writing down plans and goals is the first step towards making them a reality. It commits your clients to act, especially when they are shared and recorded with someone else (like with you – their coach). 

Writing enhances your client’s power of observation and focuses during a change or development process. 

A study with two groups has shown that people who write down goals and make a weekly progress report achieved their goals at a rate of 76%, whereas the participants of the group who didn’t write anything down achieved their goals at a rate of only 36%. 

  • Be fully present and focused – Take two minutes for yourself and breathe calmly before each session.  Once your meeting has started, try to avoid distractions and give your clients undivided attention. Show your genuine interest and that you really care. This may sound self-evident but is an important step toward building trust and a meaningful coaching relationship.
  • Follow-Up with the client – Use regular questionnaires where clients share their progress, experiences, success or challenges they might be facing. 

This ongoing feedback as a follow-up between sessions is a perfect way to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the coaching. It shows your clients that you really care about their progress and gives them the feeling they’re not alone with their challenges.

  • The coaching journal of progress – A regular progress and reflection journal helps your clients to develop and gain self-awareness. 

A coaching journal is similar to the ongoing feedback described before. Your clients can write down their emotions, experiences, observations, challenges, success, thoughts, and feelings. They don’t have to wait until the next sessions which might be in a week or two but can share what’s on their mind right at the moment where it happens.

A shared journal gives your clients the feeling that you’re always there for them and “listening” without the need for your presence. They can write whenever they feel like it; at night, in the morning, during the day, at the train station on the way to their workplace or while waiting for the doctor.

A coaching journal gives them the ability to focus on themselves only without any time pressure or distractions. Once written down they can always reread and recap prior entries at a later stage of their process. Once these thoughts are shared with you you’ll gain invaluable information that will take your coaching and mentoring to the next level. 

  • Homework assignment to strengthen accountability – No matter if you call it homework, worksheet, questionnaire or action item. They all support the work you’ve been doing within a coaching session. They help clients to reflect, act and achieve necessary milestones towards their bigger goal. 

Homework helps to see if and how the plans from each session are being applied; it helps clients to keep the focus on their plans, ideas, and goals.

  1. The GROW model – The GROW model is a simple method for goal setting and problem-solving in coaching. It includes 4 stages:
  2. G for Goal: The goal is what the client wants to accomplish. It should be defined as clearly as possible. You could combine it with the SMART method described earlier
  3. R for Reality: That is the status quo, where our client is right now.  The client describes his/her current situation and how far she is away from her goal
  4. O for Obstacles and Options: What are the obstacles (roadblocks) that keep your client from achieving the goal? Once these obstacles are identified you can find ways to overcome them – the options.
  5. W for Way forward: Once identified the options need to be converted into action steps that will take your client to accomplish his/her goal.
  6. A Shared To-Do list – The client commits to various action steps and plans during the coaching sessions.  Once they write down and share these ‘to-dos’ with you they actually put them into existence; they become like a contract between you and the client and strengthens their accountability. 

Another benefit is that both of you know what is getting done and what isn’t at any moment during the process. You immediately see where they procrastinate or struggle and when your support is needed.  The shared to-do list helps to set priorities, achieve milestones faster and keep track of the small wins during a coaching process.

  • “My goal is achieved” – It is a great thought experiment if you ask your client to exactly describe a perfect day once the desired goal is achieved. 

It shouldn’t be just a vague description but a whole day from start to finish:

  • How would he/she feel after waking up? 
  • What would he/she do? 
  • How would he/she feel? 

This technique will encourage the client to use his/her positive imagination and visualize what he/she truly desires. 

Afterward, you can work together to get the actual steps to that “miracle” where the goal is achieved.

  • Use every session to become a better coach – Every single session offers you the chance to become a better coach.  Take five minutes immediately after your client left and write down some thoughts; you can:
  • Track reactions to questions of a client
  • Think about methods and techniques you used in the session and how  they worked
  • Reflect upon the overall success of the session
  • Think about something you would do differently if you could “replay” the session?

This is a very common scenario seen in the projects which are using Scrum Approach. The team should always be prepared for that. But try to have a good conversation with the Product owner to not include in the current sprint and deferred to the next sprint. Changes in requirements sometimes taken as feedback from the customer so that the product can be improved. We should be ready to embrace this change.

As a tester, they should take the generic approach by writing the generic test cases (Login screen, user credentials). Till the requirements are stable, try to wait if you are planning to automate the test cases.

As a developer, the same approach can be used where chances of changes are minimal. Try to code using design patterns and oops concepts (Components or package independent of each other), so that change in one component makes minimal changes in another.

The selection of the iteration length should be guided by the following factors:

  • The length of the release being worked on.

It means that if the team is working towards a release which is three months away, one-month iteration will give only 2 opportunities to gather feedback which in most cases insufficient.

The general rule of thumb is that any project will benefit from at least 4-5 opportunities to get feedback. So, if a project overall duration is 5 months above then it is worth to consider 4-week iteration. Otherwise, 2-3 weeks iteration is a good choice.

  • The amount of uncertainty.

When there is a great amount of uncertainty about the work to be done then short iterations will allow to get more frequent feedback and built the correct product.

  • The ease of getting feedback.

Choose an iteration to maximize the value of feedback that can be received from inside and outside the organization.

  • How long priorities can remain unchanged.

If there are chances of change in priorities then it better to go for short iterations. If we are going with long iterations and there is some change in requirement then we need to wait for 4 weeks to implement them.

  • The overhead of iterating.

There is a cost associated with each iteration as each iteration should be fully regression tested. If this is costly, then the team may prefer 4-week duration

  • How soon a feeling of urgency is established.

As long as the end date of a project is far in the future, we don’t feel pressure and work leisurely. The point is not to put the team under more pressure. Rather, it is to take the total amount of stress they normally feel and distribute it evenly across a suitable long iteration.

There are still a few challenges which the Scrum team face during the development phase.

1. Non-availability of Product Owner at the site.

2. During the development, some field issues or high priority bugs come up.

3. Difficult to change the mindset of management from the traditional model to Agile.

4. Some development efforts don’t easily fit into a time-boxed sprint. Therefore, Scrum doesn’t work for me. This is a real problem. Several kinds of development resist being meaningfully squeezed into standard size sprints. Here’s a partial list:

  • New system architecture
  • New complex user interface design
  • Database ETL requiring extract, cleanse, transform, stage, and present data

5. Developers accustomed to working autonomously may find that Scrum is unnecessary and slows them down.

6. Distributed team-Communication is the core issue among distributed teams. Different time zones and conflicting working hours may impair overall effectiveness, and collaboration may be difficult in some cases.

Though there are so many challenges, there are ways to handle each and every situation and deliver a quality product with customer satisfaction.

Yes definitely there can be multiple teams for the same project. For example, the UI team, Service layer team, etc. The team can be feature teams or component teams and can be geographically distributed.

Scrum Master role is very challenging in this type of multi-team handling collaboration and coordination. The reason is the time gap between two different teams which makes it even more challenging.

But there are many ways by which it can be handled. There are 2 suggested frameworks available

  • LeSS-Large Scale Scrum

The idea is to manage the complexity of large-scale development with ease.

It recommends multiple teams with the same product owner with multiple sprint backlogs but with one product backlog.

Process-wise LeSS is same as that of scrum but with slight modification. Sprint planning is split into two parts. One planning consists of representatives from all the teams where the team decides about “WHAT” the Product Backlog items to be built in the next sprint. The second planning meeting will be done by the individual team about how the PBI needs to be built.

The end of the sprint should also be synchronized. The sprint review meeting should be held in common with all the business leaders and team and the stakeholders.

Similarly, retrospection can be a help in 2 parts. One which is common to all the whole project team and one with the individual team so that the focus can be on individual team issues and work towards them to resolve them.

  • SaFe- Scaled Agile framework.

Refer to interview questions Article? Question 17.

When to use which framework?

  1. When you need to coordinate with hundreds or thousands of people in a big organization. SaFe is the recommended framework.
  2. When the transition from the Component level team to feature level team is difficult.

SaFe makes it easy even to handle the component level team through RTE and Program Board.

How to coordinate?

Scrum of Scrums: This is one of the meetings which happens daily with all the scrum masters and chief Product Owner can facilitate it. It is the same as that of daily scrum but the focus is on a team level.

Each team sends out one member to participate and answer the following questions:

What did the team finish/achieved?

What does the team plan to finish today?

Are there any impediments? If yes how we can resolve them.

Common Retrospectives.

Common Sprint Planning

Common sprint reviews

Sprint Scheduling-All the teams can start and ends at the same time. But there can be a difference in that also. It makes our coordination and communication easyThey can also have 1-2 days gap in starting the next sprint which is good for product owner not to attend all the meetings

Sprint Scheduling

Effort Estimations: A very important aspect of Scrum Planning. In the case of the same technique of effort, estimation should be used like Planning poker, shirt size estimation, etc. If story points are used all teams have to agree on the same metric and a common scale to use.

Effort Estimations

Every team will go through 4 stages of group development which is Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing.

  • Forming- Most team members are new, polite and humble in this stage also the roles and responsibilities are not clear to the team.
  • Storming- This is a situation where there is a clash between a few team members due to their roles and responsibilities, their work or some other issues. Retrospection there will be a huge qiosk. Everybody has their own working style due to which there will be a conflict between many team members due to different sorts of reasons. This is where the team fails.
  • Norming- In this phase of development people start resolving their issues, differences and start appreciating their colleagues for the work. This is a very good stage as the team is moving towards the goal of self-organization.
  • Performing- In this phase, the development team has one sprint goal and they all work towards it, this is where hard work pays and the project is released with the best quality. It is easy to be part of such a team where any disruption will not alter their sprint goal.
  • The same is depicted in the figure below.

Performing

Ron Jeffries says: In Agile, the design must simply start simple and grow up. The way to do this is refactoring.

Refactoring refers to changing the structure but not the behavior of the code. For Example: Suppose in the code base we have two methods and each has 3 identical statements. These statements can be extracted from this code and put it into some new method and both these methods can call the new method. This refactoring slightly improves the readability and maintainability of the program as the duplicated code is moved to a new place. There are so many tools available with which you can run in your code base and it will help you in finding out the duplicity of code. In this way, the structure of the code is changed but not the behavior.

Refactoring is not only crucial to TDD but it also helps prevent code rot. Code rot is the typical syndrome in which a product is released its code is allowed to decay after a few years then an entire rewrite is required. By constantly refactoring and fixing small problems before they become big problems, we can keep our applications rot free.

When a refactoring opportunity is identified have a conversation with product owners and scrum master and get that added as part of a product backlog. At the end of 2-3-hour long programming session spend at least 20-30 minutes in cleaning up something you noticed as you were touching or looking at existing code.

Always discuss refactoring in your next retrospection inkling your product owner.

My suggestion is to include them as part of your sprint planning and all team members should collectively work on that.

This is one of the meetings which happens daily with all the scrum masters and chief Product Owner can facilitate it. It is the same as that of a daily scrum but the focus is on a team level.

Each team sends out one member to participate and answer the following questions:

What did the team finish/achieved?

What does the team plan to finish today?

Are there any impediments? If yes how we can resolve them.

What is the scrum of scrums

These charts help to keep track of the progress of the sprint. Burn up charts indicates the amount of work completed in the sprint and the burndown chart indicates the amount of work remaining in the sprint

The Product Owner determines the amount of remaining work and compares it to the remaining work of the previous Sprints and forecasts the completion date of the project.

In the Burn-Down chart, the vertical axis (remaining work) shows the amount of work (which is a sum of all the estimates for each item in the Product Backlog), and the horizontal axis shows the amount of time passed from the beginning of the project or the number of Sprints passed.

We usually add another line to present the uniform distribution of the volume of the work across the initially estimated number of sprints. This line acts as our planned progress and will be used to compare to our actual values.

burn down chart

Burn Down Chart

In the above chart, we can expect the project to be completed earlier than initially planned.

In the Burn-Up chart, the vertical axis is the amount of work and is measured in units or story points, and the horizontal axis is time, usually measured in days.

Each day you can see the amount of work completed and the total amount of work. The distance between the two lines is thus the amount of work remaining. When the two lines meet, the project will be complete. This is a powerful measure of how close you are to completion of the project.

Burn up

Bill Wake has given us the mnemonic INVEST which help us in writing a well-formed User Story.

Splitting a story is not an easy task.

Let us first discuss different techniques on how to split a user story.

Split by user roles-Administrators interact with the system in a different way than users. It a very good way of splitting the user stories by user roles.

Split by capabilities offered.-Capabilities example like sorting and searching. Further sorting and searching may further split into different user stories.

Split by user personas -Even in the same role, users interact with the system in various different ways. A handicapped person interacts in a different way, a casual user in a different way as he needs intuitive things, a power user needs lots of short cuts, etc.

Split by target device- User can interact with our system not only using a standard computer but also using mobile, ipad etc.So this is also a good way of splitting a user story.

For detailed information check my blog below. 

How to Write A Well-Formed User Story 

Ideally, the team should immediately raise the issue to the Scrum Master as an impediment. Scrum Master is responsible to take care of these kinds of problems, or impediments that stop the dev team from achieving the Sprint Goal and facilitate a team’s optimum performance. But, it is the responsibility of the team to communicate with the Scrum Master about what impediments are obstructing them. This communication occurs every day in the daily Scrum and the main purpose of it is to raise any impediments and refine the plan to meet the Sprint Goal.

This typically happens when the Sprint Goal becomes obsolete. A Sprint can be cancelled before the Sprint time-box is over. A Sprint would be cancelled if the Sprint Goal becomes obsolete. This might occur if the company changes direction or if market or technology conditions change. The abnormal termination might also occur if the team gets into the Sprint partway and finds that the work is going to consume too much time than expected in sprint planning.

No. One product has one Product Backlog, regardless of how many teams are working on that project. It is easy for the Development teams to coordinate with other teams if one product backlog is followed throughout the project.

Never. All Sprint Backlog Items are "owned" by the entire Development Team, even though each one may be done by an individual development team member. Sprint Backlog and all of its items are collectively owned by the Development Team. No individual team member can claim ownership over an item as this would block communication and collaboration among the team members.

Without a new vocabulary as a reminder for the change, very little change may actually happen. Also, the organization may not understand what has changed with Scrum and the benefits of Scrum may be lost.

Scrum adoption is good, but this massive shift needs complete dedication. The organizations that are implementing the Scrum practices every day can be successful in Scrum adoption. If Scrum is implemented with all the team members on a daily basis can increase the collaboration and a quick product delivery. So, it is recommended to implement only Scrum methodology without clubbing any other methodology as it can be applied to any complex project and will meet the project deadlines within a timeline, making the customer happy!

It can change. The Sprint Backlog makes visible all of the work that the Development Team identifies as necessary to meet the Sprint Goal. The Development Team modifies the Sprint Backlog throughout the Sprint, and the Sprint Backlog emerges during the Sprint. If the work appears to be different than expected, the dev team collaborate with the PO to negotiate the scope of the Sprint Backlog within the Sprint and adds more PBIs related to the current Sprint if necessary.

All Development Teams must have a definition of "done" that makes their combined work potentially releasable. Each Scrum team consists of its own ‘Definition of Done’. Definition of Done defines the acceptance criteria across all User Stories. Scrum requires an Increment to be releasable. This is an Increment of product. Many teams working on a single product are expected to deliver the quality of work.

No. The product increment should be usable and releasable at the end of every Sprint, but it does not have to be released. In Scrum, it is not mandatory to release each increment without accepting the acceptance criteria. The developed increments should have a value according to the customer’s needs. In short, you can say that it should be usable and releasable at the end of every Sprint without releasing to the production.

Inform the Product Owner so he/she can work with the CEO. The items selected for a Sprint have been selected as most valuable with the Product Owner. The items serve the Sprint's goal. No changes should be made that endanger the Sprint Goal. No one external to the Scrum Team can force changes on the Development Team (Sprint Backlog) and the Product Owner (Product Backlog).

The Product Owner and the Development Team. During the Sprint, the scope may be clarified and renegotiated between the Product Owner and Development Team as more is learned. As issues emerge, changes can be made to the sprint backlog to accomplish the Sprint Goal. The Development Team will then re-negotiate with the Product Owner regarding the Sprint Backlog. Although the Sprint Goal is fixed during the Sprint, the Sprint Backlog is not.

No. The entire organization must always respect a Product Owner's decisions. For the Product Owner to succeed, the entire organization must respect his or her decisions. No one is allowed to tell the Development Team to work from a different set of requirements, and the Development Team isn't allowed to act on what anyone else says. The PO can remove the product backlog items if he/she feels that is not a high priority one. Anyone can add an item to the product backlog. But, it is the PO who decides what happens to the PBI.

Firstly, it assures the Increment reviewed at the Sprint review is usable so the Product Owner may choose to release it. Secondly, it creates transparency regarding progress within the Scrum Team. All Scrum Team members must have a shared understanding of what it means for work to  complete, to ensure transparency. This is the definition of "Done" for the Scrum Team and is used to assess when work is complete on the product Increment. The Increment reviewed at the Sprint Review must be usable, so a Product Owner may choose to immediately release it.

Re-work the selected Product Backlog items with the Development Team to meet the Sprint Goal. During the Sprint scope may be clarified and re-negotiated between the Product Owner and Development Team as more is learned. The development team looks to the product owner for product backlog, for alignment and direction on the delivery of value through the sprint goal achievement through the backlog implementation. The backlog can be changed to achieve the Sprint goal, but PO is responsible for value delivered through the implementation of backlog to achieve a sprint goal.

Release an Increment to the market to learn about the business assumptions built into the product. The Product Owner manages Product Backlog against the assumption that value will be generated. This assumption remains invalidated when not checked against users and market. The Product Owner drives iterative development from an exploratory attitude, aiming at incremental progress through continuing discovery and validated learning.

No. In Scrum, Product Owner takes care of the Product Value in order to generate, deliver, and maintain a successful product. Value is likely to vary across the products and organizations. The value of the product depends on the context of the product which you are developing.

There are no such pre-conditions. Sprint Planning serves to plan the work to be performed in the Sprint. This plan is created by the collaborative work of the entire Scrum Team. Sprint Planning is time-boxed to a maximum of eight hours for a one-month Sprint. What can be achieved in this time-box may be influenced by additional practices that are however not prescribed by Scrum.

No. A Product Owner engages actively and regularly with the Stakeholders. However, to limit the disturbance to the development progress and keep a focus of the Development team high, the key Stakeholders are allowed to take part only in the Sprint Review meeting. However, any Scrum team member can interact with them at any time.

By releasing often, and updating key performance indicators (KPIs) on value after every release and feeding this information back into work on the Product Backlog. Scrum Teams deliver products iteratively and incrementally, maximizing opportunities for feedback. If a product isn't released, the opportunity to capture user and market feedback is lost. By releasing every increment and updating the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) on value after every release can help to know the product built through Scrum is successful.

Whatever is the most appropriate for the Product Owner to achieve the product's goals and to optimize the value received. The Product Owner is responsible for ordering the items in the Product Backlog to best achieve goals and missions, thereby optimizing the value of the work the Development Team performs. How this is done, and what value means, may vary widely across the organizations.

The owner of a product is not only accountable for the development and release of a product, but also the cost of maintaining and operating the product. If a person 'owns' the product, he/she can be expected to be responsible for the complete lifecycle of a product.

It is a good practice, keeping in mind that market reception is the best measure of value. Indications of value on Product Backlog are useful but are only a prediction until validated against users and market.

No. Single members might handle most or all of the work of a particular Sprint Backlog item, but responsibility remains for the whole team. When each member of the Development team owns the Sprint Backlog items, the team will derail from the core-value of Agile which is nothing but the ‘Collaboration’.

Refer the representative to the Product Owner to discuss it. If the customer is asking for adding an item to an ongoing Sprint, adding it in collaboration with the Product Owner is the best-suited way to add any new item to the Sprint. Because adding a new item to the product backlog without asking the product owner may result in removing a transparency and undermining trust with the Product Owner.

Timeboxing is the process of allotting a fixed and maximum unit of time for an activity. That allotted unit of time is a timebox. The goal of timeboxing is to define and limit the amount of time dedicated to an activity. The time-box set for the Sprints should not be longer than one month and should be selected considering different factors such as the risk and delivery time.

15 minutes. The purpose of the Daily Scrum meeting is to carry out communication between the team members. The Scrum meeting is timeboxed to 15 minutes irrespective of the team-size and is held at the same time and place each day to reduce complexity. Also, it is usually held in the morning time when maximum team members gather to plan work for the day.

Product Owner.The Sprint can be called off before ending up the Sprint time-box. Only the Product Owner has the authority to cancel a Sprint. This happens when the Product Owner realizes that it makes no sense to finish the Sprint, as defined in Sprint Backlog. The PO may cancel the sprint under the influence of any Stakeholder, the development team, or the Scrum Master.

There should be one Product Backlog and one Product Owner. Many Scrum teams, each with a Scrum Master can pull work items from a single product backlog and the presence of the product owners depend on the number of product backlogs. A certain project should have only one Product Backlog and one Product Backlog should only have one Product Owner otherwise, it would be difficult to deliver the product.

One. Multiple Scrum teams, each with a Scrum Master can drag their work items from a single product backlog and the presence of the product owners depend on the number of product backlogs. A certain project should have only one Product Backlog and one Product Backlog should only have one Product Owner otherwise, it would be difficult to deliver the product.

The development team should ask the executive to work with the Product Owner. The product owner is the voice of the executives in the process of communicative discovery. How the feature is developed is up to the PO and the Scrum Team, and depends on the nature of the product under deployment and the availability of the stakeholders. The product owner represents the needs and desires of the executive to the development team and prioritizes their work that helps the team to do it in the right way.

No. The benefit of forming self-organizing teams is not that the team identifies some additional role within the scrum for its work that a manager has missed. Instead, it is that by enabling the team to self-organize, it is motivated to completely own the problem of performing the work at its best. In short, a self-organizing team is a group of motivated individuals who have the authority and ability to take decisions and adjusting to changing demands quickly and easily working together towards a goal.

The product owner only. A customer shouldn’t spend time detailing the product issues to the development team, this is the job of a product owner. The product owner is responsible for the project success and is finally responding to the customers, team and to the company. He/she is the voice of the customer to the development team and ensures that all channels of communication are open and that project has ample amount of support needed to succeed.

Yes, the length of the sprint can be changed but it should be fixed before starting the sprint. The product owner needs to ensure that the sprint is short enough to limit business risk and also short enough so that the team can synchronize their development work with other business events. Finalized Sprint length cannot be longer than 4 weeks (1 month).

The Development Team should it transparent that they cannot make a forecast with insufficient information, and negotiate with Product Owner on refining the stories to a Ready state. In scrum, each and every iteration starts with a sprint planning meeting. During this meeting, the PO and the team discuss which stories a team will handle that sprint. The Product Owner needs to help clarify the selected Product Backlog Items. Scrum Master can also coach the Product Owner on how to accomplish this viz. by having regular Backlog Refinement sessions. Later, the team can also discuss in Retrospective.

No. After developing a product increment at the end of each sprint, a Sprint Review meeting is held. The Sprint Review meeting provides a platform to the team members to show what they accomplished during the sprint. Scrum events are time-boxed to eliminate waste and reduce risks. The team needs to address the root causes and adhere to the time-box.

This indicates that the development team added new work. The line indicating effort remaining in the burndown graph varies from team to team and day to day. If more work items (user stories and issues) are added after the sprint started then this shows an upward spike. The spike indicates added work and the Product Owner cannot add new work to Sprint Backlog without the consent of the Team.

No. The Sprint Goal gives some flexibility to the Development Team. If the work turns out to be different than expected, the Development Team collaborates with the Product Owner to negotiate the scope of the Sprint Backlog within the Sprint. In that case, the development team discusses with the PO and reaches the conclusion.

 The development of the Scrum framework is not linear; different people did independent studies and experiments and gradually the ideas and concepts coalesced into what we know today as Scrum.

Probably the first publication that compared product development to the game of rugby, moving the scrum down the field, was the white paper “The New New Product Development Game” by Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka, published in the Harvard Business Review in January 1986.

In this whitepaper, the authors researched the product development methods of prominent and successful companies and concluded that, in the main, success relied upon:

  • Built-in instability
  • Self-organizing project teams
  • Overlapping development phases
  • “Multilearning” 
  • Subtle control
  • Organizational transfer of learning

They called such processes ‘Holistic Methods’ as opposed to the waterfall ‘sequential’ processes.

Some sources attribute the ‘invention’ of Scrum to Jeff Sutherland, John Scumniotales and Jeff McKenna in 1993 when they implemented Scrum at the Easel Corporation.

Independently, Ken Schwaber, as a software product development manager in the 1980s and early 1990s, recognised patterns of failure in many product development initiatives that used ‘waterfall’ approaches.

Ken tells the story that he approached a process engineering company, described the software development environment and ‘waterfall’ process; he was told that a ‘defined process’ such as ‘waterfall’ was very unlikely to succeed consistently in a software development environment; what is needed is an ‘empirical process’ that allows process change from feedback from short experiments.

You would need to ask Jeff or Ken how these 2 first came together to ‘compare notes’ but they collaborated to produce the first public presentation of Scrum at OOPSLA 1995.

There have been many other people involved with the development of the Scrum framework; people such as Jim Coplien and Mike Beedle.

Ken Schwaber and Mike Beedle published the first Scrum book, ‘Agile Software Development with Scrum’, in 2001.

The Inspect and Adapt process is important throughout the Sprint but especially during the ceremonies:

  • Sprint Planning – During Sprint Planning it is important to Inspect:
    • The comments from the previous Sprint Review to ascertain if any remedial work is needed and Adapt the expected velocity if needed
    • The Risk Log to determine if any significant mitigation actions are required for high risks in the Sprint and Adapt the expected velocity if needed
  • Daily Scrum – During the Daily Scrum it is important to Inspect the progress toward the Sprint Goal and if there are any concerns about the progress, consideration must be given to Adapting the current priorities, task assignments and/or work practices
  • Scrum Review – During the Scrum Review it is important to Inspect:
    • The increment produced to discover if any Adaptations (changes) are required and the priority of those Adaptations
    • The Product Backlog to determine if it needs to be Adapted in the light of any new PBI required, any PBI that can be removed and any reprioritization required
    • The Release Plan to determine whether it needs to be Adapted considering the experience gained so far during the Release development period
  • Scrum Retrospective – During the Scrum Retrospective it is important that the team Inspect:
    • What had gone well during the Sprint
    • What had not gone well during the Sprint

The results of these Inspections should lead the team in considering the Adaption of the process that they followed

The empirical process control theory asserts that knowledge comes from experience and making decisions based on what is known ie at defined points within an overall control process, teams must inspect what has happened and, from that experience, adapt the process to what will happen.

The Scrum framework is founded on empirical process control theory so the included ‘Transparency, Inspect and Adapt’ processes are indispensable.

  • Transparency

Scrum relies on transparency. Decisions to optimize value and control risk are made based on the perceived state of the artifacts. If the transparency of artifacts is incomplete, these decisions can be flawed, the value may diminish and risk may increase.

  • Inspection 

Scrum users must frequently inspect Scrum artifacts and progress toward a Sprint Goal to detect undesirable variances. Their inspection should not be so frequent that inspection gets in the way of the work. 

  • Adaptation 

If an inspector determines that one or more aspects of a process deviate outside acceptable limits and that the resulting product will be unacceptable, the process or the material being processed must be adjusted. An adjustment must be made as soon as possible to minimize further deviation. 

Transparency and Inspection are important in the Daily Scrums and Sprint Reviews.  Although Adaptation is mainly considered during the Sprint Retrospective, it should be considered at any time during the Sprint if the current process is significantly detrimental to the best value being achieved.

When problem-solving and idea creation is needed, for example when constructing the Product Backlog from a product Vision, Objectives and Expected Benefits, there are 2 strategies that are usually used, divergent and convergent thinking.

Divergent Thinking
The “divergent thinking” strategy used to solve problems is the proposal of multiple possible solutions then examining each to determine the solution that will work.

In a ‘problem solving’ workshop, the participants are asked for any ideas individually; writing on ‘sticky notes’ is a good idea.  The results are analyzed to see if there is any overlap and the participants agree on a single list of potential solutions.

Brainstorming and free writing are two processes that involve divergent thinking.

During the analysis of the potential solutions unexpected combinations may be made, information may be changed into unanticipated forms, connections among remote associates may be identified. In divergent thinking, a single question returns multiple answers and though the answers vary considerably depending on the workshop participants, all answers are of equal value; each proposed solution may not have existed before and therefore may be novel, unusual or surprising.

Eight elements of divergent thinking:

  • Complexity – The capacity to think of difficult, multi-layered or intricate products or ideas
  • Curiosity – The personality characteristic of asking questions, learning to get more knowledge/information about something and of being able to go deeper into ideas
  • Elaboration – The skill of adding to, building from or enhancing a product or an idea
  • Flexibility – The capability of creating different perceptions or categories from which a range of different ideas may be produced
  • Fluency – The skill of producing many ideas so as to have an increase in the number of potential solutions
  • Imagination – The capability of dreaming up or inventing novel products or ideas; to be original
  • Originality – The skill of coming up with fresh, unusual, unique, extremely different or completely new products or ideas
  • Risk-taking – The readiness to be courageous and adventuresome

Divergent thinking has been detected in people with personality characteristics such as curiosity, nonconformity, persistence, and readiness to take risks.

An extreme example of divergent thinking was when Twitter developed an online service that did not have any obvious practical application.  The company deployed a basic application to find out how people used it and, based on the findings, refined the application. Though launching something and finding out what the market for it is only after the launch doesn’t have to be a bullet-proof strategy (in most cases it is not), this worked for Twitter.

Convergent Thinking


Once the divergent thing ‘phase’ of the problem-solving session has been ‘completed’, the workshop participants use convergent thinking to bring together the different ideas to determine a single best solution.

The term “convergent thinking” was ‘created by Joy Paul Guilford. He came up with the term as an opposite term to “divergent thinking”.  

Convergent thinking needs speed, logic, and accuracy and relies on identifying the known, reapplying techniques and amassing stored information. 

A vital part of convergent thinking is that it produces one best answer; you either have a right answer or a wrong one.

An example of where convergent thinking would be used is when the problem is:

“If there are 3 potential outsourcing companies, which one do we choose?”

This would require listing all the criteria that the ‘buying’ company need from an outsourcing company and examining each to see which has the best ‘off-the-shelf’ fit or maybe which is open to negotiate to meet all the required criteria.

Summary

Divergent thinking is used to go from one stated problem to many potential solutions.

Convergent thinking is used to form multiple potential solutions to the correct one.

Making decisions in a group has its advantages and disadvantages; the main advantage is that there will be more information and data available by which to make the decision; the main disadvantage is that it can take a significant amount of time.

Let us consider first a jury for a trial.  The decision that they must make is ‘black and white’ or binary; is the defendant guilty or not guilty?

A jury session usually starts with a vote amongst the jurors, guilty or not guilty.  There follows a discussion between people on either side why they have the opinion that they have.  By this means, each juror hears opinions about pieces of evidence that they may have forgotten or dismissed and the relative importance of different pieces of evidence.

After a set time, another vote is taken to see in which direction the overall opinion is ‘going’.

It depends on whether a majority or unanimous verdict is required; if majority, once the requisite number of people all vote the same way, the decision is made; if unanimous, there is a danger that the longer the discussions go on, those in the minority will vote with the rest just to ‘get it over with’.

There is another decision that a jury can make, they cannot agree to the set majority or unanimous parameters and inform the judge.

But not all decisions are ‘black and white’, most represent a range of options that must be chosen from.  The following are the major recognized ways in which groups of people can come to a decision:

  • Consensus decision-making

  • At the start of the decision making ‘workshop’, some participants will have their own opinion of which way the decision should go usually based on their own or their ‘departments’ best interest.  However, the aim of the consensus process is to reach a decision in the best interest of the whole.
  • The first thing a facilitator must do is to establish the agreed boundaries of the possible decision spectrum; for an extreme example, if the decision is to be made about new products in a consumer product manufacturing organization, you wouldn’t expect the boundaries of the spectrum to include ‘Make a spacecraft’.  However, the facilitator must not allow the group to dismiss reasonable innovative ideas.
  • Much as in a jury, proponents or ‘champions’ of each possible solution put forward their reasons; others listen and ask direct questions to further understand the reasons from their own frame of reference.
  • In this way, the group opinion gravitates in one direction.  Eventually, those in the minority, unless vehemently opposed to the majority, agree to ‘let’s see how it goes and review later’.
  • Trying to reach consensus avoids "winners" and "losers". 
  • Voting-based methods
    Voting of some form will always form part of any decision-making process.  In all discussion-based decision-making, votes are solicited at regular intervals to get a ‘snapshot’ of the group’s opinions and to decide in which direction further discussion would be beneficial.

Let us see all the voting processes in detail that may be used:

  • Range voting – Each participant gives each option a score based on an agreed scale and the option with the highest average is chosen.
    This method has been shown to produce the highest participant satisfaction with the result compared to other common voting methods.
  • Majority – A majority requires support from more than 50% of the members of the group.  Thus, the bar for action is lower than with unanimity and a group of "losers" is implicit to this rule.
    Majority voting is not considered suitable for business group decision making unless a great deal of discussion has taken place beforehand.
  • ‘First past the post’ –  With ‘first past the post’, each participant votes for one option; the option that receives the greatest number of votes is taken as the decision.

The problem with this voting method is that the winning option may only be supported by a minority of the participants; it is unlikely that those in the majority will actively support the decision.

  • Delphi method 

This method is a structured communication technique for groups, originally developed for collaborative forecasting.  It involves ‘experts’ answering a series of questionnaires and after each questionnaire is completed, a facilitator presents anonymized results and the reasons for those results.  The idea is that each expert modifies their opinion based on the reasons and it is expected that the range of opinions becomes smaller and converges with the ‘best’ decision.

You can possibly see that Consensus decision making is a less structured version of Delphi; all workshop participants are experts in their own field, but their opinions are not anonymized.

  • Dotmocracy 

Using this method, participants are asked to place ‘sticky dots’ or use maker pens to indicate for which option they vote for.  The may be given one vote or a range, identified by colors, such as ‘I want this one’ (green), ‘I would be OK with this one’ (orange) and ‘I do not want this one’ (red).

There are different ways of using the results:

  • ‘First past the post’ – Like the description of this above, the decision to be adopted would not be the option that the majority voted for but also the option that the least number of participants that voted against it.
  • Removing ‘outliers’ – Options at either end of the ‘decision spectrum’ can be removed from consideration and further discussion can take place on a reduced set of options with further dotmocracy votes at intervals to remove other outliers.
  • The disadvantage of this way is that innovative options may be dismissed too early.

with many facilitation tools, facilitative listening is perhaps most useful when there is a chance that conflict may arise.  Facilitative listening is sometimes known as ‘active listening’ and is ultimately about making sure that all group participants are properly listening to each other.

The following are techniques to help with facilitative listening:

  • Paraphrasing

It may be that the listener does not totally understand the statements being made by someone:

  • The listener could ask the speaker to restate their argument using different words
  • The listener could state their understanding of the speaker’s words but in the listeners’ vocabulary

Both of these are examples of paraphrasing.

Part of your responsibility as a facilitator is to be aware of the listeners ‘body language’ and if you believe that one or more are not fully understanding what is being said, you could ask:

  • The speaker to paraphrase their statements
  • A listener to paraphrase their understanding and confirm with the speaker.
  • Mirroring

Workshops are set up for participants to express themselves but more than just space for expression is needed. If a participant speaks without a sense of being heard, they are likely to either ramp up their expression or else shut down neither of which is desirable for collaborative decision making. Mirroring requires that the speaker can feel that they have been listened to.

Mirroring may take a variety of forms:

  • After several people have spoken, a facilitator gives a summary of what has been said so far 
  • The facilitator can offer a direct paraphrasing back to someone who's just spoken, offering a restatement of the feelings and main points of what was said 
  • The facilitator or a workshop scribe can write key points onto a shared display that everyone present can view. 
  • After a general discussion, a synthesized statement may be drafted by one or a few people based on what was said

Mirroring may happen in the moment of a session or in after/between sessions as part of a longer, iterative process.

The effectiveness of Mirroring may be enhanced by checking with those reflected to see if the Mirroring was accurate.

Not all the Mirroring needs to be done by one central facilitator.  A facilitator can also invite others to participate in Mirroring, whether in the whole group or in pairs or small groups.

Mirroring summarizes the state of current knowledge.  Once what is now known is acknowledged, that naturally opens space for new ideas and creativity to emerge, whether for one participant in a meeting or for a group as a whole.

  • Making space

Participants in a decision-making workshop need to be focused especially when listening.  Therefore, they need a space where they will be comfortable and without distractions.

As a facilitator, ensure that the workshop space:

  • Has no external distractions; noise from roadworks, air-conditioning rattling, next to a noisy office etc
  • Is it a comfortable temperature
  • Has sufficient refreshment facilities available
  • Has enough space to accommodate the number of participants and ‘break-out’ sessions
  • Stacking

This technique to aid facilitative listening is called ‘Taking Stack’ and its purpose is to facilitate discussion and decision making in which all participants have equal say in a conversation.  Otherwise, in a structure-less setting, an individual or a small group of people could easily dominate and shut out other participants.

For this method, one group participant needs to fill the role of the Stack Keeper whose responsibility is to structure and order the dialogue of the decision-making process. 

“The Stack” is the order of participants who are speaking.  If a participant raises their hand to say something, the Stack Keeper puts them on “Stack”; their name is put at the bottom of stack list.  When the person at the top of Stack has finished speaking, the Stack Keeper crosses their names off and announces who the next two participants on the stack are. 

Thus, the Stack Keeper is the person responsible for identifying who speaks and when. The Stack Keeper must constantly be paying attention and looking around the room to see who wants to speak.

There are other hand gestures to indicate a request for more immediate contribution when someone else is speaking:

  • Direct Response


If a participant has a “direct response” to something that another group member said, they should make the hand motion shown in the picture (index fingers out, thumbs up, moving hands up and down in opposite directions). A “direct response” is only a correction to something that was incorrectly stated by another participant, an answer to a question that another participant had, or that is so important that it must be said at this moment.

The Stack Keeper allows this participant to state their response before the conversation goes on. 

Correct Usage: “You asked who volunteered to take over your shift? That was me.” OR “Actually, the store spent $100 dollars yesterday, not $1,000.”
Incorrect Usage: “I disagree with what you just said, because…” 

  • Clarifying Question

Any participant may make the hand gesture in the picture to indicate that they want to ask a “clarifying question.”  

The Stack Keeper allows them to ask their question before stack goes on. 

Correct Usage: “Wait, what were our expenses last week?”
Incorrect Usage: “How can you say that when you disagreed with Jeremy’s point?”

  • Point of Process


If a participant feels that the group discussion is not following the correct procedure or a discussion has gotten off topic, they may make this hand gesture and say out loud “Point of Process.” 

The Stack Keeper allows them to speak before the next person at the top of the stack. They must then say how they think the discussion has gotten off topic or is not following procedure. 

Example 1: “I’m not sure why we’re talking about shifts when the agenda says we’re supposed to be talking about salaries.”
Example 2: “There’s a proposal on the table, and I think we should resolve that before we move on to anything else.”

The coaching stance is what the Agile Coaching Institute (ACI) refers to as “the heart” of their Agile Coach Competency Framework.  The coaching stance is supposed to be the place you start from and return to.

The coaching stance elements highlighted are:

maintaining neutrality – do not judge peoples’ attitudes or actions; question them about the whys and how they think that they may improve things

serving the client’s agenda – do not approach a coaching situation with a set of pre-defined directions that you want the client to follow

reducing client dependence – introduce thinking and decision techniques that, once used by the client, they no longer need your services

not colluding – do not collude with the client to introduce attitudes and practices that would be detrimental to the organisation even if they believe that that is what they want

signature presence – bringing your best self to the coaching situation

Self-organising teams is one of the keys to Agile success but experienced developers who are used to working in a ‘command and control’ environment may find it difficult to adopt this Agile practice; they are used to being told what to do and sometime how to do it.

Instead of asking the Project Manager (PM) what to next, a developer needs to look at the Team Board and choose what to do next; instead of asking the PM how to do something, he/she should consult their peers on the development team; if no one knows, that is an impediment and the Team should discuss how to resolve the issue.  The Scrum Master, as the Risks and Issues Manager, can help the team decide how to resolve the problem but should not be expected to solve it for them.

The main coaching techniques that a Scrum Master can use to help the team become more self-organising are

Powerful Questions – are used by a coach to extract more details about a problem or situation; making the inquirers articulate their answer often organises their thoughts so that they start to answer their own questions.

Powerful Questions are open questions ie they cannot have a yes or no answer; they usually start with ‘who’, ‘why’, ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘how’ or ‘where’; they may also start with statements such as ‘Tell me about …’.

Reflecting a statement back to an individual can help prompt further exploration; for example, “You said you were worried about the quality of the product so far … tell me more”. 

For more information about Powerful Questions, see Coaching with NLP.

Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose – One way for a Scrum Master to help with self-organisation is to look at the Team members’ motivation.  People who rely on outside influences for their motivation, so-called extrinsic motivation, are far less effective than those that are self-motivating, so-called intrinsic motivation.

To foster the intrinsic motivation, we need to examine the following aspects of individuals and the Team:

Autonomy – We all have an inner-drive to satisfy our psychological needs; if what we are told what to do is not satisfying our inner drive, then we become demotivated.

Giving individuals and teams more control of what to do, when and how to do it, motivates them more.

Also, if individual Team members identify with their team (their tribe) the team becomes more autonomous and self-directing.

Mastery – Do not expect individuals or Teams to master Scrum straight out of the training course.  Mastery comes from small steps from what they know now to the goal of Mastery; you possibly know of the problems associated with ‘big-bang’ implementations; the same is true with ‘big-bang’ Mastery.

As a Scrum Master you should discover what the Team members know now and ask them to have a go at something small but significant in Scrum and give them the space and time to experiment on their own to work out how to do it.

Most people want to do better; by helping individuals and Teams toward Mastery leads to greater Team self-organisation.

Purpose – People and Teams who understand and buy-in to why they are doing their work are much more motivated than those who come to work just to pay the bills and do not care about the work.

Whenever possible, involve the Team in the early stages of product development; let them hear the discussions about forming the Product Vision and Objectives; let them have an input to the Product Backlog ordering.

For more about Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose see Drive by David Pink and Intrinsic Motivation by Richard Ryan and Edward Deci

Active Listening – To help you gain trust with individuals and Teams, as a Scrum Master you need to use Active Listening techniques to show that you care, understand and are prepared to help them.  The following are the techniques that some coaches use; there are others:

Pay Attention

Give the speaker your undivided attention and show that you are hearing the message; your non-verbal communication, body language, can help the speaker feel comfortable.

  • Look directly at the speaker
  • Do not be distracted by other thoughts
  • Do not mentally prepare a response to one thing the speaker has said; you will not be listening to what he/she is saying now
  • Observe your own and the speaker's body language
  •  Show That You're Listening

Use your own body language and gestures to show that you are engaged.

  • Nod occasionally
  • Smile
  • Make your posture open and interested
  • Encourage the speaker to continue with small verbal comments like yes and OK
  • Provide Feedback

Your own assumptions, judgments, and beliefs can ‘distort’ what you hear.  As a listener, your role is to understand what is being said; this may that you have to ask questions to clarify what is being said.

  • Paraphrase what has been said; for example, "What I'm hearing is... " or "Sounds like you are saying... "
  • Ask questions to clarify certain points; for example, "What do you mean when you say... " or "Is this what you mean?"
  • Summarize the speaker's comments periodically.
  •  Defer Judgement
  • Interrupting a speaker is a waste of time; it is frustrating for the speaker and reduces understanding of the message.
  • Ask the speaker if he/she has finished a point and if it is OK to ask a question at this time Respond Appropriately
  • Do not ‘attack’ the speaker; show respect and understanding of the speaker’s position. You are gaining information and perspective. 
  • Be candid, open and honest in your response
  • Assert your opinions respectfully.

There are many challenges facing self-organising teams which can be grouped into the following categories:

Organisational inertia.  In organisations that have been around for some time, the way that things are done have become habits; many supervisor and management personnel are reluctant to change from fear of their job changing significantly or disappearing altogether

Individual Team members’ inertia.  Individual Team members may have fears about:

  • having to learn new techniques
  • accepting greater responsibility
  • learning to cooperate with other team members more
  • taking on activities outside of their specialist skills

A Scrum Master must be aware of these potential challenges to self-organisation, look for signs of them and help both the organisation and Teams to overcome them.

Below are 3 typical challenges faced by teams and the possible help that a Scrum Master can give:

Bad Forecast:  In the early stages of an Agile transformation, the Teams may be asked to estimate using Story Points, relative estimating, instead of the conventional task estimates that they have been used to.  This technique requires practice to become proficient and early attempts may result in the forecast at Sprint Planning for Product Backlog Items (PBI) to be attempted being significantly in error, generally, Teams tend to under-estimate.  This may demotivate some Team members and make them question the use of the new technique.

Solution: During the early Sprints, at the daily Scrums, the Team will realise that their progress toward the agreed Sprint Goal is slower than they would like.  As a Scrum Master, you should ask the Team if there is anything they can do to improve progress; some changes could improve progress.  

However, the time to address the underlying problem to do with estimating is during the Sprint Retrospective when the estimates for each Sprint Plan PBI should be compared to ‘actuals’ to see if there was any common reason for the estimates being inaccurate or if there were one or two ‘one-off’ estimating mistakes.

If there was a common or systemic reason for inadequate estimates, the Team must re-estimate the Product Backlog in the light of the new evidence; if the errors were due to ‘one-off’ inaccuracies, the Team should re-estimate similar User Stories in the Product Backlog.

Emphasise with the Team that nobody is expecting ‘perfection’ straight away; the importance is that they take time to learn from their experience and apply that learning going forward.

Technical Debt:  We build products incrementally; ‘only do today what you need to do today’.  It is probable in later increments that some code that worked for a previous increment no longer works for the current increment so the code is changed.  Over time a single method in the code may have had several ‘patches’ applied to it so that becomes difficult to read and restructure when further ‘patches are needed; this may cause de-motivation in some Team Members and even cause arguments between them about the state of the code.

The programmers aim is for ‘clean’ and simple code but the temptation is to produce something that works now without considering future maintenance needs.  The fact that the resulting code may not be ‘clean’ and simple is known as Technical Debt.

Solution:  Resolving Technical Debt costs time and money; the longer you leave the resolution, the more time and money it costs to resolve.

There are 3 suggested solutions that a Scrum Master can encourage the Team to adopt to address potential Technical Debt problems:

Definition of Done (DoD):  Ask the Team to add an item to the DoD to ensure all new or changed code is peer reviewed to ensure that the structure is ‘clean’ and any potentially reusable code fragments are refactored to their own method.

Do not let the Team wait until the end of the Sprint to do the code reviews, have them do it once the programmer believes that he/she has finished.  In this way, there is the shortest time between ‘finished’ and any refactoring that may be needed.

Pair-Programming:  The idea of two programmers working side-by-side to develop one function may seem counter-intuitive; it would cost twice as much to produce the code.  However, in the medium to long-term, Technical Debt may be reduced or even eliminated when one programmer is looking on and offering advice to the programmer at the keyboard.

Test-Driven Development (TDD): 

With TDD, no line of production code is written before a test has been written to test it, the test is run and is expected to fail.  Only enough production code is written to pass the test. See Test-Driven Development.

Practicing TDD does require an Integrated Development Environment that supports it and to be successful, all programmers must have the discipline to use it.

Initially, some programmers may be reluctant to use it because of the perceived extra work; however, when they see that the maintenance effort is reduced by more than the extra initial work, they come to accept the practice.

Team Member Leaves:  Each Team member has a list of responsibilities and capabilities including their own specialisation, DoD checking and contributing to work outside of their specialisation.

The Scrum Master should keep a list of all these responsibilities and capabilities so that when a Team member leaves the Team for some reason, the remaining members can distribute the leavers responsibilities and capabilities amongst themselves.

If it is not possible for any of the remaining Team members to take on any required responsibility or a required capability is not available, the Scrum Master must raise this as an issue with the Product Owner and management; a Team member training may be the resolution to the issue or an additional Team member may be introduced to the Team.  In the latter case, the Scrum Master should monitor how the ‘new’ Team are managing their self-organisation.
See also Self-organizing teams – Challenges and Strategies.

Even good self-organising teams can face challenges with Retrospectives in how they are run and addressing issues that they discover.

The following are some of the most commonly experienced challenges with their suggested solutions:

Apathy:  After a while, some Team members may consider that the Retrospective is a waste of time:

They have already discussed problems that are out of their control to resolve

They have improved their process as best they can

Solutions:

The Team must devise a plan to attempt to resolve ‘external’ problems probably involving the Scrum Master as the Risks and Issues Manager

Although there may be parts of their process that are working ‘OK’, the Team should devise experiments to innovatively change some parts and review the changes at the next Retrospective

Boring:  If all Retrospectives follow the same ‘sit around a table and discuss’ format, they will quickly become boring.  

Solution:  The Retrospective facilitator should change the format of the Retrospectives by using ‘games’ to elicit required information from the group; see Fun Retrospectives and Agile Retrospectives Ideas: Games For Your Next Retrospective for more ideas than a Retrospective facilitator could possibly use

All Talk, No Action:  During early transformation Retrospectives, the Team are likely to come up with many impediments; the list may seem daunting and the thought of discussing them all is de-motivating.  Also, although the impediments may be discussed and understood by all, there is no plan to resolve any of them

Solution: 

Timebox the discovery of impediments.  The Team members will, hopefully, only come up with their most important impediments

Treat the Impediments or Blocks List like a Product Backlog

Before discussing any impediment, get the Team to order them in terms of Team importance

Discuss only the top 2 or 3 impediments and produce plans to try to resolve them

Every 2 or 3 days during the next Sprint, get the Team to state how the plans are going

The first item for the next Retrospective should be to discuss the result of the plans; removing the impediment if it has been resolved or putting it back onto the Impediments List for consideration with the rest of the un-resolved and un-discussed impediments.

 Generally:

  • Working groups consist of individuals with specialist skills who take their direction of from a supervisor or manager to produce an output but who do not necessarily interact with each other; ‘traditional’ software development ‘teams’ follow this model; each team member is a specialist whose work is controlled by the Project Manager.
  • Teams are comprised of people with specialist skills but interact with each other to produce an output; individuals may work outside of their specialist skills in to produce a ‘team output’

The following table compares how attributes differ between working groups and teams:

Working Groups
Teams
Individual accountability
Individual and mutual accountability
Come together to share information and perspectives
Frequently come together for discussion, decision making, problem solving, and planning
Focus on individual goals
Focus on team goals

Produce individual work products
Produce collective work products
Define individual roles, responsibilities, and tasks

Define individual roles, responsibilities, and tasks to help team do its work; often share and rotate them

Concern with one’s own outcome and challenges
Concern with outcomes of everyone and challenges the team faces

Purpose, goals, approach to work shaped by manager

Purpose, goals, approach to work shaped by team leader with team members

Table 1 - Differences between Work Groups and Teams

There are many lists of the key attributes of effective Agile Teams produced; the following list distils and collates the common themes of most of them:

Having Ground Rules

Effective Agile Teams set their own Working Agreement, Ground Rules, whereby the members know and buy-into the Team working practices into which are usually elements to do with all the following attributes.

Working Together/Collaboration

In a successful agile team, the team members work together on features; UI designers, developers and testers work together to ensure that they, as a team, have finished a story.

All Team members are aware of their own and colleagues’ strengths and weaknesses so he/she knows who to go to for improvement advice for themselves and who else he/she can help to improve.  

As the successful agile team collaborates to finish features, they avoid the problem of having many features started but none getting finished at the end of the Sprint.

Having Short Feedback Loops

Obtaining feedback at regular, short intervals is a major contributor to the success of an Agile team; they use 1 to 3-week Sprints so they can produce potentially shippable increments of a product to obtain feedback form the wider stakeholder community.  During the Sprints, if it is not possible to work with end-users directly, successful teams will seek feedback at every stage of the development of each Product Backlog Item (PBI).

Being Adaptable

As in all product development, conditions are not always favourable in an Agile environment:

  • The Agile team may not have acceptance criteria for every PBI
  • A team room may not be present
  • The Team may not be able to remove all obstacles. 

However, the Team must get the work done; Agile team members must be adaptable to any kind of situation (be it the ideal or the worst situation).

Agile team members must be willing to work outside their specialisations.  This does not mean that they are expected to work in areas that they know nothing about; they can help other Team members under their supervision; the simplest form of this is for anybody to run test scripts if they are becoming a bottleneck.

Intra-Team Communication

Good intra-Team communications is one of the major characteristics of a successful Agile team; Team members:

  • challenge each other in a non-aggressive manner
  • should not filter their communications ie ‘tell it like it is’
  • must be willing to exhibit a sense of vulnerability; a willingness to say “I don’t know.” 
  • must have the ability to ask for help promptly when they need it
  • Being Committed

Successful Agile teams members are fully ‘bought-in’ the Product Vision and Objectives and are fully committed to achieving the best value for the business within time and cost constraints. 

They try to find ways to share their knowledge, learn various new things and enhance their own skills. 

Also, all Team members must be able to see where Team members’ workloads stand at all times; if someone is overloaded, members must be willing to help the over-burdened person so as to smooth workflow across the team; this would normally happen during the daily Scrum.

There are several ways to help a Team improve its performance but they can be categorised as follows: 

Ensuring the Team has common goals and purpose:  The performance of a Team that is ‘pulling in different directions’ will never be optimal; all Team members must know the product development and objectives and fully buy-in to them; no ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’

Ensuring the Team understands and embraces Shared Accountability:  We all understand self-accountability; you do something wrong and you pay the price.

Team Accountability or Shared Accountability is taking responsibility for others ie Team members must be aware of the work that others are doing and be prepared to challenge their work for the good of the Team

Having a Working Agreement:  A Team Working Agreement states the ‘rules’ that the Team will follow to produce a valuable product; is something that the Team members discuss and agree; nobody ‘issues’ a Team Working Agreement to the Team.

The Agreement can contain anything that the Team would feel useful to enhance collaboration ie:

  • Dates, times and places for the Sprint ceremonies
  • How the Sprint ceremonies will be run
  • Pair-programming arrangements
  • How the ‘Definition of Done’ will be implemented
  • Ensuring Psychological Safety:  Psychological safety is the belief that the individuals within the Team are safe for interpersonal risk taking ie a Team member must be able to be themselves and speak their mind without fear of negative consequences to their self-image, status or career.
  • Adhering to the Scrum value of Respect produces Psychological Safety.

A homogenous team is one where the members are all similar in background, gender, age and culture; we are not talking about similar skill-sets but general life experience.

Homogenous teams have been shown to suffer from the following drawbacks:

Stifling of creativity – homogeneous team members have a similar world view and so find it difficult to ‘think out of the box’

Communication – Although homogeneous team members may think they understand what is meant by a colleague’s jargon, they may have misinterpreted which may lead to mistakes; in Teams with members from diverse backgrounds it is more likely that such jargon will be challenged and a greater understanding is obtained by all Team members

Minorities – People not of the same background as the homogeneous Team members may have feelings of exclusion and/or discrimination.

All multi-staged models for team formation recognise different stages that a group of people go through from the start, getting together, to becoming a high-performing team.

There are several published models from those that involve rigorous mathematical steps to analyse team needs and individual attributes, such as that proposed in Two Multi-Objective Stochastic

Stage
Key Elements of the Development Stage
Forming
  • Orientation to task and team
  • Ground rules identified
  • Reliant on leader
Storming
  • Strong emotional responses to team and task
  • Uncertainty, anxiety, and resistance
  • Internal friction, conflict, crisis often are the result
Norming
  • Open exchange of information, emotional support, team cohesions
  • Interpersonal team structures created
  • Development of group norms
Performing
  • Team becomes a “working organization”
  • Capacity to problem solve and adapt to achieve tasks at hand
Outperforming
  • Team exceeds the performance norms
  • Team able to function and successfully perform in the larger system
  • Sustainment of tasks are achieved
Adjourning
  • Change is embedded into the organization
  • Project team disbands

Models for Project Team Formation Under Uncertainty in Time Requirements, to the more simple and well-known Tuckman Model.

 Tuckman’s model, first published in 1965, initially only had the first 4 stages in the table; he added the 5th and 6th stages in 1975.

At first the group of people are reliant on a ‘leader’ and as the group emerges as a team, they become less reliant on a ‘leader’ and become self-organising

The ‘Definition of Done’ (DoD) is a checklist of all the activities that must be completed for a Product Backlog Item (PBI) before it can be considered ‘Done’ and is fit for review by the wider stakeholder community and potentially released to the live environment; the DoD is a key artefact for Product Development quality control.

The DoD is assembled and agreed by the Product Owner (PO) and the Development Team members.

Potential Problems with initial DoD

There is a possibility that the Team develop a minimalist DoD and submit it to the PO for approval; some PO will give it a cursory glance and approve it.

In such situations, as a Scrum Master, you should remind the PO that he/she is solely responsible for the value to be accrued from the Product Development and that he/she needs to understand each DoD element in case any have been forgotten or any are unnecessary; the best way to achieve this is for you to facilitate a DoD workshop with the PO and Development Team members.

Another problem with minimalist DoD is that they assume that small but significant steps in the development process will be done because ‘they are obvious’; they may be obvious in the ‘cold light of day’ but not so obvious in the ‘heat of development’; as a Scrum Master, you should encourage the rest of the Scrum Team to include more detail in the DoD than seems necessary; items can always be taken out if they are felt to be redundant.

DoD Examples

The DoD for software development may include items such as:

  • Detailed requirements analysis done with appropriate business people
  • UI and User Experience approved by the appropriate business person
  • The system architecture conforms to organisational system constraints
  • All code adheres to the coding standards 
  • All PBI functionality has been Unit Tested and passed
  • Full Regression Testing has been completed and passed
  • User Acceptance Testing has been completed and passed
  • All necessary documentation has been completed
  • An actual DoD would probably add more detail to some of the elements.

The DoD for a PBI is usually peer-reviewed by another Team member that has not had significant input to the PBI development.

Given that Scrum is not just for software development, a DoD for a non-software product development, such as running an event, may look something like this for the PBI of ‘As the Invitations Coordinator, I need to send invitations to the event, so that we maximise attendance’:

  • The list of invitees has been collated from the {xyz} customer list
  • The list of invitees has been approved by the event Project Manager
  • The form of the invitation has been designed by the Marketing Dept
  • The form of the invitation has been approved by the Marketing Director
  • Invitee addresses have been updated

Once all the DoD items have passed their checks, the Invitations Coordinator is authorised to send out the invitations.

The ‘Agile Technical Practices’ or ‘Agile Programming Practices’ all come from work carried out or developed from other ideas by eXtreme Programming practitioners;  They are not part of Scrum or any other Agile framework but have been adopted by many, if not most, Agile programmers as a ‘toolkit’ of ‘best practice’ for producing minimal, ‘clean’ and maintainable code.  The list of practices, with explanations, is as follows:

A common "war-room" style work area – Where Team members are co-located, they should occupy an area that they can call their own.  

There will be many artefacts that are best displayed on a wall and it is best to keep them in one place.  

Also, the Team members can obtain ‘osmotic communication’ just by being in the same area as others having conversations.

Sharing the codebase between all or most programmers – Individual programmers do not ‘own’ their own code; it is a shared resource between all programmers.  

Because nothing is considered ‘finished’ the first time through (it may meet the Definition of Done for the current Sprint but may have to be modified for other functionality in a later Sprint), other programmers need access to all the code in order to update it when necessary; if they do not have access, they may write redundant code. 

A single coding standard to which all programmers adhere – Just as sharing the codebase is an important practice, having a common coding standard reduces the time that a programmer needs to understand code that another has originally written.

Pair-programming – The simplest practice to implement, it requires that no line of code, production or test, is written without 2 people being involved; one typing at the keyboard, the other reviewing what is being done and suggesting alternatives.  

Contrary to some beliefs, this practice does not double the cost of development because the resulting code will be virtually bug-free thus reducing rework time considerably

Simple Design – most things are simple when they start out but become more complex as time goes on.  The codebase must be inspected regularly for signs of complexity and the code refactored to produce small, simple functions and methods.  

Test-Driven Development (TDD) – This practice requires that no line of production code is written unless an ‘automated’ test has been written for the functionality, the test has been run and fails and only enough production code is written so that the test passes.

The practice does require the use of an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) that supports TDD or access to a TDD framework that supports the programming language being used.

Rigorous, regular refactoring – As stated in most of the practices above no line of code can be considered ‘finished’ until the end of the Product Development.  Even during a Product maintenance phase, the code may need to be modified. If ‘patches’ are added just to make the code work, the codebase will become complex and difficult to modify and maintain.

Continuous integration – Even code that works in the IDE and passes all tests, it may fail in the system build; the longer you leave it between system builds (integration), the harder it is to track down what caused the build to fail.

Integration system builds should be done as often as practicable to catch errors early and make them easier to find and fix.

Some organisations do a full build of source code that has been checked-in to the source code repository every 2 hours; some organisations do a full build each time code is checked-in to the source code repository.

This practice does require the use of automated system build systems.

Scaling Scrum involves using multiple Scrum Teams to produce increments of a ‘large’ product; this will involve more people with the potential communication problems.

Of the Agile Technical practices listed in the answer to the previous question, the following are essential technical practices when scaling Scrum:

Simple Design – the simpler the code design used by one team, the easier it will be for other Teams to understand the code if they need to modify it for their own purposes.

Test-Driven Development (TDD) – With Teams sharing the Product codebase, it is essential that any Team modifying the code produced by another Team must be able to test that their changes do not ‘break’ the original functionality or ‘interfere’ with code from any other part of the system.

The practice of TDD is the only way to ensure that a full suite of tests can be run to test the whole codebase.

Continuous Integration – with multiple Teams adding to the codebase it is essential that automated integration testing be carried out more frequently than a single Team may use.  The origin of any integration errors can come from any of the Teams and build problems must be fixed as soon as possible to prevent costly bug-fixing toward the end of a Release period.

Definition:

Firstly, we must define what the Product Vision is.  Just as any Vision, the Product Vision should be a short statement of what the product is for.  Here are some characteristics of a good Product Vision:

  • One sentence
  • Emotive and inspirational – a ‘call to the flag’
  • Colourful with a logo – for Product Visions that are up on the wall
  • Written in the present tense – imagine that the product already exists
  • What does the product do – not how it was created or how it works

Roman Pichler, the acknowledged father of Visions, says that Product Visions should be:

  • Clear & stable: Every participant should find it easy to understand, so avoid empty phrases that don’t say anything (aka bullshit)
  • Broad & engaging: It should depict a higher picture that everyone can relate to and that inspires people to give their best to make it happen
  • Short & sweet: It needs get straight to the point.

Additionally, make it:

  • Achievable: Although a vision should be a futuristic idea of what the product might become, set a goal that can be met
  • Insightful: Craft the idea based on users’ needs and motives and define the main reason behind the product’s existence.

Examples

Before investigating how to help the Product Owner create the Product Vision with the Development Team, let us look at a couple of examples:

Tesla:

“Build sports car

Use that money to build an affordable car

Use that money to build an even more affordable car

While doing above, also provide zero emission electric power generation options

Don't tell anyone”

Whilst this Vision ‘breaks’ the one sentence guideline, it does fit Roman Pilcher’s advice.

Ikea:

“At IKEA our vision is to create a better everyday life for the many people”

This is a short and broad Vision for the company that will drive the products that the company produces ie will a proposed product help ‘create a better everyday life for the many people’.

Product Vision Creation

So how does the Product Owner, who is responsible for the Product Vision, go about creating the Product Vision?

Firstly, the creation of a Product Vision is best done collaboratively; as a Scrum Master, arrange a facilitated workshop with the Product Owner, relevant stakeholders and the Development Team to ‘brainstorm’ ideas; you may facilitate the workshop yourself (see Creating A Shared Vision That Works).

There are 2 widely used ‘models’ to use to help create a Product Vision:

  1. ‘The Elevator Pitch’
  2. Bill Shackelford’s ‘Design the box’

The Elevator Pitch

The idea behind the Elevator Pitch is to put together a statement about something to ‘pitch’ to the CEO when riding in an elevator; we are not going to do this; it is the elements of an Elevator Pitch that we need to explore for the product so that we can come to a suitable form of words for the Product Vision.  There are different lists of Elevator Pitch elements; for now, we will look at the following list from Roman Pichler:

  • The Target Group – who the product is likely to benefit
  • The Needs – the main problem the product addresses or the primary benefit it offers
  • The Product – summarises the three to five features of the product that make it stand out and that are critical for its success
  • The Business Goals – explains why it’s worthwhile for your company to invest in the product. It states the desired business benefits, for instance, increase revenue, enter a new market, reduce cost, develop the brand, or acquire valuable knowledge. 

By ‘brainstorming’ the above elements, the workshop participants get a better understanding of the product and can converge onto a suitable Product Vision.
Roman Pichler has a downloadable Product Vision Board that you can use to organise the ‘brainstorming’ ‘sticky notes’ and capture the decisions:

Design the Box

In a facilitated workshop, the participants imagine the product to be a ‘shrink-wrapped’ physical box containing the product; or it may be that the product is to be ‘shrink-wrapped’.

The elements of the box are:

  • The Front – The product name, main features and a graphic
  • The Back – Product information
  • The Sides – Limitations, Health & Safety, Legal

There is a good description of how to run a Design the Box workshop at Design the Box.

Again, as with the Elevator Pitch, the workshop participants get a better understanding of the product and can converge onto a suitable Product Vision

It is not advisable to go straight from the Product Vision to collecting requirements for the Product Backlog.

The Product Owner (PO) is solely responsible for the value produced by a Product Development and to have some understanding of this value the Product Objectives, Benefits and an initial Business Case should be investigated to check that, in all probability, the product will produce value for the company; it is no good having a great product if no one will buy it and/or it will take 5 years to recoup the development costs.

To help the Product Owner and Development Team move from the Product Vision to the Product Backlog, as a Scrum Master, you can arrange a series of facilitated workshops to determine the Product Objectives, Business Case and Backlog.

Product Objectives

The Product Objectives are a list of things that enable the meeting of the Product Vision. It should not be a long list; between 5 and 10 is usual; Objectives are not requirements.

Some examples:

  • “MVP to be released for the Christmas Market”
  • “Reduce report creation time by a minimum of 50%”
  • “Increase re-registrations by 50% in 1 year”

Although a Product Vision may state some development attributes that can be measured, most do not; it is the Objectives that should be measurable.  Some people use S.M.A.R.T Objectives.

The Objectives list may also be ordered by business value and may define what is to be included in a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).

Benefits

From the Objectives list, we can now make an estimate of the expected benefits that we expect the product to give to the ‘customer’ (internal and/or external) and the company; each Objective may contribute to more than one category of Benefit; for example, an Objective of “Reduce report creation time by a minimum of 50%” may have the following Benefits:

  • Allow Marketing Dept to make faster pivot decisions:
  • Less rework: expected savings = 20% of marketing costs
  • More timely information
  • Reduced customer frustration: increased customer re-registrations revenue = 50% 
  • Reduced staff frustration: reduced staff turnover and recruiting/training costs = 20%

Although we have used percentage values in the examples above, it is recommended that actual monetary values are used.

  • Business Case

Now that we have the expected Benefits from developing the product, we must now estimate how much it might cost to develop.

At this point, the Development Team may not have been chosen:

  • We may outsource the development
  • We may not have chosen the technology to be used
  • The potential Team may be busy finishing another product development

To help the PO create an initial Business Case, as the Scrum Master, arrange a facilitated workshop to include the PO, relevant stakeholders and senior ‘technical’ personnel to investigate the probable costs of:

  • Configuring something that already exists
  • Developing the product in-house
  • Different implementation technologies
  • Hiring contracting staff to cover skill shortfalls
  • Outsourcing part or all the development
  • Doing nothing: Although the immediate cost of doing nothing is zero, doing nothing now may have significant costs in other areas of the business

From these investigations, the workshop participants must decide as to which option will give, potentially, the best value.

The costs of the potential solution option must be compared with the expected benefits to make a cost-benefit decision as to whether the proposed product development is worthwhile.

See the APM website and other websites for more detailed information and ideas.

  • Product Backlog

Once the Business Case has been approved, the PO can turn his/her attention to creating the Product Backlog.

As the Scrum Master, organise a facilitated workshop to include the PO, relevant stakeholders and the Delivery Team to discover the Product Backlog Items (PBI), usually User Stories, that will fulfil the Product Objectives.

These PBI will be estimated by the Development Team and the results fed back into the Business Case to ensure that the cost-benefit analysis still indicates a viable development.

The Sprint Retrospective is a key ceremony for ‘Inspect and Adapt’ to aid Continuous Improvement.

Many organisations have only the Development Team, facilitated by the Scrum Master, to reflect on their past process performance and make plans to improve it.

However, The Product Owner (PO) is also a member of the Scrum Team and there are advantages to having the PO included in the participants of the Retrospective:

  • Strengthen the relationship with the Development Team and improve collaboration with them:
  • Enough time with the development team?
  • Available to answer questions or provide feedback quickly enough? 
  • Right level of feedback and guidance in the right way?
  • Is communication between the Development team and the PO open, honest, and trustful?
  • Understand why the Development Team requires some time in the next Sprint to carry out improvements such as refactoring or investigating a new test tool
  • Improve the PO’s own work:
    • Understanding why some PBI were not completed
      • Too big
      • Insufficient Acceptance Criteria
  • Does the team know how the users employ the product?
  • Are the team members happy with:
    • Their involvement in analysing user feedback and data
    • Changing the product backlog
    • Getting stories ready for the sprint? 
  • Do you get enough support from the team to “refine” the backlog?
  • Are the team members aware of the big picture:
    • The overall vision
    • The product strategy
    • The product roadmap? 
  • Does the PO get enough of the Development Team members’ time to help with product planning and product road mapping?

If the Development Team have ‘a problem’ with the PO, it is tempting for them not to invite the PO to Retrospectives but this ‘problem’ is an issue and as a Scrum Master it is part of your responsibility to help resolve issues; the Retrospective is the best mechanism to discuss and resolve problems between the Development Team and the PO.

The Product Owner (PO) is responsible for all of the Product Backlog Items (PBI):

  • The wording of the PBI
  • Each ordering of PBI’s business value
  • Each PBI’s Acceptance Criteria

The Development Team are responsible for estimating the size and complexity of each PBI; this will be done initially just before development work begins.

During the development Sprint Planning, the Team must select the next highest value PBI to be attempted during the Sprint.

However, as time goes on, the PO and Development Team need to apply any lessons learned from development so far to ensure that the candidate PBI are sufficiently well described and sized (but see Scrum.org Myth 14); this ‘confirmation’ is done during Backlog Refinement during which the following questions are answered:

  • Is the wording of the PBI sufficient for the Development Team to understand what is required?
  • Has anything occurred to warrant any changes to the PBI wording?
  • Are the Acceptance Criteria for each PBI complete and understandable to the Development Team?
  • Is the initial size and complexity estimate for each PBI still valid?
  • Are all the candidate PBI sized adequately? – A PBI that cannot be completed in 1 Sprint is too big and must be decomposed
  • Is the Product Backlog ordering still correct?

All of these criteria and others to suit a specific situation can be documented as a ‘Definition of Ready’ checklist.

There are a series of blogs that make interesting background reading: Product Backlog Refinement explained.  See also Grooming the Product Backlog

Techniques

  • Run the Backlog Refining session as a facilitated workshop, timeboxed to 2 to 3 hours or 10% of the Development Team capacity for a 2-week upcoming Sprint (see Product Backlog Refinement: Make the Most of It
  • Anybody presents feedback from released increments
  • Ask the PO what the next Sprint Goal will be
  • ‘Modified’ Planning Poker
  • Each Development Team Member has ‘YES’ and ‘NO’ cards
  • Show an element of a PBI and ask participants to select a card
  • All participants show their cards at the same time
  • Ask each ‘NO’ what information they need or have
  • PBI wording – use ‘modified’ Planning Poker technique with 
  • Acceptance Criteria – use ‘modified’ Planning Poker technique with Development Team members and PO
  • Sizing – use ‘modified’ Planning Poker technique with Development Team members (see also Resizing a Backlog, Story Splitting Cheat Sheet and Elephant Carpaccio Exercise)
  • Ordering:
  • Ask PO if there are any business value changes that require the Product Backlog to be reordered
  • Ask the Development Team members if any PBI changes introduce new dependencies
  • Spikes – if the Development Team do not fully understand a PBI or unsure how it might be developed, they can choose to introduce a ‘Spike’ item to the next Sprint Backlog to do some research into the problem
  • Behaviour Driven Development (BDD):

Also known as Specification by Example (SbE)

  • An extension of Test Driven Development that requires the use of specialised development tools
  • Uses structured language to automate production of some development artifacts

Although using BDD requires a toolset that might not be available, you can use the structured language to create PBI Acceptance Criteria:

Given {some context}

When {some action is carried out}

Then {a particular set of observable consequences should happen}

An example:

Given my bank account is in credit, and I made no withdrawals recently,

When I attempt to withdraw an amount less than my card's limit,

Then the withdrawal should complete without errors or warnings.

For many years, business stakeholders have seen or been involved with building products using the so-called ‘waterfall’ model; business stakeholders are intensely involved at the beginning of the development to specify the detailed requirements and do not get involved again until just before deployment to do User Acceptance Testing (UAT).

People get used to a way of wo