Video: The secret of smooth Scrum sprints

This is the video of my talk from ACCU 2015 on 25th April 2015 where I spoke on Investing Upstream: The secret to smooth Scrum sprints

It’s great when teams reach delivery maturity with execution at speed and high quality.  It’s no surprise that there’s so much emphasis on doing Sprints well because that’s the heart of Scrum.

Paradoxically though, the secret to making it work well is actually investing time and effort upstream of Sprints to ensure that the Product Backlog is prioritised and broken-down into small items, that User Stories are well formed and that the Scrum team doesn’t meet items for the first time during Sprint Planning.

This ties in with solving the very difficult challenge of effective Product Ownership. Often the very people most valuable to the Scrum team are also the most valuable to the wider business, creating a conflict over their time. Many teams struggle with an absent Product Owner or one who is not sufficiently senior to make quick decisions.

The Scrum Guide says little about how to implement effective Product Ownership and how to get the Product Backlog into good shape. Most Scrum training focuses on the Sprints, so also misses this bigger picture.

Join us on our journey through a series of examples anchored in practical experience as we explore a range of tools and approaches to solve these problems. We’ll learn how to make Scrum function well in a way that meets both the Scrum team and Product Owner’s needs.

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Demystifying Change: Agile, Lean, TOC, Systems Thinking & 6-Sigma (Part II)

In this short series we’re demystifying the differences between common change methodologies including Traditional Change Management, Agile, Lean, Theory of Constraints, Systems Thinking and 6-Sigma.

In Part I we looked at the big picture and highlighted 16 different aspects. In this article we’ll introduce the six methodologies in more depth, explore their key facets and compare their different objectives.

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Why Agile Isn’t Automatically Creative

In a current discussion on LinkedIn the question is posed: “Do Agile Methods Create Creativity and Innovation?”.

The answer might sound obvious and at one time I’d have said “Yes, of course” without hesitation. But what the questioner was getting at was how a focus on maximising production on short cycles can leave little or no time to stand back and think outside the box (this was their experience of Scrum – as run in their organisation).

I also thought of explicit creativity exercises and their apparent lack in many Agile approaches (though of course they don’t forbid them).

So let’s resist a quick answer and explore the topic in a little more detail.

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Demystifying Change: Agile, Lean, TOC, Systems Thinking & 6-Sigma (Part I)

There’s a world of different change methodologies out there and it’s easy to be overwhelmed and unable to choose. For each one there’s an army of consultants ready to tell you theirs is the best.

The reality is very different: every methodology has its strengths and weakness. They each have different goals and suitability for different environments. The ideal solution is almost always a combination of approaches, but you can’t know which combination unless you understand how they work.

So if you want to raise your understanding and be able to make better choices and keep those consultants on their toes, please read on.

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Stuck with Scrum

I wonder what motivated the choice of Scrum and were you aware of its constraints (link to blog post)? Is it the right solution for you? How would you know?

Scrum is high-discipline and takes a lot of committed energy to get going. Are you expecting the Scrum-master to provide that? It needs to come from the whole team with a shared understanding of why it matters.

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Kanban or Scrum? Know your constraints before you take the plunge

Many people think that the answer to their problems is to pick an agile approach and use it to deliver their services. In doing this they frequently put the needs of service development ahead of the wider organisation and risk overlooking well-known constraints and context that will trigger failure. Kanban, Scrum and XP each have several key implications which need to be properly understood before taking the plunge.

It is easy to get obsessed with a service development methodology, particularly when everyone’s talking about it. These days everyone is “agile”, or claims to be, and what could be better than a ready-made approach like Scrum or Kanban that is tried and tested and you can take off the shelf?

Whooah! Stop and hold that decision, just for a moment. Before you make a choice that might trap you.

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