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Blog

Team.Chat – a team story

Agile is a funny beast

The mindset. The practices. Values! Principles!! Not exactly easy for a novice. And you’re thinking – ok, I’ve attended a Scrum course, maybe even one of those that gets me a shiny badge, but – what now? I only know that I haven’t been this motivated in quite some time, and that I want to start _something_ – but what? How? It’s like winning the lottery and there’s no stores or charities in sight. I have to do something with all this money! Then the mind really goes wild. What should be my first step? Second? I understand everything, but I really don’tIs this activity that I’m doing aligned with agile values and principles? It isn’t? Why? Am I really doing it right, or am I living in a fantasy world?

That problem – people being unclear how agile they are – has been in the back of my head for quite some time now, and the last Agile Hrvatska meetup was yet another poke for me to open the world agile teams live in, from a very practical perspective. So I decided to talk about one particular team and situations we are and were in, who I’ve served as a Scrum Master for the last 6 months. What I want is to expose my way of thinking and reasoning through individual stories, as help for those who are still exploring the agile world. I’m not claiming that my way of thinking is absolutely correct, there’s no such thing. I’m merely writing this in hope of inspiring you readers to make your own first steps easier.

Meet Team.Chat

The team was assembled in June 2016, and is focused on Android development. Our first project is an internal chat application. We were: 3 students, 1 senior developer, a Project Manager who wanted to become a Product Owner and me, the Scrum Master. We are all employees of CROZ. Initial amount of time that we got from management was 3 months, and after that period we got another 3. Target users are all company employees, and the plan is also to open-source the app. During our work there was a lot of stuff happening, and to describe everything I need a series of blog posts, of which this is the first one.

The decision about how we’re going to work was entirely on us. Would it be Scrum, Kanban or anything else – we could pick whatever we wanted. The problem was that only 2 of us had experience with those methods/tools so I decided to propose Scrum. I proposed it like this: „let’s try to use Scrum, and if it doesn’t work we’ll bin it“.

Bin it?

I already hear some people thinking – „you’re expert in Scrum, you’re in this for x years, you’ve coached n teams, can’t you tell how stuff is going to work? “, „what did management say to that? “, etc. So to explain myself – I’m not in a management position and I couldn’t command that Scrum would be used. But even if I could – I wouldn’t. Nor did I go to management and ask them to make that decision for us (I could). Because in the moment I set my will upon to others, with even a hint of „you will work the way I tell you to“ attitude, I’m putting them in a „just do your job“ position which I know that:

  1. Gets only the necessary minimum out of people – okay, sometimes more, I admit, but more often than not that is just a matter of luck. And having luck as the main ingredient of our success formula wasn’t an option 🙂
  2. In effect it is a „Don’t think“ message to people, and according to some research it even lowers IQ by a couple of points.
  3. It doesn’t keep people intrinsically motivated – a gold mine I just didn’t want to turn my back to.
  4. I wouldn’t want to be in such a position, so it’s not fair to put my team members in one.

Yes, it was the beginning of empowerment and self-organization culture.

What did management say?

Their instruction to me was „You’re assigned to this team as a Scrum Master/Coach, work with them, teach them and help them in developing an agile mindset in any way you think is best“. That was the only (enabling) constraint that I’ve got, and it was exactly the one I wanted. So I proposed Scrum and explained why. As much as I know about it I didn’t have any idea how this team is going to react to it, and if it’s going to fit us at all. I decided to introduce it as an experiment and invited people to be open towards what it will bring.

Team reacted with „ok, sounds reasonable given that most of us don’t know what agile or Scrum is, let’s go“, and we kicked off. That’s a typical situation people are in, and my experience tells me that few sprints with a good coach generates enough data and experience for a decision – whether to continue or pull the plug.

In the following entries I will dive deeper into various aspects of our work. How we adopted the mechanics of scrum, how the ceremonies looked like, how the roles got adopted, how our artifacts evolved and in which way that helped, how empowerment and self-organization grew, and what went as expected and what didn’t.

Stay tuned! 🙂

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