The Scrum Steps

After listening to an HBR podcast on “Agile Management” I was curious about the scrum method of team organization. I am considering checking out Sutherland’s book.

In the meantime, here are the steps to implement a scrum

  1. Who is the Product Owner
  2. Who is on the team
  3. Who is the scrum master
  4. What is the Product Backlog
  5. What is the Product Backlog Estimate
  6. What is the Sprint Plan
  7. How to Make the Work Visible
  8. What is your Daily Scrum
  9. How does work get done
  10. What is your Sprint Retrospective
  11. What is the next sprint cycle

The point is to get teams to do a block of work autonomously in their “sprints”. Once the sprint is over, you get client input. The benefits seem to be

  • creating a better log of what work needs to be done as the basis for delegation
  • getting the team to tell you what they can do in a set period as a team
  • getting client input earlier

In a trusting environment, I can see how this could be fun.

A First Question: Who Are You?

We start here with a basic ideal that one must master in order to think strategically.

Just for fun, consider this question for a moment. You can answer it quickly by stating your name and as appropriate, few more handy descriptors. In doing so, you reaffirm what you believe to be true, and this continues the story along pre-fixed lines.

Or you might stop and ponder what is the best way to answer?

Let’s take that second path. How does one define oneself?  You might think carefully about the characteristics that you believe are your individual traits. Your individuality in a given context. Or you might go in the opposite direction and think about the characteristics that you share most broadly as a human in this particular period of time.

In other words, there is no right answer here. The process you use to generate an answer depends on the context at hand. This is where we begin to think strategically.

The basic idea

Strategy is needed when we cannot generate a right answer. It is different in that respect from planning, where we act on what we believe to be true.

EdCast and Modular Learning

The news came out today that EdCast has taken in a round of funding to further develop their enterprise focused digital learning tools.

The interesting thing about this is the approach. EdCast is targeting millennials in the workplace who want to get their learning in bite sized pieces. EdCast gives them access to thee morsels — from top rated sources. Firms like this in that it is cheaper than hiring those guys and gives their newcomers  broader access to learning materials in a digestible format.

I think this is part of our future. The bigger picture is learning more from everything we do, making it easier to upgrade how we do stuff, including but not limited to work. Having access to a stream of great insights 24/7 can help us in that quest.

But I think we also have a long way to go before a platform like EdCast can be life changing for users. My first issue is about selecting resources. Why do we think that university professors know what we need to know?

Think about that. And if they do not, who does? We need authoritative voices, but it is not at all clear where we can find them.

Catholic v. Buddhist?

One of the more interesting challenges in scaling groups goes to the degree of uniformity one requires in assessing what people do.

We may not like it, but enforcing uniformity is a significant factor in insuring quality. So mass produced guns are far safer than hand made guns. Why? The barrels are more precisely bored out and they tend not to explode, therefore, when the trigger is pulled.

But too much uniformity is monotonous. And for the people working in a heavily rule bound system, life can become hell.

Sutton and Rao dwell on this in their book “Scaling up Excellence”. There are choices to be made about where you fit on the scale – one size fits all Catholic, or go with the flow Buddhist.

Clearly some aspects of the work process need uniformity. But perhaps the best practice is to minimize them. Set them up as guarantees of minimum acceptable quality, allowing freedom to innovate around these minimums.

Sort of like “Guardrails” on the side of the road.

Nice concept.

Who Reviews Team Performance?

The old idea was to do an annual review. The boss compiled the data, called int the staff members and discussed what went well and badly. Based on that review, staff members were promoted or something else.

There are lots of problems with this. One of them is the distance between the reviewer (a boss) and the thing reviewed (tasks and attitude).

So how to do it better? Peer review? This Forbes article thinks so.  Check out the article. Do all companies need such a complex system? No. But >I do think the basic idea of the system — that it grows out of trust is critical.

Imagine You Are Jordan Spieth Right Now

Jordan Spieth is a great golfer who was competing at the Masters Tournament. He won last year. And on the final day, things were looking great  BI tells the story

After birdies on the final four holes of the front-9, Spieth moved to 7-under and opened up what looked like an insurmountable 4-stroke lead. Social media rejoiced what seemed like a foregone conclusion — Jordan Spieth had just won his second-straight Masters.

Then disaster. He dumped two shots into the water on a par 3 and went on to lose.

So what now? Michael Jordan has some wisdom here. Jordan said that he lived in order to be the person who took the last shot in the game – the shot that would determine whether the club won or lost.  Right. He then said, that it didn’t matter to him whether that shot went in or not. He missed lots of times. What mattered is that he had mentally and physically prepared himself to the best of his ability. That was his intense focus point.

So now, Jordan Spieth knows that he put himself in that position. The shots didn’t fall this time. He needs to be grateful for having had the chance and get back to work for next time.

Corporate Culture Elements

We know that corporate culture is important. Good culture produces better performance. And what are the metrics for good culture? Forbes lists four

  • purpose
  • agility
  • empowered employees
  • living values

This is pretty standards stuff. But notice that the first three are abstract. Does any old purpose fit the bill? If not, when are purposes functional and when are they not? Ditto for agility. Do we sacrifice all in order to achieve the ultimate in agility? When should we be agile and how do we prepare for that moment?  And do we want our employees to be so empowered that they do not show up for work?

So what about living values. We all know that you need to 2walk the walk, not just talk the talk”. But which values are needed to make a culture vibrant?

My point — this type of vocabulary means nothing until it is connected to the ongoing dialogue about why the group is doing what it set out to do. It is context heavy.