The problem is there is more to Scrum than just standups

We often see a Project Manager joining the AgileData team as a Scrum Coach because they have “done standups” before. Unfortunately, lots of organisations seem to think that running standups is all you need to do to adopt an agile Way of Working.

To be an effective Scrum Coach you have to be a servant leader, supporting the team from behind, but often Project Managers have been taught to manage the work to be done and to lead or stand from the front.

Project Managers != Scrum Coaches

Often you will get somebody join your team as a Scrum Coach who has in a previous life been a Project Manager. It seems to be the natural transition, to move from being a Project Manager to being a Scrum Coach.

In our experience they often make ineffective Scrum Coaches.  It is a big change to switch from the Project Manager mindset to the agile mindset.

Anti-patterns we have observed

Lack of Scrum Training

The Project Manager will not attend Scrum Training as they have already “done Scrum” or they have read the Scrum guide.

The Scrum training is all about the introduction of the language and patterns of Scrum.  It helps a Scrum Coach start their journey from Novice to Practitioner to Expert to Coach.  The training provides a shared understanding and language of the Scrum patterns.

Project Managers have the inevitable task of learning a new language when they move from Project patterns to agile patterns and Ways of Working.  Getting a kickstart with a 2 day course that explains the basic language of Scrum can only be a good thing.

Cherry Picking Scrum Ceremonies

If using the Scrum patterns as part of your AgileData Way of Working there are a number of ceremonies that should happen in each iteration:

  • Daily standups;
  • Sprint planning;
  • Prove it session;
  • Retrospective;
  • Backlog grooming.

A novice Scrum Coach may miss out some of the ceremonies.

While a team using a daily standup is better than a team who doesn’t collaborate on the work they are doing each day, there is greater value in the team using all the ceremonies together.

Not Storming, Forming and Norming Scrum Ceremonies

Like all supporting roles, to be a good Scrum Coach you actually need experience in running all the Scrum ceremonies. Especially if you have a delivery team that is new to an AgileData Way of Working. Taking the team successfully through these ceremonies for the first few times takes skill and experience.

A novice Scrum Coach’s natural reaction is to either miss out some of the ceremonies or introduce all the complexities of these ceremonies to the team in the first go. This approach tends to overwhelm the team, it is much better to gradually introduce the concepts of each ceremony as the AgileData team participates in them, effectively allowing them to learn by doing.

The 1 hour stand-up

A classic fail “tell” of when a Project Manager’s anti-pattern behaviour is in play is when the standup goes from being less than 15 minutes to becoming a 1 hour talk fest.

Standing at the front, not supporting from the back

A key skill a Scrum Coach needs to have is to be able to facilitate the AgileData team so that they form, storm and become self organising.

A Project Manager acting as a Scrum Coach will either “talk at” the team, running through the list of tasks in play and maybe at the end doing a “round the table” to see if the team needs to add anything. Or they will structure the standup so that the AgileData team are “reporting” to the Scrum Coach rather than talking to each other.

The Project Manager creates the “plan”

A Project Manager is used to creating the plan themselves and assigning tasks to team members, rather than helping a team to become self organising. They are focussed on the success of the outputs not the success of the team or the success of the desired outcomes. Helping an AgileData team to become self organising is the primary goal of the Scrum Coach.

Once the AgileData team is operating successfully, the outcomes pretty much take care of themselves.

The Project Manager converts the visual board to a report

A Project Manager may create and maintain a Project Plan that is separate to the visual board the team uses to manage, track and discuss the work.

This results in duplication of effort as well as the Project Plan being constantly out of sync.

The Project Manager reports to the “steering committee“

The Product Owner or Product Manager is responsible for stakeholder engagement not the Scrum Coach.  

While the concept of a steering committee itself is an anti-pattern, of one does exist it is the Product Owner or Product Managers role to liase with the steering committee to keep them informed of the prioritisation and trade-off decisions that have been made.

Agile and/or Scrum is just like mini waterfall projects

A Project Manager will encourage the team to run multiple dependent iterations, creating a “mini waterfall” Way of Working.

While there is often a need to “work forward” to help prioritise and plan future iterations, the idea of a “Requirements” iteration, then a “Build” iteration, then a “Test Iteration” then a “User Acceptance” iteration and finally a “Release” iteration is an anti-pattern.

A pattern for success

If you can’t get an experienced Scrum Coach for a new AgileData team, then identify a capable person who is a permanent member of the organisation, with the right attitude and aptitude, have them attend the initial Scrum training, then find a great Agile Coach or experienced Scrum Coach to help support them to up-skill over time.

In our experience we have found a Business, Data or BI Analyst often makes the best Scrum Coach.  They tend to naturally have an agile mindset.