📬 The Backlog

📬 The Backlog is Thomas van Zuijlen's weekly newsletter on practical agility, with annotated articles on Scrum, facilitation, collaboration, and (product) development.

27 June 2022

📬 The Backlog #184

I’m on the Scrum Master Toolbox Podcast this week, Willem-Jan Ageling calls out agile coaches who give bad advice to managers, and Lohmann & Krabbe open up about descaling a 25-team setup.

  1. Currently, I am the featured guest on the Scrum Master Toolbox Podcast with Vasco Duarte, who puts out a new 10-to-15-minute conversation with me each day this week. Starting with today’s “Thomas van Zuijlen: A key lesson for Scrum Masters when taking on a new team!

    As Mondays are failure-themed on that show, we’re talking about a time when I joined a company and didn’t have a lasting impact. (This of course usually never happens.)

    I identify two key learnings from that particular assignment; I’ve become far more explicit about desired outcomes and expectations for gigs of any duration, and This One Other Thing That May Surprise You but which I won’t spoil here.

    ‘My’ episodes on the show will be tagged and accessible via Thomas van Zuijlen on the Scrum Master Toolbox Podcast.

  2. In Scrum Master (And Agile Coach): Please Step Up Your Game!, Willem-Jan Ageling lists three “management coaching anti-patterns” that he feels Scrum Masters often perpetrate. Those revolve around being far too strict or too literal in one’s interpretation of the Scrum Master role. (The idea is not to keep everyone away from the Scrum Team at all times, etc.)

    Ageling offers up inroads to meeting managers where they are, rather than demanding some out-of-touch Scrum compliance from them.

    In short: Foster shared understanding (and management-level support) by asking managers about their expectations, discussing output vs. outcome with them, and relating the company’s goals to a Scrum Team’s Sprint and Product Goal. This way you can clarify how Scrum may be leveraged to incrementally achieve product objectives.

    Oh, and drop some Cynefin in there, too, while you’re at it.

  3. Martin Lohmann and Jorgen Krabbe have published a frankly thrilling experience report titled What we learned from descaling 25 Scrum teams in which they cover an eighteen-month snapshot of de- and re-scaling the team structure at a large Danish insurance and banking firm.

    An incoming Executive Vice President tasked them with transitioning the organisation away from SAFe. A golden opportunity to focus on becoming self-organising around outcomes rather than engage in SAFe’s multi-level delivery demand voodoo, but that was no easy task.

    The authors describe failures and successes. As I read it, the guiding principles behind Lohmann and Krabbe’s work in this organisation are lightness and self-discovery, and it’s exciting to read how they fared, given changes in scope and structure.

    The coolest nuggets to me, are that they’ve reinstated some form of Big Room Planning, without individual developers and instead with only high-level players. Those are “not focusing on predictability. Instead, we wanted to emphasize transparency and alignment.”

    I like that, because they are the people who need to constantly communicate clearly about precisely portfolio-level priorities.

    And not just that: “it soon became apparent that the 6-sprint planning horizon was wishful thinking, and now we plan 3 Sprints ahead only, with a BRP cadence of two Sprints.”

    This means that they cover one ‘overlapping’ Sprint twice, which opens up many possibilities for all involved to inspect, reflect and adapt. It may sound like a weird choice, but how cool is it that you get to frame that Sprint in two perspectives (as the last of a set, and as the first of one.

    Spectacular article to read if you’re with more than one team and/or are in a position to initiate descaling initiatives.

Have an imaginative week and Scrum on,
(at whichever scale,)
Thomas van Zuijlen

PS —

I have availability for workshopping and consultancy work in July and August.

Do you have a tough planning session coming up, do your OKRs need setting with your teams, are you facing a challenge in vertically slicing your work?

Directly book a no-strings-attached exploratory call with me to see if I may be of service.