In the eleven years I’ve known my husband, I gained 30 pounds. I’ve tried numerous attempts at losing the weight – I’ve counted points. I’ve counted calories. I tried low fat diets, no fat diets, low carb diets, no carb diets. I would lose 5 or 10 pounds, and then gain it back. It was a wild roller coaster and I felt like a failure… and I was frustrated. Convinced something was wrong with my body, I asked my doctor to perform multiple blood tests. They always came back fine; I was quite healthy. Overweight, but healthy. I was convinced that it was the DIET’S FAULT.
This was weighing heavily (pun intended) on my mind while creating a training deck. I was in the process of inserting a slide on the 5 Core Scrum Values, when it hit me: I wasn’t personally aligned with these values myself.
I wasn’t focused. Like most people, my diets kicked off on a Monday morning. I followed the diet to a “T” on Mondays and Tuesdays. Wednesday’s were a little slippery, sometimes I would sneak a free office cookie or two. Thursday’s were “girl’s night out” which meant indulgence. Fridays: Date night with my husband which meant more indulgence.
By Saturday morning, I would wake feeling remorseful and defeated. I would then chalk it up to a “bad week” and decide to start again the following Monday, giving myself the weekend to “just relax and enjoy” – which really meant, fried food, wine and exercise avoidance.
I wasn’t being open or honest with myself. I continuously made careless choices without any sort of personal accountability. I literally ignored my role in this thing called weight loss. It was the epitome of denial.
I wasn’t respecting the rules of any of the diet plans. I cut corners as much as possible – over measuring, under exercising, sneaking bites of this or that. Essentially, I was a big fat cheater.
I didn’t have the courage to admit this to myself. It was all too easy to blame everything around me but being honest was scary. I felt vulnerable and embarrassed. Weak and shameful.
Clearly, I wasn’t committed to losing this weight. All signs point to this.
I realized it wasn’t the diet’s fault.
It was mine.
What’s my point here? If Scrum isn’t working for you, I challenge you to turn inward and ask yourself if your organization is aligned with the 5 Scrum Values.
Are you FOCUSED?
Are your team members adhering to WIP limits? Do they have WIP limits? Are your scrum teams able to work on what they committed to at planning, or are they continually switching gears? How’s your quality? Do you have test automation? Is your Scrum Master focused on process improvement? Do you even have a dedicated SM?
Are you OPEN?
Is all the work visible on the Scrum board (or are your team members working on “side” projects no one knows about)? Do your teams follow working agreements? What about Definition of Done or Definition of Ready? Do your teams feel comfortable raising concerns or are they “yes” people?
Are you RESPECTFUL?
Are you following the Scrum Guide? The 12 Principles? Does your organization respect your team’s working hours or are they expected to work nights / weekends to meet unrealistic deadlines? Are your team members “T” shaped? Cross functional? Do developers help test? Does the team feel responsible for the work, or do they still have that “silo’d” mindset?
Are you COURAGEOUS?
Do you have the courage to approach the difficult conversations, the elephant in the room? Are your teams encouraged to experiment? Do they have the organization’s support if they fail? Are your Product Owners empowered to make decisions or are they just order takers? Does your company ever say “no” to clients or at the very least, negotiate scope? Do your team members ask for what they need?
Are you COMMITTED?
Are your team members committed to the sprint goal? How often are they rolling stories from sprint to sprint? What are the consequences when this happens? Is the entire organization committed to continuous improvement (top down and bottom up)?
My final point here:
It’s not Scrum’s fault.
Just like it wasn’t the diet’s faults.
If Scrum isn’t working for you, I challenge you to turn inwards and ask yourself if you are aligned to the 5 Scrum Values. Think FORCC (Focus, Openness, Respect, Courage, Commitment).
Today I placed an online lunch order to be picked up at noon. I’ve eaten at this establishment on numerous occasions and have always ordered the same thing: Zoodles (zucchini noodles) and eggplant meatballs. This is my “go to” meal when I want something that tastes decadent but is low in calories.
It’s a beautiful, sunny spring day and I enjoyed my walk to the restaurant. I wandered up to the counter, gave my name, received my bag and headed home. On arrival, I pulled the container from the packaging and snapped off the plastic lid.
I was greeted with large zucchini chunks, not zoodles. I expected zoodles. Where were my zoodles? Why wasn’t I told there would be no zoodles? The receipt reads “Spaghetti and meatballs”. I check the website and re-read the description just to validate that I haven’t lost my mind. Yes, it says zoodles. First world problems I know, but I was incredibly disappointed to have received zucchini chunks instead.
I PAID FOR ZOODLES, damnit!!
What does this have to do with agile?, you may be asking yourself.
I’ll tell you.
There’s a certain mindset in agile, a culture of transparency, honesty, courage, rigor. If the zoodle-makers (“zoodlers”) had an agile mindset, someone would have either A.) called me prior to making the dish to inform me that zoodles were not happening for whatever reason or B.) told me upon arrival, with an apology, explanation and a potential discount and/or food swap.
When I contemplate what agile “means to me” – I inevitably return to the 5 scrum values: Focus, Openness, Respect, Commitment and Courage. It’s about telling the truth. It’s about humility and vulnerability and doing what’s right, not what's easy. It’s about navigating the complex world with grace, poise, and love… it’s self respect and consideration for others. Agile is grit, truth, passion. Righting the wrongs. Shining a light on the elephants. Being courageous, living your truth.
The agile mindset does not discriminate. Whatever your career path, whatever your role – whether you are a software engineer or a zoodler, we should all aim to be focused, open, respectful, committed and courageous. That’s the agile way.
As Scrum Masters, we are responsible for having the courage (<-- One of the scrum values) to not only observe, but to also provide tangible, constructive and valuable feedback to our team members as well.
Even if it’s uncomfortable / awkward / scary.
I grew up an only child and was thrilled when praised by my parents, teachers, friends, family etc. Accolades in the form of hugs, paper certificates, applause, shiny gold star stickers or smiles confirmed my value and motivated me to maintain or improve my good work.
As a professional adult, I still bask in the warmth of positive recognition and compliments, but know it’s not always sunshine and daisies. I can recall a conversation with a previous manager/mentor who once asked how I like to receive feedback. I smiled. “Are you familiar with the shit sandwich?”.
The “Shit Sandwich” is built like this: Bread (flattering content) + Meat (unflattering content) + Bread (More flattering content).
Because I’m an extremely sensitive perfectionist and I absolutely hate to disappoint, I respond well to this structure. Although I’d love a delicious glutinous carb only toasted sandwich, I welcome observations and suggestions for further improvement.
My second favorite feedback tool is the SBI, which stands for “Situation, Behavior, Impact”.
According to The Center for Creative Leadership, “When you structure feedback in this way, your people will understand precisely what you are commenting on and why. And when you outline the impact of their behavior on others, you're giving them the chance to reflect on their actions and think about what they need to change. The tool also helps you to avoid making assumptions that could upset the other person and damage your relationship with him or her.”
Here’s a real world example:
During our retrospective yesterday (situation), you were texting on your phone when the other team members were adding sticky notes to the board (behavior). You are highly regarded on this team so when you appear checked out, I’m concerned that other team members will also follow suit. (impact).
For me, the SBI method is easy to apply and helps to provide behavior changes. Also, it allows me to completely consider the what, why and how prior to the conversation.
To find out how they would like their feedback to be given, provide a few options to your team members. By opening the conversation this way, you’ll have a much more engaging and effective discussion.