There are many great books that talk about Agile theory and principles and these are important to building a theoretical foundation for any new Scrum Master (or any new Agile leader for that matter). However, in order to be an effective Scrum Master and Servant Leader, it is essential to learn how to provide coaching and build up high performing, self organizing teams. This is always listed as skills that Scrum Masters can provide, but most training courses and Agile books focus more on tactics and don't often provide guidance to new Scrum Masters on how to develop the more nuanced skills that the position will require for success. Below is a list of the books that I have found most helpful in improving these skills and that I wish I would have read before I started building out my first Agile teams.
If you work in any sort of management position or in a team environment, it is very likely you have heard the term "self-organizing" team. This is something that has become a key ingredient in high performing and motivated teams and when I first learned about it it made total sense. However, it is such a high-level concept that I had no idea how to actually go about coaching and encouraging teams to effectively self-organize. After a great deal of research, experimentation, and failure, here is a list of tips that I wish I would have had when I was first getting started.
"In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable" - Dwight D. Eisenhower
There is always a fear when embracing Agile that things will fall into chaos and that planning and strategy go out the window. I have been on projects that have run into these types of issues and a big part of that stemmed from the team losing sight of the big picture goals and direction for the project. One thing that has been very helpful in preventing chaos and keeping things on track has been: release planning.
It is commonly agreed that collaboration for Agile teams is best when it is face to face. However, in an increasingly global world and with companies and workers focusing more on saving on costs by looking abroad, face to face collaboration is not always practical or even possible. Thankfully, there are many applications these days that have made it possible to work effectively with distributed teams regardless of where they are located and make it feel as if you are almost in the same room. Below is a list of five of my favorite tools for working effectively with distributed agile teams.
A team member once came to me and said that they're team was currently using Kanban, but that they wanted to switch to Scrum. When I asked why, their response was: "we need the two week time-box, because in Kanban everything goes into the in-progress column and just stays there". There are clearly many issues that would need to be addressed in this statement, but one that is very important that seems to be ignored on a regular basis is: WIP Limits.
One of the most well-known aspects of many Agile frameworks is the iterative nature of the delivery of working software. The Agile manifesto states: "Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale." The key phrase here that many teams seem to struggle with is "with a preference to the shorter timescale". The Scrum guide states that sprints can be from 2-4 weeks. This is a little bit better, but many teams still gravitate towards the longer end of that range and end up attempting 3-4 week sprints (Although I am using sprints as recognized in Scrum for most this article, I believe the content and practices that follow can apply to any Agile framework).
After many years, my dream of having my primary work computer be a Macbook finally came true! I was so happy when I received my new 13 inch - Retina Macbook Pro and started to set up my desk with my new charger, keyboard, and mouse. Suddenly I realized there was at least one convenience I hadn't thought about when making the switch from the PC world: a dock that I could easily attach my machine to that would neatly organize all of my cables and provide all the ports I needed. I had never really seen any other Mac users in my office with a dock for their machines, but after a quick search on google I saw that there were at least two options with the more well known being the Henge Docks option. I was a little skeptical of a vertical dock at first since all of the other docks I had used previously were horizontal and the Henge Docks horizontal dock was super expensive. Ultimately, I decided to take the plunge on the vertical dock and see if it would be as useful as using the docks I had grown used to on the PC. Below I have included the pros and cons that I noticed while using the dock.
Standing desks are becoming more and more common across offices around the world, but there are still so many people who are curious, but still a little scared to take the jump and just give it a try. As somone who has been working on a standing desk for a while (and who absolutely loves it) I thought I'd put together a quick list of pros and cons so that if someone is curious about trying it and would like to know more, they have a general idea of what they can expect.
As an industrial engineer I have a natural affinity for optimization and this especially applies to finding new ways to improve my everyday workflow. There are currently so many apps available on so many different platforms to help people improve their lives and find ways to live more efficiently. However, there are so many that it can be overwhelming to pick just one without having that nagging fear of missing out on a different app that might have that one feature that would just make everything perfect. I have spent many hours (a little ironic considering I am supposed to be using these to be more efficient haha) evaluating as many of these apps as I could and have included the apps that I use on a daily basis in this post.