Dreams are Exciting, Plans are Exhausting,
Attaining is gratifying – Doing is Joy!
How often have we come across people who keep going on and on about creating something beautiful and rare that the world has not yet envisaged, but never take a single step to bring themselves closer to achieving it?
All of us have beautiful dreams, but how many of us have really been able to put them into practice? There is no end to the plans one can make, for the masterpiece one aspires to create.
Contemplating a vision without putting any significant effort into realizing it, in truth, burdens us more than the effort required to accomplish it does. The idea we spent hours fantasizing on sometimes chokes us as it struggles to escape, and unless we give life to it, we will find no peace!
The same is true in the context of work as in life. Sometimes, despite the huge amount of time we spend on exhaustive and detailed planning for a project, trying to foresee the hurdles that could crop up, we still find ourselves unprepared for the uncertainties, inconsistencies, feedback and other factors that creep in during the actual implementation. The time spent on planning remains unjustified, and the time spent on implementation, insufficient.
Very often we are denied the joy of a completed task because we do not check to see if we’re on track. After all the time spent on planning, at the final stage, we realize how far we are from the product we dreamed of making, or how low its quality is. The end result? No satisfaction from work.
Scrum, the most popular of the Agile methods, seeks to remedy this situation by considering a subset of the entire project at a time and inserting checkpoints at frequent intervals in the life of the project, using Plan – Do – Inspect – Adapt cycles. ‘Plan’ takes into consideration only a small set of features or aspects, thus providing more time for the ‘Do’, the actual implementation. After ‘Do’, it is time to take stock of the lessons learnt (‘Inspect’) and check coordinates to see if we have strayed from the goal, make corrections or modifications in our approach(‘Adapt’). Then the cycle repeats. In Scrum, these steps are known as Sprint Planning, Sprint, Retrospective and Sprint Review.
The Scrum way of working takes into consideration the human element – satisfaction from work inspires us to be productive, without compromising quality. The essence of Scrum works at a deeper level alongside human thought process and emotions. There is contentment in doing things, because of the impact of working in the Scrum fashion.
So what does this method help achieve?
The happiness that comes from creating your own masterpiece.
The satisfaction of making a product of excellent quality.
The ecstasy that comes from a work well done.
The Joy of Doing.
My husband and I were recently blessed with a charming little baby girl! As first-time parents who’ve not even had the experience of baby-sitting other people’s kids, we quickly realized that we have a LOT to learn and re-learn. Our baby was inadvertently FORCING us to re-think how we had been performing even the most routine tasks. And here’s the thing with being (new) parents: We are eager to get things right and perfect ASAP. (Come on, I’m sure even the seasoned parents would agree that they would have liked to have gotten some things right very early on). So, here’s my take on learning and re-learning quickly: Scrum!!
If you think about it, all of us are wired with Scrum. We make PLANS, which we put into action, and then we sometimes REVIEW and RETROSPECT on what we have done. If we are disciplined, we implement what we have learned so that we perform the same task with greater efficiency the next time around.
While this is common sense, I feel that if we actively review and retrospect on our experiences and then implement what we have learned, success is sure to soon follow!
P. S. Here are some of the things that our baby taught us: Old-wives’ tales can sometimes be genuine home-remedies, that one extra set of clothes for a quick outing is not enough, that it is better to just agree with those offering advice (even the unsolicited), and most painfully, that mothers can kiss continuous and undisturbed eight-hour sleep goodbye!
The Sprint Retrospective is a meeting conducted at the end of each Sprint, in which the team discusses how they performed as a team, how the product shaped up, and what they could change or improve.
Sometimes the meetings get monotonous and tiresome, even if the team members know their importance. Sprint Retrospectives can be made lively and interesting by changing the approach each time.
Here are some ways to do Retrospectives.
Each team member rates their previous sprint on a scale of 1 – 10, and explores what they could have done to make the sprint a perfect 10!
Start – Stop – Continue – Shout Outs
The team members fill in each box as to what activities or tasks they would like to Start, Stop or Continue doing from the next Sprint.
The Shout Out box is for appreciating the rest of the team. Just write their names down and talk about what you appreciate about them !
Happy / Not Happy
There will always be something you did quite well in the previous Sprint that you’re happy about, and something you feel you could have done better. Jot them down, the process will help you learn from your mistakes.
Describe the Sprint in One-word
Write one word to describe the previous Sprint. More often than not, the word you write would define what you felt strongly about the way you worked, or the way the team handled themselves.
What other interesting methods do you use to conduct your Retrospectives?
It’s always amazing when a group of people pleasantly surprises and inspires us in the most unexpected ways. A couple of days ago, I was listening in on the weekly Review and Retrospective Meeting that the Conscires team conducts at the end of each Sprint (yes, we do practice what we stand for and promote!). My intention was to find a bunch of things that I could coach the team on (in this particular case, ‘coaching’ was a nicer way my mind looked at the evil intention of telling people how they can do better – in other words, how I could ‘fix’ them!)
Anyways, I was on this call while I was waiting for my flight and the team started with the review. I could hear one person talking about another’s task. I jotted down, “Why is Indu updating everyone on what someone else had done?” Right after that, she said, “I don’t know about this item and will need to wait for Deepa.” So Mr.Coach in me had to erase his comments, for Indu was only speaking on behalf of an absent member of the team. Soon, I could hear the others talking about their own tasks. Thank God I did not speak out of turn and state something to that effect in the meeting. As the meeting proceeded, I was amazed how self-organized, happy and collaborative this team is and, mind you, this is a distributed team – no one sits in the same room during this meeting (some of them are located on opposite sides of the globe), no one has met more than half of the team members; in fact, I doubt if anyone has actually met more than 6 people in the team. As I continued to listen, I was delighted at how much the team has achieved, and to see that they also take accountability for what they couldn’t finish.
The meeting, facilitated by Lisa, moved on from reviewing the work done in the previous sprint to retrospective, in which everyone spoke about how they felt regarding the way we were working. Even though I was about to board the flight, I wanted to listen in with the urge that hopefully there will be more coachable moments. The team started the retrospective with a “Perfection Game”, with each team member rating the sprint on a scale of 1 to 10, and capturing what could have made it a 10. It was encouraging to hear honest shares on how people felt and what they believe will get them to a number 10. It was so cool to see the team encouraging one of the members to move from a 9 to 10, as she couldn’t really come up with a reason as to why the sprint deserved only a 9!
Lisa then asked the team whether they wanted to do a “Start – Stop – Continue” activity or just do Shout-outs for each other and Jeena suggested Shout-outs. The “continual improvement” side of Mr.Coach wrote down, How do we improve if we don’t look at Start – Stop – Continue? Well, since the announcements were going on at the airport, I couldn’t seize what I thought was a coaching movement and come up with a question like “What action items would come out of this meeting?”
The team captured the shout-outs, applauding each other for doing a great job and acknowledging each person’s efforts in supporting others. It was amazing to feel the positive energy those conversations created. It reminded me of a discussion I had over lunch about how we lack positive feedback at workplaces and its negative impact, and also the dearth of feedback when things are going right.
I felt fortunate to see a team do so well, and was a little annoyed with myself that I would have spoiled those meaningful conversations with my coaching tips – thank God Southwest did a rather loud announcement for boarding!
Here are my takeaways from the meeting:
1. Be happy to be wrong: Keep your judgments away while you are coaching, be patient and observe what the team is up to.
2. Meaningful conversation vrs action items: What we need in workplaces is a safe environment for more meaningful conversations, instead of action-oriented meeting minutes.
3. Learn from your team: Remind yourself that learning comes from unexpected quarters, be open to learning when others expect you to teach.
4. “Management by leaving the room” is important, especially when you feel responsible for running a company or managing a team.
5. Re-invent your job as a manager: It is not that managers are evil, we sometimes put ourselves in such situations. The only solution I see is to have everyone take responsibility and manage, so essentially Quit your job as a manager.
6. Accept the greatness of the team. The team would do quite well just the way they are, without requiring anyone to fix things for them. They just need opportunities to communicate and share.
7. Love your team members: I know Lisa really meant it when she told me the other day “Everyone loves Indu,” it was evident from the Retro meeting. I would even take it further to say, everyone in the team loves each other, or am I taking that too far – ?
And yeah… we don’t always have to do START – STOP and CONTINUE to be on a path of growth, just do Shout-outs and bring on that Positive Energy!
How has using Scrum and Agile as framework helped team work and morale of team members?
We asked this queston to other Agilists on Linkedin.com, and received some profound views and interesting perspectives. We think the readers of our blog could benefit from these insights.
Here are the extracts from the discussion.
1. Nothing helps morale and teamwork like success.
2. The Agile framework has unknown details that keep the team excited about the challenges ahead. The scrum meetings, prioritization and changes add a lot of dynamics to the discussions and keep the progress live and happening. Quick iterations of requirement-development- review-closure cycle and client involvement in each of them keep the adrenalin flow high all through.
3. Project Management team has no option but to share all the contract details of the project, so the team is bound to be highly motivated and involved both individually and as a team.
4. Agile approaches treat each team member with respect. This can be a really big positive change and has a wonderful effect on morale.
5. Some team members view the Agile approach with trepidation; there’s no longer a place to hide. Without the ‘respect’ aspect, that ‘nowhere to hide‘ can be disastrous to the team morale.
6. If things get done right, the effect is very positive. But it can all go bad for the want of a bit of real knowledge about Agile approaches.
7. The autonomy given to the team becomes a significant and ongoing reward for their efforts. Autonomy is something only more senior positions offer in many situations; having such choices and freedom is a major enhancement of morale, if the team members have the courage to use it.
- Increased alignment and communication between customer and team members
- Transition in role of PM to running interference and reduction in unnecessary artifacts should increase productivity
- Daily information exchange between key players should cut down on expectation gaps and result in timely issue resolution or escalation
- Focus on objective/quantitative progress & velocity reporting metrics should create a “level-playing field”
- Retrospectives & regular refactoring of methods should translate into better productivity and less firefighting
- The team is self-organizing! This help the morale.
- The team can see results quickly and have feedback from customers: that’s also a great benefit for developers
- Testers and developers work together, which usually, at least long term, reduces bugs and helps to spot problems earlier, which makes problems less painful to solve and reduces their impact.
- The full team delivers together, which increases team building and collaboration, and usually people are ready to help each other and share their knowledge.
- Finally, if scrum is well implemented, it allows to reduce the number of meetings (especially the useless ones).
10. The customer is engaged continually in what is being produced, which means that there are no surprises in that regard.
Can you add to this list, from your own experiences?
Contributions by Owen Jay Murphy, Praveen Kumar Kambhampati, Paul Oldfield, Gareth Blake-Coggins, Bernard Kahn, Kiron Bondale, Lorenzo Granai, Chris Browne. You can read the entire discussion here.