Scrum Master intervention by cartoon

February 20, 2021

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In one of my recent assignments, I was working with a Scrum Team on a new development project for a large organisation. The conditions were challenging: there were 10+ Scrum Teams working on an entirely new product, and half of those teams (our team included) had started less than a year ago. Meanwhile, the organisation was in full swing adopting an agile way of working based on the Scrum framework. For me as Scrum Master, this was a great opportunity to help out supporting the team, the Product Owner and the organization in delivering value to their customers.

The case

The pressure on the project was intense on all levels. Management was looking for status information to steer on. Instead of working with the teams and getting involved with their work, they helped themselves to the readily available information in the work tracking system: the burn-down charts of all the teams.

As Scrum Masters, we had already explained that burn-down charts are solely an instrument for the teams themselves. Without context or dialogue, just looking at such a chart doesn’t tell you anything.

Then I came up with the delivery driver and the passenger. While the driver is focusing on traffic to make his next delivery in time, the passenger is only studying the dashboard meters and commenting on those.
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I spent an evening drawing several scenarios and brought my sketches to work the next day. That morning we had our weekly stand-up session with management. At the end of the session, I shared my concerns and presented the cartoons. People were intrigued and there was laughter too, they recognized what was going on.

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How did I get away with it? I acknowledged management’s need for information and offered help. But not by reading burn-down charts. At this point, I think it is fair to admit that we as Scrum Teams were not doing a great job in providing enough insight into the overall progress of the project. So much for transparency, one of the pillars of Scrum.

Scrum adoption and the role of management

Aligning work with more than 10 teams becomes an interesting challenge, but it can be done. It gets really daunting when you stumble upon the limitations of the environment around the teams. People often believe that being Agile or applying Scrum is only for the teams. But it takes the entire organisation to adapt to this new way of working, or the transformation will fail inevitably.

Image for postSo it is wise to acknowledge this struggle and show some consideration. As a Scrum Master, you can help out, because, in the end, everyone will benefit. Humor can be a powerful instrument to open the door for a good conversation, use it wisely.
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