Thursday, April 26, 2012

Scrumbut isn't always a bad thing

There have been discussions for many years about the need to always do Scrum by the book. I think this statement might be true for some teams, but not all. I'm not talking about having a half-arsed Scrum adoption, but allowing your teams to evolve beyond it when they are ready. The last four words of that last sentence are critical. There's a dichotomy within the framework, we are expected to inspect and adapt, but not in ways that adapt set parts of the framework. 

The mantra of, do it by the book, seems to have grown out of problems with teams that only adopt parts of the framework and then wonder why it's not working. Hence the name scrumbut, we do Scrum but.... Agile and/or Scrum are often the obvious scapegoats rather than looking into internal problems.

For your initial scrum adoption I do recommend that you do everything by the book. Also hire some seasoned ScrumMasters to help you out. Though Scrum is a simple framework, sending someone on a 3 day course and expecting them to be an expert is naive at best. Another option is to hire an agile coach to work with your newly minted ScrumMasters. I can't stress this more. Don't go it alone. If you're serious about agile, then take it seriously and hire the right people to teach others. 

Anyway getting back to the point of the post. I'm a great believer in the martial art concept of Shu, Ha, Ri (which I was introduced to by Lyssa Adkins in her Coaching Agile Teams book).

Shu - learn the rule. 

Ha - break the rule. 

Ri - be the rule.

Teams start in Shu, i.e. do Scrum by rote. This is essential so that teams build up the discipline needed for a successful adoption. It doesn't mean that you can't ask questions as to why something is done a specific way. In fact that is encouraged, but you aren't ready to adapt away from the constraints of Scrum. This is where a seasoned ScrumMaster or coach is essential. They'll be able to give knowledgeable answers to any questions that arise and know when a team is ready to move to the next state. Ha.

Note: teams might be at different levels for different practices. 

When teams have achieved Ha, the ScrumMaster will start letting them break existing rules. This will allow the team to learn, but without the discipline that has been built up they won't have a frame of reference. 

Lots of teams want to skip directly to Ha or Ri stages without going through Shu.

Finally as the team learns through breaking the rules they'll achieve Ri. This is the state of high performance. Teams will be able to inspect and adapt how ever they want. At this stage, they may have evolved their Scrum practices in a way that would be considered Scrumbut, but they now have the experience to understand why they've done it. 

Finally, I believe there's a conflict of interest here with certifying organizations. If teams keep on changing their process, they may no longer fit the model of strict Scrum and have no need for certifications. 

Remember that Scrum is a starting place on your agile journey, not the final destination and not the only way to get there. 

Are you doing Scrum by the book, in ways that would be considered Scrumbut? Do you think Scrum by the book should be the only way to do it?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Breaking flow at the end of the work day

It's getting towards the end of the work day, you're cranking, feeling great and everything is just clicking into place. You notice the clock in the bottom corner of your screen and realise that you could maintain this state for a few more hours, but that will get you home late. You don't want to stop but you know you have to go. What do you do?

This is a situation that I find myself in a few times a week. My family commitments mean that I really need to leave on time unless there's a work related emergency. The problem is that I don't always want to leave. This isn't because I don't want to go home, but because I'm in a state of flow and find it hard to switch off. I tend to end up working until the last second and then running for my train. On the first half of the journey home I'm mentally coding and getting stressed out because I can't actually code. This stress is caused in part by not having a transition period between activities.

Transition periods are quiet times between activities which help you go from one activity to the next without added stress. These transitions are often combined with a ritual.

For example, when I get into work the first thing I do is get a coffee and read a few blog posts for about 10 minutes. If this transition ritual is interrupted my stress immediately goes through the roof.

I do have a transition ritual for the end of the day, but when I'm in a state of flow I don't do it. Yes I could force myself to wind down but this also creates stress.

I feel like I'm between a rock and a hard place, so I'm wondering how others deal with this situation. How do you break flow without causing too much stress?