How to make a social contract and build better teams

In post one and two in this series, we discovered how emotions and behaviours are contagious and can have a dramatic impact on a team. Let’s now explore some approaches that help encourage positive behaviour and help us manage when things get difficult.

This post, number three in The Agile Team Series, covers Social Contracts, why they are important, how to create one and how to use it. [Read more…]

Emotions are contagious: how yours impact others around you

You know how when you see someone smile, you smile too? Or when you see someone crying, you feel their sadness. Well that’s because of an incredible phenomenon called mirror neurons. Understanding mirror neurons is a critical aspect of  team development as when someone else experiences an emotion, mirror neurons light up the exact same areas of our brain, as if we were experiencing that emotion ourselves. Literally, emotions are infectious.  This is post 2 in The Agile Teams Series[Read more…]

Does your team have a bad apple?

A fascinating recent study has shown that a single, toxic team member can create group team wide dysfunction and breakdown.

We have all worked in teams where there is one “difficult” person.  They seem to take up a disproportionate amount of the teams time and energy. Conversations with them feel “heavy” and they tend to sap your energy. There are a number of manifestations of this phenomenon, from the passive-aggressive group eroder, the blunt/rude dominant, the controller, the slacker, the anti-establishment guy, the divide-and-conquer schemer, the arrogant fat head… I am sure some of these will be familiar.

So, if we sometimes have to work with this sort of person, what impact does this have on us as a team?

[Read more…]

Behaviour dynamics in agile teams: The Agile Teams Series

One of my passions is teams – working with them, helping them improve and figuring out what makes a good one.  In his book Software for your Head, Jim and Michele McCarthy made a simple statement that resonates with me: Team= Product. That is, a good team builds a good product, a bad team builds a bad product.

In my quest to understand more about teams I have been reading as much as I can. Via this new series on my blog, I am aiming to try to summarise my findings and provide references to material I have found really useful in the hope I can provide some insights to others that are useful in your daily work.

[Read more…]

Agile Testing: from linear to cyclical thinking

One of the patterns I have often witnessed in agile projects is testers really struggling to shift their mind-sets away from relay race thinking. The common problem goes something like this:

“Scrum wastes our time. Us testers don’t have anything to test at the beginning of the Sprint and then too much to test at the end.  It is a frantic dash at the end to get everything tested in time. It feels very inefficient.”

Well, that’s because that approach is very inefficient. Scrum is designed to highlight waste and will relentlessly continue to do so leaving you two options – either accept it and live with it or change. [Read more…]

How values and behaviors impact teams

The best way to learn something is to teach it. Today, while teaching a Scrum class, I learned something important: the truth hurts and requires a commitment to values. The Scrum values are respect, openness, courage, focus and commitment.  As a team, we explored these and in doing so it helped cement my thinking.  [Read more…]

Who stole all my Scrum benefits?

You’ve seen the statistics – Jeff Sutherland’s group consistently achieving 500-750% increases in productivity, organisations tripling their productivity in a matter of months etc. You’ve implemented Scrum so how come you aren’t reaping these sorts of benefits?

When you spend time with a high performing agile team, something quite profound yet subtle happens. What you notice is not how well they are adhering to the rules of the framework they use, but rather how well they all focus on regularly delivering business value.  In my experience I have noted two key pattern:

  1. They are all working together on delivering business value
  2. They support this notion using high quality agile engineering practices.

Let’s unpick these a little.  [Read more…]

It sucks to be you

I remember when I first starting teaching Scrum. I would get really panicky when the odd attendee would go out of their way to find fault with everything I said. “What about architecture?”, “how do we manage legacy code?”, “that won’t work in our organisation” etc etc… I had times when I wondered that perhaps Scrum wasn’t going to work.

Over time I grew as a Scrum Master and realised that Scrum purposefully doesn’t have solutions for all problems. In fact it is specifically designed so it doesn’t have solutions for every possible issue. If it did it would be a hulking great methodology, not the elegant, nimble lightweight framework that it is. I realised that I actually didn’t have to answer those questions as I had nothing to sell. [Read more…]

Three reasons to choose Kanban over Scrum

Scrum is a powerful tool. Kanban is a powerful tool. Use them appropriately.  [Read more…]

How Specification by Example helps Agile teams make better products

Specification by Example is an incredibly valuable addition to the Agile community. Many people are talking about SBE, but what exactly is it and why is it needed? [Read more…]