SAFe is designed to help businesses continuously and more efficiently deliver value on a regular and predictable schedule. It provides a knowledge base of proven, integrated principles and practices to support enterprise agility.
As an RTE, I want to have a healthy and smart Scrum Master community, because I count on them to help me run the train.
In my current ART, I am working with fifteen amazing scrum masters from development, design, documentation, testing, performance, and globalization. As you can feel, they have unique skill sets, but they all possess the quality of an excellent agile leader.
Hand-picked content for Scrum Masters
One of the things I decided to do, so I can help them grow is to prepare a weekly dose of inspiration in the form of a newsletter.
I know it’s mainstream, but so far, I got a few great feedback entries encouraging me to continue with I do.
I always read the articles before sending them out, and I am picking up content that applies to solve the problems we know we have in our small world.
Also, I want to keep it simple and entertaining because I know this is one of the few thousands of e-mails they receive. I don’t want my e-mail to go to /dev/null immediately :)
This article is a part of series of articles on building a great Community of Practice (a.k.a CoP). I plan to write on that topic almost every week. If you have the same intent as me – helping your Scrum Masters grow – keep an eye here.
Scrum of Scrums or SoS (not as in … — …) is a scaled agile technique for facilitating the coordination between all the teams working on the same objectives.
If you do Scrum already you can think about that as a large standup for people representing each team, where they do the same – answering the holy questions:
What has your team done since we last met?
What will your team do before we meet again?
Is anything slowing your team down or getting in their way?
Are you about to put something in another team’s way?
SoS is not a status meeting for the management; it is a meeting for working together as a team of teams to handle dependencies and joint problems.
I will now share how I run that meeting for maximum efficiency.
I intend to keep in short, no more than 45 min. the time is divided and planned:
First 5 min, the facilitator talks about any critical updates.
30 min for risks and dependencies management. We go team by team, and the scrum master talks shortly about the topics.
The last 10 min we save for Q/A (see below for what exactly)
Keeping track on what we decided and discussed during the Scrum of Scrums
I create a table for every meeting in our wiki for every Sprint, that looks like this:
The team name
Nothing to add here, it should be self-explanatory, but sometimes you could change it to “I wish my team name was…” and leave it to the imagination of the scrum masters.
A link to the Scrum or kanban board. If anyone wants to explore more, they should have a quick way to navigate to the board.
The name of the person that represents the team in that meeting and the point of contact of the team if you need anything from them after the meeting.
The Sprint goal usually is defined as a high-level summary of the target the product owner would like to accomplish during a sprint.
I have added it here because the team needs to know what they are willing to achieve in that Sprint.
How will the team know if they have achieved the Sprint Goal?
On how may epics(as in Jira epics), the team works at the same time. Sometimes the teams work on many items at the same time without considering the impact of that.
Little’s Law—the fundamental Law of queuing theory—tells us that the average wait time for service from a system equals the ratio of the average queue length divided by the average processing rate. (While this might sound complicated, even the line at Starbucks illustrates that.) Therefore, assuming any average processing rate, the longer the queue, the longer the wait. Simply reducing queue length decreases delays, reduces waste, increases flow, and improves the predictability of outcomes.
Again this should be used as a conversation starter, not as a blame mechanism.
As in, how are we progressing towards the goal?
Are there any open risks you would like to call out. It can be 3-rd party dependency that you can’t handle or some people leaving, and you haven’t planned for that or anything that is a risk to the delivery of the goal.
Does your team own any dependencies? We use this as a conversation started. That’s the most important part of the meeting.
Open up the Scrum of Scrums meeting
Usually, the meeting is a closed event – one person from the team is allowed to attend. I have opened that meeting to everyone by sending the invite to every team member that contributes to the product. The condition is that they can listen only, and if they have some questions, we will use the last 10 -15 min from every meeting for such a discussion.
By using this “hack,” I was able to give visibility to everyone to understand what the teams will be working on in the current Sprint. Usually, we have people from the support, field teams, and management listening to what the teams plan to do, without turning this into a status meeting.
I decided to experiment with rotating facilitators of the Scrum of Scrums. Habitually, the RTE is the leading facilitator. I believe in teamwork, and that’s why every week, there will be a different facilitator – one from the Scrum Masters. I think this boosts ownership and supports transparency.
Take that step
If you are willing to use one of my approaches, feel free and then share the results. I am also curious about how you hold your Scrum of Scrum meetings.
PI Planning is a high-priced event. You need to book a room, prepare the materials, order food, plan a social event, flight people over, pay for hotel and transportation and some meals, + even more costs.
The total price can go up to tens of thousands of euros and, in some cases, maybe more.
If you add on top of that the time people spend focusing on the PI Planning process – ~100 people for a few days, you get the whole idea.
That’s why it is very crucial to get feedback on:
How to improve the experience on the attendees
How to cut some costs
How not to repeat mistakes we did already
How to make the event more efficient
What SAFe recommends on collecting feedback
SAFe recommends having a retrospective-like event at the end of the Pi Planning, where all the attendees can put some stickies on the wall, and the facilitator will help to combine them in affinity notes, and then the RTE will create follow-up items in the backlog.
I see a bit of a problem in that since we tried it first:
The people were super tired and didn’t have the motivation to do yet another exercise.
They had feedback on their minds, but they didn’t like the attention to stand in front of everyone and put their stickies on the wall and explain why.
Some of the attendees shared verbal feedback with me during the day, but forgot to add it on the boards, thinking that the RTE will do something anyway.
What difference did I make?
I was reading a great case-study from Eik Thyrsted Brandsgård and Henrik Knibergand and based on something that they did, I decided to go even further and create a Feedback Meter:A scale from +2 (meaning this is super great, and I want this to continue) to -2 (meaning consider changing that in the future).
The board was there for the duration of the whole PI planning event, and the attendees could put their stickies on that scale. Also, I needed to communicate from time to time that the feedback board is there, and it can be used at any time.
What I have accomplished with this continuous feedback approach?
A mood meter: A quick view on the mood in the room at all time – you can see from that picture that we need some improvements :)
Act on time: A see something – do something attitude – if something needs improvement, don’t wait till the end of the Planning, but act now and add a sticky
Participation: An excellent way to read the feedback from others and to add your own to theirs.
Continuing after the PI Planning
There are 2 groups of attendees that you would miss if you stick to what SAFe recommends as a retrospective practice – those that are attending remotely and those people that love to share anonymous feedback for some reason.
I know you would tell me that this is behavior that I should not encourage, but in my case, I received surpassing feedback from that particular crowd.
To solve that problem, I have created a Podio survey and engaged anyone who could go and add even more feedback online.
What is your opinion on continuous feedback?
I am eager to learn more about how you deal with problems like that in the comments. Remember to start with +2 :)