CHOW #27– Scrum team communication dilemmas

Ved Guru is a seasoned scrum master with multiple projects delivered upto the satisfaction of the product owners and stakeholders including team members. He has recently moved to an organization in the similar domain that’s been following agile practices very well.

Ved for the first time finds himself managing a product in the scrum way with roadmaps defined and multiple scrum teams working towards the program. The earlier scrum master was performing the role of a release manager, business analyst and scrum of scrum master all in one. During the first two weeks of knowledge assimilation, Ved became comfortable with the business nuances of the product delivery, he was finding the communication  patterns with his onshore scrum masters harder to appreciate.

Most decisions for his teams were taken onshore due to historical reasons as well as business proximity. He also observed that the technical lead took up many AdHoc activities that came directly from the senior leadership due to the business criticality. Another area of discomfort was the expectation from his manager that more work can be taken up by the team.

Have you ever had such challenges in your stream of work? What are the solutions for such dilemmas?

Suggested solution:

It’s important to understand the several anti-patterns as a scrum master before we delve into understanding the dilemmas and their solutions.

Clearly there are three large dimensions for identifying the root cause of the anti-patterns

A. Scrum Team: Some of the common anti-patterns occur in understanding roles and the responsibilities, taking ownership of the deliverable and the, most important, trust among the team members.
Roles and responsibilities continue to evolve as teams mature in their practices and its important to rehash them when the product objective changes or the team members undergo a change. One of the best practice is to rewrite the roles and responsibilities within the team whenever a major change occurs.
Ownership of the deliverable of the scrum teams such as the handshakes within and outside teams, type of deliverables that are given and quality that drives them needs to improve and excel. To some extent, there is a correlation to the trust and ownership of the deliverables
These unsaid worth ethic drives the team performance to improve on a perpetuity.

B. Product: Anti-patterns observed while delivering a product is around misalignment in vision, effort spent in articulating short term and long term objectives for the project as well as the product owners understanding of their role as a Champion for the product as well as the Scrum team.

C. Communication: Inter scrum communication is by far the hardest anti-pattern to break while scaling agile practices. By virtue of belonging to different teams, the scrum masters of each of the scrum teams do not get to spend a lot of time and hence limited understanding of each others’ strengths. This turns to become areas of black-holes/blind spots for communication or indecision for the scrum teams.
For example, one of the teams’ I had observed, weren’t aware of all the duties the other team working for the same product line was doing. They ended up not taking a critical piece of work for almost a week before a decision had to be taken by the senior management. Its important to understand collective ownership doesn’t mean no ownership. Same with decision making as in, decision needs to be taken jointly and on a timely basis.
With these anti-patterns some of the key aspects that Ved Guru went about setting was
– Started setting up time for all scrum masters to interact more deeply and help everyone understand what decisions who needs to take and time criticality of it
– Help the technical lead understand her role in the product and create solutions aligned to the product and not necessarily for the short term and pick up adHoc activities
– Spend more time to take one discussion with each sprint retro and follow through those actions. With such intentional movement to retrospective actions, team started working as one cohesive unit towards the vision of the product

Now with these items sorted, Ved got a different challenge in his hand around handling dynamic relationship with an upstream application that’s driven by a water-fall type deliverables. Oh well, that’s a discussion for another CHOW!

What do you think?

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