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The Perplexed Scrum Master

Posted on: 17 April '12

This situation is based on a real life experience, about a project that started four months ago with a team of eight in India and five in the United States. Alan is the onsite manager and Naresh’s customer. Naresh works for an Offshore Service Provider. Alan believes in Agile and wants to practice Agile for his project. Naresh and Alan are both Scrum Masters.

Scrum Master

Naresh, the perplexed Scrum Master, is uncomfortable about this situation. He is uncertain if the onsite and offshore teams are practicing Agile. Have you had a similar experience? What is your analysis of this situation?

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  • Praveen Kulkarni

    Be Agile ! Start with whatever you have in hand. Changes are inevitable, accept it and estimate it separately. Create a different Backlog items for them.

  • Thanks Praveen for sharing these comments. You have made very good points.

    What is your analysis of the situation presented in this cartlog? What are the areas that need improvement?

  • Priyadarshini

    Change is inevitable – true, agile accommodates change – true, but this is a very important aspect that needs to be understood.
    Change is allowed in every which way, but between sprints and not during sprints.Once created, the sprint backlog should not be changed. Minor ceramic changes to the stories are allowed but acute variations to the user stories and sprint backlog are not advised in agile and scrum. it is the scrum master’s responsibility to convey this to the product owner and convince him that there is difference between following agile and completely following agile. Even if there is slight variation in the way in which we work in an agile team, we are not an agile team at all.
    Availability of product owner is another important aspect, this has to be emphasized on by the scrum master. Sloping burn down(with adherence to Definition of Done) can be achieved only when the team’s queries are addresses on a timely basis. Also, effective communication and not just communication is what agile prescribes. Daily
    scrum should not be done for more than 15 minutes. PP’s non availability and changes to the sprint backlog in the middle of the sprint indicate that scrum and agile are not being practiced in their true sense.


  • Karen Favazza Spencer

    LOL. Oh yes! Been there, done that, have the tee shirt. This is old style Command & Control tactics, not Agile.

    1- A 1 hour daily 1:1 status call between managers is a waste.
    2- Changing requirements within the sprint is wrong. Clarification, yes. The occasional emerging requirement, yes. But not changes.
    3- Bottle necks at authority figures who are basically exerting “approval”, i.e. introducing individuals and latest changes, is NOT shared ownership.

    This is cultural, and I don’t mean India v. USA. The organizational culture is going to kill Agile and make everyone in the trenches miserable.

    Unfortunately, to succeed, Naresh is going to have to get a bit more demanding of his bosses than he has been. It could cost him his job. So… I suggest he spends a bit of time in putting together a Communication Plan workflow diagram. Make it pretty. Get the stuff in there that he and his team wants – short & timely communication to “eliminate waste” – Sell it to management as “eliminating the risk introduced by delays.” Add up the hours waiting for responses and extrapolate to indicate how overdue the project might be… add in the “rework” that might happen because things went forward while waiting that had to be redone. Make them a little afraid… then unveil your plan for TIMELINESS, let them approve that! The easiest way to hold them to it, is to keep them where they want to be. Approving the BIG VIEW, and owning the implementation on the floor.

    Note: First thing, Naresh should find a US ally who will sing the same song. That way they can manage their managers.

    Karen Favazza Spencer
    Agile Kindergarten

    • Karen, Thanks for sharing great views! I agree with all 3 points. I like the way you have ended your comment. Differences in leadership styles can cause issues. Naresh should find the right ally! Well said! Thanks!

  • Rajesh Aadi

    I think the onsite and offshore agile teams should talk to each other than just the scrum masters. Also changes needs to be restricted or minimized within a sprint.

    • Rajesh, I agree! ‘Individuals and interactions’ is fundamental to agile. So, the onsite and offshore teams should talk to each other. Also, there has to be a policy on change management to avoid chaotic or messy situatioins like this! Thanks!