Inevitably Agile

somethings are just inevitable …

Growing Agile: A Coach’s Guide to Training Scrum

Please go and check out my new book!


I’ve moved :)

I’ve tried to keep this site up to date – but blogging is a full time business and so I’ve decided to only blog on the Growing Agile site. That is my company, started with my good friend Karen Greaves. We love all things agile and will continue to blog there together – so MORE really awesome cool blog posts 🙂

I have moved a few popular posts to the Growing Agile site. If there is a post you love on this site that hasn’t moved, leave a comment and I can move it to Growing Agile.

Bye bye!

Its all gone to hell…

Lying in the bath I pondered what I was going to write here – whether to even bother updating after the last blog post. But this is my blog on my wins and losses – and maybe it will help someone out there…

For the last 8 weeks I have been practising my exercise and diet routine really well. Even when travelling. But in the last week it went to hell. I ate takeout almost every day, have done NO exercise for 7 days. We were losing weight every week. We were loving exercising and making it easily for 4 days and occasionally 5 days a week. And then BANG. Actually there was no bang, nothing catastrophic. No big news. No flu or colds.

So lying in the bath I wondered “What the hell happened?”

Our big race is in 1 weeks time. We were on track to run it. So the short term goal post hadn’t shifted. Every Saturday we have our review. Thats still happening – but not as in depth as it was in the first 5. We were doing a fitness test and weighing in and measuring … the last 3 have just been weigh ins. Our Sprint Planning, which happens on Sundays, still happened but had become more of a “same as last week” than a conscientious planning session. So things like training & being away from home were not thought through enough and caused minor issues.

But in my bath time root cause thinking, it boiled down to one thing. We stopped retrospecting. We had 2 retrospectives and then never again. Not enough time. No immediate added benefit. Seemed like overkill. I know this stuff. blah blah blah.

And that is why we ground to a halt.

Retrospective are like vitamins. You don’t see a need right now, but they prevent flu from knocking you out. If we had been retrospecting we would have noticed the signs sooner. We would have mixed up our routine. Made more time to do activities with friends. Possibly rested more. We would have noticed how not planning properly was derailing us. Instead we noticed the small changes but didnt notice them piling up like dead weight and slowly dragging us to the bottom of the lake. We stopped inspecting and adapting. We didn’t notice the things we were doing well so that we could keep doing them. We didn’t take on small actions to improve over time.

I realised 2 important things tonight.

  • The value of retrospectives in preventing complacency.
  • The value of taking time to get to the root cause of a problem.

Now I need to get my butt back into gear!

(oh – and the value of having a scrum master not in the team, to keep you honest and doing the above! )



Personal Agility

Its been a while since I’ve posted – many reasons, mostly excuses and of course the big one, as always, time.

I have been inspired by Maritza to plan a project in my life using agile techniques and blog about it.


My BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) is to: Be Fit and Slim

See how nice and airy and fairy that is? No clear definition just a fluffy ideal 🙂 And like so many projects out there it has a deadline: February 2013.

I will wear short shorts

Now all projects should be explained using their “WHY?”. I am getting married next year in March, but more importantly the honeymoon is to be on a sun kissed beach somewhere. I want to be feeling fit and energetic and looking good in a bikini by then.

As good agilists know, we should ask “why?” a few times … Currently I am feeling fat and lazy. I weigh the most I ever have. I dont fit into the vast majority of my clothes. Yes I’m exercising: gym with trainer twice a week, running twice a week – but really I use that as an excuse to eat what ever I want. Also, I’m smoking again. I know. Believe me I KNOW.

screming at the scale

The Plan

To try something to help with the diet and exercise for one month, inspect and adapt, and also think about the weather in the next month and its effect on exercise (we are heading into winter here).


We will sprint for 1 week, starting on a Sunday. On the Sunday we will plan in detail for the following week.

This includes:

  • coming up with a menu for the next week – when you pre-plan meals you are less likely to stray
  • take into account socializing with friends, eating out etc.
  • buying all food needed for the menu
  • planning the weeks exercise – take into account business trips, weather impact, races etc


We have no idea of what we can achieve realistically, so for the first sprint we are just going to aim high and use the results to plan better next week.


Every Sunday morning we will have a review. This will include measurements, reflect on progress of week – what did we achieve, what was easy, what was hard, where did we slack off.


Every Sunday after the review we will look at our process and adapt it. What did we learn from the review, what else did we notice, what were our moods like.


Every day in the evening we will discuss and plan for the next day. This might include laying out clothes and setting alarms for early morning gym sessions, preparing breakfast and lunches etc.


On the wall in our passage I have put up:

  • Notes for the diet – this would be similar to best practices for a dev team.
  • Weekly meal plan
  • Weekly exercise plan


We have a burndown chart for our weight, but I think we need a way to measure fitness as well. Thinking of having a fitness test once a month, something like: number of pushups in 1 minute, number of sit-ups in 1 minute, time for a 1.5 km run.

Keep Calm

I would love to hear your thoughts … today is day 1 and I must say I am feeling apprehensive. VERY.

This site makes me smile and feel positive though – I must remember to look at it often!

Evaluate yourself : Scrum Master Shu Ha Ri Test

This post is the last in a series on the Growth Path of a scrum master:

(1) The Growth Path of a Scrum Master

(2) The SHU scrum master

(3) The HA scrum master

(4) The RI scrum master

(5) Evaluate yourself : Scrum Master Shu Ha Ri Test

A few weeks ago we did a survey on Growing Agile and used the classic Jnr, Int, Snr classifications for a scrum master.

We defined them as follows:

  • Junior – need mentoring
  • Intermediate – comfortable in role
  • Senior – coaching other scrum masters

These definitions above exclude time (years in role) and age. I still prefer Shu – Ha – Ri as people leap to fewer conclusions – in my opinion anyway.

Here are a set of statements to get you thinking about where you are. Perhaps in some areas you are the master? And you may still be needing assistance in others. (PS: Thats normal!)

(The numbering means nothing – its just to allow comments to be easier.)

  1. You have read a few Scrum specific books.
  2. You have read a few books on other agile topics – Kanban, Lean, Facilitation etc
  3. You regularly read blog posts and tweets related to agile topics.
  4. You partake in conversations (in person or online) debating certain aspects of scrum/agile with colleagues.
  5. You partake in conversations (in person or online) debating certain aspects of scrum/agile with strangers.
  6. You partake in conversations (in person or online) debating certain aspects of scrum/agile with friends/family
  7. You ask other scrum masters what/how they do things.
  8. You observe other scrum masters and offer them feedback.
  9. You invite others to observe you and give you feedback.
  10. The task board, burndown and other “wall artifacts”  are up to date.
  11. All meetings for the sprint boundary are setup.
  12. You prepare for each retrospective for a couple of hours.
  13. Your grooming is a team conversation with business.
  14. Your team works as a unit, not as mini silos (analysis,dev,test,qa)
  15. The team pulls their work
  16. You attend coaching circles to improve your skills
  17. You meet with other SMs from other companies to learn to be better
  18. You attend conferences and course to improve your skills
  19. You have conversations with team members individually to build your relationship
  20. You have conversations with your Product Owner to build your relationship
  21. You have conversations with Management to build your relationship
  22. You have conversations with team members and product owners not on your scrum team  to build your relationship with them
  23. You encourage small failure and the learning behind it
  24. You practise what you preach
  25. You have stories to tell on success and failures
These statements are off the top of my head … there are thousands more – please add yours to the comments and I will update the post (and give you credit!).
The things I mentioned above might come as a surprise to you. Since when is reading and relationship building part of your job description as a scrum master? Well – it is – if you want to be a good one. We try and teach these and other topics in our course Growing Agile Scrum Masters.  These are the keys to becoming great! Content includes: Coaching Self Assessment, Trust, Giving and Receiving Feedback, Listening Skills, Facilitation Skills, Detachment, Self Improvement, Team Assessment, Building Relationships, Scrum Training, Impediments, Motivation, Retrospectives.

The RI Scrum Master

This post is part of a series on the Growth Path of a scrum master:

(1) The Growth Path of a Scrum Master

(2) The SHU scrum master

(3) The HA scrum master

(4) The RI scrum master

(5) Evaluate yourself : Scrum Master Shu Ha Ri Test
In the Ri state, the team is hyperproductive. But what is the ScrumMaster doing and do you really need one? You need the ScrumMaster but they don’t have to do much. Here is an example of the qualities to look for if you want a Ri state ScrumMaster.

This is also a practicing scrum master but one with more exposure. Also active in coaching circles, gatherings etc. They talk,blog publicly about their successes and failures. They realize that they are on an ongoing learning journey. They bend the rules and can articulate that they are doing this. They know the pros and cons of doing this. Inspect and adapt is part of their daily life and thus everything they do is affected by this. They relish the opportunity to have outsiders observe their behaviors as they know the value in this. This scrum master will delay a sprint start in order to have a decent retrospective. They allow enough time during the retrospective for emergent learning and common understanding. Often these scrum masters have starting coaching at an organizational level. They spend time mentoring other scrum masters, product owners even management. They are calm when under pressure and can articulate to developers and business what changing the process means, implies and how in the long run will harm progress.

Do you agree with my description? How would you describe a scrum master in ri?

The process in scrum for teams:

Things Ive noticed…
This is independent of the team. A scrum team can be in various states aswell and this will have an impact on the Scrum Master.
Read more about team Shu-Ha-Ri here:

The HA Scrum Master

This post is part of a series on the Growth Path of a scrum master:

(1) The Growth Path of a Scrum Master

(2) The SHU scrum master

(3) The HA scrum master

(4) The RI scrum master

(5) Evaluate yourself : Scrum Master Shu Ha Ri Test

In the Ha state, the ScrumMaster has a team that gets software done (all features tested and no bugs) at the end of the sprint, has a good product owner with ready backlog at the beginning of a sprint, has data that clearly show at least a doubling of productivity, and has strong management support. The team is positioned to work on hyperproductivity, the design goal of Scrum.

This is a practicing scrum master. They are actively in the scrum master role and doing this role full time. They read up about agile and scrum. They attend coaching circles, gatherings etc and get exposed to various scrum/agile problems from other organisations. They recognize their own weaknesses and strengths. They are able to be open and honest about where they are doing well and where they are not without taking it too personally. This scrum master works with the team and tries to build the team into a self organizing team. With time pressure they also stick to ensuring meetings happen on time. They wont drop a retro but they might cut it short. They structure the retros to get the team to do something they think/know is lacking. They will fight external pressures, like trying to change the sprint length, but often lack the explanation skills to convince others. They struggle with being seen as “people who stick to a process over the success of the business”.

Do you agree with my description? How would you describe a scrum master in ha?

In my next post I will explain my thoughts about the scrum master in Ri.

The SHU Scrum Master

This post is part of a series on the Growth Path of a scrum master:

(1) The Growth Path of a Scrum Master

(2) The SHU scrum master

(3) The HA scrum master

(4) The RI scrum master

(5) Evaluate yourself : Scrum Master Shu Ha Ri Test

A fairly new scrum master – usually they have completed the 2 day CSM course and possibly done some reading. I recall some of the things I did whilst in SHU state and cringe. This scrum master thinks they know everything about scrum. They quote from books and make statements like “that’s not scrum”, “you’re wrong, this is how it works” and “the book says…”. Often these scrum masters think they are in Ri – and thus as they know everything they can break some rules or bend them quite a bit.

When under stress or pressure this scrum master often falls back to command and control – this might be in the tradional project management way or in a more mother hen way. This scrum master when time pressured will ensure everything “looks” right. The meetings will be scheduled, the task board looks perfect. They drop creating a self-organising team and other soft skills. Another common sign is dropping the retrospective and rather going straight into another sprint.

Some other signs – extending the sprint by a day or two to accommodate the team, business critical delivery etc. They struggle with allowing the team or individuals to fail in order to grow. They see the team failing a sprint as a sign that they are personally failing and thus do everything they can to get a successful sprint.

Do you agree with my description? How would you describe a scrum master in shu? What are other signs?

From Jeff Sutherlands post:

In the Shu state, the scrum master sets up the process, helps the team get to a sustainable pace with known velocity and uses the Retrospective to introduce change that improves velocity.

In my next post I will explain my thoughts about the scrum master in Ha.

The Growth Path of a Scrum Master

This post is part of a series on the Growth Path of a scrum master:

(1) The Growth Path of a Scrum Master

(2) The SHU scrum master

(3) The HA scrum master

(4) The RI scrum master

(5) Evaluate yourself : Scrum Master Shu Ha Ri Test

This post has been bouncing around in my head for months now.  There are A LOT of Certified Scrum Masters out there in the world – thousands, maybe more. I’ve met many Certified Scrum Masters, and maybe that’s why the whole certification thing bothers me now. I no longer see it as a status. Rather its simply a course I attended over 2 days. I don’t call myself a scrum master because of the course – I call myself a scrum master because of all the other learning I’ve done, the experiences I’ve had with various teams and the dedication I have to improving myself in that role.

A couple of years ago I came across someone calling themselves a Senior Scrum Master. The ego in me was annoyed that I didn’t have the title “Senior”. Then came blame, how did they get the title? What did they know or do better than me? And eventually the curious side: What does senior mean as a scrum master? What does Jnr mean? Is it applicable? Is it appropriate?

What happens if you were a Senior Project Manager and now you’re a scrum master. Do you need that title because that’s how seniority is communicated in your company? Do your salary brackets get defined using Junior, Mid and Senior?

I started thinking of the growth ladder for an aspiring scrum master. Not all scrum masters want to be agile coaches when they grow up. So how can you communicate at what level you are as a scrum master and how do you determine that level? What are the signs?

Then I thought about Shu-Ha-Ri and it fit the hole. This was a way for me to express my scrum master skills and evaluate myself. It also allowed for movement. Sometimes you are the master and other times you are the grasshopper 🙂

Shu-Ha-Ri refers to the 3 stages of learning and the concept comes from Japanese martial art.

  • Shu is the first stage, where the student is imitating and following the master’s steps
  • Ha is the second stage, where the student is showing understanding, and breaking away from the master’s steps
  • Ri is the final stage, where the student is showing mastery and fluency by creating their own steps

In my next post I will explain my thoughts about the scrum master in the Shu state.

I have proposed this topic as a talk at Agile 2012 – please leave me a comment with your thoughts:

Some interesting reading:

Growing Agile

Today marks the start of my new job, which I must admit doesn’t feel like a job at all 🙂

Finally after 2 years of talking about it in times of excitement and times of frustration my good friend and fellow passionate agilist Karen Greaves and I have started our own company – Growing Agile.

Growing Agile

The thing that makes us super excited and smile from ear to ear is helping others with agile. Maybe its just lending an ear to listen to your problem, perhaps its pointing out another way to try something, sometimes its just forwarding a link to a great article or recommending a book – these things make us happy. If you have ever been around one of us, you will know that our energy and love for this topic is infectious, and so we hope to help many more people, and companies embrace agile, and I hope in more industries that just development.

We are embarking on a journey to follow our passion and live our dream – we know there will be tough times, confusing times and we also know there will be amazing and delightful times 🙂

Please get in touch with me if you’d like to hear more, and follow @growingagile on twitter.