Is the perception of the Scrum event something to focus on?

When someone in the team challenges some of the Scrum events, don´t just jump in and defend it… why should you?

Maybe, just maybe, would be better to understand the reasons behind it and work on this. It is very often that you can´t help that person change her mind just by explaining the benefits or the whole idea behind doing it.

In many cases, if they challenge it, they have any kind of pre-set idea. Could be because of their experience in a previous team, because of what they heard from other people, based on a conflict they had … or maybe they just don´t like.

Anyway, if you feel you need to work on this perception … better look on the root cause. There you can see things to improve or make the people aware that this is not the case in this team, company, with this coach … (if it is needed)

But in no case, in my opinion, put too much of your energy trying to convince people who just don´t like Agile practices or they just like to do it “their own way”.

First, people’s opinions is not something you can control.

Second, you are removing that energy from helping the people that actually perceive the value added by working on this way.

Every challenge is a Rubik’s Cube

Do you know who Ernő Rubik is?

He is the inventor of the Rubik’s Cube, yes.

Ernő didn’t invent it as a puzzle, but as a teaching tool. To teach and learn himself.

In the same way, I see every challenge we face at work, with our team or as a company is both a chance to learn and teach. There are thousands of ways to look at it. Many ways to solve it.

I think we as coaches must look at every challenging situation, no matter what it is, like we look at a Rubik’s Cube. Not just as a puzzle but as an opportunity to go even deeper.

As Ernő says himself:

There is always a way for a solution. There is always a way to find something else, something new, something different or find the result of your work. If today is not everything is good, it doesn’t mean tomorrow cannot be better.

Written short communication can challenge you

Nowadays, if you do a lot of remote collaboration, written short messages is something we face more and more.

When this is the channel, it is very easy to miss the context and of course all the nuances you have in the voice or facial expression and in many cases even if the sender wrote that message in a rush or not.

It is becoming more common in teams, so it could be something we as Coaches need to take more into account and see how to improve in context, content, timing and much more for our teams.

Even myself, I confess, is something I need to work on using better to avoid misunderstandings or improve effectiveness. Anyway, in most cases, as much as possible my advice is still … have a video call and spend five minutes of your time as soon as you feel a message can create some confusion. Nothing is still able to substitute direct human face to face communication.

Habits and unforeseen

Creating good habits can be challenging.

We imagine a plan with some objectives, well designed steps and a scenario in which if we meet each day, we will reach the goal.

But thousands of things can happen along the way. One day an emergency may arise, another may simply your children have part of the night awake or maybe you are too tired to continue that day. And what is almost certain is that laziness will appear.

Willpower does not exist , there is the decision and consistency.

Many people think, a an example, that if they find themselves distracted while meditating, they are doing it wrong, but that is not the case. It is the exercise of realizing and returning attention to the task that matters. With habits it is the same. Make that day all you can, forget the guilty conscience and above all return to the next day’s load. Failing is not a problem, just an accident or circumstance you can decide not to repeat.

There are no shortcuts or magic formulas. Only one step after another to get from point A to point B.

Nobody has willpower

I have the theory that there is no such thing as “willpower”.

I do not know if it is so much that it does not exist, but I do not like the concept because it puts responsibility outside of one and it is also deceptive. People speak of willpower as if it were a kind of gift given by a higher entity that some have been lucky to receive and others have not. It is common or read or read phrases like:

“How lucky, I would like to do the same, but I have no willpower”

That’s comfortable to excuse yourself but if you think about it coldly, do you really think it’s true? What is really what you do not have? Is it that you were born without something that others have? Have you done anything to offend your gods and deprived you of any gift?

When you say willpower, do you mean the ability to stay firm in your decisions and not always fall into what is easy or more palatable at the moment? I think so and for me that is not a matter of mystical strength. It is a question of clarity, determination and coherence.

I discovered this when I was training my first 10k race to get out of a depression. It was crazy for me to train five days a week, strict diet and face the demon of depression. At first I complained about the willpower that was needed to achieve it, but after a few weeks I began to change my mind. I realized that day after day, what was really happening was that I faced myself and said:

Let’s see, if you’re not going to train, does it bring you closer or away from the objective? If you move away, what could happen? If you approach, what will you have achieved? And then, it’s just a matter of being consistent with your own decision, accepting it and moving on. Take the necessary steps and be aware that you choose to get it and renounce not doing it.

That’s why I say that the recipe is not based on willpower, but on a plan based on three steps:

Clarity

Be clear about the objective you want to achieve. Establish it with absolute clearness and so that the result is measurable and evaluable. If possible, with a specific execution time.

Nowadays I would say in order to achieve what you want to, focus on becoming the person who would behave liked, as explained when I wrote about the book “Atomic habitshere.

Determination

Once the objective has been established, analyze the steps that have to be made and accept to make them even if any obstacles are placed in the way. No matter what.

Coherence

In the day to day appear a thousand situations in which one has to take steps that are approaching or moving away from the objective. It is time to observe them closely, evaluate them and be consistent. Have I decided to take a path? Great, I decide to be consistent with my values, my principles and decisions and move forward. I make the decision not to cheat or give up myself

In the end it is a matter of responsibility. You act in a mature way and assume the victory and defeat of your own struggle. When you act like this, it is not so important if at the end of the path you do not expect absolute victory, but each step you have given it by your own decision, without surrendering to the ease of the moment. Freedom and autonomy after all.

Anyway, as I said, if you are trying to build a new good habit or get rid of a bad old one, go back to the masters like James Clear. They will tell how to actually walk the path of that thing we sometimes call willpower.

Please honour your craft

As part of a Scrum Team, no matter which of the three roles you play, you are responsible for a very important part of what the whole team does. You have the expertise on that area. If you are part of the Team, it is important to understand which is your role in it and what is all you need to achieve that part.

Please honour what you do.

If you are part of the Development Team, always keep an eye on providing your team with carefully written code, well curated design … whatever applies to your work in the Team.

As a Product Owner, make sure that you help the Development Team understand the business needs, keep a carefully curated Backlog, please take of your interaction with the Stakeholders …

In the role of a Scrum Master, understand which is your position in the Scrum Team and which one is not, never stop learning because your team will need it, make sure that you don’t only work with the Development Team or even the Scrum Team, remember that the team needs you to work all across the organisation …

Those and thousands of other things. Yes, I said thousands but I could say millions. Because the amount of things to learn and improve, the depth of your job and it’s implications, the techniques that you can bring from areas you don’t even think about yet … are basically unattainable. Please honour that. Treat what you do as a craft because this is what it is, a path that we could be walking for a whole life if we really look deeply on every step we make through this path.

So yes it matters, actually a lot, the amount of love and respect you invest on becoming better on the nuances of what you do and the way you do it as a team member. Martial artists understand this point very well. Even the master, after decades, is still a student. A practitioner.

Cheers for your critical thinking, not so much for you criticism

Let’s make this point clear. Many people mix or interchange too often what critical thinking and criticism mean. They are not the same. But in order to continue, let’s look at the definition of both (according to Oxford Dictionaries) and think about it for a moment.

Critical thinking

The objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement.

Criticism

The expression of disapproval of someone or something on the basis of perceived faults or mistakes.

You can clearly see that the definitions are very different, right? Well … it’s very clear until it’s not. There are some people that, in order to assert their own opinion or highlight from the rest and show that they “have a personality” adopt an attitude of almost constant criticism.

Let me please tell you two things if this is your case or you know someone that could benefit from it.

It is unnecessary.

In order to let people see that you think about the topics, reflect on them and are able to form your own opinion you don’t need to be critical all the time. Just raise your voice, share your opinion, give feedback (constructive, please and also about the good points).
Veery important: listen to other one’s ideas and opinions and accept that they can be right and you can be wrong. If they feel you are really listening, they will know you are making use of your critical thinking in order to judge about the topics by getting all the data and different approaches to a topic.

It is exhausting.

People at some point will get tired of always listen a “yes, but” or “no, because”. Count the numbers of “I disagree” that you share with the world.

When you adopt an attitude of constant criticism you are also not giving feedback. Feedback is for improvement, not the expression of a judgement. So people get tired of criticism because there is nothing constructive you can do with it when you receive it. You don’t have many options but swallowing it or counter.

So, in a nutshell, people will feel at some point that you are not using your critical thinking but your perceived faults or mistakes (expressed as criticism) and will move eventually away from you and your negative comments and attitude because you will be draining instead of filling them.

This way, instead of asking more and more for you ideas, based on your critical thinking, they will move away from you criticism.

Invest time in preparation. Even if someone does not understand it

When I started my path as a Scrum Master, the retrospectives were the first things I knew were going to help the Scrum teams get together, to really feel they were a team and internalise that ours is a process of continuous improvement.

However, I confess that I was ashamed of spending time preparing retrospectives. I had the feeling that if someone saw me printing or preparing material for some exercise, spending time re-arranging a room for a specific dynamic or things like that, they would think that I was wasting my time in nonsense and they would´t like it.

The truth is a couple of times I received some uncomfortable comment from those ones you know that are only half joking and that they drop something that the person does not tell you directly.

Because of that I was very shamed and did these things super fast and many times without completing what I really had thought but a minimal version very reduced.

The problem is that in doing so, I realised that I was reducing my ability to impact, the effectiveness of those dynamics and the ability to make teams feel like much more than sit and evaluate.

As I saw that the team took advantage of the retros, I began to deepen the operation and to become aware that if I did not do what was really going to be effective I was disrespecting myself, my role and the teams. This awareness helped me gain a lot of confidence in what I was doing.

Over time that feeling disappeared. To this day I have the philosophy that, although it sounds obvious, I have to do what I have to do. If someone does not understand it or if someone does not like the idea, you have all the freedom to come and discuss it and I will explain how and why, but I will not stop investing in doing my job better and better.

This change of mentality reverberated spectacularly in the results of the retrospectives, in the feedback received from the teams and in my own way of facilitating them.

If you are in a similar situation, I recommend you have a lot of respect for our profession and dedicate the time and effort you need to prepare things. You are responsible for facilitating the dynamics of many people’s progress and that, because it is very responsible, should not be taken lightly. Not for them or for yourself.

Is it good for the team?

Here is a concept to formulate questions to yourself as a Coach when working with teams.

Is good for the team …

… or you do it so they feel all the time you are providing value?

… even if most of them won’t like you question especially at the beginning?

… or you do it just because it is written in a manual or by an expert?

… and you help them understand why this is the case?

They never did waterfall anyway

When trying to explain Agile to the people, did you think that maybe they didn’t do waterfall in the past anyway?

If you use in any cases the classical explanation of what Aigle is about by opposition to a waterfall process it could be a good idea to think if they know what you are talking about. Maybe because they are very young and their first job was actually in a quite agile company, for example. Or they don’ t know any other reality and so don’t see any disadvantage on it.

Whatever it is the reason, when we explain what we do with teams or the value we can create, it can be a good idea to think about what we do and want to help the team achieving more than in what we don’t want.