Management Scrum Team – Part 3

This is the 3rd of 4 parts. Part 1 starts things.


Now we come to a harder meeting. The Sprint Review. It is hard because no one in this team is used to showing anything completed in two weeks.

They are often used to showing Powerpoints. Vaporware. “Thoughts.”

With knowledge workers or managers, when they show this stuff, can you tell if you have made any progress? Of course they say they have done excellent work. Meaningless. How do you know? You don’t. Sometimes they have actually made tons of progress. Other times, the progress is negative. Very hard to know when it is progress (but they always say it is).

Ok, then, we have to change things. We need to have a better fix on whether we have made progress or not. And, if progress, how much.

Sprint Review.

Alright then!

First, the MST has to do a general ‘review’ of things over this Sprint. The CEO does this quickly.

An example:

  • We committed to the following eight stories in the Sprint Planning Meeting. (He lists them.)
  • We completed seven of them. We did not complete the last one. We started an additional story, but did not complete it.
  • Our Velocity for the Sprint was 18 SPs (Story Points, or units of work).
  • That gives us an average velocity of 20 over the last three Sprints. With that Velocity, we expect to deliver X on Y date and A on B date. Just a bit later than what we said two weeks ago.

Note that the PO is summarizing for the team, and the Business Stakeholders are there.

Necessary talking and summary. Blah, blah, blah. Keep this part short! Very short. This is altogether too much like the usual BS song and dance stuff they have been trained to waste time with… and they have done it for five+ years. People have been promoted for no reason except that they are good at this Powerpoint BS.  I could express this more kindly, but I won’t. As a shareholder of many companies, I am disgusted at the long wasteful meetings that this stuff is usually done in. Any questions?

But I do agree, we need a short, very short, summary by the Product Owner (CEO). 10 minutes?  Something like that. Short!!

The other people can talk some at this point. Not much. These people are all good talkers.  The BS meters are running high at this point. Watch out.

Now, they have to show the real stuff. Demo.

Quickly, they have to demo the working stories. Whoa! (Neither demo nor ‘working’ imply or mean that the product must be released every Sprint. Depends on many factors. A typical situation is that it takes multiple Sprints for a product to be built enough to release to customers, whether internal or external.)

We need good independent ‘Business Stakeholders’ (BSHs) to be there to give good, independent feedback on what has been accomplished. We need to know if we have made real progress. Or, have we just been ‘working hard’ and accomplished nothing?!  Hence, independent feedback. Feedback that represents the ‘customer’ for each story.  Some stories build ‘product’ for external customers and some stories build ‘product’ for internal customers, and ‘external customers’ much too often these days means ‘the regulators’.

We need people at the demo who can quickly give us feedback that these different customers will like (or not like) what the MST has finished this Sprint, and I call these people (BSHs). Note: your firm may call them lots of things. Examples: Customers, managers, shareholders, consultants, board members, department heads, SMEs, gurus, wise old heads, customer relationship managers, product managers, etc., etc., etc.

Also, often the word ‘Business Stakeholder’ already has a meaning in your firm different than my meaning. Watch out for that. Picking the right BSHs (as I defined them) is hard and important.

And we need the BSHs to give complete, detailed, honest feedback now. So, you will not ever get perfect BSHs, but do the best you can. “The bad news does not get better with age.”

For the MST people, receiving honest feedback can be tough. They have often not heard that in a good while. All kinds of ‘acting out’ can happen. Some want to ‘shoot the messenger.’ Or blame Scrum.

This can be tough on the PO (CEO) in at least three ways:
(a) he or she is getting way more negative feedback than in the past,
(b) the direct reports are complaining loudly about the negative feedback they are getting and
(c) the CEO can see that the ‘team’ culture that had been ‘talked about’ for ages does not really exist in the way they had hoped.  (This can be tough to swallow.)

If there is not much negative feedback, there are two possible reasons.
(a) Everyone is Steve Jobs (or pick another business icon). Unlikely.
(b) People are lying or don’t know how to give feedback.
Often because we picked patsies as the BSHs (and deep-down knew they would give only ‘sweet’ feedback).

Get good and honest BSHs. Insist on the truth. Remind people that the bad news is the good news. Because “the bad news doesn’t get better with age.” Meaning: Now that we know it, we’re gonna fix it now, before it becomes more expensive to fix.

Be patient. “Little things are big.” (Yogi Berra.) And step by step they can all accept that they are imperfect, and improve. Be firm. Be kind. Be honest. Be patient.

Well, to be a bit more honest, at some point the CEO is very likely to see that someone ‘needs a promotion to another company.’

The CEO again needs to be patient. These people are good people in various ways, and the company’s culture (or someone’s culture) has mis-trained them for many years now. So, it will take more than two Sprints for all the dysfunctions to come out and for all the re-training to occur.

So, give people a reasonable chance to adjust. But at some point, one person is likely to be ‘at the far end of the scale’ and you have to give them a ‘promotion to another company.’ (Often we say “It’s not you; it’s me.” I say this only partly to add a bit of levity.) And it is tough, but it is also the best thing for that person at that point.


Part 4 is next.  Feedback is always welcome.

« « Management Scrum Team – Part 2 || Management Scrum Team – Part 4 » »


3 thoughts on “Management Scrum Team – Part 3

  1. Pingback: Management Scrum Team - Part 1 - Lean Agile Training

  2. Pingback: Management Scrum Team - Part 2 - Lean Agile Training

  3. JIm Dowling

    Worse than not being used to showing things completed in two weeks is showing thigs that are not completed. Especially in the uppermost ranks, we are talking about people who are only compensated on Results, finishing things and by the way, they almost always get all their compensation, if not more, when that get aggregate results not detail results. E.g., if their bonus starts at $10bn in sales they don’t really care what got sold. Quite different from typical Scrum Teams.

    It does not take too many Sprint absences before leaders learn that things happen without them. We go into the program with a contract that says “Empower with Boundaries and Engage when and how invited.” In our implementation, the Product Owner is the whip who keeps the right people engaged and the Scrum Master keeps them engaged in the right way. This keep ownership and accountability at the senior-most level. Note that this method is applied to Capabilities which are combinations of People, Process, Technology and Culture. Demonstrations consist of people explaining how they will produce a goal and what risks they are managing. This is what managers and leaders do all the time.

    We populate Sprint Reviews with the front-line leaders and workers who will be the People part of the Capabilities. Their role is to observe and provide feedback in the form of Post-It’s for Risks, Implementation Issues, Bravos. This removes a lot of work from the leaders who are on the Scrum Team as well as others.

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