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Super Heroes

Super Heroes

In a Scrum practicing team, every one is a hero, trying to promise and perform what or what ever it takes to deliver in the Sprint. For transformation projects, the biggest threats are with the super hero’s in the team.

A had a candidate in my team who works like a geek, he understood Scrum, he even takes it to the next level to make his associates understand what Scrum as a framework is?, he works best or bets his velocity, each time. He delivers what is required and sometime more than what is required, He helps associates to complete their work, sometimes working overtime or helping them code or test, or even do their work as his and claim that they have done it. Infact he solves all his impediments by himself. Did I say, he solves it by himself? Well, did you see the hidden threats that can blow up the team even it can delivery Sprints.

What was the candidate trying to do? He was basically doing the whole project by himself. There were physical teams depending on him to deliver for the sprint. The Scrum Master became dumb to understand how unwell the Sprint executed and the threat never showed up even in the Sprint Review or Retrospect because the Done for the user stories are validated and signed-off by the product owner as accepted. Infact, the Sprint was super flawless, hidden inside the team is the incompetence lying low and the super hero trying to cover it up along the team.

A Scum Master is just not enough to handle situations like this. We needed a Coach here to make the team understand what they were supposed to do.


As a team for each sprint, we deliver, but not over deliver it. In highly self organized teams, the threat shadows itself and grows as a poison tree. The super heroes, thinking of helping junior peers, coding for them and claiming they have done it, is a way of spoiling the guy who looks you as a senior. The candidate should train, guide the juniors to perform the action than to do things on his own.

Scrum Master:

Impediments are to be solved or guided by a Scrum Master who has to be a technical guy in a tactical project. If he is just another Project Manager moved role, then it becomes a clear problem that is buried within a team and never showed up. In Scrum, we need to remember it’s a team’s delivery not a single person who can prove the sprint to be right.

This is a hidden, secret layer that cant be found unless you go a step ahead with the team and understand what each person deliver. In my experience, even if you have been honest with the team, the team never shows up that there was something hidden. For the sake of being good hero, outside but what each individual misses is that their learning curve is pulled by his senior and at the end of the day, he doesn’t really know what went on with project or how it was ever coded.

Why do these heroes do this?

From my experience,

  1. It’s for them to prove that they can deliver technically anything and they want their expert light bulb above them.
  2. The thirst to qualify and get a good rating and prove technically strong caps.
  3. To impress junior or senior peers
  4. As a challenge, to fight with self ego’s
  5. Innocently, they overdo, just to prove.
  6. Rightly to beat their velocity Sprint after Sprint.

There is a parallel threat that runs with this, the velocity is being observed not as a team but by a single resources doubled up velocity and there starts the waterfall model as the resources who are waiting to get their work done spend quality time doing all sorts of other works.

How do we identify the secret as a Scrum Master?

  1. In Daily Standup we don’t hear any impediments
  2. Even if we hear, they are solved or can be solved by today or a specific day
  3. Details on impediments aren’t shared by the team.
  4. Team considers every risk to be an impediment.
  5. Team member doesn’t provide an update or deliberately avoid a specific update.
  6. Team member deliberately absent for a update that he needs to share on a day.
  7. Team member has resistance in volunteering to pick up user stories.
  8. Team member depends on senior resources (super heroes) in the team to suggest, picking up user stories.
  9. Team member informs that he would not be available today for the daily standup.

The above are some of the symptoms that I have faced as a Scrum Master. Watching the sprints deliver perfectly at the end and being dumb.

What can be done:

  1. Discuss it personally with the resource. Understand his problem and start assigning him a mentor to help him learn where he’s week at.
  2. Remove him from the Scrum Team. (Make him an observer for a sprint)
  3. Give him or allow him to take simple tasks from the backlog (planned for other sprints) to work on.
  4. Have a personal stand-up with him on daily basis to understand three things. (What did he learn or do yesterday, what is he going to learn or do today, what is the proof?)
  5. Just by assigning him / her to a mentor or getting them a training tickets to attend training does not make him a hero overnight.
  6. As a human, he takes his turn to understand that he has done a mistake; he first tries to cover it up with guilt. Then he tries to recover from his act, He anticipates and understands the move forward. This is the time you as an assistant provide him the tools for him to grow. Infact his is one of the best things a Scrum Master can do to his team ever.
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Posted by on October 13, 2011 in New forms in Agile


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Ah, I don’t want 2 work on US time

Collocating or Co-locating them and performing the delivery using Scrum was a nightmare in our organization. We use to have re-organizations twice a year. The need was to be aligned with the function or with the business or within the business function.

Prior to this, our re-orgs were more towards technology like Java Unit, Microsoft Unit, which had sub units Front End , Back – end and then version wise split up Java 1.2 Sub unit Java 2.0 …. It was a mad rat race….

 Delivering becomes even more cumbersome as the front end guys needs to collocate and need a separate infrastructure and when they were integrating their process they need the testers who needs to be borrowed for a period of time and then returned back. No dedicated testing, BA resources were provided for a development team.  They need to collocate for a period of time. Infact this led to creating a pooling structure for BA’s, Testers and they formed a unit, sub unit and a department for them. The billing become more holy and the process became the cow. These departments gave birth to a sibling Technical writers and it race raped a new breed of Document Writers, Critics and User Manual creators, Automaters and on… At the end of the day, we had hybrid teams in a department collocated working on a technology where the technology breeds a dozen on the weekends with new versions zipping our lives.

It was a real mad rate race.

Aligning to business itself is a threat, as the vision for the business is strategic and anything strategic has a dynamic weather change. The rolling up was much easier in this end but when another re-org needs to happen it again became cumbersome.

Aligning  with the function or a service was ideal, where we really found cross generations of ppl work in a team. Every organization that is on the way to become a matured hybrid should have undergone all these kind of alignments, vertical, horizontal, funnel down, up and undressed to show the value of joined up teams.

Yesterday, It was a dull client – customer – development team hybrid where the clients / customers were in the East or West, the development, testing centers were in India and China to work and deliver the content. Forming Scrum teams were a challenge, a huge impact on teams that were in US and India, where the Indian developers needs to work on the US time just to clarify doubts, prototype and present what has been done.

Today, A much energertic approach in handling clients have been found and practiced in organizations like mine. We have replaced the word Clients / customers with ‘In-Country colleagues’. They aren’t clients, but our team members who work in other locations. The idea is to help us help them. Some organizations called this joined up.


Tomorrow, As I blog, Our Team has picked up 2 or 4 members from our In-country colleagues to collocate to India and spend solid 2 years in helping us helping them, to shape up the product, to help us understand the big picture than just the scrum team or the sprint deliverable.


The advantages are…

  1. We don’t worry about Scrum of Scrums
  2. We aren’t delayed to get first hand information.
  3. We have the team collocated. (Clients, Stakeholders, BA’s, Testers, Development team and SME’s) all in one place to deliver what is required like a mission critical delivery.
  4. We save time and focus on results.
  5. We buy in. When your clients sits with you while you develop, while you prototype, while you present make a lot of transparency, confidence in delivering and a much positive attitude to deliver what is required.
  6. It helps both the members to learn from each culture / psychology and human network.

This is how a Scrum team should be… If you have your clients in the US and UK, Suggest to your management to bring the key resources for a period of 3 sprints to your developing arena and see the difference of how your team can perform. I have seen IBM, Microsoft and other companies who follow this.

I have learned this over the period of two years what Scrum meant by collocating.

The graphics in the blog are not self created but gathered from internet google search.
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Posted by on October 4, 2011 in New forms in Agile


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Maria Montessori + Agile Thinking = Scrum

As a pupil, I have attended a regular school. The oldest Salesians of DB School in Chennai. The teachings were Anglo India. As I grew up to an adult, I learned the Montessori way of learning was with freedom and enjoyment.

My daughter, 6 years old is studying in a Montessori with the freedom she requires, as a parent coordinator, it has been an easy plot to understand what my child learns, how she learns it, alphabets, numbers, shapes, calculations, ordering, life size real examples…

I started to attend few classes as a silent listener and a volunteer to help when necessary.

The overview I picked from wikipedia on Montessori education gives us an idea to compare, here you go…

Montessori education is characterized by an emphasis on independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural psychological development, as well as technological advancements in society.

Montessori education


Mixed age classrooms, with classrooms for children aged 2½ or 3 to 6 years old by far the most common Cross-Functional Teams
Student choice of activity from within a prescribed range of options Tasks Pickup by voluntary method
Uninterrupted blocks of work time Sprints
A Constructivism or “discovery” model, where students learn concepts from working with materials, rather than by direct instruction Story boards to epic, theme creations and poker planning.
Specialized educational materials developed by Montessori and her collaborators Poker Planning, estimation techniques, Sprint and Release Planning


When the school starts, it doesn’t start with an assembly with prayers, but each class of 20 students meet-up in  a circle, without a word maintaining silence and they say what they learnt yesterday, what they like to learn today. Just like our Sprint meeting where we answer the 3 questions with well prepared answers with a time boxed meeting.

Each child chooses what they want to do. Walk away from the circle, collects the tools they want to learn walks back to the circle and the teacher or a matured / senior child helps the younger child to learn the concepts. End of the day or over a week the child learns the concepts with several practical questions answered all by him.

Themes, Epics & Storyboards

To understand, let me take an example… Swetha, walked out of the ring, collected a world atlas puzzle made of wood. She is 5 years old and doesn’t understand what it is. As a game to arrange things was the only thought she should have had while picking up the material. Her senior Tony guided her and explained her about the countries, Jason explained about the land where we are and the countries with seas in between, The discussion went to different types of travel, things the world is made of, shape of the world, size of the world, the universe, the things around it, how is date and time calculated? How is the day changing to night? Not just in a single class but within a week Swetha was able to understand at her age of 5, the things that we understood in a regular science book from 5th to 8th grade. As Tony & Jason both 6 years old share their knowledge, they gain knowledge in answering them and strengthening their base of what they like.

Performance Reviews

When Swetha, did her learning with the atlas puzzle, she was questioned by her teacher, her guide. Swetha, can you draw an atlas by yourself? Can you show me where India is? What is the country above India? Can you tell me a story of the atlas? And more….


As a parent, to learn your child has scored in a regular school is in a way of tests / exams. In Montessori, the performance is evaluated over a period of time, not in a fixed test / exams format with questions to be answered and answered correctly including the ranking that kills the budding minds.

Swetha draws and describes in her level of English what she understood about the atlas puzzle and amazingly covers most of what was discussed. Her single story had a king longing on day 1 to wait till day 1 of the next month for 12 months to see her queen, where one stay in earth and the other in moon and about the seas and the plants that grown under them, The day changing to night and why shinning stars cannot be seen in day. Finally, the couple ended up after 12 month touring 18 countries that she spelt and wrote.

I haven’t known a better system to teach napkin minds at this age.

Even in a Scrum or a waterfall jaggy model, our performance reviews are made up KPI (Key Point Indicators) or objectives set and broken down to reach targets (Low Targets, High Targets, Stretch Targets) and we basically formulate a calculation for a team of 20 or 40 to rank and provide scores as LMH (Low, Medium or High) or other ways. But the observation on performance is discussed low or never discussed. What has been achieved badly is highlighted more than what is achieved and covered up as a need mostly.


I would recommend leaders and managers to observe, listen and then review each performance with a clear career path in mind for each individual. An associate score card is not a fixed static point, but a way to help him understand that his focus is lost in certain areas, he needs to focus on those areas and his focus is best and when continued would yield these results. These should be documented and tracked.

We need to understand we are working with humans, a fully loveable material who works for us and respects us just because we have the authority. I remember and have seen this quote play well “Give the person the authority and you would see how criminal he is”.

Love Points

The overlap seems to be perfect, the key points that I really liked are

  1. Their daily ring (Standup)
  2. No one assigns tasks, they are voluntarily taken by the child to play way learn.
  3. Mixed age classroom (Cross Functional teams) &
  4. Performance Review.

 We have to heterodox regular methods.

Images are fetched from: “”


Posted by on September 14, 2011 in New forms in Agile


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Lancinate Old Old product development games

A Cowabunga!, surprised working group with this super idea to reengineer the process. The output being a framework had to support a theory as rock and practise practical small worlds (over & over, again).

On the roll over, it’s a bada-bing, to focus on what really or practically works in software project development and delivery. The rally wasn’t enough we needed Scrum.

It’s quiet inspiring to read the real document “The New New Product Development Game” by “Hirotaka Takeuchi & Ikujiro Nonaka”. If you re-read, it’s a product development game, not just a project development game. The bigger picture was concentrated to use it in different shapes and sizes. Yet today the success was only widely seen in software development projects and growing to other segments.

The differences between the traditional, linear approach to New New product development related with rugby approach is well defined and stated. The game linguistics are used sprinkled over the document and to stress the new casual way of playing seriously.

The document is still an eye opener with out fashioned terms (not in practice now) but gives a new meaning for today’s executives. The 6 characters they used in the puzzle were:

  1. Built-in instability
  2. Self-organizing project teams
  3. Overlapping development phases
  4. Multilearning
  5. Subtle Control
  6. Organizational transfer of learning, are well explained.

Theories and terms as:

Self-organizing Project Teams
            Self-Transcendence (Never ending quest for ‘the limit’),
            Cross-fertilization (members with varying functional specializations)
            (to) Multilevel Learning
            (to) Multifunctional Learning
Subtle Control
            Control by love
            (or even) the common set of values
Transfer of Learning
            Dismantle (the project team) are well stated to a record log along with a set of basic limitations like a product.

Some Limitations that are highlighted are: Cannot use for…

  1. Breakthrough projects that require a revolutionary innovation.
  2. Not Applicable to Mammoth projects like those in aerospace business. & more…

Read the document and sure you would know more just like attending the Scrum Master Class or Product owner class.

Classes are taken by Sathya that particularly highlight the grand fathers and our principles to spread the light of software development business success.

Link to the document: New New Prod Dev Game

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Posted by on September 12, 2011 in New forms in Agile


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