New ScrumMaster Checklist

This list is a place for new ScrumMasters for their very first ScrumMaster Job.

Welcome to your new ScrumMaster task. It is a tough one and sure is confusing. No Organization actually has a role like this. So where do you start.

Set up a meeting with  your manager and the manager of the team that you will be ScrumMaster of.

This meeting is important so you can expect what kinds of things they are expecting you to do. You should talk to them about things you are expecting to do

  1. Make impediments Visible.
  2. Facilitate the 4 core Scrum Meetings
  3. Remove Impediments

That is it. Make sure they are okay with these three things. If you hear no for all three of them, don’t take this job.There are many other things you can do but the above three arissues-board3e core to your job.

Make impediments Visible.

Next create a impediment board and make sure the managers know that you will put something here and if you cannot figure out how to solve it in a day or two, you will ask for their help. Also if possible make this a physical board.

Facilitate 4 Core Meetings.

Find out when the sprints are starting. If the team is not yet sprinting, just add the work they are each doing into one list and call that the product backlog for now.

Find our who the product owner. You have to make sure you have a Product Owner for Scrum to work.

In general all Scrum Meetings should follow the following principles

1) They need to be high energy

2) They need to start in time

3) Only the Team and PO are needed. Don’t invite anyone yet

4) They always end before time

A general agenda for all meeting

  1. Opening
  2. Purpose of the event
  3. Task-board for each event
  4.  Close with Action Items
  5.  Do a mini retro about the event itself.

Here is the  five items for each of the meetings.

{Work in Progress}


Request your contribution to Scrum Awareness In India

State of Scrum In India

Hello my name is Vibhu Srinivasan and some of you may know me. I am passionate about Agile practices and practice agile in everything I do from running  business to helping at home.  I am presenting on a topic called “Is Scrum For India” in the upcoming Scrum Gathering India to be held in Pune on the 26th and 27th of July 2013

In order to faciliate the session, I am trying to gather some data to really understand if scrum is working for teams in India. I feel you could help.

To do this, I  would need
1) To meet 25 scrum teams from Service and product companies alike.
2) To carry out a Survey from 200 independent practitioners in India on Scrum.

I would appreciate your response, if you are able to contribute some time of your team.

Based on your preference, I can visit your team for around 30 minutes in Hyderabad, Pune, Bangalore or Gurgaon to conduct the study. We could also do this through Skype or some other video channel.
The responses by the teams will be used only for our internal studies and the broadcast of the results will not carry your teams’ reference unless  we have your categorical permission for the same. If you so wish,  your teams’ video will be shown at the conference; if you don’t then we will not mention anything. As always I respect your organization’s privacy and will refrain from saying anything about you, your product or the customer if you choose to not expose that information

Please send an email to me with your preference for either a meeting with the team or  for the team to participate in a survey. My personal email is

Please note this is purely for benefit of the agile community and there is no commercial intent here.
There are no gifts or bribes associated with this. I am hoping you will do this because you care about the agile practices in the Indian context.

What is velocity?

Velocity can be termed as the run rate of the team . Agile teams use this metric to measure how much work was done in a sprint , so that we know how much more is left to actually make the reason.

Let take a simple example .

The team has ten stories whose total story point is 140. They pulled around 30 points of work this sprint . They finished 25 points. This 25 is their run rate.

With this the team and product owner can product owner can project how many more sprints are needed to finish the work.

We are assuming that the team is using story pointing here.

Some myths about velocity
1. Teams velocity keeps increasing over time.
2. A team having a better run rate is a better team
3. Since some team last year delivered at a certain velocity, this new team will also deliver at the same velocity
4 Velocity can be a predictable measure sprint after sprint even if we keep moving team members in and out.
I have seen many team members mindlessly argue over the effectiveness of velocity and end up wasting valuable time.

In fact in the beginning in 2005 ,as a developer I would not see the point of such calculations. After a while I got used to this and stopped worrying about such metrics and just focused on writing clean code.

Also velocity as a measure only works well with teams that tend to practice Scrum and not as much with Kanban or XP teams.

Many scrummasters get into this coach mode with a single focus to help increase the velocity of the team. Instead I would encourage ScrumMasters to looking at completing the work they pulled min style as well as help team and team members identify waste in the system.

This metric is not as important as number of automated unit test or number of production bug in the system.


Is Scrum Agile dead in India?

To put things in perspective I am a Certifed Scrum Trainer and have been working with teams in India for three years.i am a developer that has been in this business for 18 years mostly in XP teams.

I was recently in a very interesting discussion with one of the handful of folks in India that I know of who actually understands the essence behind Agile. What we got talking was a very simple topic
Does a model like Scrum or Kanban which is widely popular elsewhere really applicable to Indian software industry.

Millions of developers code away daily in Indian organisations. More than sixty percent of Indian software industry is still service industry. By which I mean “Cheap outsourced fast software”

Put in a simpler way ” clean the mess and work on software western developers do not want to work on”. I have visited almost every large or medium service organisation in India in last three years. I am yet to see a highly motivated self directed high performance team.

I recently got into a very uncomfortable situation as a agile consultant, when the customer asked me – I want a American quality agile coach for whom I can spend 300k but for a Indian quality coach I can only pay 60 k. This is really top guy in a very big product company. Basically I was told that coaches in India suck .well most of them do ,but not every one of them.

Some of the most common fears that Indian management have to deal with

  • large fixed bid projects

Even to win a fixed bid project Indian companies have to guarantee that they will deliver all the features within a certain range.there are huge penalties for missing the cost deadline

  • thousands of new hires on a daily basis enter the system

a recent training coordinator explained to me how they filter through the low quality hires in the first six months of training
Most of the new hires have to go to a military style training program to unlearn whatever little they learnt in their engineering program’s. I saw the training Kanban board which has a day by day measure of where the new grads are in their learning curriculum. Nowhere in this new curriculum was the agile mindset.

  • after doing scrum we are stressed out

most of the customers from counties like US and UK are misusing the term commitment . Or this could be a misinterpretation of Indian managers
The teams are expected to commit whatever they finish in a sprint.

  • To manage a manager there is a manager

due to the sheer scale and volume of Indian organisations you get promoted to a manager from a developer even before you finish compiling the first program you ever wrote. There is a person to watch every person . For all these years the managers have been herding sheep. Where do they all go if you become agile.

  • affinity to westerers

it is sad but it is true. Indians take “athithi devo bava” way too seriously. Between a average Indian guy who naturally lies, does jugaad for everything and the white male who visits India more often to take pictures of poverty . Even if the Indian guy is speaking sense the people , crowd around the white guy who has no clue what problems Indian organisations speak . While it is a meritocratic society, if you look at the speakers for ,Indias largest agile conference where there are only a handful speakers from India.this goes to prove that this agile thing is not really working here. When I go around Indian organisations , I am often challenged by managers that they disagree on something because Craig said so or Pete said so. I hardly see Indian managers disagree with anything visitors have to say. I never hear them say Venkat said this or Mahesh said this.

  • we are like this only

Here are some things only happening in India – sticky notes in India do not stick in the wall,Indian software teams have to deal with a group called facilities . Many a times we would put up a Kanban board in the evening only to come back in the morning that the ruthless facilities people have cleaned up the entire board. Most Indian organisations have to deal with late night calls, so they end up coming very late, then they go to many unwanted manager meetings , then have lunch ,then tea and samosas ,then get ready to do athithi devo Bhavan after 6 pm. Where is the time to code in between all this.

Things from Scrum and agile that does not work well in India

1 Daily standup – it is very tough to do this hanging in a bus as U commute,or when stuck in traffic or as I stuff Some curry in a hurry as the customer only comes online after 9 pm

2. The concept of cross functional team – not possible in really large firms . The PDI index or power distance index for India is more that 70 percent. Hierarchy in a team in expected unless I am told what to do, I do not do anything .

3 servant leadership – the term servant has a very different meaning in the Indian culture.hence when I say in the CSM class,people tend to look at this concept strangely.

4 scrum master – this is a county of project managers .there is a manager for everything. It is probably the largest revenue generator for PMI. Where do all these PM,s go now.

5 CMMI baggage – most of the companies are at CMM level 5 and also have lots of internal audits and procedures .case in point in one agile product company in India, you have to leave your cell phone at the gate and are not generally needed to adhere to the strict code of conduct.

6. The nature of distributed agile makes life a huge stress factor on family life often called as offshore widows .

7 . product owners not here. This is huge issue as the PO is never in India and they have to stretch a lot on their side to actually work with a team

8. Managers are not authorised to push back or say no to odd ball customer requests .because hourly rate counts, they will do anything to keep a body billing. One of the early projects I did many many years ago was a code review projects, we got paid 1 dollar a line of code. So I was needed to at Least review 300 lines a day. Better still this was code I could not even compile.

As a disclaimer there are a handful of small to medium agile organisations that do an awesome job in India

.Also all names here are fictional and do not represent anyone that is real

I really think Indian companies should not blindly follow processes not made in India. They could take whatever has been the norm for years and then come up with something that Works in India

I highly encourage a debate that I would love to facilitate with whoever is interested to debate really find something that works for the business scenarios that are very unique to this region.

What is a Product Backlog?

Product BacklogProduct Backlog is one the artifacts of Scrum. The product owner writes the product backlog. It is an ordered list.

This is a list like grocery list. Each item in the product backlog is called a product backlog item (PBI) . The product owner orders into one order based on business value , risk  and technical input

It is just an excel list. Typical columns in a product backlog are

  1. Item Number
  2. Story Description
  3. Size ( also called as estimate by team)
  4. Order – This is one number. 1, 2, 3, 4 and so on
  5. Business Value – The PO is accountable to get the correct business value working with customer, stakeholders and rest of the organization.
  6. Definition of ready – Is this item sprint ready – yes or no
  7. Team name – the team that is working on an item
  8. Sprint number
  9. Release number
  10. Acceptance Criteria. – More details on the requirement

Here is an example image on mountain goat sofware

What is Scrum?

Scrum in 10 linesA Hand Drawn Sketch

    1. Scrum is a framework to manage complex projects based on empirical process control mechanisms.
    2. Scrum is based on inspection, adaption, timebox and transparency.
    3. Scrum is based on five values – openness, respect, courage, commitment and focus
    4. Scrum teams do work in timeboxes called Sprint which is either 1, 2, 3, or 4 weeks.
    5. There are three roles Product Owner, Team and ScrumMaster
    6. ScrumMaster is a leadership role who facilitates scrum ceremonies, keeps the team together, coaches team on Scrum and agile and makes impediments visible.
    7. Product Owner is the customer representative or customer who specifies what needs to be done in a an order and accepts work when done.
    8. Team has 5- 9 people that does the work for the product owner and shows an increment of work each iteration.
    9. Scrum Ceremonies are Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review and Retrospective.
    10. Scrum can apply to any kind of work that can be planned for at least a week.

Self organizing team – This is not a myth

Here is an email message from one of the coaches who is helping a team

The “Code Warriors” team has transformed itself into a self-organizing teams. They have gone from a cycle of 8 to 9 days to complete a user story to a new cycle of 1.5 days and they are now capable of taking an average user story to demoable state in just 1.5 days. They have also succeeded in achieving cross-functional behaviour with a couple of lean practices. Their developers can write test cases and test. Testers can write unit test cases.

I dont get to hear this too often. Hene I thought of writing this.

This team in a federally regulated industry and have to produce a lot of documents, ( I mean a lot lot ) for every line of code they write. This is what I call the art of possible.

Only a few months ago the same team had doubts on all of this to the point they wondering even to write two documents they may take a few months. They are building a faily complicated healthcare device based software. So its is not easy.
I remember thier early questions, doubts etc. In fact even I doubted this and They have proved everyone wrong.

So it makes me wonder how someteams make it and somejust complain for years. Hear is my observation of what I think has made this team go past all the hurdles.

1) Great attitude – Yes we can style. THe team has lot of young minds ready to change things as needed. They really have so much energy that you can bottle it and channel it to run a nuclear reactor.
2) Fantatic leader – Scrum Master. At first you may feel this scrum master ( yes he is a full time scrum master), is not that good. But he has made the teams impediments visible and known clearly within the organization. A calm person, I must say.
3) Fearless waste identification – A good team that needs to get self organized needs to really focus on waste. This group with the supprt of scrum master and manager have really identified many kinds of waste. I cannot mention many of them hear dur to confidentiality reasons, but they have stopped going to meetings, they have brought thier build time down significantly, testers no more wait for developers, isnt this a aha moment, what else they sit and write the unit tests with the developers. Wait this is not enough , developer help testers write test cases.
4) They sit in the same conference room for as much as they can.
5) They are focused on engineering practices not just scrum. Scrum can only expose mess. If you are runner, it will tell you “You suck at running because you run too fast” but it wont let you win the race.

As i always say, teams need to focus on engineering practices. Many teams get too fancy and start doing all kinds of weird things. Lets do TDD , even when they have no clue how to write unit tests.

Do what this team did , “Learn to write good unit tests first, write code if you need” work with your team

5) Testers do not anymore track bugs and write them in the bug tracking. They find it and walk to developer and sit with them and help fix it.

It is really said that many teams are just the opppsite. Ego issues, unneccesary focus on ESTIMATION ( did we do estination well), how much we are deviating from estimation, We cant do this because its not my job, I am testers I am measured by the number of bugs I find. I am a developer , I am measured by the number of bugs I write:)

Get over it software teams, the new generation of software teams are coming, Work like start up mentality, Code as soon as you get in the office, dont do the meetigns game, measure the time it took to write the code and report to manager,

Remember in the end its teams like this one that make all the differnence in a large organization.

My trust in Agile is still intact. Way to go Self organized team. Way to go the coach and scrum master who worked on this,
This team surely will go a long way.

I am done with my joyous speech. Amen