Scrum Transformation

Yeahbuts & Whatifs

A Scrum Masters Perspective of Adoption Aversion

When organisations decide to adopt agile practices the very first point of failure is a clear understanding of language from the top down. When language and intent of language is understood, “yeabuts and whatifs” are minimized.

Here is a list of Agile Adoption Best Practices to consider;

  1. Agile is not a method, framework or life cycle – AGILE is a way of “BEING”
  2. Manifesto – Declaration of intent – the Manifesto consists of 2 elements – VALUES and PRINCIPLES
  3. Values – a set of long lasting beliefs
  4. Principles – “the rules”
  5. Method – “a structured, tried tested and true set of instructions to accomplish a set of tasks.

Agile Language

Agile Language

Thinking about Scrum consider this – there are 3 pillars upon which this light weigh project management METHOD rests.

Scrum Principles – “The rules”

Scrum Aspects – “elements of Scrum to consider”

Scrum Phases & Processes – “The Method”

Principles are non-negotiable and must not be considered as constraints. Every decision we make should be leaned up against the principles and if the principles are to bend or break we must ask ourselves “Are we truly being agile?”

Scrum Principles

Scrum Principles

Principles are the disciple of scrum. Consider Empirical Process Control and its elements of transparency, inspection and adaptation. When combined with Time-boxing – what we are asking of the team is at regular time-boxed intervals the elements of transparency, inspection and adaptation, must be achieved.

The second tenant of the Scrum Light Weight Project Management method are the aspects. Aspects are NOT iron clad! You and your teams are free to do with them what you want – provided they do not impose upon the principles. 


Scrum Aspects

Perhaps the most popular questions I get when I introduce teams to the Aspects are;

Where is the BA, where is the PM?

Should a BA be a product owner?

How can my PM be the Scrum Master?

Can we combine the role of BA and PM?

The answer hands down is “Absolutely why not” followed by my question;

Will your decision contradict any of the principles?

For example: “Will appointing a project manager prevent teams from being self organizing?”

Another Example – “will implementing your own quality control practices inhibit Iterative Development?”

The final tenant of SCRUM are Phases and Processes, again you are free to do with them what you want, shrink em’  or expand em’ – I promise there are no scrum police that will arrest you for doing otherwise. Before you go changing the processes and phases, once again ask yourself – will our changes contradict the Scrum Principles?

Scrum Phases & Processes

Scrum Phases & Processes

You may be surprised to know that where phases and processes are concerned there are the fewest “Yeahbuts and Whatifs”. Perhaps customers are looking for the structure, the tick boxes and and step by step approach to working better. This concerns me.

Not unlike the aspects Phases and Process to can be massaged in a manner that best reflects an organizations practice. If this is the case – once again I’m going to remind you I’m cool with this, provided you don’t bend the principles. 

Scrum is a light weight project management method, it was designed specifically to be light weight, to do just enough to get high quality, high value  products and services to our stakeholders.

Asking “yeahbut” and “whatif” should be asked not about aspects, phases and processes, but about how you can work more pragmatically…

“Whatif “we found a more efficient way to engage stakeholders…”yeahbut” would it affect our principles?

You might also like – Servant Leadership Circle of Life

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The Servant Leaders “Circle of Life”

I just read this great article by Craig Stevens, on LinkedIn titled “There’s A Silent “I” in Team”.  It’s an incredible article cites that while there is an important element of team collaboration and teamwork, individuals are still at the core foundation of any team. Clearly this could be easily applied to scrum teams.

Stevens cites the critical element of Tuckman’s Model in team formation. This very mention drove me to think my approach to the initial formation of  scrum teams.

Tuckmans Model - Servant Leadership

At the initiation stages of any SCRUM project I work diligently with my newfound scrum team members to establish trust and rapport. I follow this approach;

1. Review Scrum Principles and ensure everybody is clear on what they mean. Everything we do in the context of this project must lean up against the principles. We are to challenge, experiment, inspect and adapt with them in mind.

2. Next I lay down the Vision of the Project – there is no complexity with words here except we will design, deliver and build the best solution!

3. Next each scrum team member develops their own “Journey Maps”.   There are 2 key benefits in doing this with the team.  One, it introduces them to each other in a manner that 9 times out of 10 we find some very interesting similarities and shared experiences. Second, I get to see a skills inventory for each individual. Here’s my journey map;

Agile - Core Team Journey Map

4. Now all the scrum team and I can see skills that we might be able to employ outside a team members specific area of expertise. For example, in my journey map, I’ve written several books, it’s likely that I might be able to contribute to any documentation required for project even thought I might be the individual responsible for customer design elements of a solution.

5. Finally, I move to the final approach in setting a scrum team development foundation firmly in place. “The Circle of Life” The truth is I can’t for the life of me recall where I picked this up or whether or not its actually referred to the circle of life. I’ve experimented and adapted it over the years.  What I do, is ask every individual on the scrum team to consider what they as individuals want to get out of the project. I ask them to consider what skill would they like to improve upon. To that end I ask them to draw out the following;

Scrum Master and Servant Leadership


In this case Francis wants to learn Graphic Design.  While I may not have time or budget to send him off to a training course, I might pair him up with our in house graphic designer for a day session so that he can pick up a few things. I recommend books, blog posts, articles etc, anything I can do to demonstrate that I truly care about his interest in graphic design.

My approach is simple.  If I invest in individual scrum team members their commitment and drive to contribute in a positive manner will lead to a higher overall performing team and hence a product, service or software that will deliver higher value than expected.

In short, focus on the individual, focus on the scrum team and they will in turn focus on what matters to our stakeholders. 

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How Well Do You Know Your Stakeholders?

Admit it, your first reaction to stakeholders who behave badly is to respond in a negative manner. You get your back up,  hot under the collar, offended, nervous, anxious and even dismissive. Sadly we don’t often take the time to well and truly understand the ‘why’ of the behaviour, and this tends to work against us when engaging stakeholders to participate in an important workshop, meeting, demo or review.

When I work with new business analysts, product owners, executives or any other member of a project team, I often ask them this;

“what if you could wave away the cloud of behaviour, find a persons intent and understand what truly motivates them?”

If you could do this, you might be in a better position to understand that strengths when overdone are in fact our weaknesses.

What if I said to you that your stakeholders have 3 primary motives, they are collectively referred to as our motivational value system. 

To be clear, these are not behaviours, but motivational values.  What is the difference you ask. Simply stated behaviours will evolve over time based on our experiences, motivational values are hard wired into us and do not change. While we have a dominant motivational value, we also are apt to demonstrate other motivational values.

Knowing what motivates a stakeholder gives you the opportunity to leverage their strengths,  and more importantly schedule activities and communications accordingly. Imagine how powerful knowing this might be if you are a Scrum Master or Product Owner. This is servant leadership at its finest!

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  1. The Agile Mindset
    1. The principles that guide agile business analysis are:
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      • Think as a Customer
      • Analyze to Determine What is Valuable
      • Get Real Using Examples
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  4. BABOK Knowledge Area and Tasks as applied to the 3 Horizons of Practice

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