10 Common Scrum Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

When most people think of Agile, they think of “Scrum”.  Scrum is the most widely used, and arguably, the most abused Agile framework.  Scrum is simple in concept but can be difficult to do really well.  Here are 10 common Scrum mistakes and how to avoid them:1. Expecting Transformation to Agile and Scrum to Be EasyAll too often, someone will pick up a book on Agile or Scrum, start chopping up requirements into user stories, begin daily stand-up meetings, develop software in 2-3 week sprints, and then call themselves Agile.  Easy, right?  They will likely see some improvement in their ability to respond to change, and may even provide working software faster – for a while.  It won’t be too long, though, until the promises of Agile become less evident, teams struggle to keep up the pace, software doesn’t always match user expectations, and then Agile is deemed a failure.  Agile transformation takes time and almost always starts out messy.  Real transformation exposes existing corporate and culture problems that must be dealt with – problems such as poor communication, lack of accountability, distrust, etc.  Effective Agile transformation is often a total culture change.  Give it time, and be ready to go through the pain and resistance to cultural changes.2. Doing the Practices Without the PrinciplesDoing the easy things like implementing Scrum meetings, filling the Scrum roles,  and using proper Scrum artifacts is good, but is only half (or less) of the battle.  The Agile principles are what make the practices work well, and make them sustainable in the long run.  Principles are much harder to incorporate than practices, which is why many companies fall short – they don’t do the hard parts.  Using techniques without understanding why you are doing them can lead to frustration.  Agile is about people, interactions, and culture, not processes, practices, and tools.3. Complicating the Agile/Scrum StartupDo everything you can to keep Agile startups simple.  Agile projects can be successful without the latest, coolest collaboration or lifecycle tool.  Stickies on a wall, tasks in a spreadsheet, and a manually generated burn-down chart will get the job done.  Spending valuable time getting a tool up and running instead of getting people working together is focusing on the wrong thing.  The Agile Manifesto places higher value on individuals and interactions than on processes and tools.4. Leading a Scrum Team Like a Project ManagerA “command and control” mentality is counter to the Agile framework.  A leader assigning tasks and dictating effort is an Agile anti-pattern.  Great Agile teams are self-organizing, the Scrum Master is a servant leader, and teams learn to become better at working together and delivering greater value more efficiently by regular inspection and adaption.  Often the lesson is learned better by experience (good or bad experience) than by just being told what to do.  Allow the Scrum team to figure things out for themselves, to make mistakes and learn from them, and to attain the satisfaction of becoming a productive team on their own.  Scrum Masters and Agile coaches guide more than they drive.5. An Un-Ready Product BacklogA product backlog that isn’t “ready” is one of the most common reasons for sprint failure and for unmotivated teams.  It is also a root cause for low delivery velocity and not delivering high value.  Most new Product Owners aren’t ready to be productive on their own.  They need instruction, coaching, and hand-holding for the first few sprints as they learn to develop and maintain a product backlog that has enough valuable features estimated at a high level, and prioritized by business value.  Preparing the backlog well ahead of the next sprint(s) is a must.  You never want the team to run out of work to do, and that work must be of highest value at that point in time as prioritized by the Product Owner.  Being a Product Owner can be time-consuming.  Set the right expectations, provide all the training, and help the Product Owner to keep the flow of value coming.6. Communicating “Through” the Scrum MasterSomething I see quite regularly on new Scrum teams is people using the Scrum Master to deliver their messages to others.  For example, a developer has a question about a user story; instead of going directly to the Product Owner, he/she emails the Scrum Master to obtain the information.  A key Agile principle is communicating face-to-face whenever possible.  The time it takes to compose the email would likely have been all that was needed to get the answer directly from the stakeholder.  But, for many technical people, face-to-face communication is a scary thing when they’re used to living in their cubicle world, without having to talk to people.  This is a cultural or personality issue that must be overcome.  It wastes time and, more importantly, increases the risk of miscommunication.7. A Product Owner Who is Not Available Or InvolvedThe Product Owner role can be very time-consuming.  Many who are new to the role are not ready for the commitment, or just don’t know that they need to be so involved.  Collaboration is critical in the Agile world.  Business people and developers need to work together to produce software that the business wants.  This happens by constant communication, collaboration and short feedback cycles to validate or make course corrections.  A practice I love to see is the Product Owner so involved in the day-to-day activity of the project team that the Sprint Review is purely a formality because the Product Owner has already seen several iterations of the features throughout the sprint and has guided the team to build exactly what the business wants.  That’s a beautiful thing.8. Lax Daily Stand-upsThe daily stand-up meeting is very important from several aspects.  It puts people face-to-face every day for 15 minutes, forces communication and collaboration, and provides visibility and transparency into the project.  For such a key meeting, it’s important to set the right expectations up front so the team takes it seriously.  This may sound militant, but attendance at the daily stand-up is never optional.  Start on time and finish on time.  Stick to the three questions (what did I accomplish for the project yesterday, what will I work on today, what obstacles are blocking me from completing my work on time).  Don’t allow side conversations, discussions, or problem-solving during the stand-up; those can all be done after the stand-up is finished.  This gets the team in the mode of respecting the team and people’s time, and they learn to communicate better by sticking to the objectives and being succinct.9. Not Raising Obstacles Early EnoughThe daily stand-up provides the opportunity every day to communicate impediments to getting our work done.  One of the primary functions of the Scrum Master is to remove obstacles so that the team can focus on delivering software; but if obstacles are not raised, the Scrum Master can’t help remove them.  Waiting to raise an obstacle until it’s too late to recover from it is unacceptable.  Until team members are accustomed to communicating obstacles in a timely manner, remind the team at the beginning of every stand-up to bring up even potential obstacles, or if there’s any chance something might delay their work or cause them to not live up to their sprint commitment.10. Not Conducting Retrospective Meetings After Every SprintOne of the twelve principles behind the Agile Manifesto is “At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly”.  Unfortunately the Sprint Retrospective is often treated like an add-on or a luxury, and performed only “if there’s time”.  The fact is, Agile is all about adjustments here and there, fine tuning and responding to change.  It’s really hard to adjust and fine tune if we don’t pause to find out where adjustments are needed.  The status quo is not Agile; continual improvement is.Related Refcard:Scrum

Read more

Study finds cosmic rays increased heart risks among Apollo astronauts

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. Apollo astronauts who ventured to the moon are at five times greater risk of dying from heart disease than shuttle astronauts, U.S. researchers said on Thursday, citing the dangers of cosmic radiation beyond the Earth's magnetic field. The study by researchers at Florida State University and NASA found that three Apollo astronauts, including Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon, or 43 percent of those studied, died from cardiovascular disease, a finding with implications for future human travel beyond Earth.The research, published in the journal Scientific Reports, was the first to look at the mortality of Apollo astronauts, the only people so far to travel beyond a few hundred miles (km) of Earth.It found that the chief health threat to the Apollo astronauts came from cosmic rays, which are more prevalent and powerful beyond the magnetic bubble that surrounds Earth.NASA disputed the findings, saying it was too early to draw conclusions about the effect of cosmic rays on Apollo astronauts because the current data is limited. The results of the study have implications for the United States and other countries, as well as private companies, such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which are planning missions to Mars and other destinations beyond Earth.For the study, the researchers examined the death records of 42 astronauts who flew in space, including seven Apollo veterans, and 35 astronauts who died without ever going into space.They found the Apollo astronauts’ mortality rate from cardiovascular disease was as much as five times higher than for astronauts who never flew, or for those who flew low-altitude missions aboard the space shuttle that orbited a few hundred miles above Earth. A companion study simulated weightlessness and radiation exposure in mice and showed that radiation exposure was far more threatening to the cardiovascular system than other factors, lead scientist Michael Delp said in an interview."What the mouse data show is that deep space radiation is harmful to vascular health," he said. So far, only 24 astronauts have flown beyond Earth’s protective magnetic shield, in missions spanning a four-year period from December 1968 to December 1972.Of those, eight have died, seven of whom were included in the study. The cause of death of the eighth astronaut, Apollo 14's Edgar Mitchell, who died in February 2016, has not been released, so he was excluded from the study, Delp said. Mitchell was the sixth person to walk on the moon.Delp and colleagues are working on a follow-up study that includes more detail on family medical histories, smoking and other factors. (Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Julie Steenhuysen and Peter Cooney)

Read more

Solar plane circles globe in first for clean energy

ABU DHABI A solar-powered aircraft successfully completed the first fuel-free flight around the world on Tuesday, returning to Abu Dhabi after an epic 16-month voyage that demonstrated the potential of renewable energy.The plane, Solar Impulse 2, touched down in the United Arab Emirates capital at 0005 GMT (0405 local time) on Tuesday.It first took off from Abu Dhabi on March 9, 2015, beginning a journey of about 40,000 km (24,500 miles) and nearly 500 hours of flying time.Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg, the Swiss founders of the project, took turns piloting the aircraft, which has a wingspan larger than a Boeing 747 but weighs no more than an average family car."More than an achievement in the history of aviation, Solar Impulse has made history in energy," Piccard, who piloted the plane on the last leg, told a large crowd on landing. "I’m sure that within the next 10 years we’ll see electric airplanes carrying 50 passengers on short- to medium-haul flights," he said in a statement.He said the technologies used on Solar Impulse 2 could be used on the ground in daily life to halve emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas blamed for climate change.The propeller-driven aircraft's four engines are powered by energy collected from more than 17,000 solar cells built in the wings. Excess energy is stored in batteries. Unfavorable weather at times hindered smooth flying, causing the plane to be grounded for months in some countries. In all, the plane had 16 stopovers.The pilots also had to demonstrate the mental stamina required to tackle vast distances alone at a cruising speed of no more than 90 km (56 miles) per hour and altitudes of up to 9,000 meters (29,500 feet)."We were facing the oceans... We had to build up this mindset, not just the plane and technology," Piccard told reporters. For the two pilots, landing back where they started is only "the beginning of the continuation" of a longer journey, said Piccard, who in 1999 became the first person to circumnavigate the globe non-stop in a hot air balloon.Aside from continuing to promote renewable energy, they plan to launch an international council to advise governments and develop new applications for clean energy technology. (Reporting by Stanley Carvalho, editing by Sami Aboudi and John Stonestreet)

Read more

SpaceX rocket lifts off on cargo run, then lands at launch site

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. An unmanned SpaceX rocket blasted off from Florida early on Monday to send a cargo ship to the International Space Station, then turned around and landed itself back at the launch site.The 23-story-tall Falcon 9 rocket, built and flown by Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 12:45 a.m. EDT (0445 GMT).Perched on top of the rocket was a Dragon capsule filled with nearly 5,000 pounds (2,268 kg) of food, supplies and equipment, including a miniature DNA sequencer, the first to fly in space.Also aboard the capsule was a metal docking ring of diameter 7.8 feet (2.4 m), that will be attached to the station, letting commercial spaceships under development by SpaceX and Boeing Co. ferry astronauts to the station, a $100-billion laboratory that flies about 250 miles (400 km) above Earth. The manned craft are scheduled to begin test flights next year.Since NASA retired its fleet of space shuttles five years ago, the United States has depended on Russia to ferry astronauts to and from the station, at a cost of more than $70 million per person.As the Dragon cargo ship began its two-day journey to the station, the main section of the Falcon 9 booster rocket separated and flew itself back to the ground, touching down a few miles south of its seaside launch pad, accompanied by a pair of sonic booms. "Good launch, good landing, Dragon is on its way," said NASA mission commentator George Diller.Owned and operated by Musk, the technology entrepreneur who founded Tesla Motors Inc, SpaceX is developing rockets that can be refurbished and re-used, potentially slashing launch costs. With Monday’s touchdown, SpaceX has successfully landed Falcon rockets on the ground twice and on an ocean platform during three of its last four attempts.SpaceX intends to launch one of its recovered rockets as early as this autumn, said Hans Koenigsmann, the firm's vice president for mission assurance. (Reporting by Irene Klotz, Editing by Chris Michaud and Clarence Fernandez)

Read more

Google notifies users of 4,000 state-sponsored cyber attacks per month: executive

A senior executive of Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O) Google unit said on Monday that the company was notifying customers of 4,000 state-sponsored cyber attacks per month.Speaking at a Fortune magazine tech conference in Aspen, Colorado, Google senior vice president and Alphabet board member Diane Greene mentioned the figure while touting Google's security prowess. The internet search leader, which develops the Android mobile system and also offers email and a range of other applications for consumers, has led the way in notifying users of government spying. Others, including Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O), have since followed suit. Google had previously said that it had been issuing tens of thousands of warnings every few months and that customers often upgraded their security in response. (Reporting by Jonathan Weber; Editing by Bill Rigby)

Read more
Older Post