Pockets full of power: Physical location counts in Scrum.

I  promised myself that I wouldn’t get too precious with how perfect my blogs are before I hit publish.

So here you go.

This is a nice example of a Scrum transition I just worked with in creating Scrum teams.

We had physical  rows of the same people sitting together (The Design desk,The Product desk, The QA,Desk , The Developers Desk)

We needed little pockets of different people sitting together.

Cross disciplined little pockets of people.

And thats what we did..


Its basic.

It’s also very powerful.

The physically located pockets of people makes Scrum powerful.

Power is the ability to act.

When we are physically located in our Scrums we are exposed to all the information we need, to be able to act!

“Oh that User Story isn’t quite like that”

“Ahh I got an idea for that implementation!”

“Nah, the GIVEN, WHEN, THEN should go like this…”

We need to overhear things, we need people local to us so we can be bothered to ask questions, decipher things, bounce ideas & so on.

The best Scrum teams don’t just exchange information in their Scrum events (Stand ups, Retros)


They exchange information continually.

That’s allot easier when your physically located in your Scrum team.

Get moving!


What the hell does a chief Scrum Master (CSM) do anyway?

Ok, I get it.

On the surface it sounds like some sort of moronic contradiction.

When I first heard the CSM role I thought to myself, ” How the hell can you have a ‘chief’ ScrumMaster role?”

It made no sense.

Scrum is a framework built on servant-leadership, a flat hierarchy, the focus is the people not the creation of people who need authority in their titles.

Scrum ain’t about power in titles.


I feel ya.

To me to, it felt weird.


And if I’m honest I’m still not 100% comfortable with it.

But….my role simply evolved into what it is.

Maybe this blurb can give you some insight as to what this role actually is, does and why I can see the value in a Chief ScrumMaster role.

Let’s start from the T.O.P

You join a place where Scrum does not exist.

You’re given support to hire, create & facilitate the creation of a Scrum team.

In parallel you introduce the organisation to Scrum. 

Top down, bottom up, sideways.

Explain the empirical approach to software development, the Scrum framework, the buzz terms, the essence the mind-set.

Agile Evangelist to some.

Agile terrorist to others 🙂

The Scrum team gets up and running.

3 months in, the team have the fundamentals down. 

They know the Scrum events, understand the Scrum artefacts, have a good understanding of empiricism…you get the picture, they’re starting to look pretty solid.

Yep they’re a little rough around the Scrum edges.

For example sometimes say, in the stand up, they make a few errors (they miss something stuck in blocked or maybe they ramble on a few times when they need to off line stuff etc) but all in all, although different people have different experience levels in the Scrum team – as a team – they can pull it together and self-organise. 

You encourage ‘em to think about their own ScrumMaster.

The new ScrumMaster emerges.

The business is scaling.

You hire new players, you help facilitate the creation of Scrum  no.2.

Again, different developers – different experience levels in the tech & framework of Scrum.

You work closely with the new Scrum whilst being there for Scrum 1 to provide feedback, guidance, ideas – just making sure they get that support they need to stick to Scrum principles (Maybe the PO’s not ‘letting ‘em’ pair program – maybe hard dates are being set by the business without engaging the team…good old Scrum challenges)

Whilst this is all going on, you’re trying your best to educate from the top down.

Any chance you get – you’re actively speaking with the business, the head of sales, the head of marketing, the CEO, the COO – whoever, however – you’re trying to champion Scrum. 

So Scrum 2 are getting the Scrum mindset down as well, maybe not as quick as Scrum 1 so you hang around and work closer with ’em to guide a little more.

In the interim you’re being told about a new Product that the firm want to work on.

It’s a mobile device.

Again, we’re back to hiring, creating & facilitating a Scrum team.

So at this stage, you’re facilitating 3 Scrum teams – 1 team has a ScrumMaster, 1 team’s still trying to get there & 1 just got created.

So, who are you at this point?


Well you’re not the ScrumMaster exactly because you’re floating around multiple Scrums doing loads of different things – it’s fair to say that you aint  dedicated to one Scrum.

You seem to be spending as much time educating on Scrum and fighting the uglier battles (stuff at the top down) more than being in the trenches with the Scrum team doing the good old ScrumMaster stuff (y’know, talking about what user story contains the solution, or facilitating the power of 3 discussion when stories get picked up, not being the guy who facilitates the planning poker session, not being the guy who tallies up key metrics at the end of the sprint etc)

It feels like you’re pushing the Scrum mindset at a higher level, for both the Scrum teams and to the key ‘senior’ stakeholders who directly impact your scrums (i.e. stopping sales from committing to low level features – educating on how to deliver through themes and that Scope can change etc)

At different points your hands on: maybe you go along to a Sprint planning meeting since scrum 2 always seem to over commit, or you join a refinement session because Scrum 1 are lacking the right amount of detail in their backlog at the right time.

It’s a constant act of dipping in and out at the micro level across the Scrum teams to give support, guidance or enforce Scrum rules.

And then zooming back out at the macro level to try and keep the education piece of Scrum moving amongst the business & at board level to make the transition towards Scrum organisation wide, easier.

It’s a really challenging but satisfying role.

I didnt start out asking to be a CSM.

But after growing & facilitating 1 Scrum team, there was a further need to hire and grow another.

And then another.

The scaling was fast and continues to grow.

It felt like the next natural step for my existing role within this organisation to have a backseat and help when necessary (at the micro level) but to help push the cause of Agile constantly (at the macro level).

Kinda tricky but if I could summarise what it means to be a CSM, I’d go with the below!

To me, the CSM role is and has involved:

  • First and foremost tirelessly pushing Agile across the organisation – Proactively educating from bottom up (Sticking to the rules of Scrum or the agreed Kanban process) &  top down  (presentations, informal chats, invitations to events etc)
  • Creating the right environment to allow Scrum teams to work effectively –  Making sure Scrum teams can physically sit together, having the right ingredients to each scrum team available (PO, Dev, Design, QA), slapping down whiteboard paint as much as you can to encourage system thinking, doodling, general interaction points everywhere etc.
  • Supporting & feeding back to ScrumMasters – learning from one another, helping when Scrum events are being compromised (be it tech team or business challenges) hearing their pains to open a dialogue with senior heads in the organisation to address the root cause of problems to effectively drive change (“we’re not getting a clear picture of why we’re doing this work from the PO”, “We’re seeing the business commit to stuff we do not know about” etc)
  • Helping to create a good rhythm between Scrum teams – Feature driven Scrum teams may need fellow Scrum teams to make changes or support their changes to get what they need – this is about knowing the refinement schedule of fellow Scrum teams to get your needs placed into their backlog. So rhythm in respect of timing,  getting work booked in before their sprint planning meeting for one example.
  • Driving the Scrum of Scrums – Again, changes from one team can effect the other. There needs to be a commitment from teams to meet regularly to mitigate risk, reduce duplication of effort and of course bounce ideas!
  • Creating a council of Scrum excellence – This is about getting the senior heads from Marketing, Sales, HR, Operations, all together so that you can educate, gain support to drive a Scrum transition organisation wide.

I know for sure there is allot that I’ve missed from the CSM role but if I were to only write blogs when I knew everything than I’d probably end up with empty pages!

Nothing like a working prototype to give immediate value to customers ;p

The CSM does work, it allows you to be hands on and off with your fellow Scrum teams whilst championing & driving the Agile transition.

It’s a very cool role.


When Twerking Aliens Abduct Your Product Owner!

The Aliens got him.

Our brave PO.

Innocently tucking into a Pret egg mayo .

I think he was eating the slim Pret Sandwich because it was in one of those thin sandwich boxes, shouldn’t they be called half sandwiches?

Another blog.

But Our PO- he  is an athlete, he doesnt need to eat slim Pret Sandwiches.

Maybe he is watching his weight. Preparing for that little black dress with the xmas party in sight?

That is his business.

But yes.

As I was saying

Holborn station.

It was flattened by this  giant, swirling, golden Frisbee packed with Twerking Aliens.

The frisbee, it had a texture, I think it was Mat.

(Golden Mat is a good choice of  body work if you’re going for that pimp my unidentified Flying Object look)

This bright blinding beam of light shot out towards our Product Owner,sucking him in as he shouted out “Yes! At last annual leave!”

He was taken.

Liam Neeson‘s phone was going to voicemail.

The developers screamed.

I continued to drink my smoothie, partly upset, partly happy because the PO kinda deserved the abduction because he recently tried to abuse the concept of velocity, accidentally on purpose. Resentments a bitch.

We were in trouble.

Our Sprint Planning Meeting was due that morning.

Around Terrence’s desk, we opened the Scrum guide.

We searched.



“Assholes & Scrum”

“No, we’ve got lots of experience with those, keeping scrolling” I nudged Terrence.




The Scrum team looked at me, with tears in their eyes.

“It’s over! If there is no Product Backlog, and there is no Product Owner, we have no sprint, we will have to go home and play GTA”

With my wedding due this summer, I needed to think fast.

That Turkish wedding with 5,000 guests is not going to pay itself!

I grabbed the cards.

I grabbed the Sharpees.

I grabbed the post it notes.

I grabbed the team.

And we looked for stakeholders

Head of Sales.


Head of Marketing.




“Hello, we have 2 weeks to do some awesome stuff for our product – can you tell us what you think should be delivered?”

Lots of competing priorities.

No problem – it’s not an ideal situation but it’s a high quality problem – we have ideas!

Objective cases put forward as to why their story should make it into the Sprint.

Business value understood.

50% of AC understood.

Now we need to decide on what stories to go after first.

“Do it and ask for forgiveness” -> we borrow XP Techniques all the time, why stop there?

This is the mindset we HAD to adopt.

And guess, what after a little bit of moaning (understandable) I’ve never seen a team self-organise and REALLY take charge as much as the guys did that day -> it kinda empowered ’em, knowing the sprint was on the line.

A problem was presented, and they had to figure it out.

A la Scrum ‘esque scenario.


So yes, we lost a day out of our sprint.

We needed to act on behalf of our PO.

Is that ideal?


But is it completely absurd?


Our Scrum team have members who have dealt with the Product for some time, right?

SURELY they have a gauge of what competing stories, spikes & defects are of value to that Product, right?

Yes Scrum says it’s for the PO to prioritise business value – BUT when the unexpected happens – we NEED to be creative and pragmatic!

No one loves Scrum more than me.

Ok maybe, Schwaber.

But, if your PO is out of action.

Don’t let that put your Scrum team out of action.

And yes.

Those Aliens were Twerking.


Miley fast.


Continue reading