Maria Matarelli Blogs

Friday, June 28, 2013

Scrum Roles Tic-Tac-Bingo

An engaging, interactive approach for learning the responsibilities of each role in Scrum

Welcome to the game Scrum Roles Tic-Tac-Bingo, created by Maria Matarelli. This game has been used in Scrum training classes and CSM classes with great results!

If you like incorporating interactive approaches in your training classes or want to help students or Scrum teams better understand the responsibilities of each role in Scrum, play Scrum Roles Tic-Tac-Bingo.

I created this game so that while in a training class or trying to explain the importance of what each role does while using Scrum, rather than tell people what each role does, invite them to participate in discussing which role performs which responsibilities.

Scrum Roles Tic-Tac-Bingo
-       Engages people in talking about what each role does
-       Creates an opportunity for valuable dialogue
-       A great teaching from the back of the room approach

Scrum Roles Tic-Tac-Bingo incorporates knowledge of Scrum and board game strategy for an engaging game that will be accompanied by valuable dialogue about each role.

As people talk about the activities that occur on a Scrum team, some questions may come up… “Who does that role, is it the Scrum Master the Product Owner or the Team?”
“Wait, I thought the Product Owner did that”

Playing this game will allow for these questions to emerge and will present an opportunity to provide clarification.

You can play this game in a training class or as a Scrum team to foster a great atmosphere for learning and it is a great way to engage everyone in discussing the roles.

Try it!

How to play:
Identify a Master of Ceremonies to read the role descriptions and have two people at each game board. As a role description is read aloud, the person who correctly guesses which role performs that responsibility places an "X" on the game board. They can lock in their answer by holding up the appropriate Role Game Piece.

Scrum Roles Tic-Tac-Bingo is like a mix between Tic-Tac-Toe and Bingo. Each player alternates guessing and can place an "X" over the appropriate answer. Once they complete a line of five "X's" in a row, either horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, they shout out a victory yell and win that game. Players use different colored markers on the game board and have an opportunity to block the other person from forming a line which makes for an exciting game. 

It is recommended to have two people at a game board and have a round where each table plays then have a championship round with a winner from each table. If the timebox ends or if no line is made, the person with the most "X's" on the board is the winner. If two people from different game boards make a line after the same question, whoever shouts the victory yell first is the winner.

Enclosed is a link to instructions and game boards and game pieces that you can download and use in your next training class or with your team. I would love to hear what you think or any adaptations of the game that you have tried. Enjoy!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Agile Management and the Essence of Leadership

Where does a Manager do in Agile? Have you ever heard this question?

Johanna Rothman talked on “Agile Managers: The Essence of Leadership” as a closing Keynote presentation at the Agile Indy 2013 conference.

She talked about how Agile Management is Leadership and that managers serve the people in the organization. Managers guide, coach, and use their influence to ease the way for the work.

Agile Managers are Leaders because they lead the teams in the following ways
- set strategy
- manage the project portfolio
- remove organization obstacles
- build trusting relationships with people
- lead hiring decisions and process
- build the capacity of the organization
- enable communities of practice

Agile Managers manage the project portfolio and determine what work is strategically important and when it should be started and stopped. Not making those decisions or having clear priorities creates management debt as well as chaos. We want to encourage transparency and openness and honesty. Leaders remove organizational obstacles and build trust across the organization.

Johanna encouraged more of a team approach and management style instead of focusing on individual reviews.
- Build a trusting relationship
- Share the strategy
- Share the profits
- Provide cost of living raises to the team
- Give the team a team bonus and let the team decide how to use it

What keeps people in a job? Trusting relationships and having a sense of purpose, trust, and autonomy.

Managers can become champions throughout the organization. Resist the urge to micromanage, meet often enough with people one-on-one to build a trusting relationship, and engage with team members to see what they are working on.

Managers can also build organizational capacity. How many of you know your organizational velocity now? Focus on removing system obstacles and recognizing when a team’s velocity is stuck – remove roadblocks.

Enable Communities of Practice. Encourage a small world network approach to problem solving. Create avenues for cross team collaboration.

“The manager’s function is not to make people work, but to make it possible for people to work.” – Tom DeMarco & Timothy Lister in the book “Peopleware” 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Collaboration – Go on now, collaborate

When we move toward a more agile environment rather than a traditional approach, we want to encourage a more cross functional, collaborative team environment. However, just changing our approach in methodologies doesn’t mean that our teams will just begin collaborating more. It may require a greater shift in the culture or people’s habits. We may encourage teams to work together and may even put them in the same room to collaborate more but how can we tell if its happening?

Finding a way to make patterns visible can help a team to see how they are working together. These approaches are intended for the team members to determine what area they want to focus on how they work together and reflect upon how that is working after an iteration. Its important to note that this approach is intended for use within the team and for the team, not for evaluation by someone outside of the team.

Fellow coach, Dan Neumann and I prepared a presentation for Agile 2012, Break down silos: Collaboration techniques for teams. We have facilitated this collaborative development workshop with several teams to share techniques that can be used on project teams to encourage more collaboration and cross team communication. Some of the techniques include ways for teams to make things visible regarding limiting work in progress, collaborative design, pairing and expanding T-shaped skills.

See the presentation live at the Agile 2012 Conference, August 13-17 in Dallas, TX. Enclosed is a link to the full slide deck.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Acceleration Through Trust

Trust. It’s the basis of so much, yet it can be absent in many of our interactions without us even realizing it.

Stephen Covey talks about the “Speed of trust” and how trust affects speed and cost; as trust decreases, speed decreases and cost increases (and vice versa). This makes alot of sense when you stop and think about it. However, when trust is present and things are going smoothly, not a lot of thought may be given to it, while on the other hand, when things aren’t going well, even though the root cause can be traced back to the absence of trust, it doesn't always raise to the surface.

When trust isn't present, think about how much longer it takes to get things done. What’s at the source of distrust – is it fear? What are we afraid of? Imagine if you stopped the cycle by demonstrating vulnerability and trust toward others, even when you haven’t gotten it back. Imagine the acceleration you would see.

Lets take a look at the behavior of leaders in organizations and the idea of encouraging a more masterly management style than a directive approach. It can be hard to let go sometimes; difficult to fight the urge to micromanage. It essentially comes down to ‘do you trust your people’. Setting guidelines and providing space can allow people to be more innovative and can remove bottlenecks while allowing the opportunity for them to think creatively and utilize their expertise.

Lets look at teams next. Imagine how much more effectively a team could work together if they really trust each other and if when problems arise, the environment were safe enough that they feel they can speak up and they trust that their feedback will not be met with defensiveness and other team members trust that the feedback is coming from a good place with the intent to better the team.

Aligned values and clear expectations can set a base for trust, but we need to demonstrate trust in how we interact with others. Then we can really begin to accelerate. 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Retrospectives - Dig Deeper

How often do you reflect upon how things are going and when you do, how often do you really analyze how things are working and incorporate specific changes for the future?
Retrospectives. If you don’t get honest, then what’s the point? Retrospectives are an opportunity to reflect on how things have been going and identify changes that can be incorporated moving forward. Taking the time to reflect throughout a project rather than waiting until the very end allows the team to leverage this reflection to make ongoing im…See moreRetrospectives. If you don’t get honest, then what’s the point? Taking the time to reflect throughout a project rather than waiting until the very end allows the team to leverage this reflection to make ongoing improvements. Don’t just go through the motions. Watch the dynamics of your team. Is everyone involved and given an opportunity to contribute? Are you getting to the root of the issues presented or staying on the surface level? Is action being taken?

When setting the stage for discussion, the environment needs to be safe. Getting honest usually starts with someone being brave enough to mention the nitty-gritty topics that others may be hesitant to bring up. Once you dig deep into real topics, others will usually chime in or feel safe contributing honestly as well. Go deeper than surface level discussion. Talk about how to really improve. Here are some ideas for facilitating effective retrospectives.

Level the playing field - Techniques such as silent writing allow for everyone to have a voice. Give everyone post-it notes and a marker and ask them to individually write down their ideas on what went well and ideas for improvement. Then have them put their ideas up on the wall and briefly discuss each item and affinity group similar items together. This ensures everyone has a voice as all ideas are acknowledged from each person. The team can then vote on which items they would like to address first.

Keep the format fresh - Don’t do the same thing every time. The format could get stale and participation levels or interest could drop. Introduce new retrospective approaches and ask questions in different ways to get the team thinking differently and actively engaged.

Follow up & check in - Don’t let the conversation end on the flip chart or whiteboard. Identify specific actionable items and keep them in front of the team throughout the next iteration. Check in and reflect upon how the team did on their last retrospective action items. Carrying forward specific items for the team to focus on is key for continuous improvement. Make these items visible and pick one thing to focus on at a time.

Anyone on the team can make suggestions for improving retrospectives and keeping the format fresh. Find the real areas for improvement and keep the discussions valuable. Select one thing to improve and foster real change one step at a time.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Motivating People in a Team Environment

How do you handle performance reviews and set goals for people on teams while a company is still focused on rewarding individuals?

There may be a delay from when a company moves to using an Agile approach and the time for their HR department to catch up and adjust their practices accordingly with a new work environment.

Imagine a work culture where employees take responsibility for soliciting feedback on their own performance and development. Tom Coens and Mary Jenkins discuss Abolishing Performance Appraisals, Why They Backfire and What to Do Instead. As outlined in the book summary: "Coens and Jenkins argue instead that appraisals do not accomplish what they are supposed to and that, in fact, they are counterproductive. They offer compelling evidence to demonstrate that appraisals backfire as they examine the five functions (coaching, feedback, setting pay, determining promotions, and documentation) for which appraisals are designed." 
Ian Cook provides an overview of this approach:!abolishing.html

The challenge lies in that managers are expected to set goals for individuals in an Agile environment where the person is working on a team where priorities are set by the Product Owner and the team is guided by the Scrum Master while HR is mandating that goals be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Based)

In the following article (, Alan Atlas breaks down performance management for agile people while focusing on the following primary management concerns:
  • How do I evaluate individual performance so I can give the right pay and bonuses to the right people?
  • How do I identify star performers and keep them from leaving?
  • How do I identify poor performers so I can “manage” them (usually implying “manage them out”)?
  • How can I support/reward team performance in my company’s individual-oriented performance management system?
These are the primary areas of focus, however while still on that middle ground during a transition to Agile, HR is still expecting that goals be set for individuals the same as in a traditional environment.

An approach of identifying some desired behaviors as well as a some specific goals may be a reasonable middle ground. Looking at what the individual does to improve the performance of the team, the level of quality consistently achieved and incorporating feedback from other team members may be incorporated into an approach. Differentiators may include how they assist other team members, active contribution and maintaining quality while striving for continuous improvement as a team. Another approach may be in setting the same goals for individuals on a team. Some goals may be a balance of both specific goals and general goals. Some people will get feedback and set benchmarks for improvement and while team goals are tied to producing product, look at how are team members are contributing to achieving those goals and tie in individual goals or setting the same goals for each of the team members. What have you found that works in your environment?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sustainable Pace

It is important for teams to find their sustainable pace. This applies to individuals and businesses as well.  Sustainable pace is working at a rate that can be maintained long term, not just for a short period of time working at full capacity, rather a reasonable rate that can be sustained.

"Endless business requirements, desired features, market pressures… There is always more work that needs done. Sometimes, it may feel like endless sprints where you thought you saw the finish line, but every time you round the track they tell you there’s another lap. You dig deep and pull together the energy to continue to sprint, but again, you round the last turn and push forward toward the end and people on the sidelines are yelling “another lap, another lap” and you check to see if you can find the energy to keep going, but you can’t. You keep thinking you’ll have a break but it never ends. The sprints are seemingly endless back-to-back cycles and you see no end in sight. You need to catch your breath, you need water, you’re getting blisters… You’ve burnt out"... 

Read the full article on Sustainable Pace: Trusting Your Teams on the Scrum Alliance Website.