Todd Lankford

Sometimes metrics can get in the way of a good conversation.

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Photo by patricia serna on Unsplash

A few weeks back, I had a conversation with a peer coach who was introduced to me. As we chatted, we discussed several aspects of coaching. At one point, he asked me a question that has proven difficult for me to answer.

Well, to clarify, I gave an immediate answer, but I have since changed my mind about it. The question has been weighing heavy on my mind for the past few weeks. I keep coming back to it. After pondering on it, I have a much better answer.

The other coach asked, “If you could track only two metrics for an Agile team, what would they be?” …

Three powerful guardrails that make it possible to shrink The Scrum Guide.

Is less more with the new Scrum Guide
Is less more with the new Scrum Guide
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay
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The latest release of The Scrum Guide in November 2020 has some welcome changes. One of those modifications is being less prescriptive. It was already lightweight, and now, it’s even lighter — down from seventeen to eleven pages.

Many references in the new Scrum Guide allude to less prescription, for example:

  • Self-managing team behavior (“who,” “how,” “what,” and “when”).
  • Explicit intent of Scrum application beyond software development.
  • A heavy focus on “why” through a Product Goal and Sprint Goal instead of “what” the team is delivering.
  • No hierarchies or separation between Developers, Product Owners, and Scrum Masters. …

Team autonomy is not as simple as waving a wand.

You are empowered! Now, show me the magic!
You are empowered! Now, show me the magic!
Photo by Milan Popovic on Unsplash

The idea behind empowerment originated from social scientist Julian Rappaport in 1981. Empowerment emphasizes the degree of autonomy present in people and groups of people. In the 1980s and 1990s, it gained traction as a management trend. The goal was to delegate decision making authority to employees.

But it was not successful in empowering people in the workforce. Management “talked the talk.” They pronounced their people as empowered. Then, they sat back and waited for the magic to happen.

But the magic did not happen.

As it turns out, those accustomed to command-and-control have difficulty with autonomy.

Employees in a traditional management structure get told what to do and how to do it. Rewards result from adherence to the rules, not for venturing outside of them. And these employees bring experiences and biases steeped in the status quo. They have never explored other avenues. …

When a team seems not to care, don’t blame the people.

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Photo by James Wainscoat on Unsplash

“My team consistently rolls work over from Sprint-to-Sprint. Why is it not motivated to finish what it starts? It doesn’t deliver what it commits to deliver. I must have the wrong people.”

Do you ever hear this? Do you say it about your teams?

When I coach an organization, I often hear a statement such as this. It is rampant and misguided. And to be honest, it’s wearing on me.

The common implication is some inadequacy in the teams or team members. But it is unlikely for teams or its members to be bad apples. …

Diversification is what you need.

Are you mastering the right thing for your product team?
Are you mastering the right thing for your product team?
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

I played basketball when I was younger. I remember wanting to become an expert at spinning a basketball on my finger. For some reason, this was the craft I chose to master.

I practiced for hours in my garage. When I started, I could keep the ball on my index finger for approximately one-tenth of a second. After five days of relentless practice, I could spin the ball as long as I wanted on all five fingers of my left hand.

This is impressive to anyone that witnesses it, even to this day. But it did little to make me a better basketball team member. …

It requires an often overlooked ingredient.

Grit is the key to a successful Agile journey
Grit is the key to a successful Agile journey
Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

I am passionate about simplifying the Agile journey — often, to a fault.

As an Agile coach, this is my driving purpose. It gets me up in the morning, ready to embrace the day. It fuels me to persevere as I encounter the ever-present resistance to Agility. And it keeps me up at night worrying about my teams and organizations as they struggle to embrace change.

Grit (n): firmness of mind or spirit; unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger. —Merriam-Webster

I drive to change the status quo and create fertile ground for growing team engagement. My stamina is significant in this area and my focus does not waiver. And I am not content with my own drive; I have high expectations of those I coach to have similar enthusiasm. …

Product Discovery and Delivery are better together.

We Need One Complete Product Team
We Need One Complete Product Team
Photo by “My Life Through A Lens” on Unsplash

I have experienced an interesting trend in the Agile and Scrum space this year. At first, it seems like a step to get us closer to our customer’s needs. But as I peel back the onion, I have seen how it can lead us down a treacherous path.

The trend involves Product Discovery. Several companies have approached me with a request, such as:

“We need a Product Discovery coach to help build capable Discovery Teams and improve the intake of backlog items with Delivery Teams.”

At first, the notion of Product Discovery coaching sounds intriguing. Design Thinking, customer research, and lightweight prototyping are engaging activities. …

This core Zen concept can help you modify your behavior.

Can an Empty Mind Help You Adopt Scrum?
Can an Empty Mind Help You Adopt Scrum?
Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

Scrum does not fit your organization.

How could I know that Scrum does not fit you? I have not seen you practice Scrum. I have not witnessed your successes or struggles.

I know this because Scrum was not designed to fit your organization. It does not have everything you need. Scrum requires you to add complemetary practices so that it will thrive within your organization.

Scrum is:

- Lightweight

- Simple to understand

- Difficult to master

The Scrum Guide

Let’s take that last aspect of Scrum: it is difficult to master. The main cause of this difficulty is the hardened norms of your organization. Your current status quo is in the way. …

Approach it like you deliver your products.

Three Simple Ways to Ease Your Agile Journey
Three Simple Ways to Ease Your Agile Journey
Photo by TheDigitalArtist on Pixabay

Something has been bothering me. For the past several years, I have watched our pursuit of Agile lose its way due to the magnitude of the change.

Sometimes this is due to scaling change too fast. Traditional organizational behaviors and design block the change from taking hold. And attempts to standardize backfire. If nothing else, complexity increases due to the sheer scale of the enterprise.

At times, I tell myself I should embrace this as the new normal and deal with it.

But the other day, I heard something that solidified where we go wrong. And it sparked an idea of how we can change to a better course to follow. …

It is not instinctual.

What is the One, Powerful Leadership Behavior Innovative Teams Need?
What is the One, Powerful Leadership Behavior Innovative Teams Need?
Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

I was riding high. My team was, too. Or so I thought.

The team in question was new to Agile and new to Scrum. As we made preparations to start the first Sprint, the team chose a one-week Sprint duration. This surprised me, in a good way. It is rare for a team to try a one-week Sprint. And it is even rarer for a new team to try it.

I was beaming. I knew from experience the short Sprint cycle would bring the team great returns. The feedback loops would be rapid on the product as the team built it. …


Todd Lankford

Todd is an Executive and Enterprise Agile Coach with 25 years in consulting. His coaching is focused on making Agile simple again.

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