New: The Scrum Team Survey Now Includes Stakeholders

How our latest feature aims to start more powerful conversations and drive change by including a stakeholder perspective.

Christiaan Verwijs
Feb 1 · 8 min read

With the Scrum Team Survey, you can create transparency with your team around five core questions: Are you building what stakeholders need? Are you shipping fast enough? Are you improve continuously? Do you have the autonomy to organize in the way that works best? And do the outcomes you generate actually add something valuable.

Until last week, our tool only allowed an inside-out perspective on these questions. How do Scrum Teams rate themselves on these five questions? But what if that perspective is skewed, heavily biased, or overly optimistic?

This is why our latest release of our Scrum Team Survey now allows teams to invite their stakeholders to offer their perspectives. In this post, we talk you through what this change means. And what lies ahead.

Stakeholders: natural allies of Scrum Teams

We created the Scrum Team Survey to give your team a powerful, free tool to start data-driven conversations about what they can improve (and to recover from Zombie Scrum). While some of those conversations should happen in your team, we firmly believe that most conversations should involve stakeholders. After all, Scrum Teams exist to deliver valuable and useful outcomes to their stakeholders. And when that is made difficult by red tape, bureaucracy, lack of autonomy, or missing skills, the stakeholders ultimately pay the price. That makes them your natural allies, with an equal interest in the removal of impediments.

Unfortunately, those conversations are often difficult to initiate. How do you show that low autonomy, and the resulting dependencies on others, make it hard for teams to release frequently? How do you show how missing skills result in lower-quality outcomes? And the reverse is equally true; how do you show that value remains low, even though teams say they’re “doing Scrum by the book”? How do you show that release frequency remains well below what stakeholders need, regardless of that expensive Agile transformation that just took place? With our latest release, we hope to make it easier to start these important conversations.

The Outside-In Perspective

Below is an example of a profile for a team where three members and three stakeholders participated. In our latest release, teams now also see the perspective of their stakeholders. With the exception of “Self-Organize” — which is hard for stakeholders to ascertain — teams can now also learn from this outside-in perspective of stakeholders:

Note: we’re continuously optimizing our survey, adding and removing items or topics. The screenshot may be different from what you see.

A short survey for stakeholders

So how does this work? The first step is to enter the survey for your team at survey.zombiescrum.org. Once completed, you can invite both your team and your stakeholders to participate to augment the profile you receive with more perspectives. If you’ve done the survey before, you can simply load an older profile and locate the option to invite stakeholders under the “Invite your team”-tab. If you participated a long time ago, we recommend that you do the survey again to benefit from the updates to the survey itself.

Your team members enter the same survey as you did, but stakeholders enter a shorter survey that is fine-tuned towards what is most important to them:

  • How responsive is your team to their needs?
  • Is the release frequency sufficient for their needs?
  • What is their perception of the quality of the work your team does?
  • How much value do they get out of what your team delivers?
  • How engaged do they feel with your work as a team?

The survey for stakeholders includes 17 questions that measure these five questions from slightly different perspectives.

When at least three stakeholders participate, their (aggregated) results appear in your profile. We added this safeguard — the same as we did for teams — to protect the anonymity of participants. If only one or two people participate, it would be easy for participants to calculate what the other person scored.

Detailed & reliable metrics

Our survey gives your team a detailed overview of what is going on. Aside from the high-level scores on “Ship It Fast”, “Self-Organize” and the other core questions, you can also see how these scores break-down into lower categories:

Each topic, such as “Refinement” or “Team Value”, is measured with a multi-item scale that we continuously (psychometrically) validate and improve. After four iterations of our survey, virtually all topics are measured with scales with a Cronbach’s Alpha beyond 0.8 (on a scale from 0 to 1, where 0.7 is generally deemed sufficiently reliable for this purpose). We also continuously assess the fit of the entire measurement model to make sure our measurements remain as reliable as possible. The fit of our current model is well beyond the required thresholds (RMSEA below 0.05, CFI above 0.95, GFI above .90).

In practice, this means that you can rely on the scores from our survey to give you a good sense of what is actually going on in your team. It takes the conversation away from gut-feeling or intuitions — which may or may not be biased— to a conversation that is more grounded in facts.

Data-based feedback to make sense of the numbers

In the detailed profile, you find scores on over 22 different topics. To help you make sense of these numbers, we offer feedback on the scores of your team compared to other teams.

This feedback consists of background information to better understand why something could be an issue (like a Sprint Review without stakeholders, below), and recommendations for what to improve. We purposefully separate the “So What?” step from the “Now What?”-step in your profile, encouraging you and your team to first make sense of why something is an issue, and then to identify potential improvements. We offer recommendations and additional resources for both and are continuously adding more.

Guidance for facilitating the conversation

While our latest release makes it possible for your team to see how they’re doing in the eyes of stakeholders, and start the conversation from there, actually having that conversation in a productive way isn’t always easy.

We’re supporting you there too. In your profile, we offer prepared 60- or 90-minute strings of Liberating Structures to digest the results from your profile and identify improvements — together! This is a great way to make sure that all voices are included, that you create a safe environment, and that you maximize the opportunity for creative and outside-of-the-box solutions.

Scrum Teams drive change from the inside-out

Our guiding principle behind the Scrum Team Survey is that teams drive change in their organizations from the inside-out. Because teams do the actual work of developing a product, they see on a day-to-day basis what makes this hard (like low autonomy, lack of skills, product owners without a mandate, or lack of access to stakeholders). With our free tool, we want to help start those conversations.

This guiding principle also means that Scrum Teams are in control of their profile. We don’t share the profiles with stakeholders, nor with management. Although you can see your own results in our profile, you can only see the results of your entire team as a whole — not each individual member.

“Our guiding principle behind the Scrum Team Survey is that teams drive change in their organizations from the inside-out.”

The Road Ahead

Last week’s release is our first step in a number of releases that aim to include more outside-in perspectives. Our plan is to also include the perspectives from management, other teams, and supporting departments (HR, Sales). But where stakeholders actually rate the outcomes of Scrum Teams — which stakeholders are uniquely suited to do — we will ask other groups exclusively to what extent they are actually supporting the Scrum Teams to be successful in delivering value to their stakeholders. And in turn, do the teams actually experience that support? We hope to start more conversations around support, and what it is that Scrum Teams need vis-à-vis what it is they actually receive.

How can this tool be free?

We are developing this tool for free. Over the past months, we’ve poured hundreds of hours into its development, gathering feedback from users, and iterating the model behind the survey to make it increasingly reliable. While many people are telling us to ask people to pay for this tool, we feel that this would diminish its power to unleash Scrum Teams all over the world. So it will remain free (although some planned advanced features may not).

One worry about free tools is often that “you are the product”. There’s no need to worry here either. We don’t sell your data, nor do we send you spam. We do have helpful newsletters and personalized recommendations, but you only receive those when you opt-in.

If you appreciate our work and want to support us in the development of this tool, please consider joining us on Patreon; patreon.com/liberators. Over 400 people are already supporting our work. In return for your monthly support, you also receive all sorts of nice benefits — like a discount in our webshop, access to our meetups, a private discord-server where we and patrons support each other, and all sorts of free content.

Give it a try!

If you haven’t already done so, go to https://survey.zombiescrum.org to try our tool. More importantly, let us know at info@zombiescrum.org what it made possible for your team and what you think we can improve. We frequently release new versions, and would love to include your feedback to make it better!

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