Wet Scrum

Guest post

Many thanks to Gurpreet Singh for allowing us to re-post this article about what he calls "Wet Scrum". He will be in Australia in mid-September as a session leader at LAST Conference.

Wet Scrum

By Gurpreet Singh

Many companies tag themselves "Agile." Agile is the latest Methodology to execute software development projects. Agile has a variety: like Scrum, eXtreme Programming (XP), Rational Unified Process (RUP), etc. Scrum is the most commonly followed these days. Generally, organizations use a blended version to suit their needs, which are confined within their environmental constraints (EEF/OPA, or enterprise environmental factors/organizational process assets).

So, why are companies moving to Agile?

Let's recap the Agile Manifesto to answer this question:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

Agile empowers the client with the flexibility to change, as the entire process is iterative and the client is kept in the loop with each sprint's progress. Also, the team plans and commits for work for each sprint and works together to complete the commitment.

This way, it is a win-win scenario for each side:

  • The client is updated in real time about the status of the project/product, and the client has the freedom to change the requirements.
  • The team is like a small military Alpha unit (five to nine members) working in short progressions (sprints).

The hard truth

Hmm . . . this was the theory. Life, though, is not about black and white; there are grey areas everywhere.

It is easier to "do Agile" than to "be Agile." Agile demands a certain discipline to get the right results.

  • Do you timebox your meetings?
  • Are you a silent listener during the meetings?
  • Is the product owner or ScrumMaster the only person who talks?
  • Is the PO/SM "pushing" the work to you?
  • Does your PO commit during the sprint planning without seeking team input?
  • Are you forced to give XYZ points to ABC story?
  • Are you not "open" in the retrospectives for fear that what you say will backfire?
  • Are you forced to take on new stories during the sprint that will negatively affect the already committed deliverables?
  • Do you never discuss blockers in the daily Scrum meeting, despite the fact they exist?
  • Do you expect/wish that the PO/SM would micromanage so you only have to "work"?
  • Do you believe the carrot-and-stick method of management is essential?

These scenarios are just few highlights; the possible list is endless. They show that you are "doing Agile" (for the sake of doing it), but you are not "being Agile," as you don't know the real importance of Agile practices and deliverables.

You may be an Agile puppet run by someone else following Waterfall. This kind of Scrum is notoriously known as "Water-Scrum-Fall."

I would like to coin a new term for this method: "Wet Scrum."

Scrum gets "wet" by following the practices of Waterfall. People use Scrum selectively, depending upon context and ease. However, it is very difficult (nearly impossible) to achieve the spirit of Agile by doing this.

How Wet Scrum Works!

Clients need the following:

  • More human touch
  • Manageable work organized in short sprints rather than trying to manage the entire project/product as one entity
  • Real-time updates about work completed
  • The power to change the requirements
  • High-quality results

These deliverables are produced by Scrum, in theory. However, no way of working can ensure the success of a project or product unless the team is disciplined and focused on making it a success. (We will discuss this point further at a later stage.)

Clients are fascinated about using Scrum to address the needs listed above. This creates pressure on the senior management of XYZ Company to shift to Scrum. And this creates a cascading pressure on middle management, junior management, and finally on our teams to be Agile. The team doesn't necessarily have an awareness of the Agile values, but they need to be Agile, as this is a clear mandate of senior management and the voice of the client. They start holding daily Scrum, sprint planning, and retrospective meetings without a clear vision of the end goals or their purpose. The burn-downs literally burn down these Wet Scrum teams. Sizing seems alien to them. They aren't sure about the roles of the product owner and the ScrumMaster. They believe they are self-organized, but they need some manager to manage their work.

In a nutshell, they are "Agile" as being demanded by the client (or management); however, they are miles away from being Agile. This is a sad state and is cruel for the team. Gradually, the team will feel that the meetings are senseless. For example, if they are regularly taking on more stories during the sprints, the sprint planning meetings lose their purpose and become a waste of time. Similarly, if the daily stand-ups last for 30 minutes, this is a clear waste of the time for the entire team (30 minutes times X number of team members daily).

In the long run, the team will start burning out. They will lose focus and motivation, and the product will fall from creative mode to survival mode.

And . . . everybody will blame Agile (read: Scrum) for this failure. However, if the people involved do not want to make the product/project a successful one, it will be a sure failure no matter which method you use.

Closing note

Competition is high, so companies try everything to make new customers and to sustain the old ones as long as possible. This includes shifting to newer formats such as Scrum, Kanban, etc. However, this kills the creativity, innovation, vision, human spirit, and motivation of the people who actually create the product or execute the project.

Agile was born to empower people and their communication, and this is lost in Wet Scrum.

Wake up now! - See more at:

Zappos and the "no bosses" approach

By Venky Krishnamurthy

Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh

Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh

After reading this article from the Washington Post, I felt saddened to see many employees leaving Zappos. Zappos might have a point to prove that these employees are incapable of adjusting to their new “way of working”. 

I think it is dangerous for Zappos to survive in the long run. Here are two reasons:

  1. The diversity of thinking:  success of any team, group or an enterprise depends on its encouragement to the diversity of thinking. If everyone in the organization is forced to think in a certain way, one will end up breeding “Yes” masters and thus killing creativity, innovation. 

    As one could see, Zappos management is forcing people to work in certain way and non-aligned workers are booted out but in a diplomatic fashion. I agree that the Holacracy way of working can benefit the organization, however Zappos is killing the a foundation that Holacracy promotes; that is, respecting people and their opinions.

    As per one of the research, employees perform at their peak potential when their individuality is respected and protected.

    Organizations flourish and succeed with inclusive policies rather than exclusive ones. 
  2. Brain drain: A bigger issue is the impact of brain drain on the organization. There are rumors floating around that many employees who opted to quit Zappos have set up new startups. The three months salary is good enough for many entrepreneurial people to use it as seed funding to setup their own business. Loss of such talented people is a great tragedy for the company.

Sometimes, I also feel that many organizations come up with fancy ideas/strategies as part of laying off people as well.

What do you think about Zappos decision ?

For those of you interested in this topic, the Melbourne Agile and Scrum Meetup group will be discussing Self Organisation and Holacracy at its next Meetup on 27 May 2015.

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LeSS is more in Australia

By Anton Rossouw.

It was great to have Bas Vodde in Melbourne from 24 - 26 February 2015 to bring the first Certified LeSS Practitioner course to Australia. Its been several months in the making following a plot with Bas to visit Australia, crafted over great Japanese barbeque and Sake at Clarke Quay in Singapore.  The Melbourne location was also good enticement to exploring  Tasmanian Whisky in pursuit of the most excellent in the world! With that trigger discussion still clear in my memory I started day 1 of the 3 day LeSS training with Bas and 15 others at our partner organisation Elabor8’s training room.

My initial expectation of LeSS was that there could not be that much more to scaling Scrum that we weren’t already intuitively doing in some way, so anything new under the sun? I was very wrong! It dawned quickly that what Bas presented was taking Scrum itself to a whole new level of excellence! What I learned was somewhat of a surprise because “LeSS lets you do better Scrum” too. It’s not only about scaling teams and large product delivery but also at the same time amplifying the practical goodness at the heart of Scrum i.e. the agile stuff that really works. The course also brings many new agile aspects to the fore while also remaining simple, compact and focused. The particularly powerful concepts that resonated deeply with me were:

  • Steps and strategies to evolve Agile scaling into the wider organisational context in a low risk productivity enhancing way
  • Building cross functional feature teams across the organisation while driving understanding and contribution to the business domain
  • Applying organisational, product and process improvement from running retrospectives (overall) at scale emphasising that learning is at the core of LeSS
  • Specific roles for management steers them in support of teams and not control of people
  • Managing the one product backlog and driving Done and Un-Done work to get to extended enterprise level “totally Done”
  • Sincronisation of sprint time boxes into the same calendar cycle
  • What do we do when the product requires more than 8 teams i.e. going “Less Huge”
  • Two step sprint planning to cover enterprise level and team level planning for delivery
  • Managing the backlog according to dynamic requirements areas that reflect the enterprise contexts
  • Moving the teams and the organisation structure to customer and whole product focus
  • Applying Less principles underpinned by systems thinking that further enhance and support better Scrum
  • Moving away from project focus to continuous emergent Inspect and Adapt driven delivery
  • Moving from component teams to feature teams using a planned strategy based on a long term adoption map
  • Sometimes temporary fake product owners are valuable and needed!
  • Using and authority matrix to differentiate responsibilities for product owners, management and teams
  • The simplicity at the core of LeSS will de-complicate the organisational structure over the longer term and drive efficiency

In summary LeSS is not only about how to scale Scrum into a transforming organisation but also how to do better Scrum at every level. This emerged strongly from the stories throughout the training informed by Bas’s years of experience and deep thinking on practical application of LeSS.

Indeed a great start to more LeSS being done in Australia! I am convinced that as what happened to the relatively recent and unknown Tasmanian Whisky is also earmarked to become the de-facto reference to Scaling Agile excellence in the world. Go LeSS! 

Bas and Venky

Bas and Venky

Personal Kanban FTW

It was a lot of fun presenting on Kanban at 1stConf last week, it was a popular session and special thanks to Neil and Martin for helping make it fun. 

In my talk I gave out Personal Kanban boards and I've had a lot of fun using them myself, here is the design, inspired by Sandy at Nomad8

I've found myself wanting to cary around the printed kanban with me and I've discovered a relatively easy way:

I rolled up a blank A4 piece of paper and used sticky tape to turn it into a tube for the board to slide into. As a bonus the sticky notes fit in the tube along with sharpie and bluetac. I need plenty of bluetac to flatten out the board after storage.  

Hope you enjoy you Personal Kanban boards!

LeSS: Scaling Sweet Spot

By Venkatesh Krishnamurthy.

Read the first part of this series about Large Scale Scrum

There are several  frameworks, ideas and methods available for scaling Agile projects. Many are either too prescriptive detailing out practices making it too narrowly focused with no wiggle room.  The prescriptive, highly defined process destroys the principles of empirical process control. 

There are others which are purely principles based pushing the onus on users to worry about the practices.  

The secret lies in balancing the principles and the practices. This is where Large Scale Scrum (LeSS) captures the sweet spot. 

LeSS achieves the same balance as Scrum, for larger product groups. It adds a bit more concrete structure to Scrum, whose purpose is to maintain transparency and emphasize the inspect-adapt cycle so that groups can continuously improve their own ways of working. LeSS  consciously leaves the space for users to create context dependent practices. 

Find out more about LeSS training in Melbourne in February 2015. This is the first LeSS certification training in the ANZ region. 

What is LeSS (Large Scale Scrum) ?

By Venkatesh Krishnamurthy

In 2015, we are going to introduce Large Scale Scrum (LeSS) to an Australian audience. We think there are many who will be interested to hear about what LeSS is all about. How can it benefit large scale Agile projects?  What are the principles driving LeSS? How can I be LeSS certified?

My intention is to share knowledge about LeSS and at the same time, answer the above questions and beyond.  In this series of articles, you will be able to gain an understanding of LeSS and LeSS huge frameworks. 

Why LeSS?

Let me begin with "What is Large Scale Scrum (LeSS)? Essentially, LeSS is Scrum being applied to many teams working on a product development. 

As we know, Scrum is one of the most popular methods in the software development. Its popularity is due to its simplicity and powerful empirical process control. However, while multiple teams working on a product development apply Scrum, they need some additional guidance for improved collaboration and coordination. This is where Large Scale Scrum sits. 

Since LeSS is based on Scrum, the learning curve in adopting this framework is minimal. Personally, I have used LeSS on a large scale development with >100 people with no additional training on this framework.  

LeSS Principles and Themes

LeSS is fundamentally based on Scrum, and in addition, it has principles/ideas based on Queuing Theory, Systems Thinking, Lean Thinking, Empirical process control. 

 I will delve a bit deeper into the backlog grooming and other practices in the upcoming articles.

Read the Part 2 of this series "LeSS: Scaling Sweet Spot"
Find out about the upcoming LeSS course in Melbourne

What is common between Agile and FengShui ?

By Venkatesh Krishnamurthy

I know this is a tricky question if someone asks "What is common between Agile and Fengshui?" .  Not an easy answer ah?   

Let me give out the answer, both Agile and Fengshui has a lot of believers and followers. The followers have such a tremendous blind faith that they don't question and follow the rituals to the last letter. 

For example, I have seen Feng Shui followers setting up Aquariums, buying gold fishes, lighting scented candles to attract wealth/abundance. Whether it works, don't know.

I am seeing the same trend in Agile followers as well. If there are challenges in software delivery, stakeholders are asking the teams to just "practice" Agile and many a times some popular models like Spotify, SAFe or DAD.  

Many a times, just ignoring all the noise and just applying some common sense could solve many challenges.  

Are you a follower  surrounded with too much of noise?  Do you think ignoring this noise helps in your context?

Mediocre Managers Manifesto

By Anton Rossouw.

I have had the privilege over the past 30 years or so to work with many humane, inspiring and energising managers and leaders.

Since studying Industrial and Organisational Psychology and Computer Science in the early 80's back at university it has always been my hope that management science (with some technology) will foster the development of better managers. However of late I have not seen much evidence of that.

So in homage to the great leaders that inspired me I decided to create an “anti-” view that can be used to tacitly amplify what “good” leadership looks like as the mirror image i.e. “bad”. As a pattern I used the Manifesto for Agile Software Development (representing those on the good side).

Reflecting on my past career I must also confess that at times I caught (like a bad cold) some traits from the not-so-great managers I worked with because it seemed a good idea at the time and the accepted “way we do things here”. I now recognise that one should never take on bad behaviours but stand firm and be brave enough to change it, even though it means you may lose your job (yep its not as easy as that especially when its about money).

After all is said and done to get the “job done”, I always hope that I leave my workspace as happier places where I helped my teams in some way develop and grow to their potential.

Now for the Mediocre Managers Manifesto for creating Mayhem and leading the organisation up Schitt Creek without a paddle:

We are uncovering strident ways to work by doing it and forcing others to do it. Through these ways we have come to value:

Command-and-control over agility and self-organisation.

Passive aggressive conflict over collaboration.

Arguing the details over working the big picture.

Being promoted over delivering value.

Blunt answers over thinking what’s best.

Information secrecy over transparency.

Talking incessantly over listening intently.

That is, while there is most value in the items on the left, there is little value on the right but we will say we do it even though we don’t.

We follow these principles:

  • Me, myself and I as the supreme manager always know best.
  • Always blindly follow the bosses’ orders because they know best.
  • People are annoying but considered as resources to be consumed and discarded.
  • Get the job done at any cost but remain true to yourself by using manipulation, throwing tantrums, and whinging.
  • Playing people off against each other is an important and fun game.
  • Bantering in a critically logical way will be used to belittle, confuse and disorientate the team, and when that fails because they have better answers, then emotional blackmail must be applied.
  • When I don't understand something then it is their fault.
  • Vendors and suppliers are important because they are someone to blame when my team stuffs up and I don't want to lose many of my team members in one go.
  • With power comes responsibility to weed out clever, considerate and open people. They have no place in this world and must be taught a lesson.
  • Apathy must be applied to protect us from commitment.
  • We believe in our own rhetoric as enforceable doctrine for everyone else to obey.
  • Knowingly withholding acknowledgment and approval motivates people to try harder next time.
  • Managers are not paid to foster happiness at work, rather spend their time growing empires and attacking others empires.
  • My smartphone is at any one time more interesting than what anyone is trying to say in any meeting, except if it is a bosses meeting.
  • In particular don't trust individual workers but specifically not teams because they may over time wield more influence than the manager. Facilitate infighting within teams to reduce their effectiveness.  

The Mediocre Managers Manifesto can be used as an assessment checklist tool for managers “where the shoe fits”. If only a couple items apply then there is hope and behaviours can easily be ameliorated, but if most items apply then major therapy and years of coaching would be required to become a “normal” manager again.

To further explore the "bad" side of management one of the best books about it is by Barbara Kellerman. Believe that good management is possible. Inside every bad manager maybe there is a great leader trying to get out!

Lets make Melly Shum Happy!

By Anton Rossouw.

I met Melly Shum some years back, around 1991 as far I can remember, on a cold, damp and windy morning in the industrial city of Rotterdam.

I came around the corner of Witte de Withstraat into Boomgaardstraat, and almost walked into her. When I glanced at her she responded with a faint smile a bit like a modern day Mona Lisa, and a friendly one at that. She was sitting seemingly comfortable and confident at where she works, one hand familiarly rested on an accountants calculator.

A neat and organised workplace, lack of clutter, with professionalism and poise.

  • Who was she?
  • And what kind of job does she do?
  • What inspires her?
  • What does she aspire to?
  • What is her future?
  • What does she want to achieve? 

Then a feeling of dread flowed over me-because I glanced to the right of her and noticed that She Hates Her Job ! What a shame, what a waste! She probably spends at least 8 hours of her work day, week by week and year in year out hating every hour. My only hope for her is that the hours she spends away from work at least she loves.

I met Melly Schum in an artwork by Ken Lum. It looks like your typical advertising poster – just more striking because there is no glitz or glamour.


Sculpture International Rotterdam - photography: Toni Burgering

Sculpture International Rotterdam - photography: Toni Burgering

Maybe Ken Lum as artist, which I believe has astute observation powers and compassion for humankind, was commenting on the industrialisation and de-humanisation of our institutions and organisations, and used this striking advertising imagery to tell us the story of the modern workplace.

That is the story of dominant power creating cultural deserts of machine-like workplaces with soft organic living beings substituting oil, steel, heat and steam. Machines can be built, tuned, manipulated, and broken and discarded when they have served their purpose. What resonates is that the many metaphors of business today reminds of optimised machine like efficiency from the Industrial age and the world wars where machines were used to affect massive destructive power.

Well humans aren’t machine parts, they are complex organisms with emotions, consciousness, self awareness and longing for better futures. I went away with a sense of frustration, thinking about how the "system" can be changed, and if we realistically can have energised, enthusiastic, inspired and happy people in workplaces. People that love their jobs. People that work in places where Profits are not put before People.

Jurgen Appelo, a leading thinker in complexity and business dynamics also met Melly Schum, and decided to do something about it. He created a movement for change, a network of energetic, like-minded but diverse business people across the world that together work towards changing the world of work for the better.

Jurgen called this the Happy Melly Network.

We are proud to be part of the Happy Melly network. We believe that it is good business to have happy people work in our companies. We believe that the workplace of the future will not be described as machines, but as living organisms where value is constantly created by people that like what they do.

We will work hard to create healthy sustainable business ecosystems that will bring about the necessary change. We will help, and in turn be helped by inspired executives and managers in forward thinking organisations to ensure that all those Malcomes and Mellys everywhere love their jobs. We love this job, and its good business!

The Stoos Transformation has begun !

By Anton Rossouw.

The philosophies and methods of Agile is fast infiltrating the world of general management. This is due to the many successes due to adopting Agile mindsets to the way that software is delivered. This has stimulated rapid evolution fueled by practical learning causing thinkers, practitioners and authors world wide to project Agile into management teams, boardrooms and workplaces outside of IT and software product development.

And so this gave rise to the Stoos network .

It was incubated on January 2012 at Schwyz in Switzerland by 21 concerned and inspired change agents swarming around the leadership problems we face today. Together they agreed that there must be a better way. A rallying call to action was developed:

“Reflecting on leadership in organizations today, we find ourselves in a bit of a mess. We see reliance on linear, mechanistic thinking, companies focusing more on stock price than delighting customers, and knowledge workers whose voices are ignored by the bosses who direct them. All these factors are reflected in the current economic crisis, increased inequity, bankruptcies and widespread disillusionment.

There has to be a better way”

The Stoos network has rapidly grown exponentially to become an organic self organizing learning community of like minded radical business change agents, that share a passion to learn from each other and find the better ways to change organizations for the better.

We go about this by sharing problems, discussing new ideas, theories, paradigms and practices, and implementing them as safe-to-fail experiments to enact positive change. These abundant ideas bring new ways of thinking about systems, driving sustainability, developing leadership, transforming management practices, fostering high performance teams, embracing complexity, implementing simplicity, unlocking innovation, becoming agile and adaptive, and growing new organic organizational structures.

We participated in the first Stoos Stampede that was held on 6-7 July 2012 in Amsterdam, in a stunningly beautiful conference venue De Roode Hoet in Keizersgragt. It was implemented as a classic “un-conference” by organisers Jurgen Appelo and his team. More than 200 inspired people from all over the world attended the spirited sessions of conversation, each contributing and sharing in their own unique way their own unique perspectives and experiences. I am sure we all went away vowing to put new things into practice to find the better way. There were interesting, interactive and collaborative sessions such as:

  • Indicators for Companies Culture and How to Change

  • Facilitating effective interventions from within organizations

  • Management and corporate culture hacking

  • Agile transformation - What should be the best approach?

  • Gamification of the working environment

  • Guided Self-Organisation: Creating a Learning Network

  • Sociocracy: new governance structure for organizations

  • Management is dead! Grasping the new model & methods for change

  • Using Personal-Professional Growth to Adapt Business Cultures

  • From Overwhelming Complexity to Effective Simplicity

  • Organize for Complexity. How to make work work again

  • Organization Design powered by Evolution

  • Leading change good practices

  • Learning for complexity. New approaches for knowledge-building

  • Stoosian Emergent Organizational Practices from the wild

  • Dealing with Generation Bottleneck

  • The 10 Worst Management Practices, And How To Turn Them Around

  • Using Complexity to Accelerate Higher Consciousness

  • Being the change you want to see in the world

  • Extremely simple and practical mgmt theory: is that possible?

  • Fairytales for organizational change

From this we see that there are very passionate people set on creating better leaders and better organisations. The key is sharing knowledge and learning in practice. It will take not a massive revolution, but a quiet and sustained social revolution leading continuously upwards to better places.

Become committed as we are to contribute actively to the Stoos movement!

Stoos is always seeking passionate people that can become part our learning network. Our individual positive contributions can create valuable change that will transform organisations to become more balanced, humane and sustainable workplaces. Its all about change for the better !