Avoiding Agile Pitfalls

Avoiding Agile Pitfalls

It follows an interview with our Senior Scrum Master Mariusz Kolanko at ImmobilienScout24, Agile Coach and Agile Evangelist inside infinIT Services. Get to know his background and read how he thinks about the agile “process” in general and how to avoid major pitfalls.

Michael: Mariusz, please tell us about your IT background.

Mariusz: I am a graduate of Technical University of Czestochowa. After completing my master’s degree program in computer science I continued my engineering journey as a PC and embedded systems developer at several international companies. Later on I shifted my focus into the areas of traditional project management, including customer interaction, cooperation with various stakeholders, and implementation of best practices into company’s daily operations.​

My experience is based on a combination of software engineering skills mixed with successful Agile, Scrum, and Kanban implementations while wearing various hats like coach, advisor, project manager and scrum master. I worked with a large number of teams in cooperation with clients all around Europe. My practical knowledge is backed by numerous certificates i.e. Scrum Master and Scaled Agile Framework.​

Currently I work as Senior Scrum Master for a web project at ImmobilienScout24 (IS24).

Michael: Please describe your team and its role inside IS24.

Mariusz: Currently I work with 10 people – product owner, developers and testers. They are responsible for a few products that are part of the whole IS24 platform. It is a self-organizing team actively involved in the complete chain of project development, starting from cooperation with the client in story creation, throughout design, implementation, test, and ending with deployment on production environment.

Michael: How does your team influence the final product?

Mariusz: We are a nearshore-team and adapt to all client processes and tools so it is really comfortable and efficient to work with us. This setup has lots of advantages although it is not so easy to implement and naturally brings some challenges. Talking about the benefits however, I can easily name a few.

It provides different points of view on many important topics. It generates discussion, supplies alternatives, and improves the client’s ideas. These teams are more flexible, eager to work hard and what is the most important: The client can focus more on results without managing the human element. Why I am so sure? Because our client told us!

Mariusz – Senior Scrum Master and Agile Coach

Michael: In your experience, what constitutes a good scrum master?

Mariusz: There are a lot of characteristics that scrum masters should have. I am thinking about self-organization, perseverance, flexibility, curiosity, perceptiveness connected with empathy, assertiveness and probably a lot more. The clue is when and how to use them and when not. Working with teams generates so many unforeseeable situations and scrum masters need to adapt quickly. My experience also tells me that having technical expertise opens a lot of doors.

Michael: You are also brightONE’s agile coach. What are the major problems during Scrum introduction?

Mariusz: There could be a lot of problems: electricity blackout, fire alarm etc. Seriously, there are no specific problems during Scrum introduction. It is just another example of introducing something new in an organization with all of its known consequences. People are very suspicious of any change in general so introducing Scrum is more or less “problematic” as any other change. A Scrum master needs to build trust and confidence in people he will work with.

Although at the beginning of Scrum introduction the scrum master is more like a teacher that shows all the new methods of software development. As people become more and more familiar with Scrum the scrum master becomes a coach preparing the team‘s self-organization.

Michael: Please describe major pitfalls and their remedy.

Mariusz: The Scrum itself is easy to implement but hard to follow.

Let’s focus. All Scrum artefacts and ceremonies are well defined and what is more important there is not many of them. Believe me, everything goes smoothly as long as we are focused on results and improving our way of working because this is what Scrum is based on. Lack of focus on improvement automatically hurts Scrum. People start to think that they work so well that it is not possible to work better and retrospectives start to be less productive because how to improve a perfect world? And this is when it starts to break and the biggest challenge appears: Make the team focused again.

Trust is another very important ingredient without which it is not possible to implement good Scrum. Clients have to know that everything what the team does is the best they can do.

There are also a lot of good practices that are mandatory in Scrum like: transparency, common language, working agreements, working in small steps, efficient meetings, etc. But let’s honestly say: If we are focused, building efficient practices is a pleasure that automatically leads to good results, whereas good results build a trust which has an influence on our focus – a typical circle.

Michael: Why does Scrum fail sometimes anyway?

Mariusz: I would phrase it differently. Any Scrum implementation that ignores the basics mentioned above will certainly fail. So before saying that Scrum fails we need to ask ourselves: Did we follow the basics?

Michael: Thank you.

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