When the sprint fails…

Whenever I discuss about the need for ‘committed’ , ‘capable’, ‘motivated’, mutually respected teams as a pre-requisite for scrum, generally the body language of the recipient of this is that of cynicism. Unfortunately, in reality, based on my experience , agile frameworks, or any ‘knowledge related work’ is bound to fail without these basic human elements. Of these ‘mutual respect’ is the most important aspect. Without mutual respect, commitment will not happen. Without mutual respect, motivation will be affected. Everything starts from mutual respect, between team members, scrum master, product owner and the sponsor. The litmus test of ‘mutual respect’ is how gracefully we treat an agile team, during the sprint review meeting of a failing sprint.

Planned velocity is ’10’, achieved is ‘6’. If ‘6’ is not agreed upon by the product owner, then the sprint has failed. Will this lead to ‘release date’ slippage. That could be the immediate concern of the product owner. Answer is a ‘yes’ and ‘no’. This may affect the release date. This may not affect the release date if the velocity increases during the subsequent sprints. The most important aspect to be taken care of during these scenarios is to protect the ‘motivational’ aspect of the product owner, scrum master and the product owner. When the team is in the forming state, and working on a new technology / architecture, this is bound to happen. Patience is the key to deal with such situations. This is the time to invest heavily in production capability improvement, than hitting the roof for low productivity. Remember, great managers do not do much to motivate their teams, and at the same time, they do not demotivate their teams. One must protect the commitment, motivation and mutual respect, self respect aspects of self organizing knowledge workers throughout the assignment at any cost. This is applicable to all stakeholders including the development team members.

Recently we had a long project team meeting to resolve an issue. We invited some key team members for a critical meeting to get out of this do or die situation. They participated actively, we planned all the action items to be implemented the next day, and towards the fag end of the meeting the one key team member who was also part of the entire meeting turned up and said ‘I am on leave tomorrow‘, while waiting for the cab to go home at 10 pm. That really hurt, and still hurts me, the senior manager, who pitched in to help, even when it was not my key responsibility. I am not against someone taking leave for genuine reasons during the middle of the sprint. He could have told me about  leave upfront, which would have given me opportunities to plan other alternatives.  I am also human. Yes, respect has to me mutual. In agile teams, we motivate each other. The entire team must commit to the sprint goal and achieve it.



A word of caution about Transparency and predictability

Yes, I stick to the promise of scrum delivering better predictability and transparency. The flip side of this is what we see through the newly gained transparency. The reality could be bad news. Just by following scrum alone the productivity will not improve. This realization happened during the consulting assignment at a startup. I knew that engineering capabilities will not happen overnight in any organization where everything was happening ad-hoc,  which is the characteristic of almost every startup. They needed holistic approach to improve;

  • pre-sales process
  • project planning
  • project tracking
  • requirements management
  • design / architecture
  • estimation
  • coding
  • testing
  • defect management

I did not want to reinvent another capability maturity model, because i felt it will be better if my client implement something proven and popular. That forced me to go back to the CMM-Dev model after two decades. That is a great opportunity to look at CMM-Dev from an agile perspective (not from the CMM assessment perspective. Here are the KPAs of the CMM-Dev latest ;

  • Causal analysis and resolution
  • Configuration management
  • Decision analysis and resolution
  • Integrated project management
  • Measurement and analysis
  • Organizational process definition
  • Organizational process focus
  • Organizational performance management
  • Organizational performance management
  • Organizational training
  • Product integration
  • Project monitoring and control
  • Project planning
  • Process and product quality assurance
  • Quantitative project management
  • Requirements definition
  • Risk management
  • Supplier agreement management
  • Technical solution
  • Validation
  • Verification

This is in alphabetic order. To my surprise, the current level is almost 0 for most of these and 1 for some of them. I consider this as a good starting point. Still we believe in people more than processes and tools. We will ensure that nothing that does not add value will get rolled out.

‘Why do a car with automatic gear shift have a tachometer?’ …

Just completed another round of ‘Agile project management using scrum’ workshop for a team of young brilliant engineers from a leading multinational product company. Their intelligence and creativity was outstanding and inspiring. Thank you very much for giving me an opportunity to work with you for the last four days….Again, you did not answer my question ‘Why do a car with automatic gear shift have a tachometer?’ ….Any answers….


Just completed agile using scrum workshop for a leading multinational product company in the automotive space


Innovation to the core.. that is their catch phrase.

‘Innovation to the core’ , that is their catch phrase, and they are up to it.

My association with this company started around a decade back when they were a small team operating from a small office within Kochi city in the Kerala state of India. Today, they are around 150 engineers in strength, 200 applications developed and are operating from Infopark (Kochi) which is well known in the I.T map of India. They have embraced agile using scrum, and using their agility to the a good extent.

Key skills

iOS application development
Android application development
Hybrid applications
Jquery mobile framework

Professionally managed by qualified engineers, I can confidently recommend this team for outsourcing your work / product idea for development.


To, all agile enthusiasts across the globe

Here is a great opportunity!

I have been working very closely with several scrum teams as their coach and mentor. Many of them are small and medium sized enterprises operating from tier two cities of India, where the production cost is highly competitive. Each of these organizations have unique strengths, technically and functionally. I am sure that you are also associated with great teams, working on interesting projects. There is great synergy, if we can work together to introduce / recommend our truly agile teams to each other, which will bring in tangible strategic business advantage to all stakeholders. In the process our horizons also expand.

I foresee a great opportunity here.

Do you agree with me?. If Yes, please contact me. Let us start communicating.

Mobile / Whatsapp : 0091 9895372115 Skype ‘abrachan’