For our second specialist interview in our series speaking to technology and IT leaders around the world, we’ve welcomed Scrum Master David Rutter to share his thoughts on the topic of agile and Scrum as well as where he sees the future of work evolving in this area.
David has over thirty years of experience working in IT and works as a Scrum Master across two teams, development and operations.
He also blogs about teamwork and agile at the Art Of Team Work website. In the past, he has worked as a developer and organisational change manager on projects that used both waterfall and agile.
How did you get started in the agile world?
My agile journey started when I was a developer. At the time XP was being used, as Scrum was emerging. A group of developers in our company had a series of meetings to agree on how we would use agile in our company, using a mix of Scrum and XP.
We tried pair programming, daily standups and really analysed how we worked. It was a great experience to be given the mandate to try these things. After I left the company and tried different roles in IT, I was given the chance again to be a Scrum Master.
With that role, I found I was able to help the team in many ways and found that a Scrum Master can be a great position for me. This inspired me to continue learning more about the different agile frameworks, and team development.
Has agile changed a lot over the years? What are the biggest differences you see today compared to when you first started out?
When I first started with agile, there seemed to be a lot more discussion on what it was, and less about adhering to a specific framework or methodology. Companies also seemed to be willing to experiment more to see what worked for them.
Right now there seems to be a lot of companies using agile, but the way they use agile depends on their maturity - the less mature have rigid adherence to frameworks like Scrum and SAFe, and the more mature organisations have moved beyond this into models that focus more on Lean principles and flow.
Have you faced any challenges with conducting retrospectives in different organisations?
The expectations that the developers have built up in the organisation come up. I've come into organisations or teams where so much feedback has been gathered, but very little action taken, so when I run a retrospective there is a lot of cynicism. But once the team sees that something happens from their feedback, attitudes change.
What tools have you found most useful for working in an agile way?
When we were working in the office, having a physical space where I could bring the team together and discuss ideas and challenges - it seemed so basic yet this was so important.
Now that we are all working remotely, I would say there are some essential tools - a good comms tool like Teams or Slack, a good online whiteboard like Miro, workflow management tool - we use Jira, but there are other great tools out there, and then somewhere to store the collective knowledge - such as Confluence.
Where do you see things evolving and changing for agile in the next five, ten years?
Kanban, Lean and DevOps: focusing more on flow and continuous improvement, and less on the planning that SAFe and Scrum require.
Also, more organisations want to learn more about team development, rather than just assuming that Scrum will inherently develop the team.
What advice do you have for aspiring scrum masters and those new to agile?
There's a lot of focus on sticking to the framework or methodology, and thinking you're working agile - the most important thing is actually the mindset and the principles of transparency, respect, flow, continuous improvement, and finding a sustainable way of working.
Anyone new to agile needs to work to those principles - if they can do this then the mechanics come easily.
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