“The Rules Apply to Everyone ”— An Advice for Agile Transformation Success | by Donovan Brown | Jul, 2022

Lessons learned as a Scrum coach

Blackboard with the word Rules written on it with 3 blank lines for rules.

While visiting a customer, I had the opportunity to observe their sprint review.
A sprint review is where the team demonstrates what they achieved in the previous sprint and identify future adaptations. The review was underway when a gentleman joined the meeting late.

After taking a seat at the conference table, he immediately started asking questions. The continued interruptions made it difficult for the team to show what they had accomplished in the previous sprint.

I kept waiting for the Scrum Master to ask the attendees to hold their questions but that never happened.

Eventually, I simply could not take it anymore. I knew I was a guest but something had to be done.

So, I politely asked the gentleman to please hold his questions. I assured him once the team was done there would be plenty of time for questions, comments, and suggestions.

The goal of this meeting is to allow the team to demo the value they created in the previous sprint so we could make sure we are heading in the right direction.

I also added that we did want his feedback but we need the team to be able to show everything first. He immediately complied. I did notice, however, that he leaned over to the person next to him and asked who I was.

The person just shrugged their shoulders because I was a stranger to almost everyone in the room.

Person whispering to another person at a conference table
Person whispering

Once the team was done, the gentleman looked at me before he said anything. I said, “Now is a perfect time for all your questions and feedback.”

After the meeting, the Scrum Master said, “I can’t believe you did that.” I asked, “Did what?” They replied, “You told our CEO to be quiet.” I explained that the rules apply to everyone.

But it made sense why no one was asking him to hold his questions. However, the fact that he compiled once he knew the goals and rules of the meeting meant no one had explained the purpose of this meeting to him. CEOs are intelligent people; that is how they became CEO in the first place. They can follow rules once they are explained.

I see two problems with this situation. One is lack of education. Everyone that was invited to this meeting should have been educated on the goals and rules.

If you just find a meeting on your calendar, you will assume it is business as usual when you arrive. In the invite, clearly define the agenda and rules of engagement so that everyone is clear on the expectations.

The second problem is the fear of telling your CEO to follow the rules. This is completely understandable. Using the meeting agenda is a great way to ensure everyone is on the same page.

This is also why I recommend hiring a Scrum Master. Telling your boss “No” is uncomfortable, but an external person telling your boss “No” is much easier. Once the team understands the rules, those awkward conversations no longer need to happen.

To succeed with your Agile transformation, you must never forget: that the rules apply to everyone.

Thanks for reading. Until next time!

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