Best Tools to Develop Soft Skills in Scrum and Agile Development Teams

Following the webinar, in which I presented some tools and techniques to nurture soft skills in agile teams, I have a pleasure to share slides and video.


During the webinar I found some interesting questions which I would like to follow-up:

Q1: Is group responsibility real responsibility? In my experience it rather cause personal irresponsibility.

Responsibility takes place in the group of people when one or more memebers are reacting on the situation. Personal responsibility usually occurs when someone cannot find whom to blame to. How many situations you can remember in  which you was the only one to blame? Last time I was the only one to blame when I had bumped my car into road construction because of the lack of attention – it was clear for me this is purely my mistake – personal irresponsibility, “I need to be more careful next time” – the way how my brains are used to strenghten personal responsibility. Everything else is a group responsibility – it is more REAL than you can imagine. Irresponsibility in software development teams takes place when there is a lack of accountability – no shared working agreements, team members are rather stay in the counter-productive mindstates – blame, justify, shame, obligation, when there is a fear to confront unsatisfaction with the rest of the team, and so on. Five Dysfunctions of the teams and Responsibility Chain can help you to re-think your current experience from the standpoint of the solid studies.

Q2: My team is located in different locations. That’s why we cannot use white board for tracking progress. What you can recomend in this case?

I’m fine to use e-boards. I don’t want to promote any specific tool. I like to use screen sharing, video\voice bridge, Agile e-board, e-pocker planning, collaborative editing tools like Google Drive or so. Someone on the call should play facilitation role and to be completely focused on people and the way they are interacting – in Scrum this is Scrum Master.

Q3: Are there any recommendations how to deal with irresponsible team lead, or even PM?

Awareness should be always the first step to face a problem. Irresponsible behaviour often means that we are expecting some actions from a person but instead we are observing passiveness. Common reasons of the irresponsiveness are: lack of capacity, tireness, unsatisfaction, lack of motivation, fixed mindset, bad habits, lack of soft skills, unsafe environment. In the worst situation all the factors are present in the PM or team lead and this should be addressed one by one. I like to use empathy radar technique to see how I can help the person to increase responsiveness.

Q4: Is it required to document all of the agreements of our team? Should be there a document which can be reffered to when we talking about team aggreements?   

I’m fine to use wiki tools to document working agreements on specific subject areas. Find below the basic set of agreements to be documented if you want to have responsible Scrum Team:

  • Roles and accountabilities agreements
  • Definition of “Done” – process and quality agreements
  • Scrum Process rules agreements
  • Scrum pulse – schedule, meeting inputes\output agreements
  • Code review agreements
  • Continuous Integration agreements
  • Coding standards agreements
  • Team behaviour agreements (in accordance to Scrum values – respect, focus, commitment, courage, openness)
  • Communication agreements (Dev Team -> PO, Dev Team – > Stakeholders, Dev Team -> Users, operations)
  • Meeting ground rules

Some stuff I can post on the walls.

Q5: What if Team is big (more than 10+) ? 

As agile leader and Scrum Master of that team I would teach why 10+ can be risky and uneffective. However the decision how to change team(s) composition in the competence of the Develoipment Team.

Q6: Do you suggest doing retrospective together with the Product owner?

I strongly recommend to do retrospectives with Product Owner as he is a part of the Scrum Team. Ususally Product Owner is one to be balmed by Development Team if he doesn’t present. Common challenges why PO is out of retrospctives:

  1. Language and cultural barriers. Scrum Master have to be aware of this and help to improve cross-cultural, cross-location interactions.
  2. Time zone differences. Because of time zone difference retrospective can went at the beginning of the next day, when PO at 3 a.m. In this case the ground rule should be not discuss issues where PO is involved and follow-up it during the next Sprint.
  3. PO has a lack of time. Scrum Master should work on it and his servant leadership expressed in ability to help PO to find some time for the next Sprint Retrospctive. At the end of the days Product Owner should respect rules and principles of the Scrum framework.

Q7. Is it the job of team leader/Agile leader to organize for white board activities? how often these activities should be carried out?

I like to think of agile leader as a person who is leading by example. Agile environment helps to be aware of what is going on, to stay focused on value and interactions. White boards and other visualizaion in close proximity are very helpful to make interactions effective. If the team doesn’t understand the benefits of visualization my job is to show an example, however I’d rather expect that the team will take over and carry out these activities.


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