Yes, it’s Agile --> Three Useful Questions that Block Scrum Teams

In Chapter 5 of my book, Digital Trailblazer, I share several of my stories of helping organizations define their agile ways of working. If you’re married to a framework, it’s hard for leaders to develop agile cultures and mindsets. And while empowering self-organizing teams is fundamental to agile, it doesn’t mean that agile leaders shouldn’t establish and adopt self-organizing standards.

Your Agile Way of Working by Isaac Sacolick

In this week’s Driving Digital Standup video at the bottom of this post, I share the stories behind “That’s not agile” and why I wrote the chapter. Please watch the video for added insights, and join the Digital Trailblazer Community to delve further into agile and other digital transformation topics.

Today’s challenges are less about changing waterfall to agile practices and mindsets, even though many enterprises still have remnants of waterfall planning and less-agile PMOs.

One scrum book with many flavors

What many agile leaders face nowadays is an agile hodgepodge of what people have experienced and embraced in other organizations and teams. Bring 100 people together, and 30 of them may have practiced the scaled agile framework (SAFe), 10 with Large Scale Scrum (LeSS), 10 with StarCIO Agile, 40 with very basic scrum, and 10 are completely new to agile. How should scrum teams and agile organizations seek diversity of thought but then define their agile practices?

My company’s Center of Excellence programs help leaders with these challenges and create digital practices that deliver transformational impacts. Our approach includes top-down strategic planning and much bottoms-up work with scrum leaders and teams on developing and cultivating standard practices where they make sense.  

We do this by helping product owners, scrum leaders, and team leaders answer common questions facing real-world scrum teams. When there’s some consensus on the approach, we draft a standard.

Three questions for scrum leaders

Here are three examples where scrum leaders and Digital Trailblazers should provide guidance to their agile teams:

  1. Can the product owner and scrum master be one person?
  2. What should we do with our commitments when a production issue disrupts the sprint?
  3. How should we handle user stories that aren’t finished at the end of a sprint?

Anyone experienced in scrum probably has answers to these questions, but ask three leaders, and you’re likely to get different responses. For example, in mature organizations and teams, where there’s little daily and weekly work for a scrum master, it’s reasonable for either the product owner or team lead to take on scrum master responsibilities. When there are new, less experienced teams or when organizations have significant reporting requirements, then I often recommend having a dedicated scrum master.

The other questions seem tactical but are important so that teams can efficiently address common issues consistently.

If you want more specific answers and ideas, please join the Digital Trailblazer Community, where I will share the answers. You can also reach out to me for a free advisory session.

And watch the video below for more insights on “That’s not Agile!”

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About Isaac Sacolick

Isaac Sacolick is President of StarCIO, a technology leadership company that guides organizations on building digital transformation core competencies. He is the author of Digital Trailblazer and the Amazon bestseller Driving Digital and speaks about agile planning, devops, data science, product management, and other digital transformation best practices. Sacolick is a recognized top social CIO, a digital transformation influencer, and has over 900 articles published at InfoWorld,, his blog Social, Agile, and Transformation, and other sites. You can find him sharing new insights @NYIke on Twitter, his Driving Digital Standup YouTube channel, or during the Coffee with Digital Trailblazers.