Paulo “Pablito” Amaral is an advocate of Agile practices and the main organizer of the Agile Meetups in the island of Malta. He has been working as a Scrum Master for a number of years, and is now a Scrum Master at Gaming Innovation Group.
If you were to be a caveman, would you go hunting for rabbits, or would you rather go for a mammoth?
Considering unlikely for a lonely individual to survive in the stone age, I would rather hunt a mammoth with the other hunters of my tribe.
How does the face of scrum change from countries and continents?
Teams are made of people. Scrum teams have the same operation but are unique in their working style. If we say Scrum has a face, I imagine the very base would the roles, events and artefacts of the framework. Always there. Just like every face has eyes, nose, mouth, etc, with a well-defined purpose. The variety comes from the traits, which in the face of Scrum would be – in my opinion – the way each team runs it. Because they now have control of the execution, it will end up being very influenced by the values, styles, personalities and cultures present within the members.
What made you take the Scrum Master career path?
The opportunity to contribute for teams to improve their work-life, and bonding with people I see every day. I started as a developer. During my career I got interested in and involved with Project Management, having even been a developer and Scrum Master at the same time. My work life took a definitive turn from code to teams when I decided to focus on just one thing, which was Agile and Scrum. I got excited to take a new path with fulltime dedication, which was still very related to my previous experiences.
Which part of scrum do you apply most to your everyday life?
The principle of the Refinement. I want to be ready for tasks before I start them. For example, I like cooking, and before doing it I first get ready finding the recipe, chopping, measuring, etc. Then I just enjoy making the food with all at hand. It is some extra effort, but worth it for me.
Where do you get your ideas from?
I seek inspiration out of the “Agile” box, especially because teams are, in fact, just a group of people. I don’t limit myself to books and articles about agility. I like digging charity shops and bookstores for things like “Coaching Youth Tennis”, by the American Sport Education Program, to learn about building solid and motivated teams; “The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking”, by Chris Anderson, to learn how to better communicate; and “How to Draw Anything”, by Scriberia, to improve my sketches and panels. Then I experiment with a lot of different things, which is the beauty of having short iterations.
Is there anytime you feel that a team needs something else, which is not scrum?
Scrum is just a label for a prescription. It is just one popular way to drive Continuous Integration, to plan and work flexible, and to tackle the left side of the Agile Manifesto, in case you don’t want to come up with one yourself. Regardless of the framework adopted, have it a name or not, it is essential that every team have at least a shared understanding of what they want to achieve, and how.
The team is extremely well gelled. No dailies.
A team can achieve a level of maturity where they start to modify the operation themselves to improve, according to their style. If the metrics show improvement, go empiric. However, the starting point for that must be a solid implementation first. From this point, the framework won’t be called Scrum anymore, although coming from it.
Why do you do Scrum?
I believe success comes for teams that can adapt to market/client changes, who can improve fast, learn from their mistakes, support each other as a unity, spend time not only for making a good product but for making a good process too. For a group to achieve a common goal (be a software, sports, whatever team), there must be one common strategy, there must be alignment, and this is the reason why I chose to work with Scrum. It has proven to be a good choice for software teams, tried out by many and polished by experienced people. Also, its popularity is a door for opportunities and makes an onboarding process smooth if the newcomer has previous experience with the framework.
1-1s or observation of group dynamics?
1-1s should be a safe space where people can speak up, without the fear of being punished or judged, serving to understand the individual. Group dynamics will reveal how people interact and cooperate with others around. So these are not interchangeable, but complementary, they make the big picture together.
The eyes. The essence of Scrum’s continuous improvement is to take actions based on observations. If you don’t inspect (to adapt), you are just a zombie and there will be no benefit in the team operation, risking even getting worse.
Worst mistake in your SM career?
Making assumptions. As in the essence of Scrum itself, we first inspect to then adapt. Sometimes I shouldn’t have taken for granted gut feeling, guesses, or experience with other teams. It has to be empiric, scientific, with supporting metrics. This is something I am still working on and hopefully improving.
Which is the most silly question you’ve ever gotten for an SM role?
Why would a team need a permanent SM with them? When is the role of an Agile coach more relevant?
If a team get mature enough to produce and inspect their own metrics, support each other, keep learning and improving, they don’t need a dedicated Scrum Master. In this case, an Agile Coach working externally could feel the gaps in learning, facilitating some events, making sure the team doesn’t lose the grip. Having support to focus on the process, not just the product per se, that’s what matters.
Agile coach, or Agility coach?
Agile coach. There is a clear purpose for this role of supporting and educating the organisation. It does have a scope. For me, “agility coach” sounds more generic, broader, even risking to fall in a more general (and in some cases controversial) category of coaching.
I’m very busy on a red hot emergency fix. Shall we skip the [any Scrum event]?
Disturbing the framework execution should be an exception. Flexibility is a positive thing but must be enabled with control (not ad-hoc, which many times causes frustration). The team’s strategy can accommodate unpredicted stuff, but not suffer from it. For this reason, if possible, the team rather attend the event with one member less, than skipping it at all.