The Ever Evolving Journey of the Fannie Mae Scrum Master
“Evolution is a tinkerer.”, Francois Jacob, Nobel Price wining Biologist
To further enable Scrum Masters to mature specific capabilities, and achieve more consistent practice across the enterprise, Fannie Mae’s Agile Center of Excellence (CoE) embarked on series of evolutionary initiatives. While we would like to represent that these activities were premeditated and intentional, the reality was that the activities were emergent, evolving with, and in response to, the larger organizational transformation. During this session, we will detail the evolution of initiatives over the last several years intended to support the Scrum Master, the triggers that precipitated the initiative, the outcome of the initiative itself, as well as lessons learned given the benefit of hindsight.
Outline/Structure of the Experience Report
Over the course of the last four and one-half years, Fannie Mae has worked aggressively to transform itself from a heavily silo’d and firmly entrenched command and control culture, following a gated workflow, with long release cycles, to an Agile organization. Today, Fannie Mae is a more dynamic value oriented organization that is responsive to stakeholders, focused on achieving greater efficiency by enabling fast-feedback loops, as well as using empirical data to optimize mature and persistent agile values and practices.
Like most agile transformations, Fannie Mae’s beachhead for implementing agility was the delivery organization. As the organization scaled from 2 scrum teams to more than 200 scrum teams a little more than a year later, maturing the capabilities of the Scrum Master became paramount. This, however, proved to be more easily said than done. There were numerous challenges including:
- Many of the individuals tapped to fill the Scrum Master role had been Project Managers without the benefit of agile expertise, experience or mindset;
- As a result of the tight job market for agile subject matter expertise in Mid-Atlantic Region, many of the Scrum Masters hired into the organization did not have the benefit of extensive experience or expertise scrumming teams.
Early on, the organization sought to develop, and mature, Scrum Master capabilities through a combination of internal (eg. Agile Whole Team Kick-start; Scrum Master Toolkit) training, external role based training (eg. CSM, A-CSM), and in some cases, Agile Consultant Coaching. While there was evidence that these efforts helped to create a baseline understanding of the Scrum Master role and responsibilities, there was also evidence that maturity was foundational and, in some cases, inconsistent.
To further enable Scrum Masters to mature specific capabilities, and achieve more consistent practice across the enterprise, the Agile Center of Excellence (CoE) embarked on series of evolutionary initiatives. While we would like to represent that these activities were premeditated and intentional, the reality was that the activities were emergent, evolving with, and in response to, the larger organizational transformation. The activities and rationale for their undertaking include:
- Formalized the Scrum Master Role and develop a career path.
- Early in the agile transformation, the organization relied primarily on consultants to provide the senior scrum master expertise. However, as the transformation took, hold Project Managers began to assume the Scrum Master mantle and, eventually, the organization began to hire directly from the marketplace. Whether through conversion or direct hire, a formally defined role was required. In response, the Agile CoE worked with HR to create a job family for the Scrum Master as well as a career path.
- Advocate for a hierarchy that protected the sanctity of the Scrum Master Role.
- Each delivery program had one or more technical lead to whom the Scrum Masters for that program directly report. The technical leads performance model was based on delivery. As such, the technical leads demanded productivity that often exceeded the teams capacity, ignored the teams sprint forecasts or respected the teams commitments. Because the Scrum Masters were part of the same reporting structure as the teams they were scrumming, their ability to perform many of the responsibilities of the role as well as function as servant leaders was undermined rendering them as little more than ceremony schedulers/facilitators. The Agile CoE worked with Portfolio Leadership to identify Scrum Master Managers for a given program who reported outside of the delivery construct thereby empowering the Scrum Masters to fulfill their mandate;
- Hosted a quarterly “Scrum Master Day”.
- As the number of Scrum Masters across the enterprise began to swell, the Agile CoE realized that the majority, who were new to their role, felt as if they were on an island. In response, we kicked off quarterly Scrum Master Day an off-site on-site event that brought all Scrum Masters together for a day of networking, learning and alignment;
- Developed a framework for chartering and standing up Scrum Master Communities of Practice within the Portfolios across the Enterprise;
- As the transformation began to span multiple portfolios across the enterprise, Scrum Masters within the portfolio began to self-organize. In order to foster standing up communities of practice, the Agile CoE created a framework and requisite support. Additionally, we maintained a pulse on each Community of Practice bringing in expertise, knowledge sharing, as well as listen for organizational impediments that spanned the enterprise.
- Brought specialized training in-house and leveraged employees to train their peers.
- Fannie Mae became a member organization of the IC Agile Consortium and subsequently the Agile CoE developed and certified ICP-ATF and ICP-ACC learning experiences. Both learning experiences were facilitated by a cadre of Authorized Instructors whose day-to-day responsibilities were as Senior Scrum Masters and Scrum Master Managers;
- Empowered Scrum Masters to create a learning plan for their professional development, that was baselined across the enterprise, as well as provided a means for Scrum Master to have a conversation with their Managers about gaps in their capabilities.
- The Agile CoE partnered with Agile Transformation to design an Agility Health Radar specifically for the Scrum Master called the Scrum Master Growth Portal, a content rich resource that enables Scrum Masters to take ownership for maturing their toolkit and expertise. Additionally, and optionally, Scrum Masters can engage their Managers and Teams to collect additional feedback to identify potential gaps and align in expectations;
- Historically, the Agile CoE offered monthly training in core agile concepts for new teams as well as specialized roles including the Scrum Master. However, the enterprise largely matured its’ agile capabilities to a point where there was no longer demand for conceptual training.
- In response to demand for targeted and more immersive training, in specific agile concepts and techniques, which can be experienced incrementally, the Agile CoE launched a role-based Scrum Master Dojo, modeled after the concept of a Coding Dojo, which provides safe and immersive experiences for Scrum Masters, and foster collaborative problem solving via rapid learning cycles.
During this session, we will detail the evolution of initiatives over the last several years intended to support the Scrum Master, the triggers that precipitated the initiative, the outcome of the initiative itself, as well as lessons learned given the benefit of hindsight.
This Experience Report is a joint undertaking between Dan Craig, the Director of Fannie Mae’s Agile COE, who is directly responsible for supporting the adoption of Agile across Operations and Technology as well as Phillip Manketo, a Senior Agile Consultant, representing Eliassen Group’s Agile Practice, which worked as a day-to-day strategic partner.
- Formally defined roles and responsibilities for the Scrum Master are required but, in and of themselves, will not result in a high-performing Scrum Master... additional support is required;
- Scrum Masters must see a career path within the organization or else the organization risks losing their best practitioners to competitors/other agile organizations;
- The organization must make an intentional decision to create a reporting structure for the Scrum Master that provides maximum autonomy to challenge organizational taboos with impunity. Without this autonomy, there will be little to no progress changing entrenched organizational constraints, culture and mindset;
- Scrum Master Communities of Practice as well as enterprise wide events for Scrum Masters can serve to “lift all of the boats” at the same time” through skill building (eg. estimation), alignment on organizational constructs (eg. “Should spikes be pointed?”), and knowledge sharing (eg. retrospective techniques to achieve specific outcomes).
- When seeking to create consistency in applied practice, a tool is required for Scrum Masters to assess their own capability against the primary responsibilities and character traits for the role and then rationalize their perspective vertically (Scrum Master Manager / Agile Team Coach) and horizontally (Team Members on Team(s) they are scrumming).
- Training material and techniques must evolve beyond Agile 101 in order to keep Scrum Masters engaged and help them mature capabilities. Furthermore, the benefits of experiential learning, combined with role-based skill building for practitioners within the same portfolio transcend a specific learning experience.
- Steering Scrum Masters to thought-leaders within the Agile community promotes consistency of practice while allowing for thought leadership that may not be as prominently recognized. Ultimately, the Scrum Master is challenged to continue to refine their agile toolkit.
Scrum Masters; Agile Coaches;
Prerequisites for Attendees
A foundational understanding of agile as well as a continuous improvement mindset.
schedule Submitted 4 weeks ago
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