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Q&A with Martin Hinshelwood

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Martin Hinshelwood, Professional Scrum Trainer, Professional Kanban Trainer, & Microsoft MVP: DevOps.

How have the trends and challenges in the Agile industry, particularly regarding the roles of Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches, evolved in the last 2-4 years?  


Over the past two years, the Agile landscape has undergone significant shifts, primarily impacted by the challenging economic climate and a surge in ineffective hires. This period has seen a notable downturn in the overall effectiveness of Agile implementations in various companies worldwide. Critical factors contributing to this slump have been the impact of large-scale bought methodologies and the influx of individuals claiming to be Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches without the necessary skills.  

The demand for competent Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches has significantly outpaced the supply. This imbalance has increased salaries in these roles, attracting opportunists whose lack of genuine expertise has tarnished truly skilled professionals' reputations. I've observed a trend where individuals from unrelated fields, like accounting, desire to transition into Scrum Master roles for software teams without a foundational understanding of Agile principles or software delivery.  

My consistent advice to those seeking such a career change is to leverage their existing skills within a team in their current field, aiming to enhance its effectiveness. Success in this endeavour often leads to recognition and opportunities to share their newfound knowledge with others, gradually building a path towards a role in agile coaching or Scrum mastery.  

However, it's important to understand that becoming a Scrum Master isn't an overnight transition, especially in a new industry. It demands substantial practical experience in applying lean and agile techniques effectively within a team’s context. The journey to becoming a successful Scrum Master is rooted in gaining real-world experience, making a significant impact within a team, and progressively broadening one's scope to encompass more diverse and challenging environments.  


In your experience, what are the key characteristics of successful agile transformations within organisations, and could you share a notable example you've witnessed?  


In my observation, the hallmark of successful agile transformations lies in their initiation and development from within the organisation. These transformations are not externally imposed or designed; they are internal initiatives embraced and supported by the entire company. The key to their success is creating a unique process tailored to fit the organisation's specific needs and culture, enabling them to optimally serve their market and customers.  

One of the most remarkable transformations I've witnessed was within Microsoft's Azure DevOps product team. This transformation was significant in scale and impact as it expanded to other engineering teams within Microsoft, including Windows. This example, among others, underscores the importance of focusing on processes, practices, and tools uniquely suited to a specific organisation. Minimising dependencies and creating alignment between the work, team composition, and product architecture is a key outcome that seems daunting at the start.  

Achieving this level of transformation requires a sustained effort, often spanning years. It demands robust support from leadership that deeply understands lean and agile theories and how they apply to teams within the specific context of their company. This includes consideration of the company's culture, the skills of its people, and the systems already in place.  

The success of such agile transformations is not just in adopting a new set of practices; it's about embedding these practices into the organisation's very fabric, ensuring they resonate with and enhance the existing strengths and values of the company. This approach leads to a more organic, effective, and lasting change that truly transforms how the organisation operates and delivers value to its customers.  


How do you perceive the role of Agile in enabling large organisations to adapt and innovate like startups, and what are the key challenges and support systems necessary for effective implementation of Agile practices?  


"Agile" is often misunderstood as an end in itself rather than a means to achieve rapid adaptability and capitalise on market opportunities. This adaptability is crucial for organisations, especially large ones, to stay competitive and ward off disruption from smaller, more nimble startups. As organisations grow, they tend to accumulate bureaucracy, creating a rigidity that hinders quick adaptation. The challenge is maintaining a startup's agility and innovative spirit, even in large-scale operations.  

The key to overcoming this challenge lies within the organisation itself. Only those intimately familiar with the internal systems and culture of the organisation can effectively implement changes that respect and maintain the business's integrity. These individuals require strong support from leadership, not only in endorsement but also in resources and training. They must be educated in the theories and philosophies underpinning Agile practices to apply them contextually within their organisational framework.  

Moreover, the involvement of external experts can be invaluable, albeit for short periods, to facilitate and guide critical discussions. These experts can assist in experimenting with new processes, practices, and tools that enhance the organisation's effectiveness in delivering value to stakeholders.  

Leadership support extends beyond mere approval; it involves engaging in and promoting organisational hygiene to sustain system changes while respecting existing structures. This support needs to cascade from the top echelons of the organisation, including the boardroom, down to the shop floor. In essence, the transformation to Agile is not just a change in methodology but a cultural shift that encompasses every level of the organisation, demanding commitment, training, and a holistic approach to maintaining the dynamism and innovation of a startup at any scale.  


How do you help people and organisations on their agile journey?  


Most organisations have had no formal training in agile practices and philosophies. Understanding the theory behind the available process and practice is fundamental to enabling people in your organisation to learn and change.  

My immersion training transcends conventional learning methods tailored specifically for those navigating the ever-evolving Agile landscape. Our training encapsulates:  


  • Incremental Classroom Learning: Experience engaging live sessions, each up to 4 hours, spread over several weeks. This format is designed to deepen your understanding of Agile principles and practices at a sustainable pace, mirroring the Agile approach of incremental progress.  

  • Outcome-Based Assignments: Each session is complemented by practical assignments, fostering innovation and practical application. These tasks are crafted to cater to diverse skill levels, encouraging learners to apply Agile concepts in various real-world scenarios.  

  • Facilitated Reflections: Begin each class with a reflective session led by our trainers to help connect the experiences of the assignment to the theory.  Here, participants share insights from their assignments, promoting a culture of peer learning and actionable takeaways vital for Agile environments.  

Our Immersion Training is not just about acquiring knowledge; it's about embedding Agile thinking and practices into your professional fabric. It's ideal for those aiming to drive Agile transformations within their organisations or aspiring to adopt Agile roles effectively.  

Reach out at for consulting, coaching, and immersive training. 

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