Agile Mentors Podcast

Agile Mentors Podcast

Practical advice for making agile work in the real world

The Agile Mentors podcast is for agilists of all levels. Whether you’re new to agile and Scrum or have years of experience, listen in to find answers to your questions and new ways to succeed with agile.

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#85: Effectively Managing Dependencies with Ken Rubin

February 14, 2024     50 minutes

In this week’s episode, Brian is joined by the legendary Ken Rubin, the author of Essential Scrum. Together, they dive deep into the world of dependencies in larger organizations and scaling, drawing from Ken's extensive experience since the early days of Scrum. If you're navigating the complexities of dependencies and looking to optimize your team's flow, this episode is a must-listen.


In this episode of the Agile Mentors Podcast, Brian welcomes the iconic Ken Rubin to explore the intricate realm of dependencies at scale. They dive into the impact of dependencies on flow, the challenges of scaling, and the effectiveness of feature teams in managing structural dependencies.

Ken shares valuable insights into the myths surrounding dependencies and practical strategies for minimizing their impact, whether they involve external partners, scarce specialized roles, or deliberate component teams.

As a bonus, Ken announces his upcoming one-day live online course where you’ll dive deeper into effective dependency management strategies, Dependencies are Killing Your Agility: Learn to Fight Back!

Tune in as Ken and Brian provide practical wisdom, actionable strategies, and a wealth of knowledge.

Listen Now to Discover:

[01:16] - In today’s episode, Brian sits down with the first director of the Scrum Alliance and author of Essential Scrum, Ken Rubin.
[03:03] - Ken defines dependencies as a relationship between two or more entities that requires collaboration or coordination.
[04:31] - Ken distinguishes two dependency types: structural and instantiated.
[06:48] - Brian emphasizes addressing the root cause of dependencies, comparing it to optimizing water flow in plumbing systems.
[08:06] - Ken stresses the importance of addressing structural dependencies to prevent them from becoming blockers and impeding flow.
[10:18] - Brian highlights an upcoming one-day live online course with Ken titled Dependencies are Killing Your Agility: Learn to Fight Back! on March 14th, emphasizing its relevance for Scrum Masters and product owners.
[11:10] - Ken defines the concept of flow and compares it to the concept of utilization.
[13:04] - Leaders listening should prioritize optimizing flow over squeezing individuals for efficiency.
[14:23] - Ken underscores the importance of managing structural dependencies by balancing system-level WIP.
[16:28] - Ken debunks the myth that 100% feature teams can eliminate all dependency issues.
[19:14] - Ken shares how feature teams are compelling but face exponential challenges.
[21:45] - Ken explores the need for specialized roles in scaling feature teams, proposing a threshold approach.
[24:57] - Discover why Ken advocates for a combined feature and component team model, suggesting systemic swarming for specialized roles.
[26:55] - Today's episode of the Agile Mentors Podcast is brought to you by Mountain Goat Software's Private Training for Agile transformations. Get your team on the same page through subject-specific training, coaching, and mentoring. For more information, visit the Mountain Goat Software’s Private Training page.
[28:06] - Ken challenges the idea of a one-size-fits-all solution for dependency problems, cautioning about tool limitations.
[30:25] - Ken proposes expanding the concept of working agreements to include inter-team arrangements.
[33:55] - Ken highlights the misconception of solving external dependencies through internal escalation, stressing the limitations and challenges.
[35:40] - Ken dispels the myth that identifying dependencies means solving the problem, emphasizing the need for control.
[38:35] - Brian highlights the significant impact of waiting time, using the example of ordering a t-shirt online.
[39:36] - Addressing flow problems in scaling challenges is crucial.
[42:35] - Brian underscores the impact of addressing flow issues and promotes Ken's upcoming one-day live online course, Dependencies are Killing Your Agility: Learn to Fight Back! on March 14th
[43:24] - Brian highlights the value of Ken's insights on dependencies and provides helpful resources and links.
[43:50] - Brian thanks listeners and invites them to share and subscribe to the Agile Mentors Podcast on Apple Podcasts.
[47:26] - If you’d like to continue this discussion, join the Agile Mentors Community. You get a year of free membership into that site by taking any class with Mountain Goat Software, such as CSM or CSPO. We also have Advanced Certified ScrumMaster® and Advanced Certified Scrum Product Owner®. We'd love to see you in one of Mountain Goat Software's classes, you can find the schedule here.
[48:12] - Do you have feedback or a great idea for an episode of the show? Great! Just send us an email.

References and resources mentioned in the show:

Dependencies are Killing Your Agility: Learn to Fight Back!
Essential Scrum by Kenneth Rubin
Dependencies Are Killing Your Agile Flow at Scale by Ken Rubin
#47 Exploring Lean Thinking In Agile Development with Bob Payne
Subscribe to the Agile Mentors Podcast on Apple Podcasts
Mountain Goat Software’s Private Training
Certified ScrumMaster® Training and Scrum Certification
Certified Scrum Product Owner® Training
Advanced Certified Scrum Product Owner®
Advanced Certified ScrumMaster®
Mountain Goat Software Certified Scrum and Agile Training Schedule
Join the Agile Mentors Community

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This episode’s presenters are:

Brian Milner is SVP of coaching and training at Mountain Goat Software. He's passionate about making a difference in people's day-to-day work, influenced by his own experience of transitioning to Scrum and seeing improvements in work/life balance, honesty, respect, and the quality of work.

Ken Rubin is the #1 best-selling author of Essential Scrum and world-renowned Agile trainer and coach. Ken focuses on full end-to-end business agility, applying agile ways of working with your development teams, technical and business leaders, executives, as well as the important non-development groups that are critical to providing your whole product solutions.