Scrum Teams Need a Mama Bear

As the original scrum guide points out, there are a few key components to “doing scrum right” – sprints, backlogs, and product owners. Teams work collaboratively on tasks from the product backlog, which is a list of everything that needs to get done. Each sprint, the team reviews the backlog and the progress they’ve made. Once teams get cranking on a backlog, they can show off their productivity or velocity stats.

Each part of these activities needs someone on the team who is fiercely protective but also a nurturing guide for the team members themselves. In scrum, this role is the product owner. I like to think of it as a scrum Mama Bear.

Vital to a scrum team’s success is their ability to focus and commit time to work on backlog items. Organizations new to scrum might struggle with the idea of “losing” staff to a scrum team and the thought of other work getting pushed aside. Part-time scrum team members are not nearly as effective – context switching is real! A Mama Bear product owner fights to keep the team dedicated to the backlog while shielding the team from unplanned work or interruptions.

Mama Bears must also protect the team by managing interactions with external stakeholders and managing the team reports. Stakeholders are usually well-meaning but might want to see results or velocity reports right away. Here is where Mama Bear must protect the scrum team from attending meetings and taking time away from the product to fill out reports. Mama Bear product owners must hold back eager stakeholders who want to track hours, productivity, or other metrics the scrum team is not focused on. Team members are free to keep plugging away on backlog items while the Mama Bear attacks meetings and reporting duties.

Product owners do need a sensitive side for their team members. Just like a Mama Bear with her cubs, product owners must listen to their scrum team to empower, coach, and boost each member. As the sprint moves forward, the product owner keeps tabs on each backlog item. If a team member volunteers to take on an item but is struggling, the product owner is the one who must step in and offer help directly, bring in another team member to help, or refine the backlog item to better fit the task. At sprint events such as retrospectives, it might also fall to the product owner to ensure feedback is productive and blameless to not hurt the team members. As the scrum team matures, the Mama Bear allows team members to learn through pairing and develop cross-functional skills.

An effective scrum product owner should both protect their team from outsiders and also be caring toward their scrum team. This Mama Bear mindset must help teams get focused while the product owner fights off external demands and unrelated tasks. At the same time, the Mama Bear product owner should deeply care about the progress of the backlog and the development of their team. Scrum masters run the daily meetings and promote scrum, but a strong product owner will foster growth in a protected environment.

Originally posted on the BreakFree Solutions blog on Aug 15 2018


Social media guidelines that make sense

Core rules for creating a solid but practical guideline for your team’s social media.

Social media and online branding is best when multiple users pitch in but use a consistent brand voice. So how can you encourage everyone on your team – from a giant marketing firm to a few distributed folks in a brand new startup – while maintaining a professional brand identity online.

Code & Core Values

Keep in mind that what you do online can be tied back to you and to your affiliation with the company.  Use social media to build the own brand – share your thoughts, experiences, etc. with projects and continue to grow in your area of expertise.

social media

Personal Responsibility

Be responsible with your interactions online and never violate the trust of those you are engaging with. If you are communicating about the company or the brand, be sure to clearly identify yourself as an employee.

Provide Full Disclosure At All Times:

  • Use social media to speak for yourself individually, and always be sure to make it clear that what you post is your own opinion, and that it does not necessarily reflect the views of the entire company.
  • Personal blogs that discuss or mention the business, products, employees, customers, partners, or competitors should include a disclaimer. For example, “The views expressed on this [blog; Web site] are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of [company].”

The Life Span of a Social Media Post 

Whether you are posting about personal topics or topics relevant to the compay, it is important to remember that all social media posts are public and forever. They will be visible to a broad audience indefinitely and may be read out of context.

Proper Use

Understand what is required, expected and recommended when operating on each social media platform. Each is different and each has proper and improper uses and codes of conduct.

Pseudonyms & Anonymous Postings

The use of pseudonyms, aliases and anonymous postings are strongly discouraged. Do not represent yourself to be anyone other than who you really are, and be sure to comply with all laws and regulations regarding disclosure of your identity.

Personal Gain

Do not use your relationship with the brand for personal gain.

Keep Your Social Profiles Accurate

Conflicting information within the profile pages of your social media accounts damages your credibility and could also adversely impact the brand’s reputation. Please update your profile pages to reflect these guidelines and your role at the company.

Avoid Technical Language

Limit the use of ambiguous or technical language that can be easily misunderstood by others online. Do your best to make it easy for the average person to understand your opinion or your position in a concise, clear manner.

Monitor Responses

If you engage in social media about Cohesive in any way, please monitor feedback and to use your best judgment to respond in a timely and appropriate manner. Failure to reply to comments or postings that come up in response to an employee’s post can have a negative impression.

IP and Copyrights

Obtain the owner’s permission when using third-party materials. Do not use more than a short excerpt from someone else’s work, and credit and link to the original source. Respect intellectual property and copyrights, including images and quotes.

Spam & Bulk Postings

Do not bulk-post on social media. Each social media site has a different audience, requirements, and purpose. When sharing content widely, tailor the content.

Be Considerate & Respect Others’ Rights

  • Be respectful of every individual’s legal right to express opinions, whether you agree with them or not. Be tolerant and considerate of others’ positions and opinions. Do not engage in name calling or behavior that may reflect negatively on you or your company’s reputation. Be knowledgeable, accurate and professional in your on and offline communications.
  • HateSpeech: anything misleading, obscene, false, defamatory, profane, discriminatory, harassing, abusive, threatening, hateful or embarrassing is unacceptable and may be cited as cause for termination.
  • Commenting on competitors should only be accurate and verifiable observations. Do not deride, attack, or badmouth competitors.

Personal Privacy


All employees have a right to personal privacy. Honor it. Do not post personal information or internal Cohesive content without permission to do so.


Protect Confidential Information 

  • You are required to protect trade secrets, IP, and information related to the company’s business with our customers and partners at all times.
  • Never disclose confidential information on or offline. This includes forecasts, earnings, trademarks, upcoming product releases, products, strategy, policy, management, operations, potential and pending acquisitions, and nonpublic financial information such as future revenue. When in doubt, leave it out!

A note on Personal Social Media

Your blog, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn accounts are YOUR voice. Use your social media to build your own brand. Share your thoughts, experiences, etc. Use your social media accounts to show how you continue to grow in your area of expertise.

Your social media is a powerful way to give your honest and authentic thoughts on trends, news and companies. Any recommendations or opinions should come with a a disclaimer that you work for the company or have an existing relationship.

Use common sense. The Internet is FOREVER. Be polite, respect IP, be authentic and consider your public audience when you write. I recommend not to reference your employer in your username or identity. Feel free to reference your employment in the about section of your accounts but be sure to add something along the lines of “views are my own”.

Good luck, and share on!

How I created a new Wikipedia page for my business: keeping it from being flagged and sticking to the facts

Last year, our CEO mentioned that he wanted to see a page about us on Wikipedia. Competitors had one, so we should get there too.


Much easier said than done! I had one Wikipedia article accepted and published, but one article I heavily edited was rejected. This is my experience working in the grey area between adding information and working on behalf of commercial interests. I would hardly call this post a best practice post, just my experience.
Wikipedia logo, via Wikipedia

Wikipedia logo, via Wikipedia


First hurdle: Apparently someone had tried to create a page about the company in 2008-9 and it was rejected by Wikipedia for not being notable and possible spam. Understandable, since the company hadn’t been around that long and the text was a lot of sales speak. I wanted to create a new product page separate from the company so it wouldn’t meet the same fate. I attempted to update company page that was out there and make a new one, both were rejected. I don’t think I will try to save it at this point.


Focusing on the product as a technology page was what made it through the approval process, in my opinion. I did get an edit and note that it was not up to par, but I added tons more sources (way more than I thought necessary, and tried to have 2 sources for each fact/ detail cited). I took out some of the original “background” section and added a version history. I think that’s what helped it get approved the 2nd time.


Here’s my process and what I learned along the way:


Collect third party news, reviews, mentions, and websites

Make sure to capture the title, source, url, and a note about each source. This was easy for me, since our website has a news archive section, so posts were already in chronological order. I just pasted all archived news titles into a text editor and noted all the sources that need 2nd or 3rd party verification (i.e., articles about your technology are much better than press releases from your company).

Getting them in order was a majorly time consuming part. I knew there were some sources out there not on our “news” page, like a blogger who wrote a technical review and other mentioned the product in comparisons.

Create a Wikipedia account

PR pros (rightfully so) strongly advise using your real name, real email and listing your potential conflict of interest on your user page. Then, build up your knowledge and street cred by reading the key Wikipedia guides and making edits and notes in other articles before starting anything new. (links to vital guides below)

Here’s where it gets sticky. I didn’t. I was completely new to Wikipedia and wanted to set up an account I could nuke in case I messed something up while editing.

No matter what you choose to do with your account, do get some hands on experience with other articles. Find totally unrelated topics and just clean up grammar or add in the latest news. More than anything, get a feel for the Wikipedia code and formatting. I used a layout ideas from articles about animals, technology products, and an actor for my technology page so it didn’t look like other competitors’ pages out there.

Start a draft of your article

For me, it made sense to start compiling and editing sources before writing anything. I had most of the sources in chronological order already, and the best way to start writing was to begin with the background of the product / version update history. Then I filled out more information about uses, availability, etc.

Edit and revise multiple times! Write in the user’s Sandbox to experiment with the layout, code and Wikipedia’s citations. Also, as you start to edit a real page make sure to add an edit summary to give other editors notes on why you edited that part of the article. I used Evernote to keep my editions and edits through time and track citations and sources.  Other editors will come in and make changes, but remember, that’s how Wikipedia works! It’s a community wiki, not a company profile or sales asset.

Be patient!
The review process took months each time. There were mostly minor edits by bots, and they changed formatting, etc. Most people just cleaned up source citations, but there were some critical comments.

It’s hard to stay objective about the work you did and your company’s project, but Wikipedia does have rules and passionate editors just trying to keep some order. I think sticking to the facts helped me stay objective and able to justify the article and future edits.


Good luck, and happy editing! 


Mandatory Wikipedia guides:
Other good resources on PR and Wikipedia: