Scrumptious

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Scrum is the most popular framework used within an agile environment to convert complex problems into valuable products and services. In this blog, we will examine all things Scrum to shed light on this wonderful organizational tool that is sweeping the globe. There will be engaging articles, interviews with experts and Q&A's. Are you ready to take the red pill? Then please join me on a fascinating journey down the rabbit hole, and into the world of Scrum.

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Recent Posts

Distance makes the heart of Scrum fonder

The Scrum Certification Factory

Scrum.org beefs up training courses

Meet me in the Middle

The Scrum Time Machine

Distance makes the heart of Scrum fonder

Categories: Agile, Distributed Teams, Remote Teams, Scrum

Heart of Scrum

One of the hallmarks of Agile teams is colocation. This refers to people being located together in the same working space in order to collaborate more effectively, increase transparency and leverage from osmotic communication. But what happens when projects have distributed teams? Do we lose all the benefits of colocation? Can we even call these teams Agile?

Some big questions here. But at the heart of the issue is distance between our human resources on a project. As our friend Archimedes quite rightly postulated, the best way to overcome distance is to find a way to get there faster. The way to do that with distributed teams is transparency and technology. Transparency in Agile projects is about sharing truthful details about a past, current, or expected future state, and making this available to all stakeholders. Technology allows distributed teams to collaborate and communicate in real time. The first (transparency) is a direct line through honesty. The second (technology) is a direct line through clever software platforms and internet speed.

Once the issue of distance is resolved, through transparency and technology, then we need to tackle the issue of collaboration and motivation. These are issues that can affect teams whether they are colocated or not, but they present a greater risk for distributed teams.

In a recent article I wrote for KnowledgeHut, I suggested some ways to ensure that distributed teams can remain motivated and collaborative. There are of course many ways to do this, but I will mention a couple of them here. Feel free to add ways you handle this issue in the comment section below.

The "Now Me"
I coined this a few years ago when I was dealing with a bunch of remote resources (70+) within the same transformation program. The "Now Me" is an acronym for a special weekly NO Work MEeting. As the name implies, the meeting must not involve work-related topics. Instead, it is an opportunity for the team to discuss anything they want. This event gives a temporary respite from work but should still be facilitated to ensure one person doesn't dominate the session. One suggestion is to ask each team member to talk about what they did that week that was personally meaningful for them.

The Virtual Coffee Cup
I may not be the inventor of this, but since I first did this 19 years ago, I will claim ownership in the absence of any other claimants. In 1999, when I was managing a subset of the Y2K program for Australia's largest retailer, we had some remote team members that we were dealing with on a regular basis. It was the first time I used video conferencing for remote teams, using the trusty old QuickCam and I believe it was ISDN in those days. In one of the meetings, the overseas team member joked that he wished he could have whatever it was that we were all drinking in the meeting room here in Australia. The discussion quickly turned to what each of us was having to drink: coffee, tea, hot chocolate. The overseas team member said he loved hot chocolate. I don't know what possessed me, but for the next meeting I bought a large mug and placed his name on it in large letters, then filled it up with hot chocolate from the staff canteen. When we had our next meeting, I made sure there was one empty seat at the meeting table with his mug in plain view of the QuickCam. I can't tell you how happy he was when he saw his seat at the table along with his hot chocolate mug waiting for him. I have repeated this in some distributed team meetings whenever possible for the last 19 years. You would be surprised just how appreciated a team member feels when they have a seat at the virtual table with their beverage of choice. Remember that all Scrum team members are equal, regardless of location, so every effort should be made to ensure everyone feels equally appreciated. The Virtual Coffee Cup is just one way to achieve this.

Scrum is the most widely used framework for Agile projects, but it is also the best framework for communication and collaboration. From its values, principles, ceremonies and artifacts, the heart of Scrum is all about leveraging communication and collaboration to provide the highest value for the customer. Particularly with the ceremonies and artifacts, they softly force teams to engage frequently. If the Agile project manager or Scrum Master is a good leader, they will ensure that each team member feels a part of team even when they are located on the other side of the world. Give them some respite from work, load up their virtual coffee cup, and watch their motivation and velocity indicators move upward.

"The shortest distance between two points is a straight line."  - Archimedes
      


Thank you for your interest in the Scrumptious blog. If you have any ideas for Scrum topics, please message me here. Until next time, remember, projects can be Scrumptious!
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Posted on: November 28, 2018 05:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (31)

The Scrum Certification Factory

Categories: Agile, Scrum, Scrum Certification



I noticed recently that a few more Scrum certifications were introduced to the world of professional development. Normally this would go unnoticed, but it suddenly dawned on me that the number of Scrum certifications may in fact be outnumbering all other certifications on the planet. There is something about Scrum that seems to warrant a certification every other month, and I can't put my finger on exactly what that is. What I do know is that we may be in danger of reaching a critical mass where the law of diminishing return comes into play as we add yet another Scrum certification.

After thinking about it for a while, I came up with the following possible reasons:

1. Scrum certifications are "small" enough to study for and pass within a reasonable time and budget. So the certification bodies figure why not add another flavor of Scrum certification which they are confident their existing body of certification holders will jump on.

2. Scrum is by far the dominant framework for delivering Agile projects. Therefore, the certification bodies must feel that there is a demand from the huge supply of thirsty Scrum certification seekers.

3. Scrum transcends just the delivery of its framework through Scrum Masters to incorporate coaches, trainers, product owners, developers, and...who knows!

Don't get me wrong, Scrum still rocks. But Scrum on the rocks only leads to a dilution of quality certifications when the ice starts to melt!

"Curiosity is only vanity. We usually only want to know something so that we can talk about it."  - Blaise Pascal


Thank you for your interest in the Scrumptious blog. If you have any ideas for Scrum topics, please message me here. Until next time, remember, projects can be Scrumptious!
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Posted on: October 31, 2018 02:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (23)

Scrum.org beefs up training courses

Categories: Agile, Scrum, Scrum Certification, Scrum Training

Sumo 
 
Scrum.org, one of the major Scrum training and certification bodies, recently announced that they were creating a Professional Scrum Master II training course for more advanced Scrum Masters. It will create more Scrum muscle compared to its smaller counterpart, the original Professional Scrum Master I training course.

I had the chance to ask a few questions to Eric Naiburg, Vice President of Marketing and Operations at Scrum.org:

1. What is the Professional Scrum Master II Training Course?

The Professional Scrum Master II™ (PSM II) course is a 2-day advanced Scrum Master class designed to support Scrum Masters in their professional development.  The PSM II course is intended for Scrum Masters with at least one year of experience who are looking to grow their knowledge and abilities as a Scrum Master. This course is one step in that journey. The course also includes a free attempt at the globally recognized Professional Scrum Master II (PSM II) certification exam.  

The class helps students to understand the stances that characterize an effective Scrum Master and servant-leader while diving deep into how they serve the Development Team, Product Owner and organization. The course then teaches students about related practices and skills to enable them to have the right types of conversations and how to apply them to become better Scrum Masters.

Over the 2 days, students will learn about areas critical to growing as a successful Scrum Master such as how the principles and values of Scrum help guide Scrum Masters in the decisions they make and how the Scrum Master can help change the environment of Scrum Teams, creating an environment for agility to thrive. The Scrum Master role is complex and often, a Scrum Master must be able to apply different stances in order to be effective, such as:

1.  The Scrum Master as a Teacher
2.  The Scrum Master as a Coach & Mentor
3.  The Scrum Master as a Facilitator
4.  The Scrum Master as a Change Agent

As a Scrum Master, being able to identify, and effectively apply, which stance would benefit your team the most depending on the situation or circumstance could prove to be the key to the success of your team.

As a Scrum Master, part of your role is to help management and other stakeholders across your organization understand the benefits of Scrum and Agile. Therefore, it is imperative that you have the information and background that is needed to gain credibility in order to be an effective change agent. Throughout the class, your PST will provide stories, exercises, facilitation techniques (such as “Liberating Structures”), resources and more.

There will also be time in class for the Professional Scrum Trainer (PST) to provide coaching on challenges that you and your classmates may be experiencing today or may in the future.  

2. Why should Scrum professionals enroll in this course?  

The role of the Scrum Master is not an easy one and learning how to do it better should never stop. This course focuses on the “softer skills” of the Scrum Master. Being a good teacher, coach, mentor, facilitator and change agent and with greater experience and understanding a Scrum Master, can continue to improve how they accomplish these stances. The course provides Scrum Masters with at least 1 year of experience a way to improve on their role, not teaching the basics of Scrum, that is accomplished in the PSM I class, but now how to keep improving the way they and their teams work.

3. What differentiates this course from the Professional Scrum Master I Training Course?  

Unlike the Professional Scrum Master (PSM) course which focuses on how to use Scrum, the Scrum framework and the role of the Scrum Master, PSM II is an advanced course helping students to understand the stances that characterize an effective Scrum Master and servant-leader while diving deep into how they serve the Development Team, Product Owner and organization. The course then teaches students about related practices and skills to enable them to have the right types of conversations and how to apply them to become better Scrum Masters.

4. How much is the course?

Pricing for the course will vary based on timing, location, public or private for within a company. Often early bird specials will be available for those who sign up early as well.  Please check the website for the specific class date that you are interested in to find the most accurate pricing. 

5. Is the Professional Scrum Master II exam price including in the course cost?  

Yes, the price of the class includes the PSM II exam.  All participants completing the Professional Scrum Master II course will receive a password to attempt the Professional Scrum Master II (PSM II) assessment. If you attempt the PSM II assessment within 14 days of the class and do not score at least 85%, you will be granted a 2nd attempt at no additional cost. You are also entitled to a 40% discount on the PSM III assessment. These industry-recognized PSM certifications require a minimum passing score.
 


Thank you for your interest in the Scrumptious blog. If you have any ideas for Scrum topics, please message me here. Until next time, remember, projects can be Scrumptious!
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Posted on: September 16, 2018 06:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (21)

Meet me in the Middle

Categories: Agile, Agile Transformation, business transformation, middle management, New Ways of Working, resisting change, Scrum



In early 2017, I was assisting an organization with their Agile transformation. The initial meetings went well, with the Board of Directors approving the overall strategy for implementation, and were excited about the possibilities for better ways of working.

In typical fashion, we began with a few small pilots with the delivery teams, which went very well. After six months of various team formation challenges, mainly to do with former team leads reluctant to relinquish control, these teams became for all intent and purposes, Agile.

When the Board saw such great progress, they were keen to move forward with the organization-wide Agile transition. If the techy people in the company can become Agile, and senior management were also on board with the program, surely other business departments riddled with friendly middle managers wouldn't present much of a problem, right?

Wrong!

The first major challenge in any Agile transformation is changing the mindset. Why? Because there is often resistance. Why is there resistance? Well for a number of reasons, but they are all related to fear or ignorance in some form or another. The most common three reasons middle managers' resist an Agile transformation are:

Loss of control/influence
By their very job title, "managers" manage people, which affords them a degree of control that for the most part served 20th century corporations very well. Regardless of the severity of their autocratic style, managers almost always had control over what the employee worked on, how they worked and where they worked. Agile takes control out of the equation, which means hierarchy, conformity and fear are no longer used as weapons to get work done. When that occurs, innovation, collaboration and flexibility can thrive.

Threat of losing their job
As organizations become more Agile, middle managers find themselves managing less and less people. This may not be such a concern to them if only one or a few departments become Agile, which is the case in most organizations. They could simply slip into other middle management roles. But what about the company that is very serious about making an organization-wide move to Agile and better ways of working? In this scenario, many middle managers will metaphorically barricade themselves inside their various departments and start stocking up on ammunition to resist the Agile revolution.

Hanging on to the past
This phenomenon is more common than you think. Human beings naturally gravitate around the status quo, resisting change, holding on to the past. The past is comfortable, familiar, and a good friend. Unfortunately, the status quo in today's business environment will render the organization: state zero. There is something to be said for the traditions of the past. They help us define who we are as a society today. However, if changing traditions were always taboo, we would still be burning people at the stake. Traditions are great, but when it comes to an organization's survival, I'm afraid they have to take a back seat.

The age of continuous improvement, incremental value delivery and iterative feedback, inspection and adaption is upon us. Agile isn't coming, it's already arrived, and the train has left the station. Many middle managers will miss that train, not because they were late to the station, but because they don't have a ticket. My advice to them is to become more Agile, because in an Agile world, it's all about meeting in the middle, not being middle managers.
 


Thank you for your interest in the Scrumptious blog. If you have any ideas for Scrum topics, please message me here. Until next time, remember, projects can be Scrumptious!
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Posted on: August 16, 2018 03:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (34)

The Scrum Time Machine

Categories: Agile, Retrospective, Scrum, Scrum Master, Scrumian



In the 1970's, I was captivated by the Doctor Who TV series, mainly through its third and fourth "regenerated" main character. My favorite episodes were always the ones involving the Daleks who were "violent, merciless and pitiless cyborg aliens, who demand total conformity to their will, bent on the conquest of the universe and the extermination of what they see as inferior races". Battling such heartless galactic fiends required Doctor Who to come up with his usual ingenious solutions. But when the odds were stacked against him, he always had that ultimate trump card: the Tardis.

The Tardis allowed Doctor Who to travel in time. The best way to solve a problem is to be transported to the time and place of the conflict or issue. In Scrum projects, we can also do this. We have our own Tardis to see back in time, and into the future.

Expert Judgment
PMBOK 6 defines Expert Judgment as "judgment provided based upon expertise in an application area, knowledge area, industry, etc., as appropriate for the activity being performed." While the definition and expectation are that these experts are human, I like to think "experts" can include AI, research literature, best practices, etc. These knowledge experts can take us back in time when certain issues were tackled and resolved by the implementation of knowledge applicable to the context. When we engage expert judgement, we are in fact engaging knowledge, skills and experience gained in the past, and can apply it to the future.

Lessons Learned
Lessons learned in traditional waterfall projects are gathered at the end of the project. This is all well and good when we find past lessons learned that relate to our current project. But what better lessons learned are there than the ones we discover on the project we are working on right now? In Scrum, we capture these lessons learned in each and every Sprint, not just at the end of the project. Further, we analyze these lessons learned and see what we need to change to improve the current and future states. This goes to the heart of the inspect and adapt nature of Scrum projects.

Retrospective Timeline
Continuing the theme of inspect and adapt, the Scrum Team meets at the end of the Sprint, for their final meeting inside the Tardis: the Retrospective. Think of this meeting as an opportunity to take the team's lessons learned throughout the past Sprints, and create an action plan for implementing improvements in the future. An interesting exercise during the Retrospective can include the Timeline technique, to "diagnose the origin and progression of a single problem or a number of problems". First, we define our time range, quite often the past Sprint but could also be the past release. Then the team plots the good, bad and any significant events that occurred during the timeline. Colored sticky notes are used to categorize each of these three states. Creating this graphical timeline gives the team the opportunity to discuss, recall and uncover issues and causes that perhaps would not have been identified by just looking at a lessons learned register, or even discussions during the Retrospective meeting.

Remember the Future
A popular team and stakeholder collaboration game. The team is asked to imagine that the future release (or the project) is already complete and everything is perfect. Each member of the team creates a list of everything that was completed and delivered to make the release so successful. These are written on sticky notes. The team then take their sticky notes, removes all the duplicates, then groups the sticky notes into similar categories. By doing this, the team is creating a memory of the past, by transporting ourselves into the future, and sequencing the steps and events required to get us to that imagined future state.

Project Pre-Mortems
These are, as Mike Griffiths calls it, a "pessimistic view of Remember the Future". Instead of transporting ourselves into the future and imagining the release or project success, we imagine its failure, and then brainstorm the steps that may have led us to this failure.

A Scrum resistant culture, management or staff is analogous to the Daleks. Doctor Who represents the Scrum Master or Coach battling the traditional mindset, and coming up with innovative ways to achieve a transformation. One of the tools used is going back to the past and looking into the future, as Doctor Who often did in the Tardis. If we never look back or into the future, our Scrum projects may end up hearing that dreaded familiar sound that Doctor Who feared so much: "Exterminate! Exterminate!"

References
Griffiths, M. (2015) PMI-ACP Exam Prep. RMC Publications, Inc.
 


Thank you for your interest in the Scrumptious blog. If you have any ideas for Scrum topics, please message me here. Until next time, remember, projects can be Scrumptious!
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Posted on: July 14, 2018 08:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (33)
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