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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Scrum.org beefs up training courses

Meet me in the Middle

The Scrum Time Machine

Applying Scrum to Research Projects

Losing a Scrum Team member

Scrum.org beefs up training courses

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 (15)

Meet me in the Middle



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!
Sante Vergini Signature

Posted on: August 16, 2018 03:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (27)

Losing a Scrum Team member

Categories: Scrum, Scrum, Scrum Team



It is a natural part of the business environment that people move on from our projects for various reasons. Perhaps they have a better job offer, are needed on another project, or pursue other life choices. When a top team member leaves, it can not only impact the project, but the team itself. People form relationships, collaborate, produce and share knowledge, and add to the lifeblood of the team. When they depart, in some ways it can feel similar to the grief process. Some teams pick up where they left off and quickly get another member up to speed, so that their team is performing at optimal levels sooner rather than later. Other teams fall back into the Storming stage of the Tuckman model.

The Scrum Team is unique in that it has a few clearly defined roles, is empowered, self-organized, cross-functional, small, collaborative, team rather than individual focused and decides how it will produce the project's product or service. While there is a lot of information on how to make a team successful by focusing on team members' skills and attitude, there is less information on how to cope when a key team member leaves the team.

So what can we do when one of our star performers leaves the Scrum Team?

1. Talk about it
It sounds like common sense, but often overlooked. The first thing a Scrum Master should do is get the team to sit down and talk about how everyone feels about the team member leaving, and then the implications for the team and project. This session is a good opportunity for people to express their feelings, as some may have had a long working relationship with the former team member. Further, the team is in the best position to make recommendation on how to fill the gap with the next team member.

2. Fill the gap
Before a replacement team member is found, the Scrum Team need to figure out how the previous work performed by the former team member will be handled. Can some of the team chip in to make up some of the work? Does the team wait until the new member arrives? Is there some improvements the team could make to either people, processes or the product that might save some time to make up for the initial lower productivity? This must be a team decision, and not just the previous team member's work dumped onto the team until a replacement is found.

3. Find a suitable replacement
Now the really challenging part is replacing that great team member. The first suggestion I recommend is not to raise expectations too high for the new team member. It is almost impossible for the team to rate a new team member higher than their former colleague, so give them a chance to fit in and perform.

The three key areas the Scrum Team will need to focus on is skills, attitude, and commitment. The new team member will need cross functional skills in order to succeed in a Scrum Team. They will need the right attitude from an Agile mindset, to a collaborative team player. Finally, they will need full commitment, to the team, to the Scrum values and principles, and to the project and organization. Can you think of anything else?

“Individual commitment to a group effort; that’s what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work." - Vince Lombardi
 


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!
Sante Vergini Signature

 


 

Posted on: June 11, 2018 05:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (21)

The Scrum Cold War

A cold war is all about bluff, threats, posturing, propaganda and one-upmanship. The purpose is to leverage one's influence, especially in the mind of public opinion, but always stopping short of engaged warfare. However, even if we don't use the heavy bombs, and instead use slings and arrows, the damage to the project can still end in a death by a 1000 cuts.



Quite often in organizations, we have several of these cold wars between colleagues, managers and subordinates, and between departments. In Scrum projects, if the team is not in harmony, then a cold war can brew to the surface between the two most notable protagonists within the Scrum Team; the Product Owner and the Scrum Master.

Product Owners have a tough job. They are usually the face of the Scrum project and exposed to stakeholders more than anyone else on the Scrum Team. Therefore, in addition to their role of maximizing the product value by managing the Product Backlog, they also have to play a political game with stakeholders who have their own agendas. Sometimes this dynamic can produce pressure for the Product Owner to perform at a higher than optimal rate, and that pressure invariably trickles down the Development Team, often in the form of pushing extra work onto the team, or in some way compromising Scrum values and principles.

This is a common way for conflict between the Product Owner and Scrum Master to occur. The Scrum Master's role is to protect the team from obstacles and also the integrity of the Scrum framework. Obstacles could be a technology the team needs but doesn't have yet, other departments fulfilling their requirements before the team can proceed, training requirements, protection from stakeholders who distract the team unnecessarily, and also the Product Owner who tries and buck the system by slipping in some extra work or some other form of anti-Scrum pattern, since after all, they (like customers) value results over following Scrum protocols.

The Scrum Master is also not immune from starting the initial fire to a cold war. Conversely to a Product Owner, sometimes the Scrum Master is so obsessed with the Scrum framework, that they often lose sight of the purpose of the project, which is to continually produce value, in the minds of the customer and the Product Owner, after each Sprint. The Scrum Master is also supposed to assist the Product Owner with the Product Backlog and convey the project vision and goals to the Development team. Ultimately, although the Scrum Master's role is more inward looking, it is also responsible for ensuring that the organization effectively adopts Scrum in the most beneficial manner. This can only occur if the Scrum Master works hand-in-hand with the Product Owner, since as I stated earlier, the latter has such an influence within the organization, especially with the stakeholders and customer of the project.

A practice that I always try and promote is for the Product Owner and Scrum Master to sit down at the start of the project and delineate the boundaries of their roles and responsibilities. Further, and very importantly, they should achieve agreement on the right balance between ensuring the value of the project is maximized, and adhering to the values and principles of the Scrum framework.

Conflict in business is often necessary, but war is never so. Neither is the threat of war, nor a death by 1000 cuts that a cold war invariably brings. Healthy conflict between people and philosophies can strengthen the team, project and organization, provided it is handled in a mature and non-destructive manner.

"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few." - Winston Churchill.
 


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!
Sante Vergini Signature

 

 

Posted on: June 05, 2018 11:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (19)

How SAFe is Scrum?

One of the issues with Scrum is when we need to expand the team, or the Scrum project size. In other words, scaling Scrum. There are various scaling approaches, but one of the most popular is called SAFe or Scaled Agile Framework.

Many people get confused with the difference between Scrum and SAFe. Is it just Scrum on steroids, or a Scrum project that has outgrown the Scrum Team? Both approaches do share some attributes. For example, they are both based on Agile principles and adopt relatively short iterations.

But what happens when a Scrum project is so large, that there are numerous teams working on different stages of the product? Often these Scrum Teams might have their own Product Backlog, ceremonies and artifacts. Many Scrum Teams also have their own cadence adding more complexity to the project. Coordination of all these activities can start to break down, and Agility is sacrificed.

SAFe extends the functionality of Scrum to allow it to scale to a very large size. It does this firstly by creating four dimensions for the management of these large project: Portfolio, Value Stream, Program and finally Team. Scrum is most applicable at the Team level of the SAFe framework. In other words, when you are viewing SAFe at the Team level, it is very difficult to tell the difference between Scrum and SAFe.

However, at the Program level, we start to see a bigger crossover to SAFe and away from traditional Scrum. At this level, there are multiple Scrum Teams working effectively as a larger team, called the Agile Release Train or ART. They can consist of up to 150 people. Timeboxes here are called Program Increments or PI's which typically consist of 5 iterations. The PI begins with a planning meeting to discuss the vision or goals, and the upcoming features for that PI, in much the same way as a Sprint Planning meeting is performed before each Sprint. Usually the team plans the upcoming 4 iterations, and the fifth and final iteration is called an Innovation Planning iteration or IP. During this "Innovation" part of the iteration, the team can be creative and come up with ideas similar to hackathon. During the "Planning" part of the iteration, the team can hold a retrospective on how to improve the ART during the next PI, demo the achievements of the PI that just concluded, and also plan for the next PI's features.

The Value Stream level put simply is just a bunch of ART's for a larger solution that cannot be delivered using a single ART. At the Portfolio level, you guessed it, the focus is on the management of multiple Value Stream, but also takes into account strategic themes and budget considerations for each Value Stream. During these upper levels, there are many different job roles that we won't get into here, but needless to say, the number, diversity and criticality of these roles also scales with the SAFe framework itself.

So, in order to make Scrum safe when scaling up, we sometimes need to make it SAFe.
 


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!
Sante Vergini Signature

 

 

 

Posted on: May 31, 2018 11:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)
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