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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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

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



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

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!
Sante Vergini Signature

 

Posted on: September 16, 2018 06:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (21)

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!
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Posted on: August 16, 2018 03:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (34)

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