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

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)

The Scrum Time Machine



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!
Sante Vergini Signature

 

 

 

Posted on: July 14, 2018 08:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (30)

Applying Scrum to Research Projects

Categories: Agile, Scrum, Scrum in Academia

It has long been understood that Scrum is very well suited to software development projects. However, the literature is scarce regarding examples or case studies of Scrum being used in non-technology applications such as construction, education and research-based projects. The research sector is not well known for deploying Scrum to get its product to see the light of day. But the more you think about it, what organization isn't involved in research of some kind or another?

Corporations perform research all the time to get competitive advantage or to learn something that affects their bottom line. Government institutions use research for all sorts of information affecting their constituents. Further, educational institutions use research-based projects as the foundation for higher learning.

With all these applications, surely Scrum can venture out of the software-development industry and bring some value to research-based projects. The good news is it can, and already has, but there isn't much news about it.

The Federal University of Amazonas in Brazil published a paper in 2016 detailing the "use of Scrum for the management of research-orientated projects". They concluded that the application of Scrum had brought about productivity improvements, enhanced knowledge sharing and increased engagement (Sanchez, 2016). Also, at Lund University in Sweden, similar benefits were discovered (Pearson et al., 2012). Both studies found that small teams indicative of Scrum were well suited to higher learning objectives. However, they also noted that Scrum needed to be modified slightly to suit the reality of the research-based product life cycle. In particular, Daily Scrums were not possible; instead opting for weekly events.

The Scrum Team consisted of the researchers, supervisors, and sometimes other parties such as participants in studies, teachers, academic officials and subject matter experts. When reading these case studies, one gets an idea how Scrum may be adapted to the research industry.

In 2016, Jeff Sutherland made the following statement:

"Many of the leading research labs in the U.S. use Scrum. The one I have worked with most often is the John's Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, the leading Naval research lab. Their research plan is their backlog. They map it out like an AI tree. Time boxing the research stories gets them done twice as fast. And the quality of the research is much higher with daily meetings."

So these case studies along with confirmation from the co-author of Scrum is very encouraging. I am currently working on some other examples of the way we can apply Scrum to research-based projects, including my own personal story, so stay tuned for that in the future.

References:

1. Pearson, M., Kruzela, I., Allder, K. and Johansson, P. (2012) On the use of Scrum in Projecrt Driven
Hight Education. A research paper presented to the Department of Psychology, Lund University,
Sweden. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publicatio
/267690193_On_the_Use_of_Scrum_in_Project_Driven_Higher_Education

2. Sanchez, J. (2016) On the use of Scrum for the management of research-based projects. Nuevas
Ideas en Informatica Educativa.
Volumen 12, pp.589-594. Available from: http://www.tise.c
/volumen12/TISE2016/589-594.pdf

3. Sutherland, J. (2016) Do you know of research teams adapting Agile frameworks and/or Design
Thinking techniques for managing research projects? Quora. Available from: https://www.quora.co
/Do-you-know-of-research-teams-adapting-Agile-frameworks-scrum-kanban-XP-etc-and-or-Design
Thinking-techniques-for-managing-research-projects

 


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 29, 2018 11:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (28)

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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