Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Do you believe in the Scrum Alliance?

I got an interesting inquiry today:
I am a Scrum Practitioner and agile believer too. The reason of my contact is regarding a blog post I came across in your blog - scrum breakfast. I'd like to first thank you for providing visibility of important changes happening in Scrum Alliance and I would like to ask you what will be your position towards your membership in Scrum Alliance. Will you continue to be a member? Will you move to Scrum.org ? What would you recommend for someone who is a CSP trying to pursue a Trainer status at this moment in light of these big changes that happened in Scrum Alliance? Thanks.
My response:

The jury is still out on why these changes occurred and what they mean for the Scrum Alliance. I still believe in the Scrum Alliance so I am working to make it a better place. I am unlikely to move to scrum.org.

I do believe that CSTs represent the highest standards in the industry, and would encourage you to pursue CST certification. AFAIK, the CST is the only Scrum trainer certification for which candidates must a) apply as opposed to being recruited (if not spammed!) and b) demonstrate guide-level competency in Scrum theory, practice and teaching skills. I believe that if you are a CST, any Scrum oriented organization would be happy to have you.


Update: I have included a link to the InfoQ article about the changes. Scrum Alliance Directors Resign. Four directors resigned, the Secretary stepped down, and one director returned.



Monday, July 11, 2016

A Brief History of the Learning Consortium

The Scrum Alliance has had a bumpy two months, with a total of 4 out of 10 directors resigning and 2 new directors coming on board -- with specialties in Corporate Governance and Ethics(!). Some of the discussions have centered around the Learning Consortium, and apparently ethics and governance are hot topics as well. To help people understand what the Learning Consortium is about, I have attempted to summarize the goals, purpose, history and probable future of the Learning Consortium.

I have known Steve Denning since he started looking for reviewers for what became 'The Leaders Guide to Radical Management'. I attended his Radical Management Gathering in Washington, DC back in 2011, and he and I were among the hosts of the Stoos Gathering in 2012. if there is a common theme to these events, it was about building bridges across compatible schools of thought.

The Story of the Learning Consortium

In 2014, Steve -- by then a director at the Scrum Alliance -- was arguing that to transform the world of work, it was necessary to transform the organizations where people work. He wanted to reach the business schools and thought leaders, to get Agility on their radar screens. In November, he launched the idea of the Learning Consortium (LC):
"'We have arrived at a turning point,' says the launch abstract of the Global Peter Drucker Forum 2014. “Either the world will embark on a route towards long-term growth and prosperity, or we will manage our way to economic decline.... While there is a broad consensus emerging on the direction of change, there is less reliable information on the 'how' of making these shifts. What are the opportunities? What are the constraints? How much change is actually happening on the ground? What are the benefits? What are the costs? What are the risks? The Learning Consortium is designed to shed light on these questions."

-- November, 2014 draft of the call for participation Exploring A Learning Consortium For The Creative Economy
The idea was to identify companies that were systematically facing the challenges that Scrum helps them address, document their cases, and publish the results.

The leadership was provided by the Scrum Alliance, and the three principal organizers were:
  • Steve Denning, a board member of Scrum Alliance
  • Jay Goldstein, Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship at McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern University,
  • Michael Pacanowsky, holder of the Gore-Giovale Chair in Business Innovation at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah
I attempted to recruit some Swiss companies to participate. I did not succeed for reasons that have more to do with local market than the Learning Consortium itself, so my direct involvement was limited to the beginnings. I have however talked to Steve Denning and Jay Goldstein about the progress of the Learning Consortium from time to time over the last year and half or so.

My recollection is that the Scrum Alliance Trainers and Coaches ("TCC") Community did not react strongly to the LC initiative. Perhaps 10% or 20% participated in the webinar. So the LC got started as a board-level initiative without much support (nor AFAIK much resistance) from the TCC Community at the time.

The LC started building the bridge between Agile management and classical management - One aspect was the Scrum Alliance LC webinar series. Quite a number of thought leaders appeared, including Gary Hamel, John Hagel, Rod Collins, Roger Martin and Curt Carlson, as well as CSTs like Joe Justice, Simon Roberts and myself. (Man am I honored to be on the same page with these people!) The series was quite popular: iirc about 4000 people signed up for the webinar I participated in.

The Learning Consortium also created a group of companies, whose purpose was to share knowledge at the leadership level among companies who were facing the challenges of the Creative Economy. These companies included:
  • agile42
  • Brillio
  • C.H. Robinson International
  • Ericsson
  • Magna International
  • Menlo Innovations
  • Microsoft
  • Riot Games
  • SolutionsIQ
They organized a series of site visits so they could learn from each other. After a year, they held a members-only conference to share results. Due to the sensitive nature of the information they were sharing, they made working agreements about what to share and how to communicate that information beyond the LC. Out of this conference, the principals wrote the concluding paper.

The concluding paper was presented in November, 2015 to the annual Drucker Forum, while the Scrum Alliance was a sponsor of that event. Imagine, the thought leaders of management thinking listen to how Agile was being used to successfully master the challenges of the 21st century! AFAIK this is the first time Agile has been on the radar screen of the thought leaders of management.

BTW - If you haven't read the report, I recommend it. You can download it from the Scrum Alliance (officially) or without going through their registration wall. The paper is "Presented by ScrumAlliance", authored by Steve Denning and two others. It is licensed under the Creative Commons Non-Commercial Share-Alike license. The essential message is that Agility is a mindset. Just applying the tools and processes is not sufficient to give you the results you are looking for.

What is planned?

My understanding is that the company visits were very well liked by the participants. The NPS scores were very high and the participants decided to continue. The members have founded a new non-profit organization. The Scrum Alliance is a founding member, is making a significant financial contribution and is represented on the board.

The new LC will participate in the 2016 Drucker Forum (scroll down to "Large-scale Organizational Transformations Enabling Rapid Business Innovation"). Executives from Learning Consortium members will join Steve Denning and management guru Gary Hamel to discuss innovative management practices. (Note how they avoid the "A-word" -- this is speaking the language of business leaders).

My analysis of the situation

I don't understand why the Learning Consortium is controversial. The alignment with the Scrum Alliance mission is clear. Surely the Scrum Alliance board has approved this every step of the way, especially given that the Scrum Alliance is a dues-paying member of the new LC and has seats on its board.

The Learning Consortium was and continues to be non-profit. AFAIK Steve Denning has worked and continues to work on a pro-bono basis, i.e. without any financial compensation other than reimbursement of travel expenses. Rumors of people using this to launch their consulting practice seem unfounded.

The mission of the Scrum Alliance is to "transform the world of work." This transformation is first and foremost a change in mindset, not just introducing a set of processes and tools. To be effective and sustainable, the leadership of an organization must adopt the mindset. The Learning Consortium has a plan and a vision for taking that message to the top leaders of business, via the schools and thought leaders who influence that leadership.

I hope the Scrum Alliance and its former board members will resolve their differences quickly, without a long, messy and expensive divorce. The Scrum Alliance is doing great things for the transformation. The Learning Consortium is doing great things for the transformation. Any differences between the people in these organizations should not detract from the more important mission of Transforming the World of Work.


Update: 11.Jul.2016: Added Ericsson, which I had somehow not included. Thanks Erik Schön!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Scrum Masters: Are you impacted by the First Impediment?

I just had a conversation with a graduate of my last Certified Scrum Product Owner class.

  • How is it going with Scrum?
  • Well, good, I suppose.
  • That sounds a bit hesitant...
  • Well, I'm called a Product Owner, but my job description is completely different, so I can't really make things happen the way I should
It turns out that her job description was missing some key aspects of Product Ownership, like the ability to make decisions.

I suspect this issue is widespread. People say were are going to do Scrum, because it will enable us to do many wonderful things. Then they fail before they start, by not even getting the basics right. Does this sound like your organization? 

Scrum Masters, Product Owners, is this your First Impediment? Do you have the full competency that your role should have? Step one, let's make the problem visible! What are you expected to do in Scrum that you are not allowed to do in real in your company?


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Looking for an Agile Developer

As Product Owner for the Scrum Breakfast Club, I want an Agile software developer,  At the Scrum Breakfast Club, our goal is to enable people and companies to become Agile. We need some software to help us make that happen. How do you find an Agile Developer?

When I have looked for a development partner in the past, I have always started what skills, passion and personality am I looking for.

First, let's talk about what this project is not:
  • This is not about creating a pretty website. This is about building the pipes between the various components.
If the following points describe you, we would like to talk to you (must):
  • We need to be able communicate in English. (I have tried working through an interpreter, but I have not found it to work well).
  • Our basic flow is Scrum and we do short sprints. We are not dogmatic, but we want to produce working software at least once per week. We would like you to know what Agile is about before we start.
  • Our Product Owner cares about quality and robustness. So we would like someone who is into TDD, BDD or one of their cousins. 
  • Interest in the work (which is mostly about the plumbing right now!). We are looking at making WordPress plugins for own use and other glue. So the basic skills are PHP and TDD or BDD.
If the following points describe you, you are in a great position to get the assignment.
    • Happy to work in a virtual team. Our team is based in locations from Europe to South East Asia. We use Skype, Hangout, Trello, and various cloud services. 
    • Happy with workloads of varying intensity. We have a clear project now, so you'll be pretty busy. I expect we are looking at a one to two month engagement. After that, we'll see. Maybe there will be phases where we are just in maintenance mode. We do expect a long life for our project and would like to come back to you when we need your skills again!
    • We would prefer someone is independent or in a small partnership. Someone who has control over their own time. You'll be dealing with Principals, and we'd like to deal with a Principal too. 
    • Last but not least, we are looking for good chemistry. We want work to be fun! Actually, this is a must, too!
    Does this resonate with you? Would you like to be collaborate with an Agile team?

    How to contact us

    Tweet a screen shot of your latest daily build or other evidence that you know how to build reliable code! Just include @peterstev and @bindzus and #SBCDEV in the tweet, and we'll reach out to you!

    Update 30.5.2016: Updated to better communicate our goals and priorities.


    Friday, May 20, 2016

    Working toward Personal Scrum v.0.2

    I have had a lot of great discussions around my post on Personal Scrum, and in the meantime, I have collected some hands-on experience. Four weeks later, what has changed? What's working well, and what still needs improvement?

    What's gotten better since last month?

    • I was ready without drama to go to the Scrum Gathering
    • I have published a blog entry every week, something I've wanted to do but haven't done in years.
    • I followed up on my courses and Scrum Breakfast Club meetings promptly.
    • I succeeded in making a major revision in my CSM materials, something I've wanted to do for years. More generally, I am able to set and accomplish medium term goals.
    • I pushed back and said no to something that would have been a lot of work and little value.
    • I went for a 30 minute walk during the day.
    • I have time to waste on youtube and reddit. (Ask me about where we might find life in the solar system or some fan-made Star Trek films worth watching!)
    It seems like this is mostly working. This would be a nice time to pat me on the back. Thank you. 

    What hasn't gotten better?

    I am still working too much on weekends. Perhaps not quite as late into the night. My idea of enlisting my wife as coach/ScrumMaster has not worked the way I'd hoped. She hasn't had time, sigh. But she got to sing in the Veitsdom in Prague and the KKL in Lucern last weekend, so she can be excused for having other priorities!

    I don't always follow the plan. I have decided this is neither good nor bad, just a fact of life. So I forgive myself for when I don't follow the plan and celebrate when things go well.

    Now, when I plan a goal, I mark it as either moveable or fixed. Movable is light green on the calendar. This is a goal I want to achieve, but whether I do it in the morning, the evening or perhaps even tomorrow, doesn't make that much difference. I plan around the capacity, not the time slot. Fixed is an appointment with someone or otherwise a hard deadline. In this case, I do plan around the time slot.

    What doesn't really work?

    Well, I don't always work on the items on my schedule, especially not in the order I had planned (thought I often achieve the goals for the day.) What happens when something spontaneous and important arises, like a course registration? Well I do it, even though it wasn't on the plan. What happens if I am in the middle of something when the allocated time ends? Often I finish it anyway, though this probably needs a break and a reflection before deciding do move on.

    What have I learned about myself?

    My inspiration was a collection of habits of highly effective people. One recommendation was to manage minutes, not hours. How can people's lives be so totally predictable? I have planned events with C-level executives of major corporations, and yes, their itineraries were planned down to the minute. As predictable as the machines their companies should be. 

    Here are some of my key lessons:
    • I treat the plan as an attractor, not as a master. When I am wondering what I should do now, I look to my calendar to see what I have planned for the day, not the current minute.
    • It is important to celebrate what you did, and not to punish yourself for what you didn't do.
    • My estimates still suck. I am a hopeless optimist.
    • Even as I updated my estimates to reflect reality, I noticed something else. Doing the maximum every day that I can is not sustainable. I get tired, my mind starts to drift, and I might find I spend a whole day without even looking at my calendar. There is an important difference between peak performance and sustainable performance.
    • In a battle between planning and procrastination, procrastination has the upper hand. (The walk was both a victory and a defeat).
    • During periods of high uncertainty or where spontaneity is important, e.g. the Scrum Gathering, I only plan the most important activities and leave lots of time for surprises.
    • Planning time is not a replacement for a backlog. I have lost sight of some important goals that I set for myself.  I need a trello board.

    What will Personal Scrum v.0.2 look like? 

    1. I will have a backlog and a trello board.
    2. I will review it weekly.
    3. A coach is on the backlog.
    4. So are breaks and a sustainable pace and a weekly planning & review cycle.
    Inspect and adapt... life goes on.


    Tuesday, May 17, 2016

    When should you apply Scrum?

    ... and when not? I was really surprised to discover it is not easy to find an answer this question. Let's look at what Scrum is, then look at when Scrum is appropriate and when not.

    What is Scrum?

    Scrum is a simple, team-based framework for solving complex problems. Scrum is modelled on successful patterns for product development as identified in "The New New Product Development Game". I would summarize these patterns as follows:

    1. Inspect and Adapt at regular intervals
    2. Produce something that might be valuable for your customer at regular intervals
    3. One voice speaks for the customer
    4. An interdisciplinary team solves the whole problem
    5. A coach helps everybody involved to get better
    6. Management provides direction and support, and knows when it's best to stay out of the way
    How is scrum different than traditional approaches? The principles of traditional management might be summarized as follows:
    1. Define a plan, follow the plan
    2. Check progress against milestones
    3. Maximize utilization of resources
    4. Managers, customers or stakeholders make key decisions
    5. Well-defined processes, carefully followed, ensure predictable results.
    6. Optimization should improve the efficiency of a process

    When does Scrum make sense?


    Scrum was created for solving complex problems. What is a complex problem? If you can't know the answer before you start, it's a complex problem. You may not even be sure you are asking the right question! What is the right feature set for this product? Will this product meet the needs of the market? Sure, you can answer these questions in advance, but only through validation do you know if you have gotten the right answer.

    Scrum is a team-based framework. It's about people. Scrum works well when people want to do it.  

    What happens when the people don't want to do Scrum? It doesn't work very well. Scrum does not lend itself to being imposed from above. You can do it, but you create huge internal resistance. A good Scrum implementation, even if top-level management wants it too, is pulled from below. 

    When does classical management make sense?

    Some people would say the answer to this is never. But I think it is more complicated than that.  The patterns of classical management, which was invented by the automobile industry at the beginning of the 20th century, were hugely successful. They are the foundations of most large enterprises, and even today, as Agile methods have made development projects much more successful, an increasing percentage of the wealth generated by society stays in hands of top layers of classical management. This is also a definition of success!

    So when do the patterns of classical management make sense?

    The key word is predictability. If you can define a process with known inputs that produce the desired outputs, it is probably economically advantageous to do so. This works well for production problems, but is not well aligned with the needs of creative tasks like product innovation.

    Should you use Scrum?

    I would encourage you to use Scrum (or another empirical process) for unpredictable contexts:
    • Your main objective is some kind of problem solving.
    • Multiple skill sets are needed to solve the problem ("a team")  
    • Validation from customers or stakeholders is important to getting the right answer 
    • The people involved want to do it. (I often get called in to help people decide they want to do it).
    I would encourage you to use a defined process for more predictable contexts:
    • A known input can lead to a predictable output
    • The problem and the solution can be clearly defined
    I would encourage you not to do Scrum if the people involved do not want to do it. 

    Having said that, if you ask people for examples from their own experience of great projects they'd like to emulate moving forward, these projects often look a lot like Scrum. If you ask people how they would like to organize their work, they often come up with something that looks a lot like Scrum!
      Lastly, I would also encourage you to challenge whether the tasks that you think belong to the predictable group really do belong there! 








        Monday, May 9, 2016

        What's a good spike?

        Problem: Our forum has some unpleasant limitations. In particular, pasting formatted text into a forum post from Outlook (and possibly other sources) produces weird and wonderful results: the HTML gets converted so you don't see formatted text, you see the raw HTML A bit annoying.  So we decided to do a spike to evaluate an alternative:
        spike: evaluate TinyMCE / other options for editing text in forum
        We got to the end of the evaluation, and as PO, I had more questions at the end of this evaluation than at the beginning! Why?

        I think the answer can be found in the title of the spike. What's wrong with this title? First, it starts with an verb in the imperative. "Team, do this" It is not an invitation to think. Second how do we know if the we have satisfied the objective? It doesn't really say. It just says 'evaluate.'

        Here's an improvement:
        spike: can we eliminate our copy/paste problems by using TinyMCE?
        By formulating the spike as a question, it becomes clearer what is the objective of the spike. This in turn makes it easier to tell whether the spike is done.

        Of course, this still doesn't answer the question of whether it is a good thing to deploy it in our context. It's a closed question and assumes part of the answer, i.e. that TinyMCE is the best solution. How about:
        Which forum editor best satisfies the needs of our users?
        Of course, that might be a bigger spike, but the goal is clearest and most focussed on the people who really matter!

        In my Certified Scrum classes, I demonstrate using Scrum in the class by organizing the class with Scrum. The course topics are the product backlog. I used to define the product backlog as user stories, but I now express them as questions. My students ask questions; learning is the result of asking questions; and formulating the product backlog as a series of questions seems like a natural approach. I wonder questions as backlog items could be used for other kinds of story as well?