Friday, January 30, 2009

"Why Scrum?" event at the SAQ

Yesterday, Dani Tobler, Gregor Stöckli and I were invited to come to monthly meeting of the Swiss Association for Quality to talk about Scrum.

Usually in a situation like this, there would be one or two people would give a talk with more or less interesting Powerpoint slides. We tried something different. We treated the evening a Scrum Mini Project. We collected requriements (questions) from the audience. A Product Owner prioritized the questions. While the team thought about how to answer the questions, I gave a short talk about how Scrum works. Then the team answered the questions. Then a review of what we'd accomplished (and a retrospective as a feedback form). And finally a
traditional round of Q & A.

Especially considering it was the first time, it went very well. The presentation was only 15 minutes or so, everything else was interactive, which the participants really appreciated. The start was a little bumpy, with a brief dead zone as the team & P-O were discussing what to do. But after that, things started rolling and people really appreciated the 'live demo' and the spontaneity of the discussions. And brownies are always a good idea, especially after 6pm, when people are starting to get hungry.

I have posted the slides online. In particular, the links to the community, and the books and the sources of training are visible in the PDF (which they weren't in the screen presentation).

P.S. If anyone has some pictures, I would love to post one here!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

History of the Scrum Breakfast

For anyone interested in the how and the why of the Scrum Breakfast, as well the relationship between the community and a small business, I posted a brief history on my blog at ASD.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Scrum Breakfast in Zürich, 4. Feb 2009:
Team-Building without wanting to understand team-building theories

Our next Scrum Breakfast is focused on the softer skills of project management. Under the title

Team-Building without wanting to understand team-building theories

Hans-Peter Korn, independent Coach & Trainer, CSM, and regular Scrum Breakfast participant will help us deal with the complexities of dealing with a team.


In your role of a Scrum Master you want to sustain individuals to think and work as a team. Are models and theories describing how individuals and teams are "functioning" necessary to moderate the human interactions  within  the team?  No, you can moderate teams in a simpler way. By following models and theories you risk to observe and boost in first instance that, what should happen following the models and theories - and not the actual intentions of the individuals in the team.

Instead of theory driven interventions you can accept teams as complex social systems with an unpredictable behaviour.  And you can observe unprepossessed and curiously all what's already working well (even in some degree only) and you can appreciate this to preserve and strengthen it. How does this look like specifically? How, for example, can this be supported by the "three question" in the "Daily Scrum", by the "burn down charts" and by dealing with "impediments"?  Guidance for Scrum Masters or Agile Coaches.

I look forward as always to interesting discussions about an interesting topic!


The Scrum Breakfast is organized in cooperation with the SwissICT Lean Agile Scrum Working Group.

As usual, namics provides location, coffee and croissants. swiss IT bridge enablesthe webinar. Active and interesting discussions are a given!

Doors open at 8.00, Presentation starts at 8.35 (so you can catch a train which arrives at or before 8.30 and make the start of the presentation.

Continue to:

The Product Owner is Part of the Team

The results are in: I asked whether product owner participates in the sprint retrospective. Despite the intensive debate on the scrum development list which led to the poll, the overwhelming majority of respondents - 72% - reported that the product owner participates in all retrospectives as a full participant. Only 13% said the the product owner never participated.

I am also pleased to report that no one invited the product owner but did not let him participate. I recently advised a team which did just that, with the justification he is not part of the team. While there might be some justification for this in the Daily Scrum, I believe getting good and timely responses from the product owner is one of the big challenges in the team. Not letting him talk smells of a power struggle and is not motivating fo rthe P-O in any case - why should he come if he has nothing to say?

The poll is still open and you can download the results directly from doodle. As I write this, there are 32 responses. Although those are enough votes that I have some confidence in the trend, it doesn't exactly qualify as a large sample. So if you haven't voted, please do so! If the the trends reverses, I'll post an update.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Mastering the Recession with Lean, Agile and Scrum

Around the world, companies are challenged by the financial crisis. Companies face declining revenue and fixed costs. Lean, Agile and Scrum help your company at all levels to focus on doing the right things, like creating value for your customer and eliminating wasted cost and effort, to get you company back to profitability. Lean, Agile and Scrum help you focus on getting the right Vision, Values and Execution to meet challenging times. Now is the time to start the discussion with your top management.

Your CEO wants your company to survive and even prosper during the recession (and we'd all be happier if there were no recession or if we could turn it around quickly). Together with Sales and Marketing, the CEO is trying to figure out whether and how much sales will dry up in 2009. He is under pressure to cut costs. If he does nothing, the company will be stuck with the fixed costs, but not have the revenue to pay for it.

Cut Wastes, not Costs

Lean is an adaptation of the principles of lean manufacturing to software development. Pioneered by Tom & Mary Poppendieck, Lean explains (particularly to management) why agile works.
Lean thinking helps management and staff focus on the right problems at the right time:
  • Create Value for your customers. Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Daimler sums it up: 'The best cure for the crisis are convincing and innovative products' 
  • Eliminate waste. Anything with does not provide value for your customers is wasted effort which should be reduced to the minimum.
  • Improving to Time to Market is a powerful cost reduction tool. If you can bring out a product in half the time, then you have half the development costs, half the carrying costs and you see a return on investment in half the time. (If in doubt, ask your CFO what that means).
  • Multitasking is an expensive form of waste because it increases time to market. Would you overload the database server at the center of your enterprise services? Of course not! The long response times would drag everything to a halt. The same is true of management and project teams. So deliver as quickly as possible by focusing on doing few things well.
Concentrate your efforts. Get new products and services "out the door", one after the other. Get your corporate response times to a minimum.

Create a productive climate

Agile values ensure effective information flow. Openness, Honesty, Courage and Trust ensure that everything which must be said can get said. If your staff fears for their job, or fears the consequences of telling the truth, they will be less willing to raise difficult issues. If your staff do not trust each other to do a good job, then people will devote energy to proving themselves or shielding themselves from blame. All these activities detract from your company's mission to create value for its customers.

Adopt agile value to create an environment where
  • Staff at all levels trust each other to do good job. 
  • Everyone can tell the truth, the whole truth, even in difficult situations.
  • All Stakeholders in a project have access to complete and correct information about the state of your projects.

Create great products and services

Agile is also a set of practices. For instance, Incremental Delivery means products are ready quickly for the customer (80/20 rule) and ROI can start quicker.

User Centered Design provides the basis for creating great products and services. Get inside your users heads. Understand what they want better than they do. Create a product which meets their needs, even the ones they didn't know they had.

Create those innovative and convincing products, which give your customers products and services that they just have to buy.

Strive for perfect execution

Scrum organizes work based around simple principles to produce concrete results predictably and with ever improving productivity. In a company organized around Scrum, everyone knows what they have to do:
  • Top management provides Vision, Focus and Flow.
  • Middle Management eliminates impediments and drives productivity upwards.
  • Self organizing, interdisciplinary Scrum Teams solve problems and deliver solutions.
Vision is about knowing where the company -- and each project -- is going. Focus is ensuring that people really act to accomplish the defined goals (without distraction). Flow is having a continuous supply of work, not too much and not too little, so that the company can consistently and predictably deliver new value to its customers.

Scrum rituals ensure everything which must be said does get said. Continuous Improvement means your productivity will be at least 30% better by the end of the year than it is today.

The way out of the recession

For each company, the way out of the recession means getting customers to buy your products and services. So follow Dieter Zetsche's advice and give them something wonderful to buy.

Get you top management interested in the problem and the solution. Tell them you want to their support for a pilot project, which will 1) create an innovative new product this quarter (which your customers will just have to buy next quarter), and 2) show how Lean, Agile and Scrum lay the foundation for a highly competitive enterprise.

You will need 1) management support and involvement, 2) an interdisciplinary team of 7 to 10 top people from your around company -- all the experts needed to make a new product and 3) probably some coaching and training to make it all work effectively.

Then go create something wonderful!

Originally published on my blog at

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Scrum Course Review

Last year I had the privilege of training 91 people in Scrum and Agile Project Management. Two in-house courses and five public courses, including a Certified Scrum Master course together with Andreas Schliep.
After every course, I ask the participants for feedback. And I am happy to report that the overall impression is on the average between 4.2 and 4.7 on a 1-to-5 scale. (In fact, if someone gives me a 3, I try to find out why!). 

What do people like about my courses? Some high points from the CSM Course:
  • Gripping case studies
  • Tennis ball games ('ball point game')
  • Important questions got answered
  • Brownies
  • Scrum as the organizing principle of the course
  • Dialogue between Scrum Trainers Peter & Andreas
And from the Scrum Jumpstart courses:
  • Sprint Zero & One
  • Ball point game
  • Retrospective as introduction to the Scrum
  • Open discussion about real cases
  • Practical exercises
But the most important part are the suggestions for improvement. And after every course, I try to address as many of the potential improvements as possible.

Some suggestions from the last courses which will be implemented by the next course:
  • Better training rooms - in 2009 the open courses should be held at Digicomp.
  • Support networking between participants - for those who want to exchange contacts with other participants
  • A Beginners Scrum Course (Scrum Jump Start) and an Advanced (Certification) Scrum Course - this was always the case, but now the descriptions, audience and prerequisites are clearer.
  • A Product Owner's Scrum Course - for Planning and Managing Agile Projects. The Product Owner has the hardest job in Scrum. I had to postpone this till February, but the first one will be held next month.
Thank you to all the participants last year. The program for 1Q 2009 Scrum Courses is now online. I look forward to seeing you again, either in a course or at a future Scrum Breakfast!

Quick Poll: Does the Product Owner Participate in Your Sprint Retrospective?

I thought the digression on the scrum development list about whether P-O's attend Sprint Retrospectives was pretty interesting. I'm curious what teams really do. To that end, I have set up a poll:

You can also see the all the results directly.

As usual, I will summarize in a week or so...