Monday, March 23, 2009

Of Light Bulbs and Lasers

"Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare."

— Patrick M. Lencioni in The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team
Every time I give a talk, people want to know 'Why do Scrum?' and 'How do I convince my boss?' This example is now a standard part of my Scrum talks (and it's easy to demonstrate):

What is the difference between ordinary light and a laser? A bulb produces white light – light at multiple frequencies going in all directions at once. And there is usually more heat than light. Shine a pen light at the wall during the day, and the effects are invisible if the light is more than a foot or so from the wall.

Laser light is special. The light is all on the same frequency going in the exactly the same direction. A laser pen can illuminate a point across the room by daylight. A laser can read bits on a DVD. A laser can measure the distance to the moon (which is increasing by 38mm/year). The inventors of the laser had no idea of its potential, and 50 years later we are still finding new applications.

A group is a light bulb – bright individuals, but individuals going in different directions. A team is a laser. Focused, synchronized, with incredible potential.

Scrum is tool for turning your groups into teams.

Bonus question: If you had to pick just one group in your company and turn it into an laser-team, which one should it be? My answer: Top Management.

P.S. Thanks to Kevin for pulling the text out of my 'pointed haired boss' presentation. I started using the strategies in Beyond Bullet Points to create my presentations. A side effect is that much of the spoken content is included as text in the pdf file for download. Which means it can be quoted...

Friday, March 20, 2009

From Pointy Haired Boss to ScrumMaster

Why doesn't everybody do Scrum?
This is my favorite question to see on the feedback forms after a public talk about Scrum. It showed up again after yesterday's talk to the SAQ (Swiss Association for Quality) annual meeting yesterday in Olten. 

My talk, "From Pointy Haired Boss to ScrumMaster" is available for download.

I also mentioned some useful links:
I like doing these "Tech Talk," "Brown-Bag"  or "Do Food" style events for companies and organizations. If you would like a speaker to talk to your company or group about Scrum, just drop me a line. If I have time and you're not too far away, I'm happy to come. I usually do it for free and everybody has a good time and gets excited about Scrum. Just drop me a line if your interested!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Which Scrum Course?

I was asked recently two related questions about Scrum and my Scrum Courses:
  1. Which course should I take?
  2. How do I get my manager on board with Scrum?
These two questions are more related than they seem. I offer four open courses. Scrum Jumpstart, Practical Product Owner, Certified Scrum Master and Certified Scrum Product Owner (the latter two in cooperation with Certified Scrum Trainer Andreas Schliep).

The Scrum Jumpstart course is about getting people informed and excited about Scrum. It's the best way to get your feet wet with Scrum.

This is also the course to get your manager into Scrum. Take him or her with you, so that s/he can share your excitement and experience with Scrum. It's not just about theory, it's about doing Scrum and doing exercises and role plays which make the advantages of Scrum obvious and intuitive. Scrum is an agile management practice, so your manager should feel right at home.

Scrum Jumpstart is also the course to send your team to as they are getting ready to start working with Scrum. The course focuses on the practices you need to work in a Scrum project. No fancy stuff (well, maybe a little bit), but afterward they can really do Scrum and are motivated to try it out!

The Certified Scrum Master (for advanced users) is as the name implies, for mastering advanced topics. How do handle multiple distributed teams across time-zone and language barriers? Andreas Schliep and I co-teach the course to give you contrasting (and sometimes even contradicting) points of view. The contents is largely determined by the participants, so an optimal learning experience is achieved. And of course, if certification is important to you, you need this course.

The Practical Product Owner and Certified Scrum Product Owner Courses are for learning how plan and manage agile projects, deal with the Scrum Team, and act as the interface between the Scrum Team and Customers, Users, Steering Committees and other Stakeholders. In short: How to be good Product Owner. If you are a manager, product or program manager, consultant or product owner in a Scrum or agile environment, these courses are for you.

At open courses in Switzerland or Germany, I teach in German. (I am looking for partnerships to organize French courses in France and maybe Italian courses in Italy -- please contact me). In-house courses can be taught in English, German or French (and maybe Italian).

Ken Schwaber will come to Switzerland to teach a CSM Course in Zurich. Ken is co-inventor of Scrum and a driving force behind its adoption. A chance to learn and master Scrum, direct from the source.


Figured out which course is right for you? These links will take you to registration...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Ken Schwaber to teach CSM in Zürich

Ken Schwaber will be coming to Zürich to teach a Certified Scrum Master course. June 2 & 3, 2009.

Ken is one of the co-developers of the Scrum process and an Agile and Scrum evangelist. He is a signatory to the Agile Manifesto and founded the Agile Alliance and the Scrum Alliance. He has been a software and product developer for most of his long life. Microsoft Press recently released his newest book, "The Enterprise and Scrum".

For more information, check out the course description or register online....

Monday, March 9, 2009

From Mandate to Acceptance: How do I ensure that the developers build what I really need?

In April, for the first time in a while, I'll be addressing the Scrum Breakfast on a topic which probably causes more pain than any other aspect of software development: testing.

As Project Leader, Business Analyst, Product Owner, you want your development team to build the right product and build it right. If you wait to the end of the project to start thinking about quality and the end of the project, you risk building the wrong product, building a system which doesn't work, or building a product which requires extensive (and expensive) corrections between the "end" of development and the actual release.

Scrum and Lean Thinking encourage you to build quality in. How do you specify a software product and ensure that it gets fully tested without causing massive rework in the test phase?

  • How does the customer perceive quality?
  • Acceptance Tests - the interface between development and management
  • Case Study: How to increase the chance of doing it right
As usual, namics zürich is providing the location, coffee and gipfeli, and swissITbridge is enabling the webinar. You can register for either online.
  • Date: April 1, 2009
  • Time: 8.00 to 10.00, talk starts at 8.35
  • Location: namics ag, Konradstrasse 12, CH-8005  Zürich
  • Details in German (the talk will be held in German)
  • Register online (also for the webinar)
BTW - exactly 1 year ago, I entered self employment and became an independent Scrum Coach and Trainer. The start was little bumpy, but I am really happy I did it. To mark the occasion, I will bring a bottle or two of South African Champagne. Look forward to seeing you there...!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Explaining Scrum to my Parents

JP recently wrote an article about how he would explain Scrum to his parents. Here's how I would explain it to mine.

Last week, my wife and I took our young children to learn to ski. On the last day, they learned to ride the chair-lift and went down the real mountain (as opposed to the bunny slope) for the first time. They also got to show off their newly learned skills at a "slalom race" where everyone got a medal. Afterward we wanted to do some "real skiing" with the kids, but wary of the potential mood swings of exhausted children (not to mention exhausted parents), we wanted to go down the whole mountain once with the kids then back up the lift, so we could join the path which would let us ski directly to the car. Down to the lift. No problem. Up the lift. No problem. Down to the lift again, no problem. Get in line to go back up.

Problem. As we approached the lift, it stopped. And it didn't restart. After a few minutes, they announced it would be down for a while. At which time, one of my kids announced 'Dad, I have to go to the bathroom!" Bigger Problem. The nearest bathrooms are 1) further down hill (away from the car), or 2) up at the car, or 3) at the top the chair lift.

Do we wait for the chair lift to be fixed? Do we go further down hill (if we do that, we have a more difficult hike back to the car, or we have to go up the T-Lift, which the kids have never done before - this is risky - what if the kids can't handle the lift?. Or do we set out for the car? This could be a long walk with many tears. And I would probably get to carry the kids' skis. All the options looked bad, and we were unable to decide what to do.

"Dad, I have to go the bathroom, NOW!". Yellow snow is frowned upon and wet pants are definitely a Bad Thing in winter. So we skied down to most easily accessible bathroom.

While waiting, my wife and I discussed the situation. We looked up the hill back to the village and were definitely not looking forward to walking up it. The bathroom was next to the T-Lift, so on my wife's suggestion, I asked the lift attendant if he thought kids at their stage of training could handle the lift. "No problem" he replied. By the time we were ready to go up the lift, the attendant told us "BTW - the chairlift is back in service." So we went up the hill. The children, although a bit apprehensive, went up the lift on the first try. We skied back down to the chair lift, took it back up the mountain, and were able to ski directly to the car.

What does this have to do with Scrum? Quite a bit actually. Scrum teaches us to:
  • Deliver value to the customer quickly and incrementally. In this case, the first increment of value was a bathroom.
  • Break the problem down in to smaller pieces. The whole was unsolvable. We could however get to a bathroom..
  • Defer decisions to gather information. Knowing that the kids should be able to handle the T-Lift made it possible to consider that alternative much more attractive.
  • Work as a team - everyone has good ideas.
  • Have faith in the team. They are capable of much more than you think.