Friday, October 30, 2009

Training / Improvements for 2010

At the Scrum Gathering, Andreas Schliep, Peter Beck and I joined together to form Das Scrum Team. Our goal is to provide the best Scrum training in Central Europe. We're still working on the details, so watch this space. Next year, I will make a number of changes to my program:
  • Public Jumpstart and PPO Courses will be upgraded to certification course (CSM / CSPO). I will be offering co-training with my Partners in Das Scrum Team
  • Andy, Peter & I will continue to offer a CSM for Advanced Users 
  • Due to the strong interest in Scrum in Bern, public courses will alternate between Zürich and Bern.
  • Effective December 1, courses will start at 9.00 and continue to 17.00 (a shift of 1/2 hour) so that people traveling to the venue from afar can travel on the same day. 
  • I will offer a Scrum Jumpstart (non-CSM) in Geneva, in French. The first course will take place on January 14 & 15. 
I haven't updated the web yet, but will be posting the schedule for 2010 and other changes shortly.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Scrum Gathering and Scrum Breakfast Presentations

I am terribly behind publishing presentations and announcements on the blog, so here are various presentations that I have promised to publish:

From the Scrum Gathering in Munich:
Jean Pierre König presented a fascinating concept at the last Scrum Breakfast in Zürich: Developing an application in just 3 days. The ultimate Agile project. His slides are also online.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Italian Agile Day (and Scrum Workshop) in Bologna

The Italian Agile Day 2009 is the sixth edition of the free conference dedicated to Agile methods for development and management of software projects like eXtreme Programming, Scrum, Feature Driven Development, DSDM, Crystal and Lean Software Development.

I am honored and pleased to support their efforts as a Key Note speaker. My talk will be about Fixed Price Projects and Agile - It can be done!
What: Italian Agile Day
Organizers: Italian Agile Movement
Where: Bologna
When: November 20, 2009

Registration (more in English than Italian):
I believe in supporting the community, so I try to speak at communityevents (like this or the Agile Tour in Luxembourg) when asked, andgenerally without charge. This is a free event, so they are asking for donations to offset the costs of the event. Please contribute!

Just before the Agile Day, Alberto Brandolini and I are organizing a one day Scrum Workshop to help people discover Scrum:
Scrum today is becoming the leading agile management practice, helpingcompanies to develop software more effectively, helping developers toimprove their technical skills, and helping everyone to have more funon the job. But what is Scrum? How does it work? How does it relate toother practices such as Lean or Extreme Programming? And mostimportantly, why does it work?

This one day workshop is particularly geared to:
  • Developers and Testers who want to apply Extreme Programming or other Agile Practices at work
  • Managers and Project Managers who want their software teams to be more effective (and are willing to change themselves to achieve this goal)
  • Business Analysts, Business Development Managers and other customer roles who need software that meets their objectives
Language: Mixture of English and Italian. I speak both.

Where: Bologna (probably at the conference hotel, but not yet 100% certain)
When: November 19, 2009, 9.00 to 17.30
Cost: €500 / Agile Day Participants €400
Information and Registration for this Scrum Workshop in Bologna
So bring your boss, and I look forward seeing you at the Agile Day and / or our Scrum Workshop!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Scrum Team

At the Scrum Gathering, Andy Schliep and Peter Beck and I decided to collaborate to form Das Scrum Team, a group of Scrum Trainers and Coaches (and Scrum community leaders) dedicated to providing first class training and coaching in Central Europe.

At the moment, all you can see is the web page, but more will be coming soon....

Scrum Gathering: The Doctor is IN

The Scrum Gathering in Munich is now behind us. So much interesting information, so many interesting people, so many things to do, so many ideas which I'd like to deploy tomorrow, and so little time for it all. My personal highs and lows:

  • The dialog room. It took a while for it to get in the swing of things, but interaction is what Agile is all about. Deborah Preuss and Tobias Mayer brought games, poetry and Open Space (back) to the Gathering. My personal favorite was "The Doctor is In" a booth for free private consulting between conference participants. I'd like to start doing that at the Scrum Breakfast.
  • Networking with everybody imaginable.
  • Boris Gloger's Scrum Brazilian Cooking Stand - real coffee, fresh pressed juices, hostesses, and more. It felt almost like the Geneva Auto Show (and what was that Hummer doing parked out front?).
  • Scrum Alliance Confronts its Own Dysfunction - more transparency coming from the board, but its command and control mindset is still very present.
  • Scrum For Lawyers. If the legal profession has a Tobias Mayer, then her name is Regina Mullen and she wants to apply Scrum and Agile to the legal profession. We shared a stage and it was a lot of fun. Agile & Contracts seems to be a hot topic.
  • My Mac-Air fell from about 2 ft on the floor and is now dented and bent. It still works, but it doesn't close properly. 4 months old, and already scarred for life :-(
  • Practitioners from the Scrum Community aren't really worried about the strife in the Scrum Alliance. I had put this down as a high, because it means that Scrum really helps people with their work. But it also means that the Alliance is not really serving its community, so it is being ignored.
  • Too many talking head presentations. (I plead guilty, as charged). No systematic feedback from presentations. No potential for self improvement.
  • 22 of 26 CST applicants were turned down. When I see people like Serge Beaumont (whose talk at the Stockholm gathering influenced my understanding of the Product Owner role more than anything else, with the possible exception of Mike Cohn's books) on the declined list, I just don't understand. 
  • My application was also turned down, which was disappointing. Fortunately my ability to earn my living as a trainer and coach is not based on someone's stamp of approval. A Scrum course (taught by someone who knows and loves the subject and who knows how to teach it) can really transform people's lives. I've seen it happen. I love doing it. And I love hearing back from people.
If the Scrum Alliance has a Scrum Master, then it's Tobias Mayer. Maybe court jester is a better description. Like the court jester, the Scrum Master often helps the organization recognize unpleasant truths. It's a dangerous job. Sometimes kings kill the messenger. It's happened to me and it happened to Tobias (but he was rehabilitated). I think he has correctly analyzed the problems of the Scrum Alliance and indicated the right way forward.

Sorely missed was of course Ken Schwaber. Ken's work has inspired thousands of people to rethink the way they work and make the workplace a better place for everybody. 'Inspect and Adapt' is the basis for a more effective way of solving difficult problems. I read his book and it clicked immediately. This is the way to do projects.

I met Ken at the Scrum Gathering in Stockholm and he agreed to come to Zürich for our Lean Agile Scrum Conference. I had the privilege of participating in and co-teaching at his CSM Course in Zürich at the same time. I thought there was nothing more I could learn at a CSM course, but I was wrong. It was an eye opening experience, particularly his emphasis on the ethics of making commitments.

So the Scrum Alliance (and the training program in particular) has been a victim of its own success. I think/hope both Ken (with his and the Scrum Alliance board are recognizing this issue. Ken and the Scrum Alliance brought Inspect and Adapt to the world. I am confident they will apply their values and principles to resolve them. I can't say How or When, but I have confidence in What.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Saving Great Companies from Paralysis

Gary Hamel of the WSJ recently asked, "What really kills great companies?" He observed that established, successful companies become encrusted and unresponsive. During this time they either make insubstantial changes or realize that they are dying of sclerosis and go for the quadruple bypass surgery of dramatic change. So if inertia is a corporate form of sclerosis, what is the cause and what is the cure?

Looking at a large company - a large company is any company where common sense does not universally apply, a situation which probably starts at around 4 to 5 levels of management - we see that top management can become quite isolated from the base. Noise, propagation delay and information loss distort initiatives coming down from the top, so these are only partially or incorrectly implemented. The chain of command filters information coming up from the base. Problems that are obvious at the base don't get the required attention from the top. Communication and feedback break down.

If we look at functioning democracies, we see there are typically three branches of government: the legislative which sets policy, the executive which carries out that policy (and sometimes has policy ideas of its own), and the judiciary which interprets the law and resolves disputes. A free press ensures that everything which must be said can get said. And in many cases, the rights of initiative and referendum further limit the power of government.

How are this roles reflected in the corporate structure? The legislative branch corresponds to top management: the board, the CEO, and maybe the top level of management. Oddly, these managers are called "executives." Middle management fulfills the role of the executive branch. These people carry out the company policies and objectives. Like the executive branch of government, they have some ideas of their own about what the company should be doing, but they are fundamentally obliged to follow orders.

And what of the judicial branch and the press? How do opposing views, minority opinions, or even inappropriate behavior by top management get brought to the surface? I believe the short answer is that in many cases, they don't. Bad news, the consequences of turf battles, structural impediments to productivity, and other problems simply do not get addressed, unless the company is in dire straights.

How can we prevent or cure this problem? Scrum offers a step in the right direction and suggests a more complete solution.

The job of the ScrumMaster is to recognize and resolve impediments to progress. The ScrumMaster does not represent management or any other stakeholder, but simply ensures that the game is played correctly. The ScrumMaster might even take on the role of attorney for team, protecting them from the changing winds of management, and working proactively with them to identify and prioritize measures to improve productivity.

What happens when these measures cannot be implemented by the team or the Scrum Master? If these measures are not handled promptly, or worse are sabotaged by a management more interested in the status quo than creating value for the customer, then continuous improvement stops and sclerosis sets in. What is needed is a way to ensure that impediments and improvements appear on management's radar and get handled promptly and positively.

An Escalation Team represents a potiental solution to the problem. Their job is to resolve impediments and implement improvements that are beyond the jurisdiction of the ScrumMasters and first level management. This team quickly and effectively resolves the issues raised by the operational teams (and should be measured on their effectiveness at doing so). To be effective, an Escalation Team probably should consist of the managers operating at the level where common sense has given way to political considerations as the driving force in decision making -- probably 3 or 4 levels up the ladder from the relevant teams -- and should itself have a ScrumMaster who is selected from the operational ranks.

The Escalation Team creates a feedback loop between operational staff and management and is represents a potential cure for organizational sclerosis. If the bonus structure, metrics and other incentives ensure that the Escalation Team must respond quickly and effectively to problems discovered at the base, then we have established a remedy to prevent and cure organizational sclerosis.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Formation Scrum en français

The success of the Agile Tour proves it, Scrum and Agile Project Management are becoming a hot topic in France and French speaking Europe. My popular Scrum Jumpstart course is now available in French. I will offer the course publicly in for the first time in French in Geneva in January.

Check my training website for full details or jump directly to to register.

And of course, I can also do in-house Scrum trainings in French too.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Scrum is Awesome! Agile is Awesome! Awesome! Awesome!

Last spring, I coached a company that wanted to get started with Scrum. I had trained a team on Scrum and accompanied them through the first few sprints. The team itself was very keen on implementing XP engineering practices, something which management did not support. My mandate ended before the project did, and so the question is, how did they do?

A big conflict between the developers and the project leader (who officially wore the ScrumMaster title, but who also had a fixed price project to deliver on time and budget) was how much effort to invest in automated testing. The customer was the P-O, so he thought quality was a great idea. The project leader wasn't so sure, he saw testing as an impediment to velocity. The team insisted, and as my mandate ended, they still had conflict on this subject.

Yesterday, I caught up with one of the developers. "How did it go?" I asked. "Scrum is awesome! Awesome! Just Awesome" he replied, repeating himself several times. (Well, the word he used was "geil," which you can translate as you see fit). So I asked "why?" His story:
Last week, I was at a trade fair to demo our product. We had just finished a sprint, so I installed the product from source based on the last build. It took 3 hours, but there were no errors. We demoed the product for three days without finding a single bug. Our PL was also demoing another product built with our traditional methods and he found bug after bug. Vindication! 
Could you have done it without Scrum? "No way!" was his answer. "Management and the customer expected to see a release every two weeks. The team had authority over engineering practices. Without that combination, our XP practices could never have taken root."