Skip to main content


Showing posts from June, 2008

Project Rescue at Internet Briefing

Carrot and Stick ( or "Zuckerbrot und Peitsche" ) is the title of my talk tomorrow at Reto Hartinger's Internet Briefing Group on saving flagging projects.

My indoctrination to Scrum was through the trial by fire of taking a flailing project, getting it back on track, getting results quickly, getting the customer happy, and restoring trust between the customer and the supplier. That's what project rescue is all about. (Actually, then we have set the stage for setting up the next project properly, so it doesn't get adrift in the first place).

So I am going to talk about these things and the tools that worked for me and the project I was charged with.

The best part of Reto's events is the information exchange after the formal presentation So it's always an honor to speak to Reto's group. It was the model for the Scrum Breakfast in Zürich...

You can download the presentation to my talk on project rescue and I look forward to some good questions and discussio…

New Domain Name:

Well, I'd been meaning to do this for a long time, but the painfully long is now just (and as soon as the last DNS update takes place, just "" will work too).

I've also started two sister blogs: - Scrum courses, posted in - Scrum courses, posted in GermanWhy do the change now? Well google made me do it.

I discovered that is actually a very nice "poor man's CMS". A couple of nice layouts, easy RSS feads, nice customization. With tag searches, I can create links to groups of articles, like "next scheduled Scrum Courses" or "next Scrum Breakfast". The only disadvantage was kind of long domain names, like "". Or so I thought.

Yesterday I looked at google analytics and discovered I wasn't getting any referrals from google any …

What's the difference between a Project Leader and a Scrum Master?

This is a serious question ;-)

I just led a workshop for a medium size company which was considering (and is now planning) to start using Scrum as the organizing principle for their SW Development efforts. And exactly this question arose.

As it was, we had a classically trained project manager in the room, so he provided much insight into what is expected of a project manager:
Select Team MembersSelect ToolsPlan TasksMonitor Progress and SucessDefine and Impose StandardsCoordinate Work between Team Members
BudgetScopeSet PrioritiesAssign TasksCommunicate with the CustomerExplicitly not part of the Project Manager's job is removing impediments.

How is this work distributed among the players in Scrum?

S-MP-OTeamSelect Team Membersinitialonce establishedSelect ToolssharedsharedPlan TasksXEnsure satisfactory implementationsXDefine and Impose StandardsXCoordinate Work between Team MembersXBudgetXScopeXSet PrioritiesXCommit to Delivery DatessharedsharedAssign TasksXCommunicate with the Custom…

Target Process announces a Free Community Version

TargetProcess announced yesterday on their product blog the availability of the "Free Community Edition" of TargetProcess: You may request and download On-Site version with 5-users licenses included.... [T]he Community Edition has no restrictions at all! It is a full featured version (yes, you have ALL features included: integrated bug tracking, test cases management, subversion integration, time sheets, Web Services API, etc). Moreover, Community Edition has no expiration date.

Read the announcement on thier product blog
This is a nice concept. I just today had chat with a colleague of mine who manages venture funded (and pre-venture funded) start-ups and asked me what software he should use. In a start-up, once the ball is rolling, you don't have to worry so much about money. It's available from revenue. Before that point, money comes from investors and is extremely tight. This concept let's him use a tool and get his processes down without any limitations or …

Version One now Conducting 3rd Annual Survey on Agile

Joe Little wrote on the Agile Annoucements list:
Version One is doing its 3rd annual survey on Agile.

As they say in Chicago, home of Barack, vote early and often.My Quick Poll on Scrum Management Tools produced some very surprising results - in particular that it appears that there has been a dramatic rise in the preference for software based solutions over cards and paper, at least compared to the agile poll taken on the scrumdevelopment group in January 2007. I am very curious to see if this poll confirms the results from this blog (which you can see in the right column and I plan to compare shortly with the 2007 results).

There was also some debate as to whether my quick poll was being influenced by a 'get out the vote' action by the Software suppliers, a concern which has to be even stronger when the supplier is sponsoring the poll.

Still, it's one of the few sources of long term data there is, and last year the claimed to have received 1700 filled questionnaires, so I wi…

Scrum / Agile Training in Zürich in German

I will be offering two agile courses in German this September:
Agile Project Management with Scrum - Sep 9 & 10
Sprint Zero with TargetProcess - Sep 11Agile Project Management with Scrum offers the substance of a Certified Scrum Master training without the expense of certification. How to plan, manage and control the Scrum software development process. A hands on introduction to the concepts needed by and tasks performed by the agile Project Manager (Scrum Master) and Customer or Program Manager (“Product Owner”) and the development team.

Sprint Zero with TargetProcess: You have done the Scrum training and read the book. Now it's time to roll up your sleeves and start your first sprint. What now? A hands on workshop, going though the entire process of planing, estimating, starting and reviewing a sprint. Not just for TargetProcess users.

On-Site Training

All Scrum Breakfast Training courses can be performed on your company site in English, German or French. You can also sponsor an …

Juli Scrum Breakfast in Zürich:
Scrum? That will never work here!

The series of reports from the trenches continues at the Scrum Breakfast in Zürich. François Bachmann, one of Switzerland's most experienced Scrum Masters will give us a preview of his talk at the Agile 2008 in Toronto. He will talk about the challenges that companies face, when they elect for Scrum:
Scrum is not a Methodology Module, that can simply be plugged into a company. Adopting an agile approach is accompanied by profound changes for the Teams, Process and even the corporate culture. Change & Risk Management, Team Responsibility, Transparency and Learning Organizations are transformed from Buzzwords into routine for every staff member.

This talk will show how companies approach the introduction of Scrum, what challenges result and how these can be utilized to best advantage. Concrete examples from my experience introducing Scrum into Organizations will ensure that this talk doesn't get stuck in the theory.... Just like at every Scrum Breakfast, we expect the discus…

Scrum Alliance Quietly Changes Certified Scrum Trainer Requirements

It appears the the Scrum Alliance has quietly changed the requirements for becoming a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST).

Last fall, when I was planing the transition to becoming an independent Scrum coach, I checked out the requirements for becoming a CST and was quite disillusioned to discover that a 5 year apprenticeship was required. May 2007 + 5 years = 2012. Sigh.

This goes a long way to explain why only 54 trainers have emerged from the pool of 25'000 CSMs and probably has a very positive impact (from the trainer's point of view) on the cost of certified Scrum training.

But now, the career path has been shortened. I could not find a press release, but now, according the Scrum Alliance, a CSM can apply to become a Certified Scrum Practitioner (CSP) after 1 year — this is not new. What is new is that a CSP can apply to become a CST after another year.

I think this is a good thing. First of all, the CSP rating now has a purpose in life. Before, someone like me might do it for marke…

Managing Scrum with Dedicated Tools

...So we started hitting limitations using spreadsheets to manage the Scrum process. What did we look for in a dedicated tool?

First we wanted to manage user stories, the product backlog, the sprint backlog. We wanted to record the conversations with the customer about stories. We wanted to keep information about a story (e.g. the results of an analysis, draft screen designs, test results etc.) together with the story. We wanted to be able to access the information from our office, but also from our customer site or while sitting in the train between sites.

I think the integration of the entire planning and development process is the major arguement for a dedicated tool. You enter stories, maybe group them into Features, Projects or Releases. Then you estimate and prioritize them. Then they are assigned to a Sprint (maybe a team member too) in the course of the Sprint Planing. The team (or a developer) breaks the stories down into tasks.

A virtual Task Board let's you see at a gl…

Managing Scrum with Wiki and Office

For my first Scrum project, I consolidated all of the wish lists into one spreadsheet which became our product backlog. Initially, I had 4 columns: Name, Effort, Priority and Estimate. I quickly added a "reference number" column to make it easier to find individual stories.

We set up a Scrum area on the wiki. It had hierarchical structure:
Sprint 1Sprint 2...
Sprint n
Sprint ContractProduct Backlog at start of sprint (xls and pdf, as sent to the customer)Status Overview from the Planning Meeting (current burndown chart, estimated resources for next sprint, definition of done, time/location of next demo meeting, etc.) Sprint Backlog at start of Sprint (pdf - this is the actual contract)
Daily Scrum Spreadsheet (xls - updated daily)Status Review from the Demo (stories/points accomplished, costs etc)
Sprint StoriesStory 103 Some story -> all project documents related to that story
Story 105 Some other storyStory 106 yet another story...
The daily scrum spreadsheet had 4 Columns: t…

Managing Scrum with Paper and Cards

The beauty of cards is threefold: 1) They are flexible and 2) they are easy to use when working in a group. Used to manage the sprint, 3) they are part of an extremely easy to understand overview of the state of the project.

So whether you are brainstorming on stories, planing tasks for the current sprint, or reviewing the sprint in a retrospective, cards are easy, let people work in parallel, and a very effective for communicating and prioritizing information. Even now, I prefer to use cards for the Sprint Retrospective, despite their drawbacks.

The drawback of cards are also threefold - reusing data, backup and distributed access to the data. So if you use cards to create your product backlog, that's fine. But now your CEO wants a report on which stories have been completed and which are forecast to be completed by which sprint. Easy to do if you have a spreadsheet, but first you have to enter all the data by hand, a job which usually falls on one person. Related to reuse is back…

Managing Scrum: Paper, Office or Dedicated Tools?

My first real Scrum Project was trial by fire. I didn't have much time to get organized or to learn new tools and techniques. While I did consider paper and cards, and The Book sings the their praises, I had never worked with them before nor had I ever actually seen someone using them. So when it came to the choice of tools for managing the backlogs and the daily scrum, there was really one alternative: the spreadsheet (better the devil you than the one you don't!). And that's how we got started.

Very quickly, we discovered the limitation of a standard software based approach. That spreadsheet becomes an impediment. In our case, keeping the spreadsheet synchronized between my version and the customer's version was a problem. The customer would change the layout in ways I did not want (and probably the other way around as well). And getting the updated product backlog back in time to plan the next sprint was also a never ending challenge. So we needed a tool.

Actually, th…

Quick Poll: Scrum Management Tools

Back in January 2007, a poll went out on the scrumdevelopement mailing list, asking its members how they managed their Scrum projects.

Scrum has come a long way since then (there are now some 25'000 CSMs worldwide) and judging by attention in the mainstream press, seems to be picking up steam in Europe as well.

So I thought it would be interesting to revisit the poll taken by the scrumdevelopment group:

Which tool / software do you use to manage your Scrum projects?
Paper (Cards, Sticky Notes)Paper with a WebcamExcel or OpenOffice SpreadsheetGoogle Docs SpreadsheetJiraMicrosoft Project (or other "classical" PM software)Mingle
Rally Dev Scrum for Team System v2.0ScrumWorksTargetProcessVersionOneOther Propietary
XPlannerOther OpenSource
Own Tools/OtherDon't know/don't care
As usual, I will post the results on the blog.

Results: Quick Poll on Scrum Training Needs

Last week's Quick Poll on Scrum Training Needs produced a lot of interest. The poll was divided into 4 sections. The 31 repondants voted on:What kinds of courses are needed?What advanced topics are needed?What language do they what the training in?What location/kind of course do they want?Given the number of participants, I would not call this anything like a representative sample (and strickly speaking, an internet poll cannot be representative). Still...

The Certified Scrum Master Training seems to be well accepted among Scrum practioners. 48% of the respondants expressed a need for certified training. Scrum training however is expensive, and almost as many — 42% — felt the need for lower cost training (or at least would accept non certified training). Advanced topics (with out specifying which ones) and Getting Started courses were desired by only 26% of the respondants.
Under the advanced topics, (and more people checked these boxes than said they needed "advanced topics&q…

Scrum and Job Satisfaction

At the end of Stuart's talk on Guidewire, he noted that employee turnover is quite low at Guidewire. People who come just don't want to leave. And so he posed us one last tantalizing question: How much are the following workplace characteristics worth to an employee?
Enough time to finishUsing high skillsVariety in your jobTrust in managementMy first reaction: That sounds like an Open Source project. There people work for free. So I don't know what the individual results are, but I'll bet the total is 100%!

And so the last slide, which gives IMD customers as well as anybody else managing software teams serious food for thought. Well-Being and Trust in the Workplace [pdf, 152KB] by John F. Helliwell and Haifang Huang, answers the question:
Enough time to finish: 11%
Using high skills: 19%
Variety in your job: 21%
Trust in management: 36%Doing the math, we find the total is 87%. A Scrum culture has the same value as an 87% salary increase.

Successful Growth, but how?

Last week, I attended Basler Insurance's Forum for Small and Medium Enterprises. This year's theme was "Successful growth, but how?"

One talk stood out for me: Dr. Martin Strobel, CEO of Basler/Switzerland presented, 'Delighting your Customers: Profitable Growth through Value-Added Solutions'.

Here is the problem: Your market is saturated. Your product is not sexy. You are losing market share to more competition from other industries who are perceived as more dynamic. How do you turn this trend around? Or: You are a small player in your market. There are 7 or 8 players who are bigger than you. You can't attack all of them, so how do you grow in the face of tough competition?

These are exactly the problems Basler faced. The Swiss insurance market is quite saturated, but the banks have been gaining market share with high return (but high risk) investment instruments. In Austria they were barely a top 10 player.

In both cases, the answer was to get in the shoes …

Quick Poll: Scrum Training Needs

Since the last Quick Poll (Nokia Test) showed most teams not really doing Scrum, the question arises, how do companies see their need for Scrum training?

Presently most Scrum Training is organized as a kind of Guild. The first step is to become a Certified Scrum Master, this is the basis for all the higher ratings, the most important of which is Certified Scrum Trainer. CST's are authorized to train CSM's. As I write this, there are some 25'000 CSMs, but only 54 CST's. (Among other requirements, a CST must have been a CSM or better for 5 years).

The core of the program is the CSM training, but most trainers are offer additional courses for specific niches. As far as I know, Boris Gloger, Andreas Schliep, Joseph Pelrine and Roman Pichler are the only German speaking CST's (and even they do not offer all of their public courses in German).

So the question arises, does this offering meet the demand? What are the needs of your company for Scrum related training?

I've p…

Nokia Test Results: Is anybody really doing Scrum?

Last week, I challenged the Scrum community to take the Nokia Test: a Scrum litmus test to deterimine whether a team is agile and doing Scrum. How did the Scrum community fare?

Protecting Team Members from Management is clearly the biggest challenge faced by Scrum Teams. Only 51% of the respondants claimed that their team members were well protected from Project Managers or others disrupting work.

Prioritized product backlog and burn down charts are second and third from the bottom at 72% and 74% respectively.

Interestingly, all three points are issues relating to managment and the product owner (who is likely part of management), suggesting that management buy-in is a challenge. Either Scrum adoption is coming bottom-up or management is "talking the talk" but not "walking the walk".

On the total test score, only 26% of the respondants claimed an 8 on the Nokia scale. 36% claimed 7 points (total of 62% for 7 or 8 points). At least 7% did not meet the minimum definition…

Guidewire: Waterfall is more expensive - 2

[Need proof that direct verbal communication is more effective than written communication? Stuart's talk Wednesday lasted about 1 1/2 hours. I've spent twice that time writing it down, and I am only half finished, and I am still remembering things I should have put into the first half! ]

Part one: Would you want to work for Guidewire?

Next question: Would you buy from Guidewire?

The fear was great that customers would perceive Guidewire as too chaotic to produce standard software. So how do you convince the customers to buy? A long discussion ensued which led to the conclusion that the sales process is the same, regardless of how you produce the software: Speak the language of the customer. Build trust: Deliver continuously and deliver what you promise. And avoid the customer's controller — he doesn't want to know about the details of IT anyway ;-).

And yet, standard software requires customization, so the customer and Guidewire must work together on projects to realize …

What is Scrum?

Xing just opened up an agile forum in their German Speaking Project Management Group. Some 30'000 members. First topic of discussion: Is agile mainstream? Before they could answer that question, they needed to ask, what is agile, what is Scrum? So here, in ten points or less, what is Scrum:use good peopleplay by simple and clear playing rulesdevelop in small incrementsmeasure progress exclusively in terms of finished functionalityhave a clear definition of 'done'enable direct communication between customer and developerhave a defined rhythm of planing, doing and evaluatingremove impediments ASAP as they ariseassure continuous improvement through regular retrospectives
Sounds simple, doesn't it? People will try to tell you they've been doing just that for years.

But they haven't. Scrum is radical, it's so different that only companies who are facing serious pressure will really embrace Scrum.

Many companies will do it part way (and that's OK - they'll g…

Guidewire: Waterfall is more expensive - 1

Scrum is in fact being used as an organizing principle in large and growing companies. Yesterday, Stuart Read came to the Scrum Breakfast in Zürich to tell us about Guidewire, probably one of the first companies ever to have adopted Scrum from top to bottom.

Guidewire is a no longer-quite-so-small start-up (350+ employees) which provides core IT technology to the insurance industry. The entire company is organized with Scrum, even the top executives are part of Scrum teams, and Stuart prepared what is probably the first documented case study of a such a company.

Stuart's method of presenting the material was most unusual. Instead of relying on a presentation to convey information, he divided the case study into an A Part and a B Part. The A part provides the background, describes the company, its successes, what's unusual about the company, etc. The B Part, which was only made available during the workshop, brings the reader up to a point where the company is faced with a chal…