Saturday, January 23, 2010

Certified SCRUM Master Trainning :: Day 2

I won't lie, Day 2 was a long one.

The 182 slide Power Point was dense with information. It was cool to get more in depth on all of the topics covered in the previous session. I learned a good deal more about some of the things I was interested in, namely Burndowns and other forms of reporting. It was one of the things that while working on a Scrum team, I just never really understood. I get it now, though.

We also dug deeper into some of the dynamics of how a Scrum Master and Product Owner interact. The Product Owner (or Client, or Business Owner, or my fave 'the Truth') role is a very important one. Without a good PO, your project is doomed to fail. The PO's is primarily responsible for the Story Backlog and marking a story as complete. We learned how the Scrum Master and PO need to work together well.

A recurring theme for the day was around how the Scrum Master is a facilitator for getting a problem solved vs. a problem solver. Getting the team to care of of it's own issues internally and removing obstacles, external to team, that stand in the way of them getting things done. I always preferred this dynamic over the one of a traditional Project Manager.

One of my favorite Agile principals is Self-organizing teams. Leaders within a team lead, because they want to, not because they have to. I have seen people who didn't really think they had what it takes to lead, fall right into it, manly because their team saw them that way. And conversely, Scrum teams are flat, so just because you have some title or more time at the company, means nothing to your team. Respect comes from solid performance, and being a good team player becomes very important. More important than individual acclaim or advancement. Accountability to your team can be a very powerful motivator to perform well. I like to think of it like a basketball team, full of players that would rather have a personally low stat night, but get the win. A pass-first mentality goes a long way in an Agile setting.

Working and thinking as a team is extremely important. We played some Planning Poker, showing us that healthy debate and not being too polite is imperative to open communication. Having been on a Scrum team for a long while, you start to speak very directly to one another. You get a bit thick skinned. It cuts through the BS and makes you feel much closer to the people you work with. We would have guests come by to see how we were working and we heard more than once that they were taken back, a bit. It's not all empty corporate-speak. For instance you wouldn't hear, "I don't completely disagree with you..." What? You agree or not? Just say it, don't waste my time...

So, a good day overall. Tons of information to go back and look through. I hope to get my exam invite soon, while it's all still fresh in my head. I will keep you posted.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Certified SCRUM Master Trainning :: Day 1

My good friends at BigVisible offer some of the best Agile/SCRUM training and coaching around. I have been looking forward to my CSM class, taught by Giora Morein, for quite some time. I have taken Scrum training before, but this is more involved and should set me up pretty well to pass the Agile Alliance's SCRUM Master exam.

Day one started off with some introductions. It was cool to get a sense of who was there and why. Most of the participants are there through their employers. Only one other guy was there on his own dime, like me. The group is made up of IT folks and PMs. I, of course, am the only designer.

We set up in groups of four and did an exercise that simulates a sprint (aka, an iteration). Getting people who are new to Scrum to understand things like team velocity, planning games, story writing and point estimations can take some work. Generally speaking, people who want to learn agile frameworks are very open to it. They get that there's less documentation and more collaboration, for instance, but they need to compare these new things to something they know. Like, a Story Backlog is NOT a BRD...

So, we did some story point estimations, worked through the stories (folding hats, blowing up balloons, bursting said balloons, stuff like that) and learned how points work to make up a team's velocity.

After lunch, Giora did a very comprehensive presentation that introduced the Agile Manifesto, the cost benefits of using Agile over Waterfall, some guiding principals for Agile development and Team Member Rolls.

An interesting observation here is that, the people in the room all 'get it'. They are there because they already understand the potential upsides. And they all say the issues around getting Agile going where they work, is getting buy-in from the powers that be or from the the non-Agile teams already in place.

All in all a great day. More to come tomorrow.