Ramblings About Scrum

Over the past few of months, Scrum has taunted me.

It started with two excellent Thirsty Developer Podcasts –  The Thirsty Developer 14 with Ed Chaltry talking about “an Agile process” that can be used to manage and control complex software and product development using iterative, incremental practices Agile Software Development with Scrum (Series in Agile Software Development)and then The Thirsty Developer 28 with Sean McCormack talking about how Scrum and Agile principles can be applied to the enterprise. These podcasts provided such a detailed overview of Scrum that I couldn’t help but get excited.

Next, a co-worker did an excellent presentation on Scrum after successfully introducing Scrum into an organization where he was consulting.  The presentation both piqued my interest and left me questioning the merits of Scrum. Actually, it had a lot of folks in my group asking questions.  Maybe-not-so-coincidentally this was right around the time Martin Fowler’s Flaccid Scrum article was published.

Shortly thereafter we started using Rally Software to help manage a couple of our in-house projects and I found myself in the role of Scrum Master.  The Rally tools are great.  Scrum or no scrum, I’d recommend the product.

Since I was now a “Scrum Master” and under-qualified, I figured I should learn more about the role so I finished up Agile Software Development with Scrum (Series in Agile Software Development) by Ken Schwaber and Mike Beedle which I had been working on for a couple of months.  I also read Head First Software Development by O’Reilly Media.  Though it is an awesome resource which touches upon a number of Scrum-like processes and I recommend it to any developer (especially a junior developer on their first week on the job) it mostly through me off track as it didn’t truly define Scrum. 

Head First Software Development

Which brings us to last week….last week I watched Uncle Bob Martin’s presentation at Chicago ALT.NET on XP: After 10 years why are we still talking about it?  Though Uncle Bob paces in and out of camera throughout the entire one hour presentation, he’s one heck of a speaker and the presentation is a gem.  He provides a really nice overview of why Scrum has hit the mainstream whereas XP certainly has not.  He talks about Scrum being a subset of XP – Scrum took all the project management aspects of XP and left all the technical processes like continuous integration and TDD behind – and why this, Flaccid Scrum, ultimately fails over time.  The heart of Uncle Bob’s talk is craftsmanship which is a powerful message in it’s own right but it really brought my learning of Scrum full circle.

I had my half-yearly review last week.  Under the goals I listed for the next evaluation period, I included my desire to become Scrum Master certified. I’m not sure there’s much merit in this certification; however it certainly is a means to better learn the Scrum way of doing things.  Perhaps surprisingly, Scrum certification was one of the easier goals for the next six months. I think I’m going to be busy. Wish me luck.

Comments

  1. The benefit I would suggest of the Certified Scrum Master training, particularly if you can get your entire team to attend, is that it provides a baseline for what Scrum is, isn’t, and can be. Like all methodologies, Scrum can be interpreted and applied differently based on a given person’s perspective and value system. Having a common starting point for the team to start the discussion of “What does Scrum mean to us?” will be invaluable when it comes time to decide as a team how far the application of Scrum will be. Do we just do a backlog? Do we commit to the daily stand-ups? How long should our sprints be? There are many of these decisions that are involved in adopting Scrum as a team and getting the most out of the methodology, and answering these questions will be a lot easier if everyone understands the concepts.

    Our company hosted Scrum training sessions and had everyone involved in the development process (developers, business analysts, project managers, QA and IT) participate. It was 2 full days, but well worth it. Check out Scrum Alliance for training information.

  2. Great article Ben! And, thanks for the plug about the Rally tool ;-) You mentioned that you are trying to decide if getting a certification as a CSM is worth it. I mighyt think about it a different way than evaluating the certification. Instead, I’d evaluate what it would be worth to spend two days with other passionate people eager to be successful in their Agile adoption of Scrum.

    I’ve taught CSM public courses and I have taught courses internal to just a company. The public CSM course’s greatest strength IMHO is YOUR opportunity to be around other people in different phases of their Scrum adoption. They come from different organizations, different challenges, different goals, and different agile maturity. I love all the conversations in these situations! Everyone shares so much of what they have seen work or what has been a challenge. I love that the class is a place to dispel myths or misconceptions. And it is a place to create even more “art of the possible” commitments to what you will do with Scrum.

    An internal CSM class, on the other hand, affords a team two days to STOP and dig deeply into its particular Scrum situation. That has wonderful advantages. As a Scrumtrainer, I love being with a group and talking about their real-life situations that are waiting for them at their desks. Having everyone on the team be involved in all the conversations can help carry new agreements and resolve back into the team.

    So there are my thoughts on the CSM class. It’s about the experience. The certification is just a little bonus :- )

    Jean

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