The Scrum methodology of agile software development marks a dramatic departure from waterfall management. In fact, Scrum and other agile processes were inspired by its shortcomings. The Scrum methodology emphasizes communication and collaboration, functioning software, and the flexibility to adapt to emerging business realities — all attributes that suffer in the rigidly ordered waterfall paradigm.

24th
APR

Scrum is a Framework, Agility is a Concept

Posted by admin under Agile and Scrum, Scrum Discussion

If you’re new to Scrum and agile, or like me a long time Scrummer, there are always insights to gain from talking with experienced practitioners. I had a recent opportunity to talk with Michael James (link to his blog) of Danube Technologies. He clarified something extremely basic for me, but it cemented the relationship between Scrum and agile for me so I thought I’d share it with you all.

Our conversation started with me stating that Scrum was a process that fell under the general umbrella of processes called “agile”. He quickly stopped me right there and pointed out two subtle, but important corrections. First, Michael noted that agile is not a process (or collection of processes) at all; rather, it’s a set of principles summarized by the Agile Manifesto. Scrum, XP, and other methods embody these principles and so are described as “agile”. There is no real parent-child relationship though.

Second, Michael made clear that Scrum was not a process in the technical sense of the word. A process is a prescriptive and linear series of steps taken to repeatably generate the same output. Hmm, that doesn’t sound like Scrum at all! Since we’re constantly inspecting our work and adapting the backlog, there is no repeatability we’re striving for. Instead, Michael suggested we use the term “framework” or “method” to describe Scrum. These terms suggest that we have a skeletal framework within which things happen, but that the innovation and intelligence of the team fills in the
gaps.

These two subtle corrections really changed the way I think about Scrum. Thanks, Michael!

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17th
APR

Some Thoughts on the New CSM Exam

Posted by admin under Scrum Basics

There are frequent grumblings in the Scrum community about the generally lax nature of certification. Given that the number of CSTs has practically doubled in the last year, it might appear that the Scrum Alliance is certifying more trainers than the market for Scrum training can support. Then again, it also coincides with Scrum’s spike in popularity over the past two years. But even more concern has been raised over a new exam that the Scrum Alliance is beta-testing for ScrumMaster certification. Certainly, exams are used in countless industries to assess an individual’s candidacy for a particular certification. So why does this pose a problem for certifying ScrumMasters?

As CST Mishkin Berteig points out, a two-day Certified ScrumMaster course can provide attendees with a basic foundation of Scrum knowledge, but it can’t adequately prepare them for limitless scenarios they face as actual ScrumMasters. In Berteig’s estimation, this new beta test “simply cannot measure any level of competency. They simply measure people’s ability to pass exams.” His suggestion to address this issue is to have individuals take the test prior to attending a CSM course. Not only would this ensure that participants possessed a bedrock of Scrum fundamentals prior to the course, but it would also allow CSTs to go deeper during the two-day course. It’s not a bad idea; it would definitely make the CSM course—and attendant certification—more meaningful.

Still, I think what the Scrum Alliance is doing is very necessary. Without any kind of regulatory or certifying organization, Scrum could be damaged further by self-proclaimed experts dispensing uninformed advice. I see this all the time as I read Scrum and agile blogs. (It’s pretty terrifying to read a blogger authoritatively dishing out advice that would make any CST pull his or her hair out.) The current certification process may be in need of some tweaking—hence the development of the CSM exam—but I firmly believe the community would be much worse off without it.

The debate continues over at InfoQ.

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