The Scrum approach to agile software development marks a dramatic departure from waterfall management. Scrum and other agile methods were inspired by its shortcomings. Scrum emphasizes collaboration, functioning software, team self management, and the flexibility to adapt to emerging business realities.


Advice for Extending the Sprint

Posted by admin under Agile and Scrum, Scrum Basics, Scrum Discussion

Your Scrum team is days away from the end of its sprint when it discovers a significant impediment—one that’s large enough to keep the team from delivering the product increment it’s negotiated for the sprint. So how should the team handle this late-breaking discovery? And what should the Product Owner do about it?

This is the question posed by InfoQ reporter Mark Levison in a recent post titled “When to Extend an Iteration/Sprint.” He aggregates advice from numerous Certified Scrum Trainers and, though there was some discrepancy among their responses, everyone seemed to be on the same page on this issue. Namely, all the CSTs surveyed explained that the team should inform the Product Owner as soon as the problem is discovered and that, under no circumstances, should the sprint be extended.

Perhaps the first point is an obvious one. When a problem arises, if the team informs the Product Owner immediately, it gives him or her more time to access the extent of the problem and formulate a plan of action with as much time remaining before the end of the sprint.

But why should a sprint never be extended?

In Scrum, development activity is organized in repeatable work cycles called sprints or iterations. It’s essential that sprints always be the same length because 1) it allows the development team to establish a rhythm and 2) lets the Product Owner observe the team’s velocity, which is extremely helpful with release forecasting. When a sprint’s length deviates, it undermines the repeatability of the process and erodes the urgency associated with sprint deadlines.

So what does the Product Owner do in such a situation?

First, the Product Owner should take stock of the situation. If work can be reorganized to salvage important sprint goals, it should be. But if the problem is too far-reaching for that to occur, then it should be treated like any other PBI in Scrum. That is, it should be returned to the backlog (where its acceptance criteria might need to be revised) and added to the next sprint. More thoughts on why awarding partial credit within a sprint is potentially harmful, take a look at this blog post by CST Michael James.

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Danube’s New Scrum Video Blogs

Posted by admin under Agile and Scrum, Scrum Basics

I’ve mentioned here before that my team uses Danube Technologies’ ScrumWorks Pro to manage development efforts. Since Danube is a Scrum company, I check their site frequently for new content written by its team of Certified Scrum Trainers, which includes blogs, white papers, and more. When I visited the site yesterday, I was happy to discover that the company has launched a new video blog series, which gives folks a chance to watch a short clip of a CST discussing an issue related to Scrum. The first installment features Jimi Fosdick, who starts the conversation by asking, “What Is Scrum?” So far, the company has only posted one video, but I’m excited to see where this goes. It already looks like a great resource for Scrum users learning the ropes. Check it out here.

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What Happens at Scrum Training?

Posted by admin under Agile and Scrum, Scrum Basics, Scrum Transitions

When organizations first transition to a new way of doing business—an agile method such as Scrum, for instance—the best way to ease the disruption and fear that often accompany such change is to educate your employees. Certainly, presenting the shift transparently will minimize undue anxiety, but, moreover, providing training can be an empowering process that equips employees with the knowledge to excel in their new work environment.

In the case of Scrum, many organizations engage Certified Scrum Trainers to train employees in a public course setting or to deal with specific organizational challenges as an on-site coach. And while there are many training options readily available, they aren’t cheap, nor is their instruction all of the same quality. When my company adopted Scrum, a portion of my team was sent to public ScrumMaster Certification (CSM) training with Danube Technologies. It was a great experience; all of us who attended felt that we’d learned a lot about Scrum and were armed with the kind of actionable knowledge we could take back to workplace and implement.

So what did training look like? I recently encountered a blog post written by William Roberts, the Chief Integration Engineer at Symbian Software Ltd., in which he discusses the CSM course he attended with Danube trainer Michael James. Much of his discussion compares and contrasts Scrum as it was presented in class and as it was actually lived out at his organization. You can take a look here:

Coincidentally, Michael James recently recorded an interview for DZone, in which he discusses the value of Scrum and how Scrum practitioners can refine their skills as team members by observing the traits of highly performing teams in other disciplines.

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The CSM Exam Saga Continues…

Posted by admin under Agile and Scrum, Scrum Discussion

Since I last posted on the CSM exam, it seems the plot has thickened enough that another post is warranted. As I’ve explained previously, the Scrum Alliance recently decided to introduce an exam which all Certified ScrumMasters will be required to pass before receiving that distinction. It should be noted that only those individuals who have taken a two-day, Scrum Alliance-sanctioned CSM course from a Certified Scrum Trainer will be eligible to take the exam.

Well, after several delays and a recent rumor that the exam would be pushed back from its project Oct. 1 launch date, the exam is back and will, in fact, go into effect today. According to an email sent by the Scrum Alliance’s new president Tom Mellor on September 16th, “the initial release of the exam will not be sanctioned by any certification agency.” He continues on behalf of the Board: “The exam will continue to evolve and we earnestly desire that it be approved by a certifying authority in the near future.  Our goal has been and continues to be to bring even stronger credibility to the CSM throughout the world. A certified examination will benefit us in this endeavor.”

For those familiar with this organization, you may know that this exam has been a source of much controversy internally and, it appears, resulted in the resignation of both Ken Schwaber, one of the founders of Scrum who previously served as the Alliance’s president, and Jim Cundiff, who previously served as the organization’s managing director. The fact of their departures illustrates just how polarizing this exam has been.

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