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.


The Next Big Idea

Posted by ewok_bbq under transformation, Uncategorized

A few weeks ago I came across a story by Steve Hartman of a man who rowed his boat from Alberta, Canada to New Orleans, Louisiana.  Dominique Liboiron went from Medicine Hat, Alberta to New Orleans, Louisiana by canoe.  This eight month journey totaled over 3,300 miles.  Unbelievable right?

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Why would a rational man do this? It was his way of honoring his best uncle Mitch who had recently passed away unexpectedly at the young age of 42.  You see, Mitch loved New Orleans.  After only a single visit to the City in 1992 Mitch reshaped his life around the New Orleans culture.  Dominique wanted to honor the memory of Mitch and realized after his passing that he needed to seize the moment and make his ‘someday’ visit to New Orleans today.  So, he got into a boat and rowed 3,300+ miles to see for himself what New Orleans was all about and deliver some of Mitch’s ashes to the city.
Today, after reading this think about what you are doing to inspire others around you? Would others follow you on twitter or would they row a boat for eight months to get to a place where they thought you were happiest in life to share the moment again with your spirit?  When trouble comes in business will your network walk away from you or will they put you on their back and help you get through troubled times?

For more on this unbelievable story – click on the video from CBS below.

Interestingly enough many social commentators (e.g. Dan Pink, Tony Robbins) now believe that making progress against a goal that is bigger than you brings happiness.
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On Being Available

Posted by ewok_bbq under transformation, Uncategorized

One of the things I am thinking about and working on is the concept of being more available.

Over dinner, in Tokyo at the regional Scrum Gathering Cope,Julia, Kotaro and I had a great conversation. The premise was on the old saying, “you are either cheap or available.”   Basically, the concept is that if you or your services are cheap, then you are never available.  If however, you are available, then indeed you are expensive and valuable.
Emmanuel Lévinas[1] (French pronunciation: ​[emanɥɛl levinas];[2] 12 January 1906 – 25 December 1995) was a French philosopher and Talmudic commentator of Lithuanian Jewish origin.

Emmanuel Lévinas[1] (French pronunciation: ​[emanɥɛl levinas];[2] 12 January 1906 – 25 December 1995) was a French philosopher and Talmudic commentator of Lithuanian Jewish origin.

When I brought up to Cope that we need to be available he said that when he was with customers he was more than available.  Probably going back to some Emmanuel Lévinas theory of “the responsibility to the Other” Copewants to become one with his customers, to eliminate the a priori  instinct to separate the ‘us vs. them’ and to take on the being of his customers.  He can only do that when he assumes their organizational identity.  And once assumed he is totally emerged into being more than available.  I am sure his customers have benefited greatly from that.  More so then a conf. call from 5,000 miles away trying to spit advise into an unknown situation.
All to often over the past few years I haven’t prioritized my own work life around being available to those that matter most.  Looking back on it, I have, unfortunately, lived an interruption driven work life.  While running Danube, I was usually being interrupted by the crisis of the day or I was under the daily financial stresses.  It didn’t feel great.  Today – I probably take too many phone calls and am in too many conversations that don’t matter that much.  In addition, it’s easy to fool myself into thinking that I am adding value to meetings and conversation threads where my opinions are neither valued or innovative.   For an alternative, maybe I should try what Jurgen Apello does (could any one else get away with this?)
The side effect of being less available is that I can’t do what I want or need to do (e.g. being in a state of flow) or that I push off meaningful, yet less urgent conversations or thoughts, to tomorrow knowing that very well tomorrow may never come.
This year I think I am going to make a promise to myself to do less, but be more available to the customers, employees and friends that matter most. I will give more of myself to less things in an effort.
Is this just wishful thinking? What do you think? I would love to hear from you.
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Transformation Strategies – Seth vs. Randy

Posted by ewok_bbq under Scrum Transitions, Uncategorized

It’s New Years Eve and personal and professional transformation seem to be top of mind for most everyone around this time a la (a) goal setting exercises and (b) the obligatory New Years resolutions.

I wanted to offer two different takes on transformation, one is a bottom up and one is top down.  In the bottom up interview the #1 blogger in the world talks about how to make incremental changes through experimentation when you don’t have the authority to change the entire system.  In the top-down interview we hear from a professional CIO how to transform a failing business to be more data driven and innovative.

The first take on transformation is from Seth Godin, the #1 blogger in the world. Here’s Seth Godin’s interview on transformation.  Have a watch. Do you agree or is this characterization oversimplified?



Seth Godin: How do you change the system when you don’t have the power?

Next – have a watrandy_mottch of Uber-CIO Randy Mott. Randy Mott was the CIO of Wal-Mart, Dell as well as HP and is now CIO of GM). In this interview with Information Week where he talks through his transformation playbook:
*Data Driven Decisions
*The Speed Merchant – bringing cycle times down
*Efficiency vs. Effectiveness
*How to move money around to be more around innovation and less around keeping the lights on

He will be in-housing over 8,000 IT jobs to innovation centers to hot tech markets like Austin, Texas or Silicon Valley.

Do you agree with Randy or Seth? What are your guiding goals in 2013? Looking forward to reading your comments.



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Building the Product Backlog

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

Building and maintaining a Product Backlog can be a time-consuming effort. Though the Product Owner has final say in the prioritization, a good product backlog is a result of a combined effort of the entire team – Product Owner, Scrum team, ScrumMaster and stakeholders.

One expert in this area is CollabNet Certified Scrum Trainer Angela Druckman. Ms. Druckman will be hosting a webinar focusing on techniques and ideas for improving the overall effectiveness of backlog management.

The webinar will be held on Monday October 27, 2011 at 11:00 am pacific time.



Obstacles to Enterprise Agility

Posted by admin under Uncategorized

How can large enterprises become more agile? Many people think that the common obstacles to agility in large organizations are due to “giantism” and are entirely unavoidable. In other words, it’s like trying to maneuver the Titanic around the iceberg. Many people within the large organization will resist the change saying, “too much to do” or “not enough resources”. However, these are often misconceptions that reinforce bad habits and contribute to change resistance. In a recent article posted on called “Obstacles to Enterprise Agility”, Michael James, a CollabNet Certified Scrum Trainer outlines some of the key impediments to enterprise agility which include:

  • Naïve Resource Management
  • Organizing teams by functional specialization
  • Organizing teams by architectural components
  • Rampant technical debt
  • Lack of commitment to transformation

Are you working on an agile transformation? Do these sound like topics that have been on your mind lately? If so, I encourage you to check out Michael’s article here.

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Free Scrum Webinars

Posted by admin under Scrum Basics, Scrum Discussion, Uncategorized

I recently attended a webinar hosted by Scrum company Danube Technologies. The session, called “Definition of Done: An Organizational Perspective,” was led by Dr. Dan Rawsthorne, PhD, one of Danube’s Certified Scrum Trainers. Over the course of an hour, Rawsthorne discussed creating and revising acceptance criteria for various kinds of user stories and how those stories can be used as standardized templates as well as an educational tool within a Scrum organization. In all, it was a great webinar; Rawsthorne clearly speaks from years of experience.

Sound like something you, your team, or your company could benefit from? Check out the entire list of special event webinars offered by Danube. They’re free and always hosted by a Certified Scrum Trainer. There’s a chunk of time at the end reserved for questions and, importantly, there’s no sales pitch. Highly recommended.



Back to Scrum Basics: Product Backlog Items vs. Tasks

Posted by admin under Uncategorized

The Product Backlog is a force-ranked list of Product Backlog Items (PBIs), which should represent customer-centric product features. The Product Backlog should not contain tasks.

Since it is the Product Owner’s responsibility to determine what work will yield the most business value, the Product Owner prioritizes the PBIs. The Product Owner focuses more on the “what,” while the “how” is left for the team to decide.

The Product Owner and team should collaborate about an hour per week on backlog refinement (aka “backlog grooming”) to convert large fuzzy requirements (“epics”) into more distinct user stories. If a PBI would take more than a quarter of a two-week Sprint, it’s probably too big.

Only a subset of these PBIs, the Sprint Backlog, are tackled by the team in a given Sprint. During Sprint Planning, and during the Sprint itself, the team discovers and tracks the Sprint Tasks necessary to accomplish each PBI in the Sprint Backlog. I often meet teams that cannot distinguish their Sprint Backlog from their Product Backlog, making me wonder whether they have clear goals.

My favorite way to keep track of Sprint Tasks is with a physical taskboard, owned by the team. The team is less likely to self manage if people outside the team, including the Product Owner, try to scrutinize their progress during the Sprint, particularly at the Task level. The demo at the Sprint Review Meeting is a more appropriate time to inspect and adapt the product.

If the effort to accomplish PBIs is estimated, we prefer relative units such as T-shirt sizes or Story Points—i.e. abstracted estimates of difficulty. Sprint Tasks should usually take one day or less. Some teams find it useful to estimate Sprint Tasks in hours, though we eventually stopped estimating them at all. Also, there’s no point in trying to reconcile the effort estimates of PBIs and Sprint Tasks.


Watch a team break Product Backlog Items (PBIs, or User Stories) into Sprint Tasks during the Sprint Planning Meeting.


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Scrum and the Enterprise

Posted by admin under Uncategorized

As Scrum continues to grow in popularity, one of the hottest topics on the minds of the community is how to translate the benefits of a paradigm created for small, collocated teams for enterprise-level installations of hundreds, if not thousands of users. Given that communication channels increase (and therefore communication decreases) as the size of a team grows, this issue is only compounded when teams begin to scale to Scrum-of-Scrum configurations. Clearly, the solution is a tool designed specifically for Scrum projects that can allow teams to remain small, but nonetheless connected to the bigger picture.

Of course, the tool also needs to be flexible enough to meet the unique demands of large and complex development environments. For example, large organizations often develop products with shared components, which require the ability to plan releases against multiple backlogs. And while Scrum and other agile management methods have steadily crept into the software development landscape, the project management tools available have not kept pace.

But all that may be changing now. I just watched a screencast of ScrumWorks Pro 4 and this release’s new functionality makes it the first truly enterprise-ready Scrum tool. Namely, it addresses the issue outlined above by allowing customers to manage high-level features and releases that span multiple product backlogs. This is a really important breakthrough. Before that functionality existed, organizations had to creatively develop workarounds for their agile tools to achieve the same effect, but, still, with less-than-ideal results. Now, products can be associated with multiple programs, which, in turn, allows shared components to be modeled accurately while providing organizations with a more realistic view of overall progress. This is going to eliminate some very big headaches for some very big companies… You can read more about it here.

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Scrum Users Group Update

Posted by admin under Uncategorized

If you missed our original post on this topic, InfoQ has published a follow-up to the Scrum Users Group controversy here. After the Scrum Alliance issued a notification to Scrum users group nationwide that it held rights to the use of the phrase “Scrum users group,” a wave of confusion ensued. The Alliance’s Cory Foy weighed in on our comments section to better explain what was happening. It seems that Foy has now been appointed “community liaison” and will interface with the various users groups to help Scrum continue to flourish on a grassroots level. Key to this outreach effort is an inclusive mailing list to get the word out about events and groups, while generally fostering a dialogue focused on Scrum. Sounds like the situation’s definitely improving, but InfoQ reporter Mark Levison still concludes his article by wondering if anything’s really changed.

This seems like a step in the right direction to me. What do you think?



A Career In Scrum

Posted by admin under Scrum Discussion, Uncategorized

As Scrum’s popularity increases, there is a rising demand for professionals with Scrum experience. However, since Scrum is still a fairly new management method, that puts many aspiring Scrum practitioners in a tough spot: They want the experience of working in a Scrum environment, but they need Scrum experience to get the job. Obviously, then, there is no better experience than actually working in a Scrum environment, but there are plenty of ways to build experience that will pay off in that environment.

One way to secure valuable experience is to attend a two-day Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) course. CSM courses focus on an interactive approach to learning the basics of Scrum, including its vocabulary, principles, and practices. The course lasts only two days, but most attendees find that the information covered really sticks due to the hands-on nature of the course. Several companies offer CSM courses and a full list of trainers and their schedule of courses is located on the Scrum Alliance website.

Of course, real life experience working in a Scrum environment is far more compelling than simply attending a CSM course. When an individual works on a Scrum team—whether as a ScrumMaster, Product Owner, Analyst, Developer, Tester, etc.—for a full year since completing a CSM course, he or she may apply to become a Certified Scrum Practitioner (CSP). The Scrum Alliance reviews and, based on one’s qualifications, approves the CSP designation. Clearly, the CSP title is attractive for employers, who view it as proof that an individual understands Scrum’s principles and processes and has practiced them.

Short of getting experience on a Scrum team, the next best thing is to illustrate to your prospective employer that you possess qualities valued within a Scrum environment. These might include skills such as pair-programming, test-driven development, continuous integration, and refactoring code. Apart from these development techniques, it’s important to demonstrate a strong background in collaboration and facilitation. Since Scrum places greater emphasis on the success of the team, rather than personal heroics, an individual who has proven his or her leadership potential—without extensive authority—would be an excellent candidate for the ScrumMaster role.

Beyond Scrum courses or, of course, working in a Scrum environment, an individual can prepare for a career in Scrum by developing certain skill sets and demonstrating personality attributes that would fit within the Scrum paradigm.