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Scrum Alliance could be more Agile

I am a CSM and CSP for 4 and 2 years now and I started my application to become Certified Scrum Coach about a year ago.   The 25 questions and case studies scared me.  I found some questions very odd – for example when did planning poker become a coaching technique?  Isn’t that an Agile practice instead? And how can I define advisory and consultation skills vs facilitation skills vs leadership – aren’t these all facets of a good coach..i.e. the coaching skills asked about earlier.

In addition I suffer from acute procrastination when faced with documentation.

I picked it up again this year with fresh vigour and spent approximately 40 hours of hair tugging, brain dulling recantations of every Agile and Scrum experience over they years.  I was then forced to distill these into the top three style question that permeates the CSC app.  So far I have managed a grand total of 15/25 questions and the ubiqitous case study.

Still on high with the prospect of what I see as a valuable opportunity to get feedback from my peers I received an email prompting about my CSP renewal.. Read More

Agile Doesn’t Work

All too often I read or hear ‘Agile doesn’t work!”

It’s an interesting one to ponder.  Over the years I’ve found when traditional programs fail people tend to blame other people not the process.  In fact I don’t recall a single person blaming waterfall, or any of its constituent parts, for their failure – instead they typically focus on blaming the project manager or the architects or even their customers.

I suspect the reason behind this is because Agile really is about people and not process – aka Mushy Agile.  Agile promotes communication, collaboration, courage and change (when needed).  And it’s much more difficult to blame your colleagues when you’ve been getting to know them as people too.

Really – take look at the Agile Principles and try to find one that you think would directly contribute to failure.  Can you fail because you supported motivated people? Or by delivering working software?  Or how about if you seek to improve your technical excellence?  How about continually making improvements as you learn more?   Can any of these could possibly be deemed the path to failure?

I believe not …

Agile Warfare

Smell: how to get boys on board and explain key concepts to them..I often find trying to explain collective ownership, courage, respect and communication can get a few funny looks from the fellas – I can tell they think I’m a hippy!

So how do I convince folks Agile is not simply a love-in but a dyed-in-the-wool way of working better?  I use an analogy of an airforce mission..this exercise takes a short time and has a good impact on how team members work with each other:)

Airforce missions are typically small units of highly trained individuals who all do what they can to ensure success

The team are fighter pilots…pilots deal with life and death..our teams typically deal in software (not always..that is for a later post) Read More

Product Owner Nerves

Perhaps it is the meds I’m on (in Bangalore at the beginning of mosquito season with particularly tasty blood and a nasty reaction), but even after all these years this week I started to question the scrum product owner role ‘in’ the team.

Is the product owner really able to step back and let the team get on with it, as seems to be the case in so many teams?  Am I mad, considering a fellow coach seemed horrified at the prospect of adding the PO’s to the team stand ups.

And then I did what I have been doing for 15 years – I canvassed opinion – from real live people and the dark corners of the interweb.  It is a fairly well discussed topic and when I read one particular blog post it reminded me of the product owner’s responsibility and why they are the dirtiest pig in scrum..they are the single wring-able neck for the product :)..  this is why I always push for the PO to be in the team and not ‘served’ by it.

Now I just need to get clean 🙂

Scrum Master..An Agile Oxymoron

One of my favourite transitions is helping people become a successful Scrum Master.  It’s very heartening to see an individual become a whole human being, not simply concerned with timelines and figures but happy, empowered and delivering to boot.

Too often though this can be the most challenging task and far too often the individual is blamed when the impediment exists in the very title Scrum Master. Let’s consider the top 5 definitions from dictionary.com.


    1. a person with the ability or power to use, control, or dispose of something: a master of six languages; to be master of one’s fate.


  1. an owner of a slave, animal, etc.
  2. an employer of workers or servants.
  3. the male head of a household.
  4. a person eminently skilled in something, as an occupation,art, or science.
The top four definitions imply ownership or control – the opposite of the Scrum Master Role, and very far removed from Agile.  Not until number 5 do we come even close to what we mean.  A Scrum Master is expected to be skilled in Scrum, to coach and help the team keep a heartbeat, to always strive for better and to feel he can effectively remove anything that blocks the teams progress.  With these descriptions of Master in mind, is it really so unbelievable when the new Scrum Master resorts to command and control.  Or indeed when the organisation diverts his attention to reporting and is shocked when he tries to effect change.


Why Agile? The Top 3 Key Questions to Ask Your Customer

Agile coaching can help companies make valuable changes in their business practices, sometimes even reaching into peoples personal lives in a positive manner too.  However I’ve come to realise that preaching the Agile principles and consulting, are not easy bedfellows.

Many of us in the Agile space have struggled when faced with the realisation that Agile may not benefit a team or customer at all, indeed in some it can even cause detriment (particularly so when faced with a lack of sponsorship, value or direction). Many consultants will carry on regardless, trying to force their particular brand of Agile onto organisations who just plain aren’t ready for change. Worse still are the Agile consultancies who preach Best Practice and continue reaping fees, all the time knowing they are adding no real value.

It may be difficult in these times to turn down regular well paid consulting work, particularly when Agile is seen as the next big thing – eager faces and enthusiasm can be very alluring, as can a regular paycheck.  However all successful coaches pick their teams just as much as their team picks them, and to this end here are my top three questions to consider asking your next customer. Read More

Agile Retrospectives Wiki-Wonderful

I found an exciting place today to share ideas and learn new Agile tips and tricks on holding retrospectives…in my opinion these are the most powerful tool in our Agile arsenal and often forgotten!

For those of you who are interested in improving how you work I’d recommend you pay a visit http://agileretrospectivewiki.org/.
Real people sharing their experiences and ideas – for free too!

My apologies for the short post 🙂

Agile in India

I seem to arrive in India the past few years at the start of monsoon.  Not that I’m complaining, it’s one of my favourite places on earth, a wonderful mix of tradition and technology.

Yesterday I was fortunate to attend the Bangalore Scrum user group, kindly arranged by iSense Prowareness.  It was an excellent event, over 70 folks attended and I have to say I was hugely impressed by the knowledge of those present.  Scrum seems to be growing exponentially here since my last trip in 2010 and it’s lovely to be involved, regardless of how small a contribution I’ve made 🙂

One of the hugely positive side effects I’ve witnessed is a leap in confidence amongst Indian professionals, which in turn is resulting in a deepening respect from their customers.  It’s about time I say. Read More

Secret Stories and Agile Analysts

Mike Cohn’s latest post got me thinking about how essential analysis is even in so-called Agile teams. It describes a common situation where backlogs contain ‘add this’ and ‘delete this’ stories.

I really believe this can be helped by a good analyst who understands value and patterns. My comment on Mike’s post goes onto explain that I would add a ‘create this’ story first. 

I’ve found that it’s difficult to add or delete some ‘thing’ that doesn’t yet exist. (Shockingly this holds true in real life also).

This simple step is also pretty negligible in time to a seasoned (aka lazy) analyst and provides our customers with more choice, clear direction and what’s more it can be used at all levels of organisational analysis!

Top 5 Ideas – Intercultural Agile updated

This idea came about as a result of speaking with an interesting guy, Andreas, who is doing his MSc and working in an IT company and starting to learn about and use Scrum. Smart cookie. Anyway here are my top tips for working in intercultural teams and organisations.

  1. Keep an open mind recognise cultures often differ on values, ethics and drivers
  2. Take a broad perspective focusing on people, solving problems and building trust
  3. Be sensitive and consideratewhen in other’s countries, regardless of your role there
  4. Local knowledge for example holidays, festivals, customs, the capacity for chit chat, weather
  5. Local executive sponsorship involve senior people on the ground who can make a real difference
He had pointed out that my previous post included quite stereotypical German traits and I had to agree with a smile.

I believe most of the so called traits of any particular group (or strengths as I like to call them) can be hugely beneficial to teams.  I would add that every team is different and often generalisation in isolation is dangerous.

So what about those German strengths (or stereotypes)?

Detail and structure are particularly good at providing rigor and courage for any team – Agile or not.

However, my previous post’s focus was based on a single intercultural training session and a first foot into German culture. My opinion has certainly matured and will continue to, as I learn more about any team I work with.
Oh! And this particular group did provide great rigor and a lot more besides!