Scrum Gathering Prague Focused on Agile Leadership

Keynotes of Niels Pflaefing “Organize for Complexity” and Brain Robertson “Holacracy: A Radical New Approach to Management” summarized the agile position on leadership.

In a rapidly moving world old paradigms of management are not fast enough. Teams near the customer must do the decisions using the power that organization’s constitution assures them.

More information about their ideas can be easily found from their books: Organize for Complexity and Holacracy .  These ideas of leadership are essential in understanding why agile transformations are so difficult. It is hard to be agile if the management structures are not changed.

Another hot topic was scaling. SAFe is not the only option and LeSS seems to get more support from the agile community than it, because SAFe’s top down approach is less capable of  changes.

Scrum Alliance has now more than 400 000 members and it is growing with about 6 500 new members every month. The number of trainers and coaches is now 188. Members will get more content in Scrum Alliance’s site and trough the learning consortium.

Scrum Gathering Berlin 22.9-24.9.2014

Scrum Global Gathering 22.9- 24.9.2014 in Berlin was sold out. Its 600 participants heard the good news:

1) The number of certified members of Scrum Alliance of  is now 350 000 and it will grow by 5 000 every month.

2) Certifications will be extended so that the number of the upper level of Certified Scrum Professional certificates will be determinately increased with the help of additional training courses.The 200 trainers and training companies  involved in the community will increase the range of advanced training courses in the  technical and the leadership areas.

3) Scrum is converging as the organizations in the area, Scrum Alliance and Scrum.org (8 000 members), agreed on a common definition of Scrum.This means in practice that our offerings of current and forthcoming trainings at agile leadership, interpersonal skills, facilitation, agility, scaling, Lean, Kanban, Certified Scrum Developer, agile testing, agile architecture, etc, etc will get increasing global marketing support from Scrum Alliance.Course development takes place in the spirit of the Lean Startup based on customers’ needs.

We are able to offer advanced courses that our clients request as the course contents have already been prepared at the global level. Many of the MIF‘s interaction skills courses and others courses are inherent add-ons to basics of Scrum.

Command and control with pair programming

I found a revealing discussion at a popular suomi24.fi-site titled Ketterä IT-helvetti (agile IT hell ). It is amazing how often daily Scrum is practiced just opposite of Scrum’s basic idea of a self-organizing team.

This 15 minutes is just for the developers to say hello to each other and coordinate days activities. They need to know the situation after yesterday’s work because software development is not predictable. Sometimes tasks estimated to take 2 days take 5 days and sometimes they are ready after one day. So everyone needs to know where the team is and agree on what to do next.

The metaphor of chickens and pigs is meant to make sure that managers do not use that for micromanaging the people. Command and control is bad because it destroys peoples’ natural work motivation. People including developers want to achieve something and autonomy to do it – not that they are given orders and controlled tightly. Command and control reduces productivity and creativity which is really harmful in an art like software development. Psychological studies have shown that time after another.

Pair programming can be done in a way that does not decrease the motivation. As the code is owned by team and every team member is responsible of changing any peace of it the team needs a way to teach the secrets of the code modules to everyone in the team. That is pair programming. It prevents harmful specialization and at the same time decreases the number of errors in the code. Your pair is not watching and controlling what you are programming but you two work together to create great software. Two creative minds coding and discussing together is a way to learn from each other and do a great work. Pairs are changed normally on daily basis so that different angles on the problem can be thought. Pair programming should not be a stressful situation like the one described in suomi24. The team should discuss about the situation in its retrospective and decide how to continue to find the the joy of work that agility gives when it is practiced at its best.

Less extreme Scrum

Agile software development has often seen as an foreign element leading to chaos in Virginia Satir’s model. Current situation of Scrum is indeed somehow chaotic. Key persons are arguing against each other and it has been very demanding to define what Scrum actually is? Ken Schwaber’s ScrumGuide is our current definition but it is not ready for a Scrum Alliance’s multi-choice exam.

There are many different versions or variations of Scrum which may or may not be under a common framework. Common thing in these is that they are more realistic and less extreme. It has been visible for a while that radical extreme Scrum has given space to real life. Some of these modifications clearly belong under the title “Scrum but” but some others are coming from Schwaber and Sutherland, who are the authorities who define Scrum.

In the London Gathering Schwaber introduced product backlog refactoring meetings where team collaborates with the product owner to create actionable product backlog items. In Munich Gathering Sutherland emphasized that the user story must be ready for the Sprint, which means that a good enough specification exists to continue.

The main difference here between Rational Unified Process and Scrum is in the collaboration between the developers and the product owner. In RUP there are strong roles and artifacts that are just handed to next group of people. Product owners’ role has got more content by the discussion of release planning – still obscurely defined time-box of Scrum.We are now also openly talking about undone features and telling that team might not be able to complete a user story to the point that it can released. So we add a stabilization Sprint where undone features are completed before the release.

Situational leadership model was my favorite in the 80’s. In addition to Tucman’s model it was also well visible in the Munich Gathering. Actually that means that we have to admit that leaders can’t just assume that teams self-organize when they are just empowered to do so. Sometimes directive forms of leadership are needed though we understand the drawbacks of command and control.

Schwaber’s integration teams that he introduced in his book Enterprise and Scrum have not been heard much in talks of the Scrum people. The case studies of real life projects tell clearly that defined organizations are used, not just self-organizing flocks of business and technical people. The question of scaling agility is interesting and clearly not solved in a way that theoreticians and practitioners can both accept. Actually, I would like to asses (or rather measure) different agile solutions instead of arguing about right or wrong Scrum.

Scrum gathering Munich

I am taking part to Scrum gathering this week. This is fully booked though the economy is down. The talks that I have heard so far are encouraging and enjoyable. I am here to see friends and to hear their stories and experiences. There are many issues that I should rise (in this blog and otherwise) but I the thing near my heart is collaborative design. Developers are still struggling with functional organizations. Product owners don’t talk with the developers and we have subgroups of developers who communicate only with specifications. This might be because of the early phase of the agile adoption but understanding the cross-functional teams might be difficult too.