Results tagged “Scrum”

The last few days at work in 2012 held another surprise for us. Well, more for the other members of my team because I got the informations a few days in advance. Because of the current project situation it was no longer possible to keep our team together in its current structure.

We all knew that sooner or later one of our colleagues would leave the team and also start supporting other teams as Scrum Master as he has expressed his wishes and goals already some time in the past. Something similar applied to me (just not that openly) as I always communicated to my department leaders that if there is a project or team with the requirement of a Scrum Master who has also a proper technical background in development and there is no other possibility they could get back on me as a last resort. What only I knew in advance was that there were already restructuring plans emerging as the project situation could no longer afford our current team in its entirety. The large project we were working on ends with 2012 and will be continued (with a certain probability) earliest in February. And there are no other short-term projects available which could carry our team in the meantime. Furthermore other teams were also in need of new Scrum Masters and that was the the tipping point why not only my colleague is leaving my current team but also I have to leave it to support another team.

The current team is left with two full time members, one part time member and one member on unpaid leave until March. It has been decided that it will be merged with another smaller team and its Scrum Master to work on small tickets and also the current projects of the joining team. In the end we were victims of an unclear project situation in our technological areas and a high demand for support in other areas.

It's really sad that this is the fate of our team. In the last year we became specialists in our technological areas and had a steady rise in expertise, know-how and professionality. We had to cope with several difficult situations but in the last few weeks of 2012 it became clear that we were working together very effectively and there were also no issues on a personal or communication level (which is not that common in my experience).

I hope that I'll have the chance to keep up regular chats to all of them in the future and stay in contact.

My new team will be in a comparable situation as my old team way a bit more than a year ago. They are also only a few people and in the last year they had seen five other Scrum Masters come and go. That this poses an obstacle to building and adhering to processes should be pretty clear. In 2013 they will also take over a completely new project where there is not much prior work and they can start "green-field". As this is new to most of them I had been asked to become their 6th and hopefully more permanent Scrum Master because I had similar success with my old team(s) and also can offer deeper experience in that specific area of technology (Java, J2EE, etc.).

Thank you my old team for the great ride and I wish you all the best. Welcome my new team, I will do everything what is possible to me to make our upcoming work a presentable item of excellence.

|

In the last two weeks there have been some additional events concerning my current role as a ScrumMaster for a development team. Both events have been trainings which were targeted not only but also for ScrumMasters. The first training was an internal one which was intended for ScrumMasters and Performance Managers (an internal role which is comparable to a coach for employees). This one was just an afternoon and quite relaxed because the trainers partly internal employees and was concentrating more on the psychological side of coaching and mentoring activities.

The second training was the more intensive one. It was lasting for three days and was performed by Boris Gloger who is THE professional Scrum trainer in Europe. He founded his consulting company bor!isgloger to spread Scrum and help organisations in implementing this methodology.

Performing the training with Boris was a refreshing experience. In our company we are already working using Scrum for quite some years. But I always had the feeling that some things did not work very well and that a few problems we experienced were caused by inconsistencies in our implementation of Scrum. Yet I could not name or pinpoint the exact causes. In our training with Boris we gained a lot of new insight into "our" methodology and we realized at least some of the difficulties which we are dealing with on a daily basis. To be fair, I think none of our problems poses a serious threat for any of our running projects. Nevertheless they limit our efficiency and effectivity when dealing with our work and on some occasions we're already hitting the borders of what we're currently capable of.

One of those problems affects me personally. A ScrumMaster should be a ScrumMaster for 100% of the time and within Scrum different roles should not be executed by a single person. Which is what I'm currently doing, I'm ScrumMaster and developer within my team. This makes it hard to stay objective on our work and also causes some more organizational problems.

This does all but smoothen the dillema I've already mentioned last time. In the meantime I received additional compliments for my work as a ScrumMaster for the new team which tells me that I'm doing that job not that bad. But if I really would try to improve my performance as a ScrumMaster it would result in having to give up my software development activity completely and concentrate on the development, guidance and coaching of the team.

Still no answer in sight for me....

|

For one month now I'm in charge of a team as a ScrumMaster. To be fair, it's not really a month because in the first week I've just been passively in the new team while we've been still working on our previous projects. My personal conclusion so far for the past 1 1/2 sprints? I think I'm doing a good job as a ScrumMaster. In the first retrospective which in fact was the first real retrospective for this team in a long time. The critic points could obviously be summarized to a lack of Scrum consequence in this team. At the beginning of "my" sprint I immediately began introducing a lot of the things I've been learning, experiencing and using in the last few years in fully integrated Scrum teams.

I did leave out some (admittedly important) aspects at first intentionally because I think I should guide the team back to Scrum step-by-step avoiding a shocking big-bang approach for the team-members. So for example we skipped the estimation meeting because there were no defined userstories yet and we concentrated on the work which had to be done anyway. For the next sprint I already organized a correct estimation and planning. And I think my approach worked out quite well because in our last retrospective almost all of the previous critique points have been resolved. Even better most of them came back as positive responses.

So, what's coming up in the future? Well, the project will be finished in a few weeks. I still have a sort of special position because I'm no exclusive ScrumMaster but also actively developing on the project. Of course it's not easy to keep the balance between ScrumMaster responsibilities and development tasks but for now it's in a green state. I still don't know in which direction I want to continue because I like doing active development but it's also very interesting having Scrum responsibility for a team. I'm also participating in the offered ScrumMaster trainings (upcoming week there'll be a ScrumMaster certification) and it's fun and interesting but I still don't know whats best for me and also my career development. From the feedback I got from my superiors I'm pretty sure they would appreciate it if I keep the ScrumMaster direction. Have to figure that one out, the sooner the better...

On to the personal stuff. This week the 3rd of four semesters of my masters degree started. Some surprises already awaited us, for example some deadlines which were so far completely untold to us. But not a big problem so far. Nevertheless I have still to finish some courses from the last semester and these examinations are already quite near. Some of my former bachelor degree colleagues also started to study on a masters degree. Their and my study situation are a bit different and furthermore I'm a year ahead with the studies but currently we all have the same feeling that our bachelors degree was something special and it seems we're all just comparing our current classes withAn the one from the bachelors degree. Currently the winner is clear (and for me the picture won't change much anymore I guess) but things could still change for my former colleagues when they have had more time in their semesters. Well... good ol' times... And one final thing, yesterday my old car which was still standing around and waiting for someone interested in buying it, found a buyer and was picked up yesterday. No more new memories with this old buddy anymore... farewell.

|

It seems now that it's time for me that I switch the sides a bit at work. Two to three weeks ago a certain project came up at work and the Scrum Master of my team made some stretches (thanks for this) to offer me the opportunity to work on this project as a Scrum Master of a new team.

I thought a lot about this opportunity because altough at first this seems as a step up in the company my personal perception is not that clear. A Scrum Master at our company has a certain responsibility for the success of the project its team is working on. But on the other side (our internal setup of) the Scrum Master is not granted the necessary decision power to be able to support this responsibility in an effective way. This has been set up because the "upper levels" sensed a gap in the responsibility chain when something goes wrong. After the Product Owner there is the nebulous "Team" which is responsible for the success. Yet, if there is no success you can't simply blame "the team". So our implementation of Scrum simply lifts the Scrum Master to a team leader role. This has been much-discussed but in the end that was the final decision and so far I think it works in most cases.

Of course it's not all black. There is the opportunity to guide a team, have some insight and influence in project and HR preparations, a better communication channel to the project managers and of course take the time to take care of all this stuff.

A similar offering has been made to me already some years ago but rejected shortly afterwards again because of business reasons. I've been quite disappointed back then (and I'm still a bit because the argumentation was... well... creative) and for a short moment I thought of rejecting myself because of this. Of course I didn't because this would signal a lack of interest which is absolutely not the case. I'm very interested in the opportunity of stepping a bit up from development and some temporarily supporting tasks for organizing stuff and work.

So, today I received the message that starting tomorrow I'll be the Scrum Master of a new team with a new project. The project is still in its preparation stages so I don't know how much of it is already far enough to enter the reach of the team or ready to be worked on. I also don't know exactly who will be on the team itself. Lots of open questions and things to discuss, decide and organize... I take the challenge!

At least one thing is already for sure and out of the question: the final delivery date...

|

Just yesterday I read the article from Joel Spolsky about A Little Less Conversation. Despite it being an article from the future, Feb. 1st, it reminded me a lot of the experiences I've collected in our company myself.

In short, Joel repeats once more the sadly not-common-knowledge that the more people are on a team the slower and less effective it gets. "Adding people to a late project makes it later!". He explains this counterintuitively effect, that the number communication paths does not grow in a linear way with the number of team members. Instead it grows much faster so that on a team with 10 people you already have 45 different paths of communication which have to be managed and synchronized. And if everyone on the team has to kept up-to-date with the information-flow the overhead for managing this information (even if just sorting into relevant/irrelevant) can quickly reach nontrivial amounts.

There are two ways to soften this problem. The one with the bigger impact is to keep your teams below a certain size. In our company the experience seems to come up that our Scrum teams work best if they do not exceed eight people. If with or without Scrum Master depends on the team. The second measure which can be taken is, that not everyone is invited or updated with information which is unrelevant for his or her position. Even more so if there is no influence possible for these people. But people also have to understand that it's not out of personal dislike or conflicts that they aren't kept up-to-date with everything on the company but that this lowered information-level allows them to concentrate more on their actual stuff which they are working on and removes a lot of unnecessary interruptions.

|

Since it's already time again for a new post and I have currently nothing interesting at hand, I'd like to just let you know that now it's the first day in this winter where water in its frozen aggregate state is falling from above (formulated that way to justify that I've been called 'nerd' quite often in the past few days :P)

In other news, the first iteration of our project for the university has now passed and from my perspective it went extremely well. The teams performed quite good, there haven't been any notable problems and in the end all our goals for this iteration have been met. For the upcoming iteration our lecturer already announced that he wants to distribute the work differently to enforce more conflicts between the teams as he already intended for this first iteration.

But I think our approach to keep the teams in their own "area" at the beginning to let them get comfortable with the development environment, the development style and organization of the project is better for us. That way the less experienced learn how a project can run if there aren't any large obstacles to overcome and aren't demotivated too early in the project. Later on, when they're already up to speed with the development they can be faced with other new aspects of project work like conflicting changes and more intense synchronization between the teams.

|

In the last week our group of students met several times online and we finished the generic planning phase for our project. The Scrum-like approach is working even better than I expected and the discipline and participation of the people is excellent. Bonus points apply because we're all distributed at different locations and have to schedule our meetings online only. And although our teacher for this lecture did not tell us directly I'm quite sure that he was also impressed by the things we've accomplished between the two lecture units we had so far. Everytime he brought up an issue or a question we could reply that we've already discussed that and present him a decision or solution.

Currently we're in the detailed planning and design phase and I expect the teams to begin the actual work after our regular meeting on Tuesday. I guess that with the zeal of the teams we'll have no serious problems meeting the expectations for the first iteration which ends at the end of October.

|

Last weekend was again filled with mostly university attendance. And with every new term there are new challenges of course. What's better than in the previous terms is, that it seems that now we're having only qualified lecturers. In the previous terms we always had the one or other teacher where we had more difficulties with the style of lecturing than with the topic itself.

So, whats on the next half year? A surprise was a lecture on project work and presentations because I only realized shortly before the start of the lesson that this is a full-english lecture. But should be no problem at all. The lecture on security and cryptography delivers exactly what the title suggests. Think of hackers trying to break into computers, applications and websites, that's one part of what this lecture contains. I guess the other part will be the opposite, how to prevent these attacks and to develop a feeling on security or insecurity of certain stuff.

For me personally the most interesting lectures so far are on mobile computing, system-close programming and specific chapters of software development. In mobile computing we'll be programming applications for mobile devices using JavaME and the Android Platform (on which I incidentally already created my first application last week). System-close programming will lead us into the depths of C where we'll be creating an own shell on the Linux platform. And in the last lecture on specific chapters of software development our class got split in three teams which will be working on a common project using agile and Scrum-influenced development methods. I'm on the integration team there but since I'm already very experienced with these methodologies the lecturer asked me to give more support to my classmates than doing actual work myself.

This all sounds as if it'll become the most interesting term so far but I also expect it to be the most work-intense either.

|

Today my next two weeks of vacation started. It's on Tuesday from now on because I aligned my vacation schedule with my companies sprints. That's better now because I'm not absent any more on the Sprint demo and retrospective of the sprint I've been present and also do not have to spend a day with demo and retro of a sprint where I haven't been present at all.

On this first vacation day I've been helping with the vintage of some relatives almost all day. Luckilly for us the weather today and in the last few days has been very good so that today we did not have to work in mud and dirt but instead had to put off our jackets because the temperatures were that high. And with vintage comes every time free catering :)

|

This Sprint was an unusual one for our team. Firstly most of our team is on vacation and furthermore we're dealing with a project in an area where we have never worked before. Luckilly the project manager for this new project is very helpful and gave us enough assistance that we could handle the planned parts for the project better than we thought.

As of now there should only be minor work left for tomorrow and we expect to be finished with it by tomorrow afternoon which is much better than all our expectations. So today we began with estimation meetings to add some additional work to the current sprint. This is not exactly following Scrum but fits our business needs, boosts our sprint productivity and just does make sense.

I do not know where this excellent productivity originates. One possibility could be that we just overestimated the upcoming work at Sprint-start because we never did something in that direction. Or it could be because the project manager prepared and helped us much more than any other in the past. Admittedly he's much more into the technical stuff then our other project managers. Or it could just be coincidence.

Nevertheless. In my opinion in this sprint I've been much more productive compared to many of the past sprints, except the ones where I've been assigned to another team. I personally think that the reason for my improved performance is that I and a colleague did quite strong and effective Pair Programming. We did that at my computers where my setup allowed us to work on a single screen and computer using two keyboards and mouses. It enabled us to instantly switch the active/passive roles if needed every few seconds. I haven't been that concentrated for quite some time. Also I think if you work together it's the same thing as in sports where you motivate each other.

What I also changed this sprint is that I tried to manage the tasks I take over with Eclise Mylyn. When I started with it it was not very comfortable but after some time, I think one or two days, I got used to it and development became more fluent and I was able to better focus to the task at hand. What helped me with the start was reading some introductory literature like the Mylyn 2.0 Tutorial (still highly relevant even if Mylyn is already at version 3.2) and watching the Mylyn 3.0 video presentation by Mik Kersten. My experiences with Mylyn will be content of another posting some time in the future. Just two things I think which are very important: Create mylyn tasks for issues or other workable topics as soon as they cross your mind and try to keep them focussed and small, maybe so that they can be done in not more than two to three hours. You can group them to larger tasks later.

I'm very curious how the feedback after this sprint from the project managers and development leaders will be and also from the other members of my team. I also hope, that we can maintain a bit of the effectivity from this sprint in the future.

|

On Friday I got feedback from the team where I've been assisting for some time. It seems, that I did quite well, the feedback was 100 percent positive and also accompanied by the statement that they would welcome it if I decided to permanently switch to them.

I have to admit that I already played with that thought a bit, but for now I think I'm not switching (yet). After checking back with my superiors there would be no problem at all, so it's really completely my own decision. After these results I think it will get more comon to exchange team members for a limited time cross-department. And I think that such exchanges will largely be positive as all concerned parties can learn from the experience.

In other news, I'm in bed. Yesterday in the very last minutes of playing Badminton I somehow tripped and hurt my ankle. It was quite painful but after about 10 minutes it went away and I could walk normally. Over the course of the afternoon and evening the ankle began to hurt just a bit and became swollen. This morning my ankle had the shape of a tennis ball and hurt much more than yesterday so I decided to give the hospital a visit. The physicals resulted in pulled ligaments and now I'm on sick leave for at least this week. And I guess, the revisit on Friday will result in that I should stay away from such fast-running sports for some time. Damn...

|

This week, the first week back at work after vacation, had quite an interesting start. Monday was without surprises, just Sprint demos and a bit of administrative work. But on Tuesday the interesting stuff began when I received an invitation for Sprint planning meetings of another team.

As it turned out, there had been some initial conversation about me helping in another team for a specific task but the discussion had no clear conclusion. In the end and after some negotiation between the teams we agreed that for the upcoming month I'm assigned to the other team. There I'll assist with their current tasks so that the task I've been originally requested for can be finished faster after the ones with higher priority are completed.

So I'm now completely shifted to a different team (the same I've already joined some time ago) for four weeks and after the first few days my impression is that as well the other team can benefit from my knowledge with the Scrum methodology as well as I can benefit from the different tools and experience how they solve their problems. A clear win-win situation.

Of course everything has been discussed with my other team and it posed no problem to them in the upcoming time.

Just one drawback is that the next vacation block in two weeks had to be canceled because of these changes. But since I've got plenty of vacation left for this year, this is fine with me.

|

For a few days now I've been joining another development team in our company to work on something which is more related to this team than to my current SCRUM team.

This experience is like a Deja'Vu.
The new team is just existing for 2 sprints (~4 weeks) and being in it reminds me of the beginning time of our own SCRUM team a year ago.

It's like a look in our own past where we hadn't applied SCRUM as we do today and our team was not working as closely together.

But they have the same learning progress which we had, even faster than ourselves. And that's something they have to do on their own, this cannot be done by explaining or trainings.

I think this team has the potential to become very successful.

|

1

Archives