On Thursday, August 23, 2012 Tom Wessel, presented the web seminar “How to be a Great ScrumMaster.” In this one-hour web seminar, Tom examined the fundamentals of Agile Leadership as they apply to the ScrumMaster role.
Prior to implementing Scrum, many of us are classically trained Project Managers. We are taught to master the tools and techniques of the profession. Unfortunately, many of us are not taught key leadership skills and we struggle to fulfill the purpose of the ScrumMaster role. When we manage, rather than lead, our teams can feel controlled and their productivity can suffer. We need to learn the core behaviors of a leader, so that we can help foster the kind of environment where hyper-productive Scrum teams can flourish.
Listen to a recording of this web seminar in its entirety by clicking View Event Recordings (at the top right).
If a set of tests were scheduled to be done within two weeks but then the customer changes their mind and they want it done at a less time, what do you do at that point? Sometimes, the customer is not knowledgeable and so relies on your expertise to get the job done?
When implementing agile, it is important that the customer understands the agile process and their role within it. Specifically, the team commits to x amount of work for an iteration. They should be allowed to focus on that work without interruption until the iteration is complete. The customer should honor that knowing that they can introduce new work for execution in next iteration. Since the iterations are short in duration, they should be able to wait.
How can a scrum master rely on planning poker estimation?
The ScrumMaster relies quite a bit on the planning poker estimates. Planning Poker estimates (i.e. Relative Estimation using Story Points) are used as a planning tool along with the team’s average velocity (the amount of Story Points the team completes on average per iteration). The ScrumMaster tracks the team’s average velocity from iteration to iteration. They use it to determine how much work the team can commit to during iteration planning. Furthermore, they update the release plan after each iteration to see how the change in average velocity impacts the overall release.
I was just assigned the Scrum Master on a project. I have had minimal Agile training, and I am not technical. Just based on what you have discussed and I stay on top of the impediments and make sure the team works their tasks, do you think this is ok?
Yes. My recommendation is for you to seek out information on the Scrum process and the role of the ScrumMaster so that you can become quickly up-to-speed. Amazon contains several books on the topic and there are many sites to aid you the process. Here are a few: www.scrumalliance.org, www.agilesherpa.org, agile.vc.pmi.org/Public/Home.aspx,
Is the technical expertise needed for a ScrumMaster to be able to successfully lead the team or is it enough to just master the Scrum process?
I would say that understanding the Scrum process is key. Having technical expertise is a great benefit as well as business domain knowledge, etc. but it is essential that the ScrumMaster understand the agile process and required skill.
What about non Scrum Story working sessions that the PO holds without the Scrum Master, how does the SM go about getting info from that meeting. Do we ask for an action item list or meeting recap? These are PO specific meetings that decide what to do with a story.
In the agile process, the ScrumMaster and team is exposed to upcoming work in the following ways:
First and foremost, they have visibility into the Product Backlog, which is the single mechanism to capture and prioritize work for the team regardless of its source.
The ScrumMaster and team also get exposed to new stories during regularly scheduled Story Review meetings. The purpose of these meetings is for the Product Owner to communicate stories that will need to be developed in near term sprints so that the team can ask questions and get a sense of the total work effort so they can assign a relative estimate to the work. The team may revisit stories in subsequent sprint review sessions if more elaboration is needed before going into an Iteration Planning session.
Another area of visibility is the Release Plan. It communicates a tentative placement of stories into Iterations for the release based on their priority and the team’s average velocity. This gives the team a heads up as to when certain stories will get developed. Keep in mind, the release plan is updated after each sprint so that execution timeframe of a particular story may change.
I’m a college student who has been serving as a Scrum master in training at my internship. What is the best way to advance my learning of agile and scrum and eventually get certified?
There are three areas that you will want to pursue: experience, self learning and training. You have already started on the first two items. If you can continue in your internship as a ScrumMaster, then do so. That is the best way to increase your learning and build the experience you will need for the PMI-ACP certification. You may also want to consider playing the ScrumMaster role on any projects you have at school whether they are software development focused or not. For example, most school projects are team based that bring together people with diverse skills. You could educate the group on the Scrum process and volunteer as the ScrumMaster. The team could use the Scrum process to chunk and conquer the work based on priorities using time-boxed iterations. Also, it forces each member to take ownership and become accountable for deliverables. This is important in school projects where invariably a few people do most of the work and there are one or two that contribute little.
Regarding learning, continue to attend webinars. Seek out an agile community either in the city you reside or start one at school. Read blogs on the topics and check out books from the library on the topic. PMI-ACP has a reading list to get you started. Here is the link: http://www.pmi.org/Certification/~/media/Files/PDF/Agile/PMI000-GainInsightsAIGLE418.ashx.
I would also consider training. Attend a CSM class or Agile boot camp. This will help expose you to the basic skills you need to evolve your understanding. All of the activities above will move you toward meeting the requirements of the PMI-ACP exam.
How does agile fit into fixed term, fixed budget and fixed schedule project, when requirements are still changing?
It fits in quite while. The variable is scope. The customer needs to prioritize the work. The team can then complete as much of the work that is possible within the constraints of schedule and budget. That is the best they can do. The customer may have to make decisions if not all of the work can be completed during that time. Think of it as going to the grocery store with only $100. You may not be able to buy all of the food items you would like. As a result, you will need to prioritize what items you really need versus what you want.