Saturday, February 21, 2009

Initiating Scrum at a new customer and training the team .

Last week I had really a good opertunity. A customer located in Stavenger wanted to impliment SCRUM for their project management process. So I was just there to help them on that with a new project.

The customer didn’t have any matured project management methodologies, frameoworks or tools already in place. Therefore setting up the new process was much more easier.
When we arrived, they have already got the “Ideal place” for the scrum team. It was a very open spacious room with a round table , White board.. so everybody could sit there and dicuss ideas freely. The highlight was all the refreshments and foods (wont forget Cinnamon and honey muffins )and drinks and chocolotes.. wow I love this scrum team.
Ok How did I start?

I had an idea about the customer and the nature of business/Projects before I arrived.
1. First I explained them the difference between our normal traditional project management methodologies and scrum. As most the people i meet, some of this team members also thought Agile is Scrum. So I had to explain them Scrum is Agile and Agile is not scrum :) then again I made it very clear to them the difference between looking at software project management from the manufacturing angle instead of looking at the construction industry.

2. Once they had a good overview about the framework , I asked one of their team members to give an overview of the project which they have selected to manage using scrum as a Pilot Scrum project. The idea is to manage this project using scrum, get the Scrum culture introduced to the organisation , and then once the project is sucessful, to roleout the process to all the company projects.
(Another nice thing which I couldn’t mention about this scrum team is that they had 2 members from Stavenger and 2 Members from my SL team onsite .. so multi cultural team)

3. Then we started assigning roles.. Who is going to be a product owner , Scrum master and the team and their expertiese. We decided the software manager of the company as the product owner for this specific product as he has the ownership of the product and easy access to all the stakeholders.
4. The Teachlead of the team became the scrum master and my 2 guys and other developers were the scrum team.
5. So we started creating a product backlog. Before me arriving they have created one .. But it looked more like a task list to me. And it had 300 items.. So we started creating a product backlog to create a web application framework for the company .
6. Once we created the product backlog.. I trained them on how to play planning poker and weigh the product backlog. We were not prepared with a proper planning poker card set so we just created our own sets.
7. It was bit exausting excersise at first to get the team and the product owner in to Planning poker. But after 2 , 3 user stories there was really a good progress.
8. Then the product owner added the priority to each story. For this product owner everythign was 1st priority.. so there I am again.. Convincing :)
9. Then he mentioned at what points he needs releases.
10. We called it a day there as we all were exausted.. Specialy the product owner. :)
11. The next day .. we all met at 8 Am.. ( I had only 2 days allocated for this whole thing and I had to leave at 4 PM to the Airport to take a flight to Oslo back. So it was not easy..)
12. Ok the sprint planning meeting. The mangement had some concern ….do we have to spend this much of time for these planing sessions.?. My Answer was “Yes” Because in scrum, the time we spend for planning session is not just planning task. We ellaborate hell of a lot there when it comes to requirements and moderator can just document them as a base for requirement doc .
13. They wanted 5 day scprint first.. Quite strange but nice. Because the idea of the 1st sprint was to complete studying the exisitng framework and system and coming up with a new frame work design.
14. We selected the required user stories and then split them in to atomic level tasks.. The time was not right to play a planning poker game again to asign caleries for each task so the team disucsss and weigh the sprint ( Yes I don’t recommend this.. but some times we have to use shortcuts at trainings J )
15. Then the number of hours were also specified for the tasks. This was bit of a hard thing.
16. I explained them how they should start dailiy scrum meeting next day and thehow they should track caleries burned each day by each team member.
17. Then they asked me what tools to use, any scrum tools off the shelf, team system what? I said NO. because at this time what is important is the concept and how they use it to run the project. Not the tool. So I prepared some Excel templates for the product Backlog, Product Burn down velocity, Sprint back log, sprint burn down velocity , Impediment log and Sprint review template. So they have to work with XL first as it’s the most simplest way to do it.
18. It was time for me to depart.. they showed lot of confidence on the method.. it will take some time to establish as the main challenge of scrum is the mentality change and not anything else.
It was kinda sad to leave such a good team, but they can contact me at any time for any clarifications so there were no much risks.
Overall it was really nice 2 days and good workshop.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What is a dumb question..?

Ok first of all I don’t believe there are any dumb questions.. Its only dumb people. No questions are dumb. But people who don’t question are really dumb.
As a project Manager /Scrum master you need your team members to ask questions. You need your product owner /customer to ask questions.. you need your senior management and other stakeholders to ask you questions. If they don’t question and if they don’t ask questions freely , the payback you have will be too much for you to handle at the end of the project.
So how do you get people around you to question you ..? Its very simple... Create that environment around the project. Make it a project culture.. Every team member should be able to question about each other and about the product.. and about the requirements.
To my surprise I have come across with many project managers who create a shield to prevent others questioning about the project by being defensive for questions. This is really a bad syndrome. They have no idea how others around them could really help them to get them on line. Early awareness about issues to the management and to the customer really help to find solutions before its too late.
I still cant understand why a project manger cannot show his or her application design to a business manager.. and questions such as .. by looking at from the outside , do you think that this is user friendly enough ? Do you see any risks in this schedule which I have not seen so far.. its really important for a project managers to create this situation in any project. We all know scrum facilitate this situation. But unfortunately all the projects under the sun are not proper scrum projects. So no matter what the methodologies you use or technologies you use, it’s totally up to you to create enough transparency about your projects to encourage questions.

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