Friday, August 28, 2015

Making do during vacation

In Spain summer is the season when most people tend to take their vacation: I would say every team member spends an average of two or three weeks out of the office during the months of July and August.

This fact creates some trouble in the running of the Scrum methodology during that period, mainly due to a couple of reasons:

- On the one hand, the vacation periods usually match one or more calendar weeks, starting on a Monday and finishing on a Sunday, instead of doing it with the iterations or sprints. In other words: developers and business staff leave the team before a sprint has finished, and rejoin it when a new sprint is on its way. In my opinion, only really cross-functional teams have the ability to smoothly overcome this difficulty, since the tasks associated to the user stories planned for each iteration are not pre-assigned to a specific team member.

- On the other hand, it's also time for the vacation of the Scrum Master, a key element in driving the methodology: she encourages the team in focusing on each sprint goals, and assists in solving impediments. So, what to do in the absence of the Scrum Master? In my opinion, an experienced member of the team can temporarily take charge of most of her responsibilities just by following a couple of rules:

  1. Facilitate the ceremonies (plannings, demos, retros, and so on)
  2. Spend time on assisting teammates to remove the obstacles of their blocked tasks
I know: easier said than done, but sure an achievable goal with the help of the team.

As August is coming to its end, my current team has already underwent a couple of months that involved the product increment corresponding to four sprints, and we have done it under circumstances that resemble my previous description. In my upcoming return back to the office, I hope that all our planned actions have proven successful in coping with this unconventional situation!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Training is a plus

I hope you have noticed my long period of writing "drought". I would probably be in trouble, otherwise ;)

And the reason for this three-month period of inactivity is related to an effort, equally mine and of my company, to improve my knowledge and skills on Agile methodologies through formal training. Basically, I have attended a couple of courses that have changed, maybe not radically, but sure significantly and positively my consideration of my current job as Scrum Master.

On the one hand, I have had the opportunity to go through a SPC course by Scaled Agiled Inc. The course prepares you for the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) Program Consultant certification exam, and makes an overall and intense trip into the foundations of this methodology, which, leveraging from Lean and Scrum principles, enables medium-size and big companies to organize their software development around agile teams.

My key learnings? SAFe extraordinary ability to effectively coordinate large workgroups, up until around 150 people, in an incremental and iterative software development with a common goal and scope (agile release trains); and also the appealing simplicity of the budget management in the search of value generation at the level of the portfolio layer.

And my main outcome? Of course, my certification as SPC one week later! :)

On the other hand, I have received a course designed to prepare for the PMI certification in this field: the PMI-ACP or Agile Certified Practitioner, a first-class abridgment that spans many approaches to agile (Scrum, Kanban, Lean, XP and so on), providing you with a comprehensive view of this subject matter and its many flavors.

My key learnings? The common factors and benefits that have led different people to give birth to and to embrace the agile techniques and practices, even with some significant variations in their approaches. In other words, the conviction that the malleable nature of the raw material software engineering works with (i.e., software code) is more efficiently turned into value through agile methodologies.

In summary, I have had the opportunity to feel the robustness and richness of the agile methodologies from an academic perspective and to compare that information with my daily experience. And now I can say that I have found out many opportunities to improve my professional performance just by putting some of those learnings into action.

PS  I hope I will be able to give you good news about my ACP certification soon ;)