As mentioned in my post some weeks back, I’m now attending my Professional Scrum Master training course here in lovely Burlington, Mass. and have completed my first full day of sessions. For the curious, here’s a few of my observations about how it’s gone so far.
First, if you ever do the PSM course in Boston with Schwaber, get in a day earlier and leave a day late. The traffic up the I93 and over the I95 is horrendous. And I don’t know what I’d do without a GPS – seriously.
Schwaber now has a permanent training room in a facility on 15 3rd Ave. – you can tell by the “Scrum” lettering on the windows near the door. Each day starts at 8:30 sharp, and in keeping with the philosophy of the Daily Scrum, if you are late you get to pay into a “Cup of Absolution” that is later donated to a charity of the group’s choice.
My session is well-attended, with fifteen attendees from all over the US, and one fellow from Sweden. A common thread is that almost everyone has been using and applying Scrum within their organization and have their own stories about what’s been going horrendously off the rails for them. It’s good to know that you’re not alone and have people who “speak the language” of a shared struggle.
We’re divided into “teams” seated at three tables – first exercise was to choose a team name, get to know each other and provide definition of Scrum and what we wanted to get out of the course. Good as an ice-breaker.
After this we covered the basics of Scrum: What it is, where it came from, the theory and first principles, how teams are composed, the key artifacts (Product / Sprint Backlog), Daily Scrum, product increment and transparency in project activity. Interspersed throughout are exercises that help to emphasize the key values and illustrate good and bad approaches to the problem solving that Scrum requires.
Schwaber’s delivery style is definitely of the Socratic vs. Didactic approach, which is to say he doesn’t stoicly lecture, but introduces a topic, tells supporting stories and engages everyone. Every so often you can expect to have a short, five-minute exercise to do with your team that usually sets up a topic that Schwaber expands on with some great anecdotes. This opens the door for people to add their own experiences and gives the material greater context.
What’s impressed me most is that I’ve actually been learning new things about Scrum that I didn’t anticipate. For example, we had a really interesting exercise that asked us if it was appropriate for a CEO to start a round of applause during a Sprint Review (it isn’t). This brought to mind a story I often tell about one of my more successful Sprints where just such a thing happened, and it set the groundwork for actually demoralizing the team later on as they tried to get ever more adulation, but failed.
However, I think the most revealing thing I’ve learned so far is that I need to trust my teams more and that by interfering and helping them too much, I inadvertently create a dependency on myself that gives them an easy out. It’s critical to let teams organize on their own and devise their own solutions – this cannot happen if you are continually holding their hands. In fact, the team should be able to do almost all of the Scrum ceremony and practices without the Scrum Master.
Tomorrow we cover more in-depth details on planning, reporting, total cost of ownership, dealing with change, scaling Scrum and the Scrum Master role. I’m looking forward to it – this is definitely the most worthwhile course I’ve taken in some time.