Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Orlando Scrum Gathering 2009

I just came back from the gathering last week. It was different this time from the past gatherings in that this time the event was graced by the presence of industry heavy hitters like Ron Jeffries (Co-developer of XP), Jim Copline (The author of "Advanced C++" that helped me shape my understanding of C++ and OO early in my career), Alistair Cockburn (famous for his book "Writing Effective Use Cases" and Agile process called "Crystal"), Dr. Mark Paulk (led the work on CMM at SEI), and last but not least Gregory Balestrero (President and CEO of PMI). As you can see from the lineup, Scrum Alliance has done a great job of inviting these people and initiating an industry wide collaboration around software development process.

What to expect in the coming months? Scrum Alliance has engaged Dr. Paulk to do empirical research on Scrum. He is going to focus on Agile and Scrum practices and help the Agile community to understand what practices really contribute to the success of projects. With the inclusion of PMI, we would see more and more practices being included in the PMBOK. There is a growing trend among PMPs to adopt Scrum and Agile practices. A group of PMI members has already formed a pmiagile Yahoo group to promote agile practices within PMI. This group has been officially recognized by the PMI.

What's Scrum community grappling with? From the types of discussions I heard at the event, it seems the adoption of Scrum has come a long way. The top things now-a-days on the minds of most Agile teams are,

  1. User Story vs Use Case. It was thought that User Stories are going to replace Use Cases. However, it seems people are still using Use Cases (especially on large projects) in at least some light weight format along with User Stories as they lack high level contexts. Jeff Payton's "User Story Map" technique to address this gap in User Story is becoming popular. He was at the gathering and offered sessions on it. Alistair is a vocal advocate of continuing to use Use Cases. Surprise, surprise...:-) He wrote an article on User Stories vs Use Cases for the Lean magazine (I thought I could get the article from Alistair's site or from the magazine's, but I could not).

  2. Agile Architecture. Jeff Sutherland and Jim Coplien had a session on how architecture can help a team becoming more Agile. There is a trend among Agile teams to only rely on continuous refactoring to have a suitable/consistent architecture emerge over time. They lose sight of the importance of starting on the right foot with some upfront "architecture thinking." Jim is working on an new architectural pattern called DCI (data, context and interaction) that could set the OO developers free from the shortcomings ("algorithm" part of the stories is usually scattered among many domain entities/models and get in the way to becoming Agile) associated with MVC.

  3. ScrumBut. Most teams can be considered ScrumBut, a termed coined by Ken Schwaber (I think) to point out how teams are not taking full advantage of Scrum practices. While the intent of ScumBut is to help team identify where they have improvement opportunities, it is creating confusion and frustration in the minds of the practitioners in that if there is such thing called "Pure Scrum" (which seems to be an illusive target). The whole confusion around the term ScrumBut (which gathered more negative, almost derogatory, connotation than it was intended for) lies in its definition based on a check list of mechanics. In fact, it was brought up in the panel discussion at the gathering that the definition of Scrum as found on the Scrum Alliance site as 3 roles, 3 rituals, and 3 tools hide the true essences of Agile captured in the Agile Manifesto. The mechanics are there to help teams get started, but they, by no means, are "sliver bullets." Each team needs to find its unique practices (customized through "inspect and adapt") that help them incrementally deliver working software that maximizes value for the customers.
Alistair nicely summed up the underpinnings of Agile process movement this way,
Self-awareness (focus of Crystal), self-discipline (focus of XP), and self-organization (focus of Scrum).

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Are You Getting The Most Out of Your Daily Scrum?

I was recently out on a six-week trip to our offshore development center in Bangladesh. When I came back, I found out that the Scrum team I am coaching has changed the format of the Daily Scrum. They were doing the Daily Scrum in the traditional stand-up format in front of a physical task board. However, we always felt that the Daily Scrum was not as effective as we want it to be. We tried different things in the past to make the most out of our Daily Scrum. Nothing seemed to work, and hence always fell back to the basic format.

The team is now using a projector to use the electronic task board available in ScrumPad during the Daily Scrum. I, to be honest, was surprised and a little skeptical at first. The team felt that this new format is helping everyone better follow what others are saying in the Daily Scrum. It seems the verbal communication is being reinforced by the visual elements. It remains to be seen that how long we can continue to follow this new format.

One of the challenges of traditional Daily Scrum is to really "listen" to what others' are saying. An effective daily Scrum should allow everyone to understand how individual work is contributing towards achieving the team's Sprint goals. Anytime the team falls out of sync, it should become obvious in the Daily Scrum. And the team should take appropriate steps to recover/compensate. Thus the Daily Scrum works as "a daily feedback loop" to keep the team on the same page. It is easier said then done though.

How effective is your Daily Scrum?