Rants and Blogs

Thursday, March 3, 2011

On the Same Page or In the Same Boat?

What is a ScrumMaster Really?

Are you asking yourself what Scrum is?  Search for it on the Internet and you will find either Rugby references or a bunch of diagrams with arrows or big blocks turning into little boxes.  Now, do you know what Scrum is?  Yeah...  That’s what I thought…
You or someone that you know is one of the millions in today’s world who has had to pull their belt tighter.  You find that your mailbox is filling with bills that you cannot fully pay.  Sitting down at night you lay out each of the bills on the table and now you can see what is in front of you reflecting on the pay changes and economical responses of the company you work for.  At this point you have a few choices.  You can do nothing and drown in debt, plan how to pay them when you find a new job, or you can get started and dig out.
You only have so much money in your account and won’t have any more until payday so you call each of these companies and ask if they can wait for two weeks.  Some of them work with you, some don’t, and others would accept a partial payment now.
At this point you know what has to be done so you turn to the wife and kids and ask who can do what to get this done.  Your child says he can mow the lawn so you no longer have to pay for lawn care and the wife speaks up to say that she is going to start cutting coupons.
Each morning before everyone heads off to get gas for the mower or pick up the papers for coupons, you briefly hold a family meeting to find out what they did towards their goals yesterday and what it is that they plan on doing today.  Before everyone takes off to do just that you ask, “What problems are you running into?”  The wife found that often she needs a coupon from each side of the paper.  When she brings this to you, you decide to get a second paper while she cuts the first allowing her to acquire both coupons.  Maybe you instead have her continue cutting and filing while you search online for a website that allows her to print these coupons.
Doing this just got you to next payday and it is time to pay up on what you put off so you begin this routine again.  It worked so far, right? Pay off the some and pay on others.  Now that you have once again determined what has been done and what needs to be done you go back to the family and thank them for what they did.  Your child turns and says,  “Hey, I can take the bus to school with my new friend so you don’t have to use gas money to drive me each day” and the wife says, “I had some time the other night and found a new user group online that shares coupons allowing for more relevant coupons to the household.  We no longer need the papers.” Now you’ve speak up to suggest that next time the lawn is mowed that it should be cut shorter to extend the time between cuts, thus saving on gas and time.  Again, whew, you are on your way to the next pay check and everyone has picked up a piece of the solution to get you they’re allowing for optimization along the way.
Now let’s look at what you have accomplished.  The companies wanting their money (Product Owners) laid out what they need with some foresight (The Bill and Summary).  Some could wait and others were ok as long as you gave them something and got started towards the end product via negotiation, even though they have independent agendas as product owners.  You just groomed your Product Backlog.
Next you met with your family (Team) (Sprint Planning Meeting) and each member took on what they could establishing your Sprint Backlog.  While they worked on what needed to be done, you managed to keep them on those goals by removing any problems (Impediments) that came up.  These impediments were discovered as they worked and put on the table at breakfast, the Daily Scrum.

You – Scrum Master – Removed Impediment, checked the psychology of the team, provided feedback and alternative solutions to the product owners, and negotiation prioritization for seemingly unrelated products.

Family – Team – Worked to improve the way the work was done, let the product drive the work being done, and kept their promise to keep communications on the table.

Companies – Product Owners – stated what they needed, worked with the team to establish a common acceptance criteria, and left the team alone during the sprint. 

Two weeks went by (Sprint) and you got another paycheck.  In contacting the companies you review what was done (Sprint Review Meeting).  Then you met back with the family, talked about how it was great that they accomplished what they needed to and how you can do it better, such as mowing the lawn shorter (Sprint Retrospective).  You plan for the time between now and the next paycheck (Sprint Planning Meeting) <-- again...Life finds a way.
What did Scrum do for you?  You might be thinking at this point that this is no way to live.  Why are you living paycheck to paycheck rather than planning long term and getting out of this?  So, let’s go back to the original options…  You can do nothing, plan long term while acquiring late charges and possibly having your cable turned off, or you can start the work and dig out.
Break this nightmare down into to manageable sizes (Sprints) and start working with those that you owe (Product Owner).  As you find a new job, get more information or whatever steers you away from the chaos you will find that you are not two months behind on your bills now.
Now for the most important lesson in Scrum.  So now you have a new job and rehired the lawn crew.  Apply this framework to something else chaotic in your life and simply pay your damn bills going forward.
Establish and apply standards for your time/place in time boxes and congratulations!  You are now a Scrum Master.

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