Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Scrum Breakfast Club

Scrum Breakfast Club a few weeks ago and yesterday I participated in my second workshop. The Scrum Breakfast Club in Zurich is a safe space for people who are passionate about being Agile… and transforming their companies into more Agile places. Every month, we get together in a neutral location to learn, share, solve problems and be Agile. The club was started and hosted by Peter Stevens from Saat Network.
I joined the

Workshops at the Scrum Breakfast Club are designed according to the Open Space Technology format. Seen by proponents as especially scalable and adaptable, the OST event format has been used in meetings of 5 to 2,100 people. The approach is characterized by a few basic mechanisms:

1) a broad, open invitation which articulates the purpose of the meeting;
2) participants' chairs arranged in a circle;
3) a "bulletin board" of issues and opportunities posted by participants;
4) a "marketplace" with many break-out spaces that participants move freely between, learning and contributing as they "shop" for information and ideas;
5) a "breathing" or "pulsation" pattern of flow, between plenary and small-group breakout sessions.

The approach is most distinctive for its initial lack of an agenda, which sets the stage for the meeting's participants to create the agenda for themselves, in the first 30–90 minutes of the meeting or event. Typically, an "open space" meeting will begin with short introductions by the sponsor and usually a single facilitator. The sponsor introduces the purpose; the facilitator explains the "self-organizing" process called "open space." Then the group creates the working agenda, as individuals post their issues in bulletin board style. 

Each individual "convener" of a breakout session takes responsibility for naming the issue, posting it on the bulletin board, assigning it a space and time to meet, and then later showing up at that space and time, kicking off the conversation, and taking notes. These notes are usually compiled into a proceedings document that is distributed physically or electronically to all participants. Sometimes one or more additional approaches are used to sort through the notes, assign priorities, and identify what actions should be taken next. Throughout the process, the ideal facilitator is described as being "fully present and totally invisible","holding a space" for participants to self-organize, rather than managing or directing the conversations.   

The workshop yesterday was titled "How do you build self organisation and accountability in the Team?". The first workshop I participated was titled "How do we convince customers, stakeholders, management and even team members to do Scrum?". I have enjoyed both workshops very much. Because of the format you will have to participate actively in order to get real value from the event. But I personally think that is what makes it interesting, lively and a great learning experience. On top you get to know lots of like minded people with similar problems and challenges.

Upcoming Workshops

- What can we learn from other methods, like Kanban, Management 3.0 or Radical Management? 02/11/2015
- What engineering practices really help team performance? 30/11/2015

If you join the club, come as often as you want, and there is at least one experienced trainer who’s there to help you but probably more of them. You can improve your condition, improve you skills, and have fun while meeting new people who share the passion for Agile and Scrum.

Why does it cost money to join?

SBC Charges CHF 545 a year. Many user groups are free, many meet-ups are free. Why does it cost money to join a Scrum Breakfast Club chapter?

The first and most essential point: You are a member, not the product. Our goal is to enable regular peer-to-peer learning and networking experiences, so you learn what you need to know and meet who need to meet — when you need to!

If you (and we) want this to be sustainable, how do we do it? Many social networks, like Facebook or Google+ offer free services in exchange for learning everything about you and profiting from that knowledge. Many so-called user groups are actually marketing events run by Agile consultancies. The Scrum Breakfast Club is neither.

The Scrum Breakfast Club and its Chapters exist to enable learning and networking among its members. SBC workshops are not marketing events and the club does not share or exploit your data for material gain. Learning and Networking is the value we bring to you. It costs real money and takes real time to make this happen. Your membership fees cover these costs.

Scrum Educational Units

The Zurich Chapter is recognized by the Scrum Alliance as an official user group, so you can claim up to 40 Scrum Educational Units (“SEUs”) towards your advanced qualification, the Certified Scrum Professional

Interested in joining us?

The Scrum Breakfast Club in Zurich is a safe space for people who are passionate about being Agile… and transforming their companies into more Agile places. Every month, we get together in a neutral location to learn, share, solve problems and be Agile.

Is that you? Would you like to be a part of that group? Then the Scrum Breakfast Club is for you! Interested in joining us? Let me know! I can bring along a guest for free.

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Monday, September 21, 2015

The Unofficial Scrum Checklist

After finishing the book "The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right " from Atul Gwande I was thinking about a number of checklists that I am using on a regular basis myself. One of those lists is the unofficial Scrum Checklist by Henrik Kniberg.

The Scrum Checklist is a simple tool to help you get started with Scrum, or assess your current implementation of Scrum. Note that these aren’t rules. They are guidelines. A team of 2 people might decide to skip the daily Scrum, since they are pair programming all day anyway and might not need a separate meeting to synchronize. Fine. Then they have intentionally skipped a Scrum practice but ensured that the underlying purposeof the scrum practice has been fulfilled in another way. That is what counts! If you are doing Scrum it might be interesting to have the team go through this list at a retrospective. As a discussion tool, not an evaluation tool.
click to enlarge
How to use the checklist

Joe: “For this retrospective, I’ve brought a useful little checklist. Is there any of this stuff that we aren’t doing?”

Lisa: “Hmmm, let’s see. Well, we’re certainly missing Definition of Done, and we don’t measure Velocity.”

Joe: “Well, ‘Definition of Done’ is listed under ‘Core Scrum’ so it seems pretty important! Velocity is listed under ‘Recommended but not always necessary’ so let’s wait with that and start with the core stuff.

Lisa: “Look, we’re also missing ‘Delivering working, tested software every 4 weeks or less’. That’s listed under ‘The bottom line’! Makes sense, because marketing is always complaining about that!”

Joe: “Maybe a concept like ‘Definition of Done’ could help us take on smaller bits per sprint and get stuff releasable more often?’

Lisa: “Good idea, let’s give it a shot.”

How NOT to use the checklist

Big Boss: “OK team, time to see how Scrum compliant you are. Fill in this checklist please.”

Joe: “Boss, I’m happy to report that we are doing everything. Well, everything except Sprint burndown charts”

Big Boss: “Bad, bad team! It says here that you should be doing those… er…  sprint burning thingies! I want them!”

Lisa: “But we do 2 week sprints and almost always manage to deliver what we commit to, and the customers are happy. Sprint burndown charts wouldn’t add value at this stage.”

Big Boss: “Well it says here that you should do it, so don’t let me catch you cheating again, or I’ll call in the Scrum Police!”

You can download the PDF version from Henrik's website.

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Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Scrum beyond Software

In the past I used Scrum and other Agile methods very successfully on Software Development and Business Intelligence projects. That these kind of projects can benefit tremendously from Agile methods is covered in many books and articles across the globe. Of course it only made really sense to use Agile methods when most of the requirements were not known upfront, the requirements were not stable during the project and incremental product development was possible. And of course the best results came when the whole organization was willing to embrace Agile and not just the development team.

The last six years or so I kind of specialized on large Data Migration and Legacy System Migration projects and used Scrum on most of them. With a few add-ons and guidelines, which I will cover in a follow up article, I found Scrum to be the ideal framework for such larger migration projects. This is kind of a logical consequence because a large Data Migration or Legacy System Migration project is typically a combination of multiple Software Development and Business Intelligence projects (ETL). The things that comes on top with such projects are the new business processes, the data clean-up and the actual crossover from using the old system to the new one. Large migration projects typically mean multiple teams, so scaling Scrum becomes a topic as well, but this is no different from any larger Software Development project with multiple teams. You could use for example the LeSS Framework for guidance.

My latest project was an actuarial modeling project for a large insurance company (See 14 Principles of Agile Actuarial Modeling). Actuarial modeling applies mathematics and statistics to assess risk in the insurance and finance industries. Building actuarial models for clients, including internal clients, is a difficult and complex task. Much has been written on how to approach the challenge of managing a modeling project, and almost all of this guidance describes, more or less, a Waterfall model. They may use different terms, but it is the same: specification, design, development, testing, and implementation.

It's no surprise that actuarial modeling projects that follow this method suffer from similar issues as software development and BI projects that are managed this way. My recent project was no exception. Therefore, we decided to implement Scrum for managing the modeling project. I was charged with helping to make the transition. During the transition and after the first few months of running it with Scrum, I learned many new things. Although actuarial modeling has some similarities to software development, it is not quite the same. But Scrum fitted very well for us, and we all were very happy with the results.

This experience got me curious about what was known on the use of Scrum in other areas as well and I started searching for some well documented case studies. These are a selection of my findings: 


Marketing teams can use Scrum to organize their campaigns and draw readers from the top of the funnel down toward conversion. Campaign phases can be broken apart into sprints of varying scope, either dealing with the entire funnel stratum or dealing with a set of content that needs to be created. Marketing-software company HubSpot has used Scrum to achieve greater transparency and prioritization in their own campaigns. See Get Agile: Running a Marketing Team Like a Startup


Wikispeed’s 100 miles-per-gallon, road-legal prototype car is a nice example of using Scrum to design and manufacturing. Wikispeed founder Joe Justice used his 44-person team to develop a functional prototype of the car in just three months. He used weeklong sprints to produce a new iteration of the car every seven days until completion. See http://wikispeed.org/


Lonely Planet’s Travel Guides
Prior to Scrum, the development of a book was very sequential and required many hand-offs and took a long a time to get a book out from conception to publication. Now they involve all players needed to put a book together (writers, graphic artists, desktop publishing, marketing, editors etc) and incrementally develop the book chapter by chapter following the Scrum framework.

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