In my previous article, I gave my impressions of my 2 days at Scrum Australia. As I mentioned, I ran a session which was an experience report of my time with Toll Global Logistics, helping out Risto Pearce, their Technical Development Manager, and his teams. Here is how it went.
Our goal for the session was:
To give an insight into to implementing and using Scrum in a corporate IT environment, and particularly the management perspective.
We wanted to not just stand at a lectern with some slides, so we decided to go for a fireside chat format. You can see a prominent example of this, in the video below:
I played the role of Walt Mossberg/Kara Swisher, with Risto as the Bill Gates/Steve Jobs figure.
You can see the structure, and the questions that we prepared for the session in this Google Drive document. The Prezi that you can see at the top of this post, was used to add some visual interest, allowing me to dive in and show some photos to illustrate some of the points being made.
We didn’t stick rigidly to the questions, as we wanted to keep things fairly informal and to be able to, depending on audience questions, explore different routes, Choose You Own Adventure style. This means that what is in the document, isn’t exactly what happened on the day. My summary below, blends elements of both to give you an idea of what transpired. There’s more detail in the Google Document.
Starting up and training
Risto was fortunate to have good support from his organisation; he said they are supportive of new processes and technologies that can provide the company with competitive advantages
There are so many advantages with Agile for delivering on time, responding to change and minimising rework that it was easy to make a business case to support it.
Is the cost of doing business inefficiently or ineffectively greater…yes.
He stressed the importance of training for his team and also for himself:
If I’m supposed to make decisions about agile I needed to be do the same training as the team
Risto said that he had known agile/Scrum for a while, but had an impression that it was for people that didn’t like writing specifications or following process. The reality, as he sees it, is that it as disciplined as any other development technique that he has ever used before.
When it came to putting the training into practice, he said that:
We chose an existing project that was well understood so we could apply agile techniques, to make sure we stayed on track.
Although, he also said that there is something to be said about getting all teams to dive right in, so that they are learning together, and aren’t our of sync.
When asked about how he communicated different ways of working to the management team:
The real issue is getting the management team to be comfortable with a process that doesn’t require detailed requirements up front to work. Once you take them through it and get them involved, they quickly understand just how much insight they have over the product being developed
Gripping the pen
When asked how using Scrum changed what he did as a manager he had an interesting analogy, likening past management as holding a pen palm side down; you keep control by gripping tightly. With agile approaches, you hold the pen palm side up, allowing you to relax your grip but still provide support; giving you opportunity for regular inspection but not forcing solutions on the team. Reduced micro-management frees up time during Sprints to allow a manager to look at big picture items, and help to remove barriers for the team.
Risto’s view is that Scrum is simple to learn the basics of, but there is a lot of “devil in the detail”. Trying to work this out on your own takes time that is reduced by having someone who can guide you through it.
Having an agile coach completely mitigates this as they help guide you through the minefield which means you get to the other side without blowing up too many. I couldn’t imagine professionally introducing Scrum without an agile coach or experienced staff.
When asked, “How has what you have done improved the way you work?”…to paraphrase, his response was:
Everybody is generally happier with the way things work
Thanks to those who attended the session, and who joined in the discussion. We seemed to have a decent level of feedback at the end of the session, with a majority of people getting value out of it.
Finally, thanks very much to Risto for collaborating with me in putting this session together.