6 May

Introducing Professional Scrum Foundations

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Today marks the launch of the Professional Scrum Foundations course, from Scrum.org. I am excited to see this course offered because:

  • I wrote it, in collaboration with Ken Schwaber
  • I have seen it be a great way to bootstrap a better work life for teams who are NOT living the dream
  • It is the first step in my path of answering the following question:

Me: Most Scrum teams are struggling. They know what Scum is, but not how to use it well. That doesn?t do anything but make Scrum seem like it doesn?t work.

Ken: Agreed. What are you going to do about it?

What This Is

Professional Scrum Foundations is exactly that. A way to set the foundation for Scrum with your team by practicing for 2 days. This isn?t just a talking head at the front of a classroom, but a very hands-on experience for participants that has them create software *gasp* in teams.

Knowledge is not enough to be successful. In addition to knowledge, I need experience. At the intersection of those 2 things lies skill. That?s the focus of this style of teaching, which is heavily influenced by the ideas set forth in a great book that all teachers should read, Training from the Back of the Room.

Skill = Knowledge + Experience

And so, I wanted to make something that provided skills, not just knowledge, as has been the case for most Scrum training I am aware of to this point.

Further, I liken this to faith vs. religion. Traditional Scrum training tries to sell faith. ?Believe what we believe and your life will be better.?

I say ?bollox?. Teach me how to behave and I?ll try it. If I find that that makes a better life, I may start to believe.

This class teaches behavior, not faith. That?s for you to decide on your own after you try out the lifestyle.

Who Cares?

This is specifically for people unfamiliar with Scrum, and causes attendees to understand the pressures Scrum often applies. It also proves the tendency of humans to cut quality in the face of that pressure, but more on that another day. I went through great lengths to ensure executives, technical writers, developers, testers, and anyone else will be comfortable in the room and find value. You don?t have to be someone who writes code to participate, although delivering software is the focus.

If you are someone who already understands Scrum, self-organization, and empiricism, this isn?t for you.

Why I Did This

As I stated in an earlier post, my early experiences with Scrum (2003-2004) were challenged by understanding theory and principles, but having little guidance on how to enact them. In other words, I had no skill.

A simple example is our early attempts at setting a Sprint schedule. Our teams would target a set of features to deliver from a Product Backlog, and then determine a Sprint length that would accommodate the work of delivering those features. Of course, this is a terrible practice for many reasons and one that undermines many of the advantages one might get from Scrum. Our training (2-day CSM at the time) did not provide guidance around this all-to-common mistake. We eventually learned not to do this, but the source for the learning was blogs, books, and many mistakes. No one simply told me, ?that?s a bad idea and here?s why.? I still feel a bit miffed that the training we received (and spent a lot of money on) didn?t better prepare us for the reality of life with Scrum.

Obviously there are more resources today for teams looking to implement Scrum, but I still find teams making the same mistakes I did. In fact, I spoke with a team yesterday making the variable Sprint length mistake and not to belabor the point, but it is 2011. C?mon.

It is practices like these that make this statement true:

?Of the teams claiming to use Scrum, it is likely true that only 10% or so actually are.?

The simple fact is that until you?ve done something ?by the book? for awhile, you aren?t competent to claim that the body of knowledge in the book isn?t sufficient to your needs. This is true of learning to drive a car, using software design patterns, cooking a sophisticated dinner, and using Scrum to manage work. Accordingly, Professional Scrum Foundations derives it?s content directly from the Scrum Guide, available at Scrum.org.

What Next

In addition to a commitment to blog more, I am teaching Professional Scrum Foundations in Boston in July. There are other trainers who are also teaching the class, and you can see that here. If your team is interested, hit me up.

Finally, I am working on other projects with Scrum.org that will include more classes, but also other things that don?t involve sitting in a classroom.

2 thoughts on “Introducing Professional Scrum Foundations

    Not the theory and principals, no. The only thing this course focuses on teaching is the mechanics, and yes, I think that can be done well.

    There are things that simply cannot be replicated in a classroom environment because reality happens on a longer timeline that that. It is very important to realize than when people are first introduced to something, the first questions are simply “how does this work”. This is possible to practice. What isn’t possible to practice in a classroom is “Why does this work?”

    So, while we can’t practice the pressure of shipping real software, we can practice the simple mechanics of using Scrum and how to mitigate common mistakes.

    If people get these things out of this class, then it worked:
    – Accurate vocabulary
    – Understanding of self-organization
    – Understand negotiating scope
    – understand roles, artifacts, and events
    – mitigate common scrum-but situations

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