For the last two days, I have been attending Scrum training by Agile42. I am not new to agile. I’m not an expert in academic agile, however I considered myself to be pretty good (B average) at practical agile.
Thoughts coming into it
Because of this, I obviously had some opinions and preconceived expectations. Agile is by no means new. I was first introduced to [eXtreme Programming][xp] or XP when my boss kept asking for progress reports and I felt it was taking too long to ship the code. I just fell into this, purely by luck.
I then went to an “enterprise agile” shop, which I have subsequently learned is merely an enterprise shop with waterfall expectations and an agile brand. Think about when CRTs were dubbed Flat Screen. I believe they grew beyond that after I left, but at the time, I was impatient and could not appreciate the effort nor time required for the mind shift.
From there, I went to a practical agile shop. Some of the formalities were in place, but not many. But most importantly, every 30 days, they shipped code. Not demoed, shipped! That is a huge difference from what I had seen previously.
While there, I went on to learn and adopt weekly sprints as my favorite, as well as the concept of continuous delivery.
If you have spent any time with me at all or suffered through these ramblings of mine, you know that I love to learn a topic, get an A or A-, and then move on to the next topic. I get A+ on occasion, but that’s not my goal. I want as many A’s as possible!
So, you can also imagine that here I am, I am agile, I don’t even think about it any more, it’s an old, stale concept, so what am I going to get out of this? That was even a board that Manny put up, and my question for it was that exact question: “What am I going to get out of this?”
I’m not quite as arrogant as I portray there. Close, but not quite. So, I came into this saying I have two goals:
Share my positive experience with others, knowing that some have had less of a positive experience.
Learn at least one thing each day. Last week I heard Mike Shannon mention the joking comment by Red Schoendienst: “try to learn one thing each year” and that helped remind me of this goal. Yes, year… it was a joke.
I tried to keep an open mind, thinking that people that are in it should have seen a couple things I haven’t seen. I also came into in, unjustly biased, that they would be very academic.
It’s extremely funny to me that I thought that, because I think it has come from some of the training I have provided in the past, yet I pride myself in delivering an experience. You will feel something when you attend my training, because I have been there!
But to get off of the rambling story, I will sum that up by I expected to have to work to extract some value from it, and instead, I have to work to make sure I retain all of the value I took from it!
Things I learned about Agile
Affirmation that Fibonacci is bad!
I LOATHE this. Why? I have had tons of bad experience with it. I see people worry too much about what the next number is, or how an 8 is different from a 13, or what a 5 means. It makes people focus on the numbers!!! That totally takes away from the spirit! And, not everyone knows what this sequence is, nor should they need to know it. Small, Medium, Large, and Extra-Large should probably lose some weight in terms of a story. Well, Good news!! It’s just a good starting point (I’ll debate the good, but agree it’s a starting point.) It’s not meant to last, but it a way to help people who are stuck on something needing an absolute size to relate it to their world. That does make sense to me. Although, I hated it when I was first exposed to it too, so I say jump into SML to start with.
Some support in stand-up format is outdated (but needed)
The second thing I loathe is the format of the stand-up. What did you do yesterday, what are you going to do today, and what’s in your way breed individuality and silos. We should know that organically, that should be a part of being a team. I cannot STAND that! But, also ringing back to the first point, I failed once again to remember that this is a transition, and it is all about helping people learn to (and get over their fears of) move from individual tasks to a team environment. OK now I’m seeing a theme, I’m forgetting my roots, I’m forgetting that training and practice are necessary.
Transitioning a team is going from individual to team (and that takes time and patience)
This is the part I took from the first two items I learned. I know from training that I have provided that you must slow down and grasp the concept first, then work on repetition and gain confidence, then you can work towards full speed. No matter what our background, we were most likely taught originally to work as individuals. YOU got an A. YOU were late. So on and so on. It takes time, patience, effort, and practice to break that and say WE. You will never hear me say “I did this” or “I made the team successful.” You’ll hear me say “we took X and turned it into Y.” But, while I can’t tell you when or how this happened (my guess is the Army) I do know it took time and training. It’s now a part of me, so much that I cannot stand working alone. But that’s another topic for another time.
Things I learned about myself
I REALLY like to talk.
I’m fully aware that I need to listen more, talk less, calm down and wait for people to come to me. Implementing that, well, I have a ways to go.
Maybe what I learned was better ways of teaching
Building on the above, I have always known I have the most value to offer in the topics I’m passionate about (and you don’t want me to speak to the ones I’m not.) I have also known that I need to SLOW DOWN! Take the time and spend the effort to ensure that everyone is along with me. Manny did an excellent job of this. At times it seemed forced, but that’s OK! It shows he was aware of this, and knew what it takes to deliver material and life lessons to others. I KNOW this and know it’s a weakness of mine, and work on it every time I think about it, but I still suck at it.
As attendees, we unfairly hold trainers to a higher standard.
We do this to our leaders, our President, our parents, our role models. We too easily forget that they are human.
As trainers or coaches, we magnify that onto ourselves.
We then turn around and make it even worse on ourselves. We forget that we are human, that we learn from our mistakes. We know that we can say “I don’t know, but I’ll find out,” but for some reason we think when we are training we must have all the answers.
But that doesn’t hold true when in a player / coach role.
For some reason, if we drop down “in the trenches” with the people we are trying to help, we don’t hold ourselves to the same criteria. We KNOW we’ll succeed and we’ll find the answers as we go. I think it’s a sign that we all expect training to be rigid and static, and that’s probably also what we hate about training. So, we have to learn to embrace that we are humans, and we will adjust and figure out the answer, and our trainers are no different; they just should have a broad range of experience and something they can hopefully draw on or know someone to go to.
Reminded of saying: Not who we think we are…
Where we saw eye to eye
Some breakthroughs I provided
Kickoff breakfast - I stole it from Peopleware