Letting go of the reins in Scrum, even when it’s hard.

Rugby Scrum

Wanting control is intrinsically human, even more so when there’s a lot of money on the line. For companies just embracing Agile and Scrum in particular, stripping away levels of managerial control is an important hurdle. It might be an issue of corporate culture, or just having a boss with a strong personality.

While Scrum is not completely at odds with oversight, one of its main tenets is self-organising teams. It’s a much repeated maxim: A good Scrum team doesn’t need a Project Manager.

You might be asking yourself why self-organising teams are so important, here is just one reason: it makes everybody responsible. Empowering employees is something management coaches have been preaching for some time now, but what does that mean for Scrum? Empowering the team means that it can make its own decisions, but at the same time that it assumes responsibility for those decisions.

Scrum teams can tell their Scrum master that they need a new piece of software, or that having someone from the testing/integration/etc. department on the team will streamline the process. The Scrum master then tries to make that happen, but it’s the team not the Scrum master who decides what it needs. Most teams seem to be ok with this concept until they reach a difficult position. An example we often hear is teams coming to the Scrum master and asking him or her to deal with a colleague that is delaying the team, it might be that he’s lazy or just that his work is poor quality.

This is a make or break point for a Scrum master, of course you want to help solve the problem and make sure the team works at its full potential, but if you interfere as a Scrum master, you’re sending a signal that even though you’re not officially in charge, you really are. The hard reality is that in a Scrum team if something internal isn’t working it’s the team’s responsibility to fix that problem. The Scrum master removes impediments for the team, he doesn’t remove impediments in the team.

Old habits are hard to break, and if your employees see that you intervene and chastise a team member, it just resets the team to the default “you’re the boss, we’ll just do what you say” mentality. Weeks of increasing your team’s self-reliance can be undone with one “stop slacking off” speech from a Scrum master. OK I might be exaggerating, one chastisement might not bring you back to the starting line, but it will definitely set you back.

And why would you want to step back and let the team lead itself if it’s so hard for everybody involved. Well for one, if the team sees that you’re not just saying that they’re in charge but that you actually enforce that in one of those make or break moments, it means that the buck really stops with them, there’s no team leader who’s going to be ultimately responsible to the Product Owner. They’re all responsible, and that sense of ownership of a product is what inspires people to give it their all.

There’s a reason it’s called Scrum, it’s hard, and everybody has to pull together, it doesn’t always work, but when it does it’s amazing.

Learn how to let go in scrum with Certified ScrumMaster courses from Learning Connexions.


The 90 days

You’ve been doing agile development for a while and want to formalize your knowledge. You just changed jobs and your current company is very agile and expects you to be on the same page. Your organization might just be embracing agile and you’re a bit lost.

What do you do? For most people the answer is: attend a training course (hopefully willingly!). Simple enough! You’ve just had two days of training, now what? You’re in those 90 days of limbo where you’ve attended the course but haven’t passed your exam. Scrum Alliance is rather generous by offering three months to pass the exam, but their generosity makes it easy to procrastinate, which makes it easier to forget some of the theoretical aspects of agile and Scrum that your organization might not use.

CSM Countdown

86 days to go

You usually get two kinds of people in these situations, the ones that want to take the exam right away, get certified and be done with it and the cautious ones who might have test anxiety and want to wait.

I’ve been involved with agile and Scrum for a while now, but only recently considered and completed a Certified Scrum Master (CSM) course, so I know how you feel. Regardless of which category you fall in, I have three pieces of advice for you, drawn from my experience with the process:

  • Read up. Even though two days might not seem like a lot, you’re going to cover a lot of material and despite you (hopefully) feeling like you really understand this Scrum thing now, take some time to revise before the exam. Scrum Alliance does have some technical and “principles” questions in the test, which you have to prepare for.
  • Supplement your knowledge. Even though your trainer will try to cover everything in the exam, some items might get pushed off the agenda, so if you’re not very familiar with Scrum it would be a good idea to read some Scrum blogs (the official Scrum Alliance one is a good place to start). The exam is open book and not timed so you can research while taking it, but it’s a good idea to shore up your knowledge before you start.
  • Trust your instincts. It might sound weird to say this about a technical exam, but you can overthink questions about roles and tasks. After two days you should have a good enough instinctual grasp of what responsibilities each member of a Scrum team has.

One last piece of advice: Don’t worry (too much). Scrum Alliance offers each candidate two chances to pass the exam. So if you fail it’s not end of the world.

by Vlad Mihailescu

Behaviour Driven Design – Putting Theory into Practice

Learning from a book can only take you so far… it’s great for learning the theory, new facts and information, but practical experience has its own merits. After all there’s no point learning a new recipe in a cook book if you don’t plan on preparing it many times in the kitchen until you get it right. It’s only by getting your ‘hands dirty’ you get a feel for the look, smells and taste of the dish.

Repeatable application is essential to learning: in other words Practice makes Perfect

This is even more relevant in the domain of programming and code. Learning Connexions believe in the best of both worlds, by providing you with both the know-how and the opportunity to put it into practice. So you work out the kinks while learning, not when you’re in the thick of it.


A perfect example of this philosophy are our TDD/BDD workshops: John F Smart’s book ‘BDD in Action’ teaches you BDD principles and practices and shows you how to integrate them into your existing development process, no matter what programming language you use. First, you’ll apply BDD to requirements analysis so you can focus your development efforts on underlying business goals. Then, you’ll discover how to automate acceptance criteria and use tests to guide and report on the development process. Along the way, you’ll apply BDD principles at the coding level to write more maintainable and better documented code.

Reading John’s bestselling book will certainly give you the recipe for Behaviour Driven Development. Well there’s one thing in reading ‘BDD in Action’ but what about actually putting BDD into Action?

“In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not.”
Albert Einstein

Learning Connexions provide practical public courses with John F. Smart by offering a selection of in-depth engaging workshops, serving up the logic behind the theory and putting it into practice through engaging lab work, empowering you to effectively put BDD into Action.

Public courses with John F Smart:
Advanced Agile Requirements Practices Workshop 24th Nov (1 day)
BDD in Action: Advanced TDD/BDD Masterclass 25th – 26th Nov (2 days)
Automated Web Testing with WebDriver and Thucydides 27th – 28th Nov (2 days)

By Amaad Qureshi

Advanced Agile Requirements: The perfect workshop for software developers

The Perfect Workshop in Agile Training

The perfect workshop in agile training

Learning Connexions offers a unique opportunity, a one-day workshop, which focuses on providing you with the necessary skills in BDD practices. It also brings to you Scrum, which is an Agile framework for completing complex projects.

The advanced training is great for people who work in software development today. It offers you a more structured approach to project management and a quicker response to change. It also ensures the implementation of high-priority initiatives.

Scrum, can cover the people, products and techniques necessary for successfully implementing projects. This is essential in software development. It will offer your software improved stability, maintenance and usability. What’s more, you will see a significant reduction in errors.

Your learning is our concern

At Learning Connexions we place great importance on your education, learning and improvement. We believe in a holistic approach to education, so we want to help you reach your full potential. This is why we are interested in offering you value. In order for you to fully benefit from this agile training we have made it a practical workshop, in which you are the one who tests, codes and learns BDD by spending about 60-70% of the time in the lab.

Learning Connexions is a accredited organization partnered with the Scrum Alliance. We offer you comprehensive training, in which you are the most important element. This workshop will be centered on your learning and application of BDD, and you will be actively involved, with help from our trained professionals. John Ferguson Smart, the instructor of this workshop, is a specialist in the BDD domain, in automated testing and in software life cycle development optimization. All our trainers are very involved in the community, they write books and blogs, and when they don’t work for Learning Connexions they specialize in the domain they teach or speak at conferences on the same themes.

While you will be guided by trained professionals, the focus is on your understanding and learning. Your instructors are all very engaging, and they will be grateful to answer your questions and listen to your feedback.

A software developer skilled in BDD is a better developer

As this workshop is focused on teaching you the basics of BDD, you will be able to put theory into practice and see to the effect it will have on your work as a software developer. You will have substantially fewer errors, your code will be easier to understand and of a higher standard. It will improve your efficiency, focus and quality as a software developer.

A certified workshop in agile training is what any software developer needs in order to improve, achieve fewer errors, a more flexible code and better code structure. If your wish is to be a better software developer by means of adequate and professional training, in which you are offered value, knowledge and practical lab work, consider this and book early, because class numbers are limited!

Learning Connexions Course: Advanced Agile Requirements Practices Workshop with John Smart

London: 24th Nov 2014 – £575 + VAT

Cluj, Romania: 17th Nov 2014 – £495 + VAT

Go beyond the basics: Succeeding with Agile

Adopting Agile is a bit like learning to play football, it is easy to understand the rules, kick a ball, and get on the pitch! But that doesn’t make you a good footballer or mean you can pull off pirouettes;, just like learning the Agile framework and understanding how it works, the roles & principles doesn’t make you an Agilist. Courses like the Certified Scrum Master Course and equivalent courses are designed to introduce you to Agile and lay the foundation for you to become Agile. In essence they teach you the rules and the ideals but not the skills. You still need to apply and learn so much from; perfecting user stories, to better estimating, improving team work and communication with middle managers. It’s easy to get lost in a plethora of questions with no answers in sight.

So what’s missing? Well there’s always the old saying ‘practice makes perfect’ but the downside of this is you will only learn from your own mistakes which can easily lead to ‘one mistake too many’ or be at ‘great cost’ to your organisation. So how does an agile mind approach this adoption? Well you seek out the most knowledgeable and experienced and learn from the best. Someone who has the ability to help you deal with more challenging questions and has experienced the pitfalls and successes of an Agile project and can share the wisdom of his experiences with you. In other words learn from and get trained by Mike Cohn.

Mike Cohn is a Certified Scrum Trainer who was a co-founder of Scrum Alliance. Mike has over twenty years of experience in a variety of environments and specializes in helping companies adopt and improve their use of agile processes and techniques in order to build extremely high performance development organizations.

If you want to go beyond the basics and learn tips and techniques necessary to help an organization move beyond initial success to sustained agility. Drawing and expanding on concepts in Mike Cohn’s ‘Succeeding with Agile’ book, this agile project management training shows you how to get started and get good with agile or Scrum.

This course will enlighten participants in the ways they can effectively scale Scrum in a single location, or on a globally distributed team, it will consider what it means to be Agile while meeting regulatory compliance requirements, how to overcome common problems and will also introduce you to tools that measure the benefits of Agile.

This advanced course is suitable for anyone who has previously attended an introductory Agile or Scrum training course. This course is also appropriate to those experienced Agilists who are looking for answers to the hundreds of questions that arise during any Agile adoption.

Succeeding with Agile with Mike Cohn
11th – 12th September 2014, London, £1400 + VAT
Special Offer: 3 delegates for the price of 2

By Amaad Qureshi

So you want to be a Certified Scrum Professional (CSP)?

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions, well the road to CSP is paved with SEU’s.

Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz Agilists have to travel down the SEU paved “Lego brick road” to reach the wizard (Scrum Alliance) who will bestow upon you the title of Certified Scrum Professional.

Along the road just as Dorothy needed to acquire a heart, a brain and courage, Scrum Agilists will need to acquire the Certified Scrum Master or Certified Scrum Product Owner accreditation as well as earn SEU’s through courses like Advanced Scrum Master, Succeeding with Agile, Writing Effective User Stories & Estimating & Planning. The path to a CSP is all about continuous professional development sprinkled with a desire to obtain Scrum Mastery.

Through Learning Connexions we can help you on your path to becoming a CSP. We can give you the guidance and advice as to which course to choose and which paths to take, ensuring the experience you obtain is relevant to your career aspirations and focused towards becoming a CSP.

csp path

It takes 36 months of experience as well as the accumulation of 70 SEU’s to obtain the CSP accreditation.  Learning Connexions can help you earn your first 45 SEU’s through our courses. That’s not all, we can also help you obtain the other 25 SEU’s through our community work and industry connexions. The remaining SEU’s can be earned as follows:

o   Outside Events (up to 15 SEU’s)

o   Volunteer Service (up to 15 SEU’s)

o   Asynchronous Learning (up to 15 SEU’s)

o   Synchronous Learning (up to 15 SEU’s)

Learning Connexions works closely with the tech community and host regular Meet-Ups through our community hub as well as make our trainers available for community coaching/talks which can all contribute towards earning SEU’s. We can also consider you for doing some volunteer training/talks through our community hub or help provide introductions so you can engage in these activities to earn the required SEU points.

All in all Learning Connexions is your one stop shop to becoming a Certified Scrum Professional.

By Amaad Qureshi

(CSM) Certified Scrum Master Practitioner: A certified public course built around you!

So you have been practicing Agile for a while now, know the ins and outs of applying Scrum effectively and are confident in your role as a Scrum Master or within the Scrum team? You must have heard by now either from your colleagues or through the grapevine that you have to get this Certified Scrum Master accreditation to show your proficiency in Scrum. It’s what recruiters and employers look for on a C.V. and deemed important within the workplace; especially if you work in a regulated environment.

In an ideal world you would expect employers to value you on your experience and accomplishments but the reality is with so many software professionals pitching for the same roles, employers/ recruiters have no choice but to skim through your C.V. and pick out key words. If CSM accredited is not there you could end up on the bottom of the pile. So it’s now become a must for all software professionals to be accredited and the most globally recognised and highly valued accreditation is the Certified Scrum Master through the Scrum Alliance with almost 250,000 Certified Scrum Masters. Regardless of your knowledge and experience it is the accreditation which stands out most.

So you say to yourself, yes I understand that being CSM accredited is important to me as part of my continued professional development but why do I want to attend a course of which I already know all the basics of Scrum just to get accredited! And it is true there is no real value in sitting through 2 days of introductory learning just to learn the role of the Scrum Master and going through the Agile Manifesto and Principles which you know inside out, just to get a shiny badge on your C.V.! Well my friend there’s a solution for you which I’m confident you will appreciate and lucky for you I’m here to tell you all about it.

One of our top trainers Scrum Coach & Servant Leader extraordinaire Geoff Watts understands this dilemma pretty well, we host CSM training with Geoff all year round and find that there’s always a mix of students from no knowledge of Scrum to very experienced Agilists. So we had a high level board meeting to discuss the best solution for our delegates, we bought out Geoff’s Lego boxes built some marshmallow towers and then our learning & development maestro Lucky Byatt had an epiphany! She suggested; why don’t we split the course into two! We will have a CSM introductory course for beginners and a CSM Practitioners course for more experienced professionals. With both offering full CSM accreditation through the Scrum Alliance. Sounds good, but wait there’s more! for the practitioners course we thought hold on these guys know their roles and already have a good understanding of Scrum so why don’t we build the course around what they want to learn rather than just expand on the fundamentals of Scrum? So we decided that we would send out a questionnaire to all the students on this course and simply ask them what they would like to cover. This could be anything from estimating and planning, writing effective user stories to the differences between a good Scrum Master and a great Scrum Master and from the questionnaires we will build the class around your learning objectives.

So this is how it will work: the class will be a small group maybe a max of 12, we add in all responses from the questionnaire and put together courseware based on the most popular areas selected within the group and then as well as covering the core CSM modules the student will also have a learning experience equivalent to a bespoke course put together just for them.

So not only will you get your CSM accreditation you will genuinely have an enlightening and challenging learning experience covering areas you want to improve on as well as tips and tricks to be even better at what you do. Sound good to you? Well what are you waiting for! The CSM practitioner course is live and available through Learning Connexions and assuming you have prior practical knowledge in applying Scrum, you can sign up right now if you like, better still if you have taken the time to read this blog, I’ll throw in 10 % off as well, just quote ‘Amaad is the best’’ to claim. Scrumdiddlyumptious!

By Amaad Qureshi

Learning Connexions

Project Design for the Modern Software Professional

Project Design for the modern software professional: Introducing ‘The Method’ the single most logical approach to project design that you never knew existed but have been dreaming about all your life!

In the world of software development, professionals love putting themselves in boxes. Some are Agilists others are Waterfall and the rest exist in the multitude of offshoots somewhere in between. This habit of identifying yourself to a methodology and following it rigidly can have the negative effect of limiting ones perspective to all possibilities and is liken to a horse trotting along with his blinkers on. The horse can get along just fine in his tasks and be great at what he does but take those blinkers off and he won’t recognise the world he sees before him. The sounds and smells may be familiar but what you see and how you perceive the same challenges will never be the same again and the funny thing is you’ll never want them to be the same. Well that’s what ‘The Method’ does for software professionals. It takes off the blinkers, it doesn’t change you or take away anything you know and feel comfortable with; it just shows you the whole picture so you can use what you know as the foundation for something amazing… the path to self-actualization as a professional.

So let me take you on this enlightening journey and help take your blinkers off and open up your world to the realm where nothing is impossible just improbable, where risk is something you embrace and everything is quantifiable. Welcome to the world of Juval Lowy’s, iDesign Method.

Now how does one go about designing a project? Let’s start with Volatility based decomposition the anti-fragile approach. Now the best example I can use (without getting out the hand puppets) to describe volatility based decomposition as opposed to functional based decomposition is the building a house example that Juval uses in his class. So the functional approach will tell you, you have a requirement to eat in the home. So you design a kitchen with a microwave. Once the kitchen is built you realise that microwave food isn’t as healthy as you thought and would like a cooker in there to steam vegetables. So what do you do now? Well you look at the kitchen as it is and try to work out what you need to re-design to fit in a cooker i.e., gas pipes, wiring, unit space and may have to knock down a wall or units to make space. Not an ideal scenario which could lead to inflated costs and all sorts of other issues. Well if you took the volatility based approach you would have asked yourself to consider this at the point of design. If I’m only going to need a microwave now what if the situation changes in the future and I may need a cooker? And what would I need to put in place to adapt to future possible changes? Planning & designing in anticipation to change and volatility is what ‘The Method’ is all about and is the primary difference between functional and volatility based decomposition.

So how does one go about planning for volatility? Well understanding the above is just the beginning. In the Project Design Masterclass you learn how to use this approach for every aspect of project design.

Starting with putting together your resources and identifying your critical path, how to measure cost and time in effort and value, putting together a time-cost curve to identify how to use your resources most effectively and learn how project crashing in the right way can save you both time and money whilst keeping an eye on risk.

Staffing allocation also plays an important part in managing ones project allocating the right amount of developers, understanding the importance of test engineers and utilising parallel development and identifying the most efficient staffing model and ratios for a particular project.

Then there’s risk analysis and how you can utilize the Golden Ratio (Phi) to calculate risk to the decimal point and identify the optimal strategy for progression with minimal risk and actively see and measure how changes to staffing, time, & float will change the risk factor of the project.

There’s also a model on project recovery highlighting what you need to identify to recover a project and how you can measure changes and see the risk, cost, time implications of any changes you make.

The Project Design class gives you all the tools and knowledge you need to successfully and confidently design a project. The theories and concepts taught complimented with a plethora of tools and formulas empower you to identify, analyse and measure the changes you make as well as the changes you plan to make, ensuring the best options are always chosen and presented when making decisions of such great importance.

iDesign path to reaching the Zen of Architecture & Project Design:

Project Design Master Class —— The Architect’s Master Class ——- Architecture Clinic

These 3 courses are what form the complete ‘Method’ as defined by iDesign. First comes the design and due diligence. Then comes the architecture and planning. Finally comes the practice and application. It is highly recommended that they are attended by both the Architect and Project Design/Lead of a company.  Juval Lowy says that “for the beginner Architect there are many options, but for the Master Architect there are only a few”. In my opinion the iDesign ‘Method’ is one of those few options and a definitive must for all Project designers and Architects who aspire to be the best professionals they can be and true masters of their trade.

By Amaad Qureshi

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