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.
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.
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
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