Aug 3, 2009

Embracing scrum

I recently gave a series of training courses on scrum and XP to a company in Latin America which, after much negotiation, decided they only needed training but no consulting. The majority of the participants in the courses haven't had any contact with agile or lean in the past, including the 3 managers who were also attending. As I expected, there were 3 kinds of attendants: the enthusiastic ones, the "am here because I was sent to attend" ones, and the skeptic ones. The second kind of attendants got enthusiastic reasonably quickly. The skeptic ones, on the other hand, happened to be the managers and they were having a hard time just being there during most of the first day. Imagine their reactions when I talked about the need to let go of command and control, empowering the team, the "waiter" metaphor about what their role in the team should be, etc.

I should say I admire that non of them gave up on me and continued attending the course. I was trying to figure out a way to make them appreciate the concepts better and decided to do two things. The course includes two or three small exercises, and one 3.5-hour long hands-on scrum session of 4 sprints. During the small exercises I made sure the managers were performing teammate roles instead of leadership roles because I wanted to recall what it is like to be on that side of the group structure. I typically do the same for the scrum exercise because it has proven to give me better results, however in this case I decided to assign the managers as scrum masters and as product owners. The strategy worked great. They were a bit confused at first trying to apply their command and control skills together with other ones they typically use, but throughout the exercise they allowed me to guide them through and by the third sprint all the teams were working fabulously.

The following week I paid a visit to the company and was pleasantly surprised to see one the managers applying things they learned during the training. There was one in particular who had embraced the methodology fully within his team and was pushing his boss hard to convince him that they needed to extend the scope to cover customers. The director agreed and I am now preparing the ground to start giving consulting to them and their customers.

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