The ScrumMaster Diaries: #2 – Making the Case to Become a CSM

Dear Diary,

Tomorrow I am going in to speak to Henry about becoming a Certified Scrum Master.  I’ve done more reading about it and it appears there are more than 60,000 people in the world who have done it before me.  Those kinds of numbers have to help me with my argument.  I also know the popular abbreviation is CSM.  Apparently I just have to attend a specific course for 2 days then pass a test and I get certified.  Who knows, maybe I’ll be certifiable instead!  Ha, ha!  The good news is we can’t get a whole lot worse than we are right now, so I hope Henry is open to the idea.  We’ll see.

-Nick

Dear Diary,

Henry asked me a lot more questions about becoming a CSM than I anticipated.  Luckily I caught him first thing in the morning.  He told me to take a few hours and do some more research.  The whole group is going to meet at 3pm to discuss all of our dev department ideas before another all hands meeting at 4pm.  I decided to take lunch here at home and do the research here.  I doubt anyone will miss me.  I just couldn’t take being at the office any more.  It is a bit of a downer right now.  At least I’m still excited, I just have a lot of questions to get answers to in the next 3 hours!

-Nick

Dear Diary,

Wow!  That was interesting.  To say the least!  We had our department meeting and everyone got to give suggestions about how we could improve.  It seemed like a total blame game.  Someone even used the phrase “blamestorming” which I found hilarious.  Anyway, we went around the room and I ended up being last.  Developers ended up blaming QA and ME!  QA ended up blaming developers and ME!  Managers ended up blaming QA, developers, marketing and ME!  It was totally crazy.  I felt like I had been set up.  Then someone made the suggestion that we wouldn’t be in this mess if I were a better project manager and maybe I should become a PMP so I could do my job better.  Well, that was the last straw!

At that point I totally lost it.  I AM A PMP!!!  Grrr.  Fortunately I was somewhat ready for the abuse and the blame game.  I kept my cool and told everyone I already was a PMP.  I also told them we had done pretty much everything by the PMBOK and still failed.  The person who said I should become a PMP had the nerve to ask what the PMBOK was!  Again, I stayed calm and told him it was the set of practices you had to know in order to become a PMP.

For some reason, remaining calm was working because I had everyone’s attention.  I decided to go for it.  I told them I thought we had to consider completely re-doing the way we created products.  We needed to think about using agile, in particular Scrum.  I then told them of my 3 step plan for implementation:

  1. Convince them this could work (at least convince them enough to go to step #2).
  2. Have me attend a Certified ScrumMaster course and get certified.
  3. Start using Scrum with me acting as “coach” for the team to make sure we did it right.

Lots of questions, but some others, particularly devs were onboard right away.  They had friends using agile and/or Scrum and all were pretty positive about the experience.

Only one problem remained – we had to convince Bob it was the right thing to do since the course would cost $1200.  Fortunately there is a course right here in town starting in 2 days, so we all hoped Bob would get on board quickly.

Well, we didn’t have to wait long.  We had our all hands meeting and spoke about what we did during our week of vacation.  Cindy won the $2500 prize – easily.  She said she decided to relax by seeing a different old friend each day and just catch up on life. She did it by driving 2-4 hours each day since they all lived in different cities, and during those 2-4 hours she listened to books on tape she had been building up for years.  It sounded like she had a lot of fun.

Then it was on to the good stuff.  How were we going to improve.  Marketing started and said their plan was to have development increase resources so software could be released faster in order to keep our customers happy more often.  Bob pointed out the obvious – our problem isn’t the release cycle time, it is in how our releases are perceived.  Marketing then got nasty and said they felt if we did four releases per year at least one of them would be “good enough” for us to keep our customers.  Bob started his career in development, so this argument just didn’t cut it for him.

Then it was our turn to present for a few minutes and the department decided I should be the one to speak since it was basically my plan.  No pressure, right?  Ha!  I decided to be short and brief.  As best I can remember, here is what I said:

In development we’ve decided we aren’t interested any more in playing the blame game.  We want to be able to do something different which will make a big difference.  This is fundamental change which will involve everyone, but which will start in engineering.  If we can’t do our part, the rest of you don’t have to worry because it won’t work anyway.  But if we are able to do something different and better, then we think the company as a whole can dramatically improve.

What I’m talking about is something called agile development.  In particular a product development framework known as Scrum.  I know the name sounds silly, but please get past that.  From what I have read and what people in our department have heard from friends who have made this switch, Scrum can make a company more productive, improve quality and increase stakeholder and customer satisfaction.  In many cases it does all of these things by dramatic amounts.

Bob, we’ve put together a simple plan for adoption.  It is probably way too simple, but it is based on what we know today.  We want the company to spend just $1200 to send me to a 2-day course later this week to learn how to do Scrum.  Next week I would take that knowledge and start leading our group down that path.  We would like 6 weeks to see if it works for us.  We consider this time well spent and we will do everything in our power to make sure after 6 weeks we are in a position to say “this is working, keep going” or “we’re no better, so stop.”  Furthermore, we’d try to ensure the “failure” mode would not only be “we’re no better” but also “we’re no worse.”  This is basically a $1200 investment and trusting us to do our best.

I know trust has been hard to come by in this company lately, but I personally think that may be part of our problem.  Bob, unfortunately in order to make this happen fast enough I need to put you on the spot and have you say “yes” or “no” right now.

Then I stopped and held my breath.  Bob stood up and asked, “Henry, are you on board with this plan?”  Henry said he was.  Bob then asked, “Nick you asked for trust, and I’m going to go out on a limb and give it to you.  I know I’m going to upset a lot of people in this room by saying this, but go do it.  I don’t know enough about Scrum to be able to say no.  This points to a decision I made while we were on break – if I don’t have enough personal experience to say no, I’m going to say yes.  I need to trust all of you to do your jobs well because that is what we hired you to do and I know we only hire the best.”

Phew.  I did it.  Now I have to do it.  What the heck did I just get myself into???

-Nick


Nick has convinced management he should become a CSM. Tune in next week to read about his class. It should be interesting!

 

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  1. Great idea to cover the transition via storytelling. For those of us who crossed the chasm before, it’s easy to forget the reality of how great the change is and all the organizational obstacles we faced. Well done, and kudos.
    Scott

Bob Hartman

Known as Agile Bob, brings over 30 years of experience and broad industry knowledge cultivated by serving in almost every role in the software industry including developer, tester, documentation writer, trainer, product manager, project manager, business analyst, senior software engineer, development manager and executive. Over the past 15 years Bob has grown from being an early adopter of Agile to his current status as a Certified Scrum Trainer® (CST) and Certified Enterprise Coach℠ (CEC) and an expert in training, coaching and mentoring across all areas of Agile development. Bob is a popular speaker, having spoken at numerous major conferences, seminars, workshops and user group meetings where his engaging style, holistic view of development and personal anecdotes are always well received by attendees.

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