Thoughts on Scrum – Part 3 (final)

Posted on: January 15th, 2013 by admin

So what to make of Scrum? Well, firstly let me comment on the Scrum Master test. Since my first post, I took the test and got certified. As someone who has been teaching PMP for 12 years, let me reiterate what I said in the first post: this test is pretty easy and nowhere near as grueling as the PMP. But I don’t believe it’s intended to be. My understanding is that the intention is for you to know and understand the basic concepts of Scrum. So instead of studying for weeks and weeks, several hours a night, I studied maybe one or two hours. Instead of going to a test center where my every move is recorded on camera, I took the test from home and freely (and legally, if you will) Googled some of the answers.Instead of taking 200 questions I took 50. The only thing the two tests have in common is that the questions are somewhat situational. And frankly, anyone who would hire someone on certification alone, PMP or Scrum Master, doesn’t know what he’s doing. Could I run a Scrum? I probably could given my PM background. Am I the first guy you want to hire to run one? No. Not yet anyway. Not sure if I’ll ever get the chance.

As to Scrum and Agile as methodologies, I must say I like the idea of the shortened (2 – 4 week) development team (sprint). It gives the product owner a lot of flexibility to understand what he really wants as he goes along. There’s an “end in sight” all the time instead of the endless slog of typical projects. And the teams get to have more of a hands-on leadership role than they typically do. As noted before, the only role in all of this for the traditional PM is Scrum Master and I’m not convinced she’d be satisfied. Unless of course you are like one of my students who uses Microsoft Project to run and report on multiple Scrums. So a hybrid if you will.

The other thing is I’m not convinced that Scrum is a panacea. I sat in on a discussion between two people who had been using it and it doesn’t necessarily resolve all problems. For example, if you had resource problems before then you likely still have them. And I don’t know if all organizations are ready to go to self-organizing teams. I’m working with some companies that can barely get their teams to show up. Would adopting Scrum solve that? Or create more problems? I saw one person on a LinkedIn conversation suggest to another person that they immediately drop traditional waterfall development and go to Scrum. Really? Without even evaluating it and seeing if the model will fit your organization? Or trying it out on a few small projects and working your way into it? The gentleman I mentioned who uses MSProject says his company has been converting from waterfall development to Scrum for 5 years. And they’re still only 60% of the way there. So you cannot underestimate the impact of change on an organization no matter how much some Internet person wishes it to be so.

Bottom line is I like the idea of Scrum. And I feel better prepared to talk to clients without bias about how it might (or might not) work in their organization. People who use it really seem to like it. But I have to think that there’s a reason why in ten or more years it hasn’t appreciably dented or replaced waterfall. And I’m not 100% sure what that reason is.

I notice some companies are requiring both certs. (My guy above needs both to progress in his company). Why? Doing both kinds of projects? Gravitating from one to the other? Hedging their bets? Don’t know. The jury is still very much out on this one.

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