Thursday, April 26, 2012

Scrum: The Future for Education?

When we first heard about teachers using Scrum in a classroom we had to know more and got in touch with those teachers through Ilja Heitlager at Schuberg Philis in the Netherlands. Here's what they sent in. It's translated into English from the original Dutch.

eduScrum in Dutch education

How it began …
Imagine: you are a chemistry teacher at a school for secondary education. Your students work in groups on complex assignments, but you are not completely satisfied about the results of that teamwork. And then your son-in-law becomes a Scrum Master and you hear his enthusiastic stories… That is how it began.

How it continued …
Willy Wijnands and Jan van Rossum, chemistry teachers at Ashram College (secondary education in Alphen aan den Rijn, the Netherlands) have been using an educational version of scrum since October 2011: eduScrum. They incorporate scrum into their lessons, to give students the opportunity to study more energetic and more effective. Using eduScrum also stimulates students to develop their strength as a team player.

Team work starts in their lessons with an introduction about confidence and an activity in which students talk about their personal capabilities and soft skills like punctuality, leadership capabilities, planning skills etc. After that, they form groups of four, set up to have additional capabilities. In this way, individual strengths in a team make individual weaknesses less relevant. Subsequently, they work in groups on the assignments of the context-rich chemistry module from a detailed sprint schedule.

Teacher: ‘I have indicated the number of time points per assignment (one point equals 10 minutes) and requested them to make an individual schedule. They have discussed those schedules and processed them into a group schedule. When I pointed out that I also wanted to do some whole-class teaching, they told me there was no time for it and that I should have announced it earlier. Wonderful, that much ownership. But they have to be in for it, because they have to learn to cope with unexpected events in their schedule.’

Group of four students, almost simultaneously: ‘This work is more pleasant in a group rather than individually. It is possible to ask each other questions and divide the tasks, which saves time. We have divided the experiments, because they are a good deal of work. But today we are going to work in groups of four during the entire lesson, because these assignments are very important and everyone should understand them. That is why we work together, it is something we have thought about during planning.’

Every group starts the lesson with a short scrum. This way they know what they have to do and where they stand to each other. A subsequent step is for them to learn to call each other to account, in case a group does not function optimally. The first step in doing this is a short but effective evaluation, executed by the groups themselves. Confidence in each other is the key theme in this evaluation.

Boy: ‘Our group consist of two boys and two girls. A group is useful when the group members co-operate. We’re fine in our group. Everyone takes his or her responsibility.’

Girl from the same group: ‘Everybody is contributing in our group. We have committed ourselves to do the work and we all are living up to it. We do our own tasks, and also work together. We do not study alone, if one of us does not understand, we explain to each other instead of asking the teacher. The information we have found we share with our group.’

From a Scrum perspective this might be trivial, but from a traditional educational perspective (focusing on the individual cognitive training) this is very special.

The plans for the future …

Willy Wijnands and Jan van Rossum are working with with Ellen Reehorst, an education designer and trainer, to further develop eduScrum and to hand it over to other teachers later. Use these addresses to find out more:
@eduscrum on twitter

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Agile Manifesto, Elaborated

The Agile Manifesto is one of those documents that at one level is simple, but actually holds a lot of meaning:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan

Recently Microsoft asked Jeff to write about the principles and values behind the Agile Manifesto, and how they can be translated into real action.

Here's the section on Individuals and Interactions:
Signers of the Agile Manifesto

Individuals and interactions are essential to high-performing teams. Studies of "communication saturation" during one project showed that, when no communication problems exist, teams can perform 50 times better than the industry average. To facilitate communication, agile methods rely on frequent inspect-and-adapt cycles. These cycles can range from every few minutes with pair programming, to every few hours with continuous integration, to every day with a daily standup meeting, to every iteration with a review and retrospective.

Just increasing the frequency of feedback and communication, however, is not enough to eliminate communication problems. These inspect-and-adapt cycles work well only when team members exhibit several key behaviors:
  • respect for the worth of every person
  • truth in every communication
  • transparency of all data, actions, and decisions
  • trust that each person will support the team
  • commitment to the team and to the team’s goals
To foster these types of behavior, agile management must provide a supportive environment, team coaches must facilitate their inclusion, and team members must exhibit them. Only then can teams achieve their full 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

In the end, resistance is futile. Change or die.

Steve Denning has written a great post over at Forbes addressing some of the traditional management arguments against Scrum. His key point, I think.
"What’s wrong here is the corporate culture, not Agile. Surviving in today’s marketplace requires individual and team freedom. It translates into cross-functional work that is constantly adapting, with roles switching as needed. It also means adjusting processes continuously to reflect the current situation.
In Agile, processes are secondary to the requirements of the work. Bureaucracy is the opposite: the requirements of the work—and the customer—are secondary to the bureaucracy. Not surprisingly, firms in this mode do a poor job of meeting customers’ needs.
When the culture doesn’t fit Agile, the solution is not to reject Agile. The solution is to change the organizational culture. One doesn’t even have to look at the business results of firms using hierarchical bureaucracy to know that they are fatally ill. In today’s marketplace, they will need to change their culture or they will die. They need to become Agile."
Steve has a lot more to say, go read the whole thing. More and more we're finding that traditional managers have to make the transition to Agile and Scrum...if they don't they'll be left behind. At Scrum Inc. we're addressing it in two ways. First, Jeff has completely re-invented the Certified Scrum Product Owner course, this one is based on legendary fighter pilot John Boyd's OODA loop. He's teaching it for just the second time in Boston at the end of May. And we've developed leadership workshops that focus directly on executive teams.

What's become really clear is that management no longer has the luxury of saying that Agile is for others. The science speaks pretty loudly, waterfall projects fail at such a greater rate than agile products, over and over again, that if businesses that don't make that switch aren't going to be around in the end. As Steve puts it, companies have to "change their culture, or they will die."

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Yet Another Waterfall Project Failure

California Scraps Massive Courts Software Project

California's Judicial Council has put the brakes on a long-running, massive software project that was supposed to modernize the state's trial courts case-management systems, saying the software is viable but that there's simply no money to continue installing it.
An independent audit found that it would cost US$343 million to deploy and support CCMS version four to 11 courts through fiscal year 2020-2021, according to the Judicial Council. Some $333.3 million has been spent so far on the third and fourth versions of CCMS, it said."What we do best in the judicial branch is to weigh the evidence and make reasoned and deliberate decisions," Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye said in a statement. "The council's decision to stop deployment of CCMS was responsible and prudent in view of our budget situation and the facts we gathered on the actual costs of deployment. CCMS works. Unfortunately, we don't have the resources to deploy it."
Earlier versions of CCMS are already implemented at a number of trial courts. But they aren't as advanced as version four, which can "handle all case types, provide for data exchange, and provide public access to cases across the state," according to a statement. The Judicial Council voted on Tuesday to continue supporting those earlier implementations.
Now, the CCMS Internal Committee will make recommendations to the council for "other ways" to use the CCMS technology and the state's investment in it "as well as develop new strategies to assist courts with failing case management systems," according to a statement.
The system's total cost had been estimated to be roughly $2 billion. More ...
Gartner is now recommending that waterfall be abandoned. You need to be a subscriber to get:
Gartner - Technical Professional Advice
2012 Planning Guide: Application Delivery Strategies

Key points:
  • Business users are losing patience with old-school IT culture. Relationships are tense and resentful. Legacy systems and practices impede agility. Bottom line - GET AGILE
  • Adopt a product perspective.
  • Say goodbye to waterfall.
  • Improve cross-competency collaboration.
  • Launch a deep usability discipline.
  • Start a technical debt management program.