Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Git Yer Scrum On!

Greetings from Chitown and the 2008 Chicago Scrum Gathering!

My self-imposed mission here is to try and find a way to build a better bridge for IT PMs who’ve been raised on PMBOK and are now staring down the barrels of Agile. There are significant differences between the PMBOK and any Agile process. I do believe though, that they can work in a very complimentary fashion. Given that there is an inherent level of friction between the hardcore PMBOKers and the Agilists, my hope is that the IT&T SIG can play a significant role in reducing that friction.

The Gathering is being held at the storied Allerton Hotel. The hotel has a lot of charm and is very intimate… which is good, because it makes up for the elevators.

I got started on Monday by attending Chris Sims’ presentation on Agile 101. In the presentation he gave a “gentle” overview of the key concepts and rules of Agile. For the newcomers, it was a great way to get started.

Next, it was time to listen to The Man… Mike Cohn. If you know anyone who is into Scrum, they’ve got Mike Cohn’s books on their shelves. If you tell them you are going to a place where Mike will be, you are likely to find yourself carrying an armload of their copies of said books, which you will be required to ask him to sign. Mike gave a talk on creating Writing User Stories for Your Product Backlog. As always, he was engaging, informative and covered with a new round of scrum tattoos.

Mike was kind enough to allow me to interview him after lunch. My intention was to post a video podcast Monday evening but I am an imperfect machine and I left the cable that goes from DV cam to Macbook back in New Vegas (Oklahoma). I will pick up a replacement Tuesday morning and my interview with Mike will be posted Tuesday evening.

The session directly following lunch was the high point of the day for me. I am a big fan of looking at the world through a lens that is heavily tainted by Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War”. In fact, my entire approach to Project Management is based in the lessons of that book and the seemingly endless stream of bags of oranges I took in the gut during the .com boom. I like to think that as far as being a “highly aware” PM, I’m pretty solid. But I’ve got nothing on George Schlitz and Giora Morein. Their presentation: "ScrumMaster - Org Change Agent - Mapping the Change Battlefield" was a challenging exploration of how to read those around you with respect to their predisposition towards Agile and how to use that analysis to prevent yourself from ending up as a “dead ScrumMaster”. I am going to try to shoot a video interview with Giora and George on Tuesday. It was a great session.

For the last session of the day, I intended to sit in on Lyssa Adkins talk, “The Road from Project Manager to Agile Coach”, but it was SRO with the crowd spilling into the halls.

Instead I attended Tom Perry’s, “Drifting Toward Invisibility: The Transition to the Electronic Task Board.” In the talk, Tom explored the merits of using both an electronic and a paper based approach to tracking tasks, etc. on Scrum Projects. He shared his own personal experiences with starting with a paper system; driving a change to electronic and then driving it back again. From the perspective of a Project Manager, it was very interesting to hear the Agilists in the room express what seemed to me to be very PMBOKish opinions on the value that the various artifacts can provide. For me, this session was really encouraging because it made it even more apparent that just as the PMBOKers are realizing that they need to move a bit closer to the Agile side of the fence, the Agilists seem to be realizing that there are bits and pieces of the PMBOK minded side that they can benefit from as well.

In every way Monday was a great success. I’m really looking forward to heading back over for Day 2. I’ll have more updates and some video to post this evening.

And, if you are in town, and looking for some non-Scrum action, the Edward Hopper/Winslow Homer exhibits at the Art Institute of Chicago were awesome.

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