The Learning Philosophy of Team Agility and Scrum/ATDD

Summary

Most companies having their teams adopt Scrum start with some form of Scrum training – typically a Scrum Master course. But they need more: how to do Agile analysis, design, code and test. Now, the certifying bodies believe that starting with Scrum to create a framework and encourage people to figure out how to do this. However, evidence shows it doesn’t work most of the time. So people have to bring in coaches to help the teams. We believe the reason for this is that teaching a simple framework that has certain immutable roles, events, artifacts and rules at the start and then expecting people to follow it, is not the most effective way of teaching Scrum.

Scrum is a good, simple, team framework. But instead of using the framework to encourage change, it is better to directly teach what teams need to do and explain how the framework helps. In addition, a support system for guiding people with common challenges they are likely to face and a program to mature new Scrum Masters will lower the need for expensive embedded coaching.

Until recently, it was not possible to get cost effective training in both what Scrum is and what people need to do. But with innovative training and coaching techniques Net Objectives has now come up with a method to teach multiple teams Scrum and what they need to do within it at the same cost and in only one extra day.

The current state

If your team is new to Agile and wants to start by adopting Scrum it requires the following:

  • An understanding of Scrum
    • The roles (product owner, development team, tester)
    • The events (daily Scrum, sprint planning, demo, sprint retrospection, backlog refinement)
    • The artifacts (product backlog, sprint backlog, burn-down and burn-up graphs)
    • A few rules regarding estimation and velocity

But this just teaches you Scrum. Many people believe that putting teams into this structure and exposes impediments and moves teams to figure out how to improve their methods by requiring them to work within this framework. Unfortunately, more than half the time, they don’t. So embedded coaches are brought in to help.

There are many reasons for this:

  1. While the framework will encourage writing smaller stories, it doesn’t tell you how and it is not an obvious thing to figure out
  2. Initially the framework is adding extra work to people and they may not stick with it until returns show
  3. Many teams don’t have experienced Scrum Masters to guide the team (certified or not)

The result is that teams need to bring in outside coaches to embed with the team. While Net Objectives believes in the value of outside consultants and coaches, they are not necessarily needed at the team level. How to do Scrum has long been established, just not done in a widespread manner.

The ubiquitous challenges

Virtually all teams new to Scrum run into the following challenges:

  • Work not being completed at the end of a sprint
  • Not being able to create clear requirements
  • Significant time taken to create estimates
  • Not being able to create the small stories required for Scrum to work well

There are many more. See Common challenges and their remedies faced by teams new to Scrum and related FAQs

These challenges are overcome just by a little training and coaching. But without them being at least addressed during initial training they will be more difficult for teams to solve.

What’s needed

To get new teams to adopt Scrum with as little time, effort and dollars as possible requires a three prong approach:

  1. Improved initial training that focuses on what the teams need to do, not so much on the framework they are using
  2. A support system for them to refer to after they have started using Scrum
  3. A Coaching Academy for Scrum Masters so that they can learn on the job and become effective in a few months. Read why it is usually better to invest in your own staff to be competent Scrum Masters than it is to hire outside embedded coaches.

Initial training required

In addition to learning Scrum, teams need to learn the early methods of Behavior-Driven Development (BDD) or Acceptance Test-Driven Development (ATDD). Full training is not required here. Just the concepts of why defining specifications that can be implemented later as tests is important. This directly helps solve the challenges mentioned above.

The order and style in which the training is done is critical. Instead of focusing on the framework, focusing on how to do Agile analysis, design, code and test is more effective. Using innovative techniques that allow for large class sizes has two advantages. First, it has teams that work together learn together. Second, it lowers the training cost which allows for coaching to be embedded in the initial workshop.

Net Objectives’ Solutions

By focusing on the difficult to learn aspects of effective Agile in the course and providing support systems, more can be learned in a shorter time with about the same cost.