Sunday, October 24, 2010
I wanted to have posted this review a week ago, but missing a couple days of work for the sake of the class sort of threw my schedule off.

In mid-October, I took a Certified ScrumMaster class offered by Solutions IQ. It was the same as this class, except it was offered locally to me and in mid-October rather than November.

Now, I do not believe that two days -- even two very long, very full days! -- of training will make anyone qualified to do the job in question. I do plan to go on and take the Berkeley program in Agile (five or six courses, depending on the electives chosen, and about 175-200 class hours).

That said? This was vastly more useful than I had anticipated -- and I had anticipated that it would be valuable to me, since I haven't yet had the chance to work in an Agile environment.

The material was concise, clear, useful, and even entertaining; the entire class was paying attention, because paying attention wasn't difficult -- it was fun.

But for me, the most valuable part of the experience was the chance to see Agile behaviors in action. Reading it is simply not the same. A game with a simple goal and short rounds with a chance to re-evaluate team strategy between rounds; a couple of chances to emulate a scrum process in low-risk, high reward circumstances; and the regular retrospective on the class itself all made the Agile/Scrum processes so much clearer. And the whole thing seems much less intimidating than it did -- estimating, choosing a backlog, doing stand-ups, demo-ing the sprint, and doing a retrospective on what went well, what could go better, and how, all seem less mysterious and far more do-able than they did before the class.

I wish we'd had another couple of hours, if not another full day; I'd have liked to have more active practice with retrospectives, for one thing, and how the scrum master's role in the retrospective works in practice. But SIQ's class has certainly whetted my appetite for more, and even given me the confidence that I could, push come to shove, do well in an Agile environment even today.

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I've been working as a technical writer, business analyst, and project manager for more than twenty years. I've worked on many projects in many industries, and I've come to believe that the top-down culture and the CYA process design that's common to many companies regardless of size is profoundly counterproductive, and I'm looking for ways to change that culture and those processes.

In looking for a different way to organize people and projects, I found the Agile Manifesto. The Agile principles of valuing human interactions, collaboration, and openness to change sound wonderful; the focus on sustainability, simplicity, self-organization, and flexibility sounds good too.

I'm starting to study Agile; I'm taking a two-day class in October 2010, and planning to begin an Agile Management program at Berkeley in November 2010. I'll be talking about what I'm learning as I learn it; comments, feedback, questions, and advice are all very welcome.