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Category Archives: Scrum

Is the Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM) training right for me?

Agile, Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), Human Resources, KAIP Academy, Learning, Project Management, Scrum, Training

With the KAIP Academy’s Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM) training sessions taking place next week, we wanted to address some questions we’ve received about whether a CSM designation is worth it. One of our partners, Michael Bosch (Certified Scrum Professional from Brightline Solutions, Inc., a locally-based firm offering Agile Delivery and Change Management Services) answers some questions we’ve received. Hopefully these will help you if you are on the fence about getting your CSM certification! If there are any questions we haven’t addressed, please ask them in the comments—or email academy@kaipartners.com—and we will tackle them in a future blog post!

Question: I have relatively limited experience using Agile processes and I am not an “IT” person. I do business process analysis and participate in Change Management on an Agile project.) Would training to be a Certified ScrumMaster® be appropriate for me?

Answer: Absolutely. Scrum, at its heart, is what’s known as an empirical process control framework. This means it helps us figure out what needs to be done when it hasn’t been done before. Organizational change management frequently involves solving the unsolved, building incrementally and adaptively, and creating and maintaining early and constant communication with the project community. All these are honed in the acquisition of a CSM.

Question: I would likely be described as an “end user” of systems rather than a person who develops systems. Would it be useful for me to be a Certified ScrumMaster® if I’m not developing new systems?

Answer: Yes, if you find yourself leading or being part of teams that are called upon to perform what is referred to as “knowledge work, i.e., effort that requires creative, adaptive, incremental development of something that has a lot of unknowns to it. If this describes your team’s work, then having the knowledge of a CSM will help you be more predictably successful.

Question: I have learned the basics of Agile and use it on the projects I work on—how would getting a CSM help me at all?

Answer: Learning Agile in a way that it can be used to get reliable, adaptive products in the hands of clients when they need them in a way that provides real business value is constant and rewarding journey. Pursuing a CSM adds to the value of that journey; moreover, it provides a benchmark with which we can rely on a set of established, common knowledge about Scrum as a community of Agilists.

Question: I readily see the value in getting my CSM designation in my role, but I literally can’t afford to take time off from work and pay for the training costs: How can I get my employer to endorse or sponsor my training?

Answer: When I got my CSM, I ran into similar issues. One idea is to work out a bargain with your employer: you’ll take the time off as vacation if they pay the course. Another selling point to give your boss: You can provide the team/organization with a presentation of what you learned. Or, you could do some research and gather data and information (the KAIP Academy website and KAI Partners Blog are a great place to start) on the real business value, profitability, and potential for innovation represented by employees gaining their CSM.

Question: I work in administrative services but work with Project Managers and Certified Scrum Masters daily, how would being certified as a CSM myself help me?

Answer: The CSM certification provides a balanced, effective introduction to Agile and Scrum. The value this provides is exposure to the concepts, vocabulary, and mindset of an Agile framework. It would help you in understanding the difference between the approach your PMs follow as opposed to your CSMs – giving you a firm perspective on the entirety of work being performed and delivered.

Question: As a human resources professional (in a leadership role), other than understanding the language, process, and methodology, is there a benefit to me or my organization for me to be a Certified ScrumMaster®?

Answer: Agile and Scrum are human-centric and collaboration and communication dominant. In these and other ways, Agile comports with the mindsets of human and talent resource management. HR is a process-centric discipline, too—much of what is performed follows prescribed workflows. New initiatives, unusual circumstances, and expansion of business services often result in a need for an HR team to have a framework to plan, execute, and deliver on these needs that is adaptive and lightweight. Scrum to the rescue!

Question: Would having this certification make a difference in the way I perform my job functions or interact with my staff (of whom I have PMs and Agile/Scrum personnel)? From a human capital perspective, what would be the benefit (or the disadvantage, if any) of achieving this certification as a human resources professional in a leadership role?

Answer: Dedicated, committed acquisition of a CSM will result in positive changes in one’s leadership styles and capabilities. It provides an alternative to Theory X management styles, giving the HR professional a fresh look at how to govern the creation and sponsorship of self-governing, self-managing teams. Without the knowledge and practices provided by a CSM certification process, an HR professional would be unprepared to support this ever-more common organizational structure.

From HR to PM and everything in between, we hope this article helped you get the answers you need to know whether the Certified ScrumMaster® training is right for you!

7 Smart Ways to Make Your Sprint a Success

Agile, Best Practices, Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), Corporate Training, KAIP Academy, Learning, Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP), Sacramento, Scrum, Training, Waterfall

By Michael Bosch, CSP, PMI-ACP, CSM, CSPO

KAI Partners is excited to share a guest blog post by Michael Bosch, Agile Services Director of Brightline Solutions, Inc., a locally-based firm offering Agile Delivery and Change Management Services to public sector organizations and private sector firms.

Remember, KAIP Academy is offering two Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM) training sessions in December. For more information or to register your team and take them to the next level, click here.

Establishing all the components of an Agile framework (even a lightweight one) can be a daunting task for any organization. If yours is one that has decided to take the transformation plunge, then you’re likely planning (or have already started) your iteration cadence.

Timeboxed development periods, known as iterations or sprints (the latter promoted in the Scrum methodology), are the foundational rhythm to the “groove” of Agile. Supported by other elements such as roadmapping, release planning, demonstrations, and retrospectives, sprints are the dominant architectural feature of the Agile framework. And for good reason:

Sprints are where all the work is performed and where the innovation occurs.

The best sprint lengths are one to three weeks. If multiple Agile teams are working in your organization, the common wisdom is to have them running on a synchronized sprint schedule. The most critical aspect of running an iteration is that the team is formed in such a way that it can perform the work foreseeably asked of it, that the team is empowered and entrusted to a sufficient degree, and that the entire product community (not just the team, but everyone involved in its work) understands the mindsets, roles, and expectations required in Agile.

With that foundation in place, you’re ready to start looking to optimize your team’s sprint so that success becomes predictable. Below are seven things high-performing Agile teams do that you can use to ensure your sprints are optimized for business-driven delivery.

1. Create and Promote a Sprint Theme or Goal: One of my favorite ways to focus a team on the sprint is to ask the members to put together a headline of what is to be produced, accomplished, and attained in the upcoming iteration. I’ll ask, “If this next sprint was a newspaper article, what is its headline?” This technique allows the team to:

  • be concise and pithy,
  • create understanding amongst themselves,
  • share insights; and
  • have fun putting a “brand” on their effort to keep a sharp focus on what’s being delivered and why.

2. Encourage the Product Owner and Sponsors to Address the Team: Another stand-by technique to promote success in a sprint is to allow time for the product owner, sponsor, or both to speak to the team about why the planned work is important. Have them speak about the features that will be created and why these are important to the organization, its customers, and their users. I once had a sponsor talk to a team before a sprint about the importance of the new feature set to the world—you have never seen such commitment as I saw in that team in that timebox. Have your sponsor and product manager make the visit—the time invested can translate to delivered value.

3. Establish and Drive an Effective Product Backlog Grooming Process: Disaggregation (a term Agilists use to describe the defining a set of items that will result in the production of the whole) of the product into logical components, commonly referred to as “epics,” and the subsequent disaggregation of those epics into producible items (or “stories,” in Scrum) is the chief responsibility of the product manager (“product owner” in Scrum). This role works in close coordination with the development team, usually working with the Agile Coach (in Scrum, it may be the ScrumMaster) and/or other team members to prioritize the items listed in the product backlog, or PBL, prior to each sprint as part of its planning process.

There are several techniques that can be employed to support and mentor the work of a product manager (stay tuned for future blog posts on this topic!) and there are multiple resources on the Internet to get a good PBL up and running. The take-home message:

Make sure there is a close, communicative connection between the development team and the product owner throughout product development, and that the PBL is the central point of that connection.

4. Champion and Facilitate both Individual and Communal Commitment: A critical component of the translation of items from the Product Backlog to the Sprint Backlog (SBL) is a clear understanding on the team’s part of what each item is, how it will be produced, the criteria of satisfaction for its acceptance, and how it fits into the larger whole. As discussed above, this is fostered by a sufficiently-groomed PBL; another way to help facilitate this understanding is promoting a team-level mindset.

One of the steps in translation of items from PBL to SBL is the volunteering of team member(s) to perform the work involved in the item. This is the individual commitment necessary to produce the work. Great Agile teams, though, don’t stop there: They also commit communally as a team to all individual commitments.

To promote this, have the person(s) who has taken responsibility to produce the feature or component discuss:

  • how the feature will be produced (remember W. Edwards Deming, the father of modern quality management: if you cannot describe what you’re doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing)
  • what impediments may be encountered
  • what information gaps needs to be filled, and any foreseen dependencies, risks, or issues.

Then have the team ask questions, give feedback and suggestions, and (if warranted) recite back the work as described. This will ensure a critical common understanding: Not only do the persons doing the work have a clear plan, but the team also understands—and can help if needed. This adds surety that all the work the team committed to in the sprint gets done, which is one definition of a successful iteration.

5. Coach the Team in the Beginning, Coach the Individual in the Middle: As Lyssa Adkins points out in her book Coaching Agile Teams, interruptions—even in the form of well-intentioned but ill-timed coaching—can seriously impact a team’s flow during a sprint. One way to ensure this doesn’t happen is to prevent ad-hoc “mini-retrospectives,” “team teaching sessions,” and other events from occurring during the iteration. You should save that type of teaching for the planning sessions and lessons learned reviews that bookend it (see #6 for more on this topic!). While the sprint is active, it is best to keep coaching at the individual team member level, and even that should be limited to directly supporting an immediate need in the sprint.

6. Leverage the Opportunities for Retrospective: Keep your retrospectives fresh with some easy modifications: Change up the agenda, location, facilitator role, and other elements to keep your team interested and engaged. Come prepared, but be flexible—I usually come to a retro with an agenda in mind (for example, something observed during the sprint that indicates a need for review of an Agile principle), but I check with the team first to see if there’s something they’d rather review. Check with the team on where in the Sprint cycle they’d like their retrospective. Many teams like to hold it directly after the review, some like to do it just before, still others like to wait until just before the beginning of the next iteration. Find what works for each team, but continually impress the importance of the retrospective. It is more than mere ceremony—it is a vital step to allow your team time and space to reflect on the past iteration in order to improve future ones.

7. Foster Urgency and Fun: One of the most productive aspects of an Agile production environment is the consistent, predictable, confining nature of timeboxed development. It creates a sense of urgency that can almost be sensed, like a feeling in the air. The regular performance of sprints helps with this—it creates the downbeat that helps everyone stay (or get back into) rhythm. It is the chassis on which the other elements of the Agile framework are attached (as they owe their intrinsic value to the sprint itself).

Foster that sense of urgency in your teams, but balance it with the need to maintain a sustainable pace. Moreover, make sure that your team is having fun! Agile is fun—getting things done that provide needed value to our customers quickly is intrinsically rewarding. Let that shine on your team in whichever way you find works—they will reward you with sprints jam-packed with innovative product delivery!

About the Author: Specializing in transformation and disruption services for companies looking to improve, Michael Bosch has been providing high-value delivery services for more than 15 years. An Agilist with more than 10 years’ experience in the incremental development of complex digital solutions, Mr. Bosch has served as a Scrum Master, developer, and Agile coach for multiple sectors and lines of business, is a recognized Agile services technologist, product developer, and staff development expert. He specializes in creating breakthrough, team-empowering, lightweight communication and delivery frameworks for organizations of all sizes. Mr. Bosch is a Certified Scrum Professional (CSP), an Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP), a Certified Scrum Master (CSM) and Product Owner (CSPO), and an accredited Project Management Professional (PMP). He holds multiple degrees, including a masters in computer information systems. He has served as a professional trainer and speaker for more than a decade and is a published author and regular contributor to multiple information sources.

5 Steps to Building a Successful Agile Development Culture

Agile, Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), Corporate Training, Healthcare, KAIP Academy, Learning, Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP), Sacramento, Scrum, Training, Waterfall

By David Kendall

Software, and for that matter, product development of any kind, has historically been described as a conflict between three primary constraints: Time, cost, and quality.

The missing component to this description is the labor, i.e. the people involved throughout the product development lifecycle: There is a business need identified by the customer, an analysis is required to be completed by an analyst to convert the business need into a product solution, an engineer needs to convert that conceptual solution into some type of prototype which is then tested by another engineer or analyst, and finally an implementation specialist needs to ensure that risk has been mitigated to an acceptable level to present to the customer. Oh, and let’s not forget the customer needs—to experience business value once that product begins production—especially when evaluating the cycle success criteria.

All steps towards building a successful Agile development culture, including those outlined below, require that people be involved, engaged, transparent in communications, and aligned in their expectations.

The irony is that the conflict between time, cost, and quality cannot be optimized unless the culture that the people involved are working in empowers each of them to do their best work, to be accountable for their actions, and to do it in a timeframe that delivers business value throughout the product development lifecycle.

Rigorous application of the Agile principles and values through culture development is a powerful approach to empowering your workforce to do their absolute best work. Below are some of my tips to building a successful Agile development culture in your organization:

Step 1: Decide why (and when) you need Agile Methodology. The “why” part is straightforward: Agile will help you deliver your organization’s highest priorities faster—and more efficiently—than the conventional waterfall methodology. The overall Agile approach eliminates the need for finishing a project or product completely before moving on to the next iteration or dependent deliverable, allowing you to be more flexible with your input and output processes, and facilitating activities in shorter time frames that are much better suited to anticipating and mitigating changes along the way.

Agile methods work best when you are looking to break development down into small increments to shorten or skip up-front planning and design review processes. These small increments or sprints, as they are known in Agile circles, are typically set in one to four-week periods.

Step 2: Set goals for your organization that are compatible with Agile Methodology. If you don’t need the project or product urgently, then Agile methods should not be necessary. Of course, defining what is urgent isn’t always easy—especially when mission-critical operations or contractual obligations are factored into the schedule. Regardless, goal-setting can only be successful with disciplined and prescriptive analysis in hand. And ranking the highest priorities for your organization requires real-world experience as well as well-trained support staff.

Step 3: Equip and empower your Agile Methodology team. Once you have decided that you are going to use Agile Methodology and set the goals that it will help you achieve, you need to equip and empower your staff with the training and tools necessary for them to be successful. For example, investing in Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM) training for the members of your project management and product development teams ensures a common understanding and the practical application of a rapid-process development cycle, which will pay dividends in the form of production efficiency and time-savings.

KAIP Academy is offering two Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM) training sessions in December. For more information or to register your team and take them to the next level, click here.

Step 4: Establish performance metrics and review your Agile Methodology practice continuously. Agile Methodology is designed to drive processes efficiently. Sprints are designed to help teams work collaboratively. Scrum teams are designed to create learning opportunities for individuals to prepare them to adapt to change—quickly. All outcomes from the Agile activities should be measured to ensure that the organization is optimizing the investment of training and tool sets on a continuous basis.

Step 5: Promote Agile Methodology with your staff, clients, and within your vendor community regularly. With purposeful planning, policies, procedures, and processes, Agile Methodology will become an integral part of your organization. By adding thoughtful and regular communication—promoting and reinforcing of the rapid-process development cycle principles and benefits—to both internal and external stakeholders, Agile Methodology will also become a pillar of your resource planning, new business strategy, and partnership programming. In short, it will become an integral part of your culture.

For more information on putting Agile Methodology to work for you, check out the following links:

Values and the 12 Principles of Agile
Agile Model & Methodology: Guide for Developers and Testers
3 REASONS WHY AGILE WORKS

When not to use Agile

About the Author: David Kendall is the President and Managing Director of KAI Partners, Inc. A Senior Information Systems professional with 30 years of experience leading Information Technology (IT) program and project teams focused on enterprise-wide solutions, Mr. Kendall began his career as a member of the United States Air Force working in Electronic Warfare. With an honorable discharge and a degree from the University of Maryland in Information Systems Management, Mr. Kendall moved into the Health and Human Services sector performing roles with increasing responsibility and complexity within the health care field. Mr. Kendall’s current work includes advising one of California’s health care agencies as a Senior Project Manager and Program Integration Manager.

KAI Partners Staff Profile: The PMP

Agile, Business Analysis, Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), General Life/Work, KAI Partners, KAI Partners Staff Profile, Managing/Leadership, Project Management, Project Management Professional (PMP), Sacramento, Scrum, Small Business, Technical Writing

staff-profile

There are many paths to success and while not everyone takes the same path, we often manage to arrive at the same destination. In our KAI Partners Staff Profile series, we share interviews and insight from some of our own employees here at KAI Partners. Our staff brings a diversity in education, professional, and life experience, all of which demonstrate that the traditional route is not necessarily the one that must be traveled in order to achieve success. Today, we bring you the journey of one of our Project Managers, Jamie Spagner, Project Management Professional (PMP)® and Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM).

KAI Partners, Inc.: Jamie, how did you get into project management work?

Jamie Spagner: I got into Project Management by default. In college, I wanted to be a lobbyist. I wanted to influence the actions, policies, or decisions of elected officials. But, life had a different plan. I was blessed with a beautiful little boy my last semester in college. Because of this new addition to my life, I was unable to attend The Washington Center program I was slated for in Washington D.C. Being a mother forced me to explore other career options that would allow me to provide a decent life for my son as a single mom. At the time, the IT industry had higher-paying jobs out of college, so I looked for a ways to get into that field.

In college, I worked part-time for the Money Store, which later became First Union, then Wachovia, and is now Well Fargo. I held many positions, but I always watched the job boards to see the various positions being offered and the qualifications needed. One day I stumbled on a Senior Technical Writer position.

While I ultimately didn’t have the experience for the Senior Technical Writer role at the time, I did establish a relationship and mentorship with the hiring manager. She told me the books I should read for learning, encouraged me to join the Society for Technical Communication (STC), and invited me to different events with her team. Within 6-8 months of establishing that relationship, she hired me as a Technical Writer.

Through natural progression, I worked as a Technical Writer, then transitioned to a Business Analyst. From Business Analyst, I advanced into Project Management.

KAIP: Some people may not realize the difference between being a Project Manager and being a Project Manager with a Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification. Can you explain why you decided to pursue your PMP®? How has it helped you?

JS: I decided to pursue my PMP because it’s a respected certification in the field. The test is not an easy test, so it shows a level of dedication to employers to see a potential candidates who has gone the extra step to obtain those three letters.

It also opens doors professionally. Many employers require a PMP certification for Project Management positions; the project I am currently working on requires it.

KAIP: What is your favorite part about your line of work and why?

JS: My favorite part about my job is collaborating with people to deliver a product or service. Ninety percent of a Project Manager’s job is communication. What I enjoy most is building relationships,

collaborating, influencing directions and decisions, and successfully delivering products and services to the client’s satisfaction.

KAIP: What is one of the most common project management questions you receive from clients and what counsel or advice do you give them?

JS: “What is project management?” is the most common question I get from people. The advice I give to clients is to be transparent and always be able to defend their “Why.” In this profession, you have to make quick decisions and sometimes they are not always the right decisions. However, it’s important to always be able defend why you made the decision you made.

JamieAbout Jamie: Jamie Spagner is an Executive Consultant for KAI Partners, where she works as a Project Manager for a public sector health care client. She graduated from California State University, Sacramento with the Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies/Public Relation. She is a loving mother of a teenage son named Wyatt. In her spare time, she enjoys shopping, spending time with family/close friends, and working out.


Quick Q&A with Jamie:
Daily, must-visit website: Pinterest
Preferred genre of music or podcast to listen to: Hip-hop and R&B
Best professional advice received: Be courageous; do not be afraid to fail
Book you can read over and over again: “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle
Most-recent binge-watched show: New Edition Movie. This was a movie about the pop group New Edition that aired on BET…I loved it!

KAI Partners is Hiring!

Agile, Backend Web Developer, Communications, Corporate Training, Government, Hiring, Human Resources, KAI Partners, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Project Management, Sacramento, Scrum, Small Business, Technology, Training

kai-partners-is-hiring

A new year typically brings some introspection, the setting of goals and aspirations, and the shifting of priorities. Along with the typical “lose weight” or “go to yoga,” maybe you’ve also been feeling the desire to change an aspect of your career. Luckily, KAI Partners is currently hiring! Take a look at the roles for which we are hiring—maybe your dream job is waiting here! Note: All positions are on-site positions based in the Sacramento, California region.

Communications Consultant
The Communications Consultant will play a key role in planning, coordinating, and developing communication and messaging for a large organization. The focus of the Communications Consultant is to act as a single point of contact for all external division communications, which are both written and oral. The Communications Consultant will provide full-service communication services, new media, public awareness, educational outreach, communications strategy, stakeholder, sponsor and program research, and more.
Click here to apply or to view the job posting in its entirety (via ZipRecruiter)

Delivery Manager (Scrum Master)
The Delivery Manager (Scrum Master) shall work to resolve or remove impediments within the team, help manage the team’s relationships with outside stakeholders, facilitate team continuous improvement, and coordinate solution implementation and delivery with other Delivery Managers. This individual should have the ability to develop relationships with all levels of the organization and have outstanding political savvy. We are looking for enthusiastic problem solvers who thrive on being engaged at all levels of the project.
Click here to apply or to view the job posting in its entirety (via LinkedIn)

Backend Web Developer
The Backend Web Developer engages with a number of stakeholders to act as a bridge between current compliance requirements and the new compliance requirements. The success of the Backend Web Developer requires a dedicated professional who possess analytical, programming, and data architecture skills. The Backend Web Developer will need to have experience using modern, open source software to prototype and deploy backend web applications, including all aspects of server-side processing, data storage, and integration with frontend development.
Click here to apply or to view the job posting in its entirety (via LinkedIn)

Training Consultant
The Training Consultant will work across a number of stakeholders, both state and vendor, who collaborate to design, develop, and deliver training solutions to impacted end users within the organization. The Training Consultant should have the ability to develop relationships with all levels of the organization and have outstanding political savvy. The Training Consultant should have in-depth knowledge of training design methodologies. Knowledge of business process and OCM methodologies are preferred.
Click here to apply or to view the job posting in its entirety (via ZipRecruiter)

We look forward to receiving your application today!

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